Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker CHAPTER 16


Jack’s eyes flash the darkest blue, and he sneers as he casts a leering look down my body.
Fear chokes me. What is this? What does he want? From somewhere deep inside and despite my dry mouth, I find the resolve and courage to squeeze out some words, my self-defense class keep-them-talking mantra circling my brain like an ethereal sentinel.
“Jack, now might not be a good time for this. Your cab is due in ten minutes, and I need to give you all your documents.” My voice is quiet but hoarse, betraying me.
He smiles, and it’s a despotic fuck-you smile that finally touches his eyes. They glint in the harsh fluorescent glow of the strip light above us in the drab windowless room. He takes a step toward me, glaring at me, his eyes never leaving mine. His pupils are dilating as I watch—the black eclipsing the blue. Oh no. My fear escalates.
“You know I had to fight with Elizabeth to give you this job . . .” His voice trails off as he takes another step toward me, and I step back against the dingy wall cupboards. Keep-him-talking, keep-him-talking, keep-him-talking.
“Jack, what exactly is your problem? If you want to air your grievances, then perhaps we should ask HR to get involved. We could do this with Elizabeth in a more formal setting.”
Where is security? Are they in the building yet?
“We don’t need HR to overmanage this situation Ana,” he sneers. “When I hired you, I thought you would be a hard worker. I thought you had potential. But now, I don’t know. You’ve become distracted and sloppy. And I wondered . . . is it your boyfriend who’s leading you astray?” He says boyfriend with chilling contempt.
“I decided to check through your e-mail account to see if I could find any clues. And you know what I found, Ana? What was out of place? The only personal e-mails in your account were to your hot-shot boyfriend.” He pauses, assessing my reaction. “And I got to thinking . . . where are the e-mails from him? There are none. Nada. Nothing. So what’s going on, Ana? How come his e-mails to you aren’t on our system? Are you some company spy, planted in here by Grey’s organization? Is that what this is?”
Holy shit, the e-mails. Oh no. What have I said?
“Jack, what are you talking about?” I try for bewildered, and I’m pretty convincing. This conversation is not going as I expected, but I don’t trust him in the slightest. Some subliminal pheromone that Jack is exuding has me on high alert. This man is angry, volatile, and totally unpredictable. I try to reason with him.
“You just said that you had to persuade Elizabeth to hire me. So how could I be planted as a spy? Make up your mind, Jack.”
“But Grey fucked the New York trip, didn’t he?”
Oh shit.
“How did he manage that, Ana? What did your rich, Ivy League boyfriend do?”
What little blood remains in my face drains away, and I think I’m going to faint. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jack,” I whisper. “Your cab will be here shortly. Shall I fetch your things?” Oh please, let me go. Stop this.
Jack continues, enjoying my discomfort. “And he thinks I’d make a pass at you?” He smirks and his eyes heat. “Well, I want you to think about something while I’m in New York. I gave you this job, and I expect you to show me some gratitude. In fact, I’m entitled to it. I had to fight to get you. Elizabeth wanted someone better qualified, but I—I saw something in you. So, we need to work out a deal. A deal where you keep me happy. D’you understand what I’m saying, Ana?”
“Look at it as refining your job description, if you like. And if you keep me happy, I won’t dig any further into how your boyfriend is pulling strings, milking his contacts, or cashing in some favor from one of his Ivy League frat-boy sycophants.”
My mouth drops open. He’s blackmailing me. For sex! And what can I say? News of Christian’s takeover is embargoed for another three weeks. I can barely believe this. Sex—with me!
Jack moves closer until he’s standing right in front of me, staring down into my eyes. His cloying sweet cologne invades my nostrils—it’s nauseating—and if I’m not mistaken, the bitter stench of alcohol is on his breath. Fuck, he’s been drinking . . . when?
“You are such a tight-assed, cock-blocking, prick tease, you know, Ana,” he whispers through clenched teeth.
What? Prick tease . . . Me?
“Jack, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I whisper, as I feel the adrenaline surge through my body. He’s closer now. I am waiting to make my move. Ray will be
proud. Ray taught me what to do. Ray knows his self-defense. If Jack touches me—if he even breathes too close to me—I will take him down. My breath is shallow. I must not faint, I must not faint.
“Look at you.” He gives me a leering look. “You’re so turned on, I can tell. You’ve really led me on. Deep down you want it. I know.”
Holy fuck. The man is completely delusional. My fear rises to defcon one, threatening to overwhelm me. “No, Jack. I have never led you on.”
“You have, you prick-teasing bitch. I can read the signs.” Reaching up, he gently strokes my face with the back of his knuckles, down to my chin. His index finger strokes my throat, and my heart leaps into my mouth as I fight my gag reflex. He reaches the dip at the base of my neck, where the top button of my black shirt is open, and presses his hand against my chest.
“You want me. Admit it, Ana.”
Keeping my eyes firmly fixed on his and concentrating on what I have to do—rather than my mushrooming revulsion and dread—I place my hand gently over his in a caress. He smiles in triumph. I grab his little finger, and twist it back, pulling it sharply down backward to his hip.
“Arrgh!” he cries out in pain and surprise, and as he leans off balance, I bring my knee, swift and hard, up into his groin, and make perfect contact with my goal. I dodge deftly to my left as his knees buckle, and he collapses with a groan onto the kitchen floor, grasping himself between his legs.
“Don’t you ever touch me again,” I snarl at him. “Your itinerary and the brochures are packaged on my desk. I am going home now. Have a nice trip. And in the future, get your own damn coffee.”
“You fucking bitch!” he half screams, half groans at me, but I am already out the door.
I run full pelt to my desk, grab my jacket and my purse, and dash to front reception, ignoring the moans and curses emanating from the bastard still prostrate on the kitchen floor. I burst out of the building and stop for a moment as the cool air hits my face, take a deep breath, and compose myself. But I haven’t eaten all day, and as the very unwelcome surge of adrenaline recedes, my legs give out beneath me and I sink to the ground.
I watch with mild detachment the slow motion movie that plays out in front of me: Christian and Taylor in dark suits and white shirts, leaping out of the waiting car and running toward me. Christian sinks to his knees at my side, and on some unconscious level, all I can think is: He’s here. My love is here.
“Ana, Ana! What’s wrong?” He scoops me into his lap, running his hands up and down my arms, checking for any signs of injury. Grabbing my head between his hands, he stares with wide, terrified, gray eyes into mine. I sag against him, suddenly overwhelmed with relief and fatigue. Oh, Christian’s arms. There is no place I’d rather be.
“Ana.” He shakes me gently. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
I shake my head as I realize I need to start communicating.
“Jack,” I whisper, and I sense rather than see Christian’s swift glance at Taylor, who abruptly disappears into the building.
“Fuck!” Christian enfolds me in his arms. “What did that sleazeball do to you?”
And from somewhere just the right side of crazy, a giggle bubbles in my throat. I recall Jack’s utter shock as I grabbed his finger.
“It’s what I did to him.” I start giggling and I can’t stop.
“Ana!” Christian shakes me again, and my giggling fit ceases. “Did he touch you?”
“Only once.”
I feel Christian’s muscles bunch and tense as rage sweeps through him, and he stands up swiftly, powerfully—rock steady—with me in his arms. He’s furious. No!
“Where is that fucker?”
From inside the building we hear muffled shouting. Christian sets me on my feet.
“Can you stand?”
I nod.
“Don’t go in. Don’t, Christian.” Suddenly my fear is back, fear of what Christian will do to Jack.
“Get in the car,” he barks at me.
“Christian, no.” I grab his arm.
“Get in the goddamned car, Ana.” He shakes me off.
“No! Please!” I plead with him. “Stay. Don’t leave me on my own.” I deploy my ultimate weapon.
Seething, Christian runs his hand through his hair and glares down at me, clearly wracked with indecision. The shouting inside the building escalates, and then stops suddenly.
Oh, no. What has Taylor done?
Christian fishes out his Blackberry.
“Christian, he has my e-mails.”
“My e-mails to you. He wanted to know where your e-mails to me were. He was trying to blackmail me.”
Christian’s look is murderous. Oh shit. “Fuck!” he splutters and narrows his eyes at me. He punches a number into his Blackberry.
Oh no. I’m in trouble. Who’s he calling?
“Barney. Grey. I need you to access the SIP main server and wipe all Anastasia Steele’s e-mails to me. Then access the personal data files of Jack Hyde and check they aren’t stored there. If they are, wipe them . . . Yes, all of them. Now. Let me know when it’s done.”
He stabs the off button then dials another number.
“Roach. Grey. Hyde—I want him out. Now. This minute. Call security. Get him to clear his desk immediately, or I will liquidate this company first thing in the morning. You already have all the justification you need to give him his pink slip. Do you understand?” He listens for a moment and hangs up seemingly satisfied.
“Blackberry,” he hisses at me through clenched teeth.
“Please don’t be mad at me.” I blink up at him.
“I am so mad at you right now,” he snarls and once more sweeps his hand through his hair. “Get in the car.”
“Christian, please—”
“Get in the fucking car, Anastasia, or so help me I’ll put you in there myself,” he threatens, his eyes blazing with fury.
Oh shit. “Don’t do anything stupid, please,” I beg.
“STUPID!” he explodes. “I told you to use your fucking Blackberry. Don’t talk to me about stupid. Get in the motherfucking car, Anastasia—NOW!” he snarls and a frisson of fear runs through me. This is Very Angry Christian. I’ve not seen him this mad before. He’s barely holding on to his self-control.
“Okay,” I mutter, placating him. “But please, be careful.”
Pressing his lips together in a hard line, he points angrily to the car, glaring at me.
Jeez, okay, I get the message.
“Please be careful. I don’t want anything to happen to you. It would kill me,” I murmur. He blinks rapidly and stills, lowering his arm while he takes a deep breath.
“I’ll be careful,” he says, his eyes softening. Oh, thank the Lord. His eyes burn into me as I head to the car, open the front passenger door, and climb in. Once I’m safely in the comfort of the Audi, he disappears into the building, and my heart leaps again into my throat. What’s he planning to do?
I sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Five eternal minutes. Jack’s cab pulls up in front of the Audi. Ten minutes. Fifteen. Jeez, what are they doing in there, and how is Taylor? The wait is agonizing.
Twenty-five minutes later, Jack emerges from the building, clutching a cardboard storage box. Behind him is the security guard. Where was he earlier? And after them, Christian and Taylor. Jack looks sick. He heads straight for the cab, and I’m grateful for the Audi’s heavily tinted windows so he cannot see me. The cab drives off—presumably not to Sea-Tac—as Christian and Taylor reach the car.
Opening the driver’s door, Christian slides smoothly into the seat, presumably because I am in the front, and Taylor gets in behind me. Neither of them says a word as Christian starts the car and pulls out into the traffic. I risk a quick glance at Fifty. His mouth is set in a firm line, but he seems distracted. The in-car phone rings.
“Grey,” Christian snaps.
“Mr. Grey, Barney here.”
“Barney, I’m on speaker phone, and there are others in the car,” Christian warns.
“Sir, it’s all done. But I need to talk to you about what else I found on Mr. Hyde’s computer.”
“I’ll call you when I reach my destination. And thanks, Barney.”
“No problem, Mr. Grey.”
Barney hangs up. He sounds much younger than I expected.
What else is on Jack’s computer?
“Are you talking to me?” I ask quietly.
Christian glances at me, before fixing his eyes back on the road ahead, and I can tell he’s still mad.
“No,” he mutters sullenly.
Oh, there we go . . . how childish. I wrap my arms around myself and stare unseeing out the window. Perhaps I should just ask him to drop me off at my apartment, then he can
“not talk” to me from the safety of Escala and save us both the inevitable quarrel. But even as I think it, I know I don’t want to leave him to brood, not after yesterday.
Eventually, we pull up in front of his apartment building, and Christian climbs out of the car. Moving with easy grace around to my side, he opens my door.
“Come,” he orders as Taylor clambers into the driver’s seat. I take his proffered hand and follow him through the grand foyer to the elevator. He doesn’t let go of me.
“Christian, why are you so mad at me?” I whisper as we wait.
“You know why,” he mutters as we step into the elevator, and he punches in the code to his floor. “God, if something had happened to you, he’d be dead by now.” Christian’s tone chills me to the bone. The doors close.
“As it is, I’m going to ruin his career so he can’t take advantage of young women anymore, miserable excuse for a man that he is.” He shakes his head. “Jesus, Ana!” He grabs me suddenly, imprisoning me in the corner of the elevator.
His hands fist in my hair as he pulls my face up to his, and his mouth is on mine, a passionate desperation in his kiss. I don’t know why this takes me by surprise, but it does. I taste his relief, his longing, and his residual anger while his tongue possesses my mouth. He stops, gazing down at me, resting his weight against me so I can’t move. He leaves me breathless, clinging to him for support, staring up into that beautiful face etched with determination and without any trace of humor.
“If anything had happened to you . . . If he’d harmed you . . .” I feel the shudder that runs through him. “Blackberry,” he commands quietly. “From now on. Understand?”
I nod, swallowing, unable to break eye contact from his grim, mesmerizing look.
He straightens, releasing me as the elevator comes to a stop. “He said you kicked him in the balls.” Christian’s tone is lighter with a trace of admiration, and I think I’m forgiven.
“Yes,” I whisper, still reeling from the intensity of his kiss and his impassioned command.
“Ray is ex-army. He taught me well.”
“I’m very glad he did,” he breathes and adds, arching a brow, “I’ll need to remember that.” Taking my hand, he leads me out of the elevator and I follow, relieved. I think that’s as bad as his mood is going to get.
“I need to call Barney. I won’t be long.” He disappears into his study, leaving me stranded in the vast living room. Mrs. Jones is adding the finishing touches to our meal. I realize I am famished, but I need something to do.
“Can I help?” I ask.
She laughs. “No, Ana. Can I fix you a drink or something? You look beat.”
“I’d love a glass of wine.”
“Yes, please.”
I perch on one of the bar stools, and she hands me a glass of chilled wine. I don’t know what it is, but it’s delicious and slides down easily, soothing my shattered nerves. What was I thinking about earlier today? How alive I have felt since I met Christian. How exciting my life has become. Jeez, could I just have a few boring days?
What if I’d never met Christian? I’d be holed up in my apartment, talking it through with Ethan, completely freaked by my encounter with Jack, knowing I would have to face the sleazeball again on Friday. As it is, there’s every chance I’ll never set eyes on him again. But who will I work for now? I frown. I hadn’t thought of that. Shit, do I even have a job?
“Evening, Gail,” Christian says as he comes back into the great room, dragging me from my thoughts. Heading straight to the fridge, he pours himself a glass of wine.
“Good evening, Mr. Grey. Dinner in ten, sir?”
“Sounds good.”
Christian raises his glass.
“To ex-military men who train their daughters well,” he says and his eyes soften.
“Cheers,” I mutter, raising my glass.
“What’s wrong?” Christian asks.
“I don’t know if I still have a job.”
He cocks his head to the side. “Do you still want one?”
“Of course.”
“Then you still have one.”
Simple. See? He is master of my universe. I roll my eyes at him and he smiles.
Mrs. Jones makes a mean chicken potpie. She has left us to enjoy the fruits of her labors, and I feel much better now I’ve had something to eat. We are sitting at the breakfast bar, and despite my best cajoling, Christian won’t tell me what Barney has found on Jack’s computer. I drop the subject, and decide to tackle instead the thorny issue of José’s impending visit.
“José called,” I say nonchalantly.
“Oh?” Christian turns to face me.
“He wants to deliver your photos on Friday.”
“A personal delivery. How accommodating of him,” Christian mutters.
“He wants to go out. For a drink. With me.”
“I see.”
“And Kate and Elliot should be back,” I add quickly.
Christian puts his fork down, frowning at me.
“What exactly are you asking?”
I bristle. “I’m not asking anything. I’m informing you of my plans for Friday. Look, I want to see José, and he wants to stay over. Either he stays here or he can stay at my place, but if he does I should be there, too.”
Christian’s eyes widen. He looks dumbfounded.
“He made a pass at you.”
“Christian, that was weeks ago. He was drunk, I was drunk, you saved the day—it won’t happen again. He’s no Jack, for heaven’s sake.”
“Ethan’s there. He can keep him company.”
“He wants to see me, not Ethan.”
Christian scowls at me.
“He’s just a friend.” My voice is emphatic.
“I don’t like it.”
So what? Jeez, he’s irritating sometimes. I take a deep breath. “He’s my friend, Christian. I haven’t seen him since his show. And that was too brief. I know you don’t have any friends, apart from that god-awful woman, but I don’t moan about you seeing her,” I snap. Christian blinks, shocked. “I want to see him. I’ve been a poor friend to him.” My subconscious is alarmed. Are you stamping your little foot? Steady now!
Gray eyes blaze at me. “Is that what you think?” he breathes.
“Think about what?”
“Elena. You’d rather I didn’t see her?”
Holy cow. “Exactly. I’d rather you didn’t see her.”
“Why didn’t you say?”
“Because it’s not my place to say. You think she’s your only friend.” I shrug in exasperation. He really doesn’t get it. How did this turn into a conversation about her? I don’t even want to think about her. I try to steer us back to José. “Just as it’s not your place to say if I can or can’t see José. Don’t you see that?”
Christian gazes at me, perplexed, I think. Oh, what is he thinking?
“He can stay here, I suppose,” he mutters. “I can keep an eye on him.” He sounds petulant.
“Thank you! You know, if I am going to live here, too . . .” I trail off. Christian nods. He knows what I’m trying to say. “It’s not like you haven’t got the space.” I smirk.
His lips quirk up slowly. “Are you smirking at me, Miss Steele?”
“Most definitely, Mr. Grey.” I get up just in case his palms start twitching, clear our plates, and then load them into the dishwasher.
“Gail will do that.”
“I’ve done it now.” I stand up and gaze at him. He’s watching me intently.
“I have to work for a while,” he says apologetically.
“Cool. I’ll find something to do.”
“Come here,” he orders, but his voice is soft and seductive, his eyes heated. I don’t hesitate to walk into his arms, clasping him around his neck as he perches on his bar stool. He wraps his arms around me, crushes me to him, and just holds me.
“Are you okay?” he whispers into my hair.
“After what happened with that fucker? After what happened yesterday?” he adds, his voice quiet and earnest.
I gaze into dark, serious, gray eyes. Am I okay? “Yes,” I whisper.
His arms tighten around me, and I feel safe, cherished, and loved all at once. It’s blissful. Closing my eyes, I enjoy the feel of being in his arms. I love this man. I love his intoxicating scent, his strength, his mercurial ways—my Fifty.
“Let’s not fight,” he murmurs. He kisses my hair and inhales deeply. “You smell heavenly as usual, Ana.”
“So do you,” I whisper and kiss his neck.
All too soon he releases me. “I should only be a couple of hours.”
I wander listlessly through the apartment. Christian is still working. I have showered and dressed in some sweats and a T-shirt of my own, and I’m bored. I don’t want to read. If I sit still, I’ll recall Jack and his fingers on me.
I check out my old bedroom, the subs’ room. José can sleep here—he’ll like the view. It’s about eight fifteen, and the sun is beginning to sink into the west. The lights of the city twinkle below me. It’s glorious. Yes, José will like it here. I wonder idly where Christian will hang José’s pictures of me. I’d rather he didn’t. I am not keen on looking at myself.
Back down the hallway I find myself outside the playroom, and without thinking, I try the door handle. Christian normally keeps it locked, but to my surprise, the door opens. How strange. Feeling like a child playing hooky and straying into the forbidden forest, I walk in. It’s dark. I flick the switch and the lights under the cornice light up with a soft glow. It’s as I remember it. A womb-like room.
Memories of the last time I was in here flash through my mind. The belt . . . I wince at the recollection. Now it hangs innocently, lined up with others, on the rack beside the door. Tentatively I run my fingers over the belts, the floggers, the paddles, and the whips. Sheesh. This is what I need to square with Dr. Flynn. Can someone in this lifestyle just stop? It seems so improbable. Wandering over to the bed, I sit on soft red satin sheets, gazing around at all the apparatus.
Beside me is the bench, above that the assortment of canes. So many! Surely one is enough? Well, the less said about that the better. And the large table. We never tried that, whatever he does on it. My eyes fall on the chesterfield, and I move over to sit on it. It’s just a couch, nothing extraordinary about it—nothing to fasten anything to, not that I can see. Glancing behind me, I spy the museum chest. My curiosity is piqued. What does he keep in there?
As I pull open the top drawer I realize my blood is pounding through my veins. Why am I so nervous? This feels so illicit, as if I’m trespassing, which of course I am. But if he wants to marry me, well . . .
Holy fuck, what’s all this? An array of instruments and bizarre implements—I don’t have a clue what they are, or what they’re for—are carefully laid out in the display drawer. I pick one up. It’s bullet-shaped with a sort of handle. Hmm . . . what the hell do you do with that? My mind boggles, though I think I have an idea. Jeez, there are four different sizes! My scalp prickles and I glance up.
Christian is standing in the doorway, staring at me, his face unreadable. How long has he been there? I feel like I’ve been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
“Hi.” I smile nervously at him, and I know my eyes are wide and that I’m deathly pale.
“What are you doing?” he says softly, but there’s an undercurrent in his tone.
Oh shit. Is he mad? I flush. “Er . . . I was bored and curious,” I mutter, embarrassed to be found out. He said he’d be two hours.
“That’s a very dangerous combination.” He runs his long index finger across his lower lip in quiet contemplation, not taking his eyes off me. I swallow and my mouth is dry.
Slowly, he enters the room and closes the door quietly behind him, his eyes liquid gray fire. Oh my. He leans casually over the chest of drawers, but I think his stance is deceptive. My inner goddess doesn’t know whether it’s fight or flight time.
“So, what exactly are you curious about, Miss Steele? Perhaps I could enlighten you.”
“The door was open . . . I—” I gaze at Christian as I hold my breath and blink, uncertain as ever of his reaction or what I should say. His eyes are dark. I think he’s amused, but it’s difficult to tell. He places his elbows on the museum chest and rests his chin on his clasped hands.
“I was in here earlier today wondering what to do with it all. I must have forgotten to lock it.” He scowls momentarily as if leaving the door unlocked is a terrible lapse in judgment. I frown—it’s not like him to be forgetful.
“But now here you are, curious as ever.” His voice is soft, puzzled.
“You’re not mad?” I whisper, using my remaining breath.
He cocks his head to one side, and his lips twitch in amusement.
“Why would I be mad?”
“I feel like I’m trespassing . . . and you’re always mad at me.” My voice is quiet, though I’m relieved. Christian’s brow creases once more.
“Yes, you’re trespassing, but I’m not mad. I hope that one day you’ll live with me here, and all this”—he gestures vaguely round the room with one hand—“will be yours, too.”
My playroom . . . eh? I gape at him—that’s a lot to take in.
“That’s why I was in here today. Trying to decide what to do.” He taps his lips with his index finger. “Am I angry with you all the time? I wasn’t this morning.”
Oh, that’s true. I smile at the memory of Christian when we woke, and it distracts me from the thought of what will become of the playroom. He was such fun Fifty this morning.
“You were playful. I like playful Christian.”
“Do you now?” He arches an eyebrow, and his beautiful mouth curves up in a smile, a shy smile. Wow!
“What’s this?” I hold up the silver bullet thing.
“Always hungry for information, Miss Steele. That’s a butt plug,” he says gently.
“Oh . . .”
“Bought for you.”
What? “For me?”
He nods slowly, his face now serious and wary.
I frown. “You buy new, er . . . toys . . . for each submissive?”
“Some things. Yes.”
“Butt plugs?”
Okay . . . I swallow. Butt plug. It’s solid metal—surely that’s uncomfortable? I remember our discussion about sex toys and hard limits after I graduated. I think at the time I said I would try. Now, actually seeing one, I don’t know if it’s something I want to do. I examine it once more and place it back in the drawer.
“And this?” I take out a long, black rubbery object, made of gradually diminishing spherical bubbles joined together, the first one large and the last much smaller. Eight bubbles in total.
“Anal beads,” says Christian, watching me carefully.
Oh! I examine them with fascinated horror. All of these, inside me . . . there! I had no idea.
“They have quite an effect if you pull them out mid-orgasm,” he adds matter-of-factly.
“This is for me?” I whisper.
“For you.” He nods slowly.
“This is the butt drawer?”
He smirks. “If you like.”
I close it quickly, flushing like a stoplight.
“Don’t you like the butt drawer?” he asks innocently, amused. I gaze at him and shrug, trying to brazen out my shock.
“It’s not top of my Christmas card list,” I mutter nonchalantly. Tentatively, I open the second drawer. He grins.
“Next drawer down holds a selection of vibrators.”
I shut the drawer quickly.
“And the next?” I whisper, ashen once more, but this time with embarrassment.
“That’s more interesting.”
Oh! Hesitantly I pull the drawer open, not taking my eyes off his beautiful but rather smug face. Inside there are an assortment of metal items and some clothespins. Clothespins! I pick up a large metal clip-like device.
“Genital clamp,” Christian says. He stands up and moves casually around so that he’s beside me. I put it back immediately and choose something more delicate—two small clips on a chain.
“Some of these are for pain, but most are for pleasure,” he murmurs.
“What’s this?”
“Nipple clamps—that’s for both.”
“Both? Nipples?”
Christian smirks at me. “Well, there are two clamps, baby. Yes, both nipples, but that’s not what I meant. These are for both pleasure and pain.”
Oh. He takes it from me.
“Hold out your little finger.”
I do as he asks, and he clamps one clip to the tip of my finger. It’s not too harsh.
“The sensation is very intense, but it’s when taking them off that they are at their most painful and pleasurable.” I remove the clip. Hmm, that might be nice. I squirm at the thought.
“I like the look of these,” I murmur and Christian smiles.
“Do you now, Miss Steele? I think I can tell.”
I nod shyly, biting my lip. He reaches up and tugs on my chin so I release my bottom lip.
“You know what that does to me,” he murmurs.
I put the clips back in the drawer, and Christian leans forward and pulls out two more.
“These are adjustable.” He holds them up for me to inspect.
“You can wear them very tight . . . or not. Depending on your mood.”
How does he make that sound so erotic? I swallow, and to divert his attention, pull out a device that looks like a spiky pastry cutter.
“This?” I frown. No baking in the playroom, surely.
“That’s a Wartenberg pinwheel.”
He reaches over and takes it from me. “Give me your hand. Palm up.”
I offer him my left hand and he takes it gently, skating his thumb over my knuckles. A shiver runs through me. His skin against mine, it never fails to thrill me. He runs the wheel over my palm.
“Ah!” The prongs bite into my skin—there’s more than just pain. In fact, it tickles slightly.
“Imagine that over your breasts,” Christian murmurs lasciviously.
Oh! I flush and snatch my hand back. My breathing and heart rate increase. Holy cow.
“There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, Anastasia,” he says softly as he leans down and puts the device back in the drawer.
“Clothespins?” I whisper.
“You can do a great deal with a clothespins.” His gray eyes burn.
I lean against the drawer so it closes.
“Is that all?” Christian looks amused.
“No . . .” I pull open the fourth drawer to be confounded by a mass of leather and straps. I tug at one of the straps . . . it appears to be attached to a ball.
“Ball gag. To keep you quiet,” says Christian, amused once more.
“Soft limit,” I mutter.
“I remember,” he says. “But you can still breathe. Your teeth clamp over the ball.” Taking it from me, he replicates a mouth clamping down on the ball with his fingers.
“Have you worn one of these?” I ask.
He stills and gazes down at me. “Yes.”
“To mask your screams?”
He closes his eyes, and I think it’s in exasperation. “No, that’s not what they’re about.”
“It’s about control, Anastasia. How helpless would you be if you were tied up and couldn’t speak? How trusting would you have to be, knowing I had that much power over you? That I had to read your body and your reaction, rather than hear your words? It makes you more dependent, puts me in ultimate control.”
I swallow.
“You sound like you miss it.”
“It’s what I know,” he murmurs, gazing down at me. His gray eyes are wide and serious, and the atmosphere between us has changed as if he’s in the confessional.
“You have power over me. You know you do,” I whisper.
“Do I? You make me feel . . . helpless.”
“No!” Oh Fifty . . . “Why?”
“Because you’re the only person I know who could really hurt me.” He reaches up and tucks my hair behind my ear.
“Oh, Christian . . . that works both ways. If you didn’t want me—” I shudder, glancing down at my twisting fingers. Therein lays my other dark reservation about us. If he wasn’t so . . . broken, would he want me? I shake my head. I must try not to think like that.
“The last thing I want to do is hurt you. I love you,” I murmur, reaching up to run my fingers through his sideburn and gently stroke his cheek. He leans his face into my touch, drops the gag back in the drawer, and reaches for me, his hands around my waist. He pulls me against him.
“Have we finished show and tell?” he asks, his voice soft and seductive. His hand moves up my back to the nape of my neck.
“Why? What did you want to do?”
He bends and kisses me gently, and I melt against him, grasping his arms.
“Ana, you were nearly attacked today.” His voice is soft but ice-cold and wary.
“So?” I ask, enjoying the feel of his hand at my back and his proximity. He pulls his head back and scowls down at me.
“What do you mean, ‘so?’ ” he rebukes.
I gaze up into his lovely, grumpy face, and I’m dazzled.
“Christian, I’m fine.”
He wraps me in his arms, holding me close. “When I think what might have happened,” he breathes, burying his face in my hair.
“When will you learn that I’m stronger than I look?” I whisper reassuringly into his neck, inhaling his delicious scent. There is nothing better on the planet than being in Christian’s arms.
“I know you’re strong,” Christian muses quietly. He kisses my hair, then to my great disappointment, releases me. Oh?
Bending down I fish another item out of the open drawer. Several cuffs attached to a bar. I hold it up.
“That,” says Christian, his eyes darkening, “is a spreader bar with ankle and wrist restraints.”
“How does it work?” I ask, genuinely intrigued. My inner goddess pops her head out of her bunker.
“You want me to show you?” he breathes in surprise, closing his eyes briefly.
I blink at him. When he opens his eyes, they are blazing.
Oh my. “Yes, I want a demonstration. I like being tied up,” I whisper as my inner goddess pole vaults from the bunker onto her chaise longue.
“Oh, Ana,” he murmurs. He looks pained all of a sudden.
“Not here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want you in my bed, not in here. Come.” He grabs the bar and my hand, then leads me promptly out of the room.
Why are we leaving? I glance behind me as we exit. “Why not in there?”
Christian stops on the stairs and gazes up at me, his expression grave.
“Ana, you may be ready to go back in there, but I’m not. Last time we were in there, you left me. I keep telling you—when will you understand?” He frowns, releasing me so that he can gesticulate with his free hand.
“My whole attitude has changed as a result. My whole outlook on life has radically shifted. I’ve told you this. What I haven’t told you is—” He stops and runs his hand through
his hair, searching for the correct words. “I’m like a recovering alcoholic, okay? That’s the only comparison I can draw. The compulsion has gone, but I don’t want to put temptation in my way. I don’t want to hurt you.”
He looks so remorseful, and in that moment, a sharp nagging pain lances through me. What have I done to this man? Have I improved his life? He was happy before he met me, wasn’t he?
“I can’t bear to hurt you because I love you,” he adds, gazing up at me, his expression one of absolute sincerity like a small boy telling a very simple truth.
He’s completely guileless, and he takes my breath away. I adore him more than anything or anyone. I do love this man unconditionally.
I launch myself at him so hard that he has to drop what he’s carrying to catch me as I push him up against the wall. Grabbing his face between my hands, I pull his lips to mine. I can taste his surprise as I push my tongue into his mouth. I am standing on the step above him—we’re at the same level, and I feel euphorically empowered. Kissing him passionately, my fingers twisting into his hair, I want to touch him, everywhere, but restrain myself, knowing his fear. Regardless, my desire unfurls, hot and heavy, blossoming deep inside me. He groans and grabs my shoulders, pushing me away.
“Do you want me to fuck you on the stairs?” he mutters, his breathing ragged. “Because right now, I will.”
“Yes,” I murmur and I’m sure my dark gaze matches his.
He glares at me, his eyes hooded and heavy. “No. I want you in my bed.” He scoops me up suddenly over his shoulder, making me squeal, loudly, and smacks me hard on my behind, so that I squeal again. As he heads down the stairs, he stoops to pick up the fallen spreader bar.
Mrs. Jones is coming out of the utility room when we pass through the hall. She smiles at us, and I give her an apologetic upside-down wave. I don’t think Christian notices her.
In the bedroom, he sets me down on my feet and drops the spreader on to the bed.
“I don’t think you’ll hurt me,” I breathe.
“I don’t think I’ll hurt you, either,” he says. He takes my head in his hands and kisses me, long and hard, igniting my already heated blood.
“I want you so much,” he whispers against my mouth, panting. “Are you sure about this—after today?’
“Yes. I want you, too. I want to undress you.” I can’t wait to get my hands on him—my fingers are itching to touch him.
His eyes widen and for a moment, he hesitates, perhaps to consider my request.
“Okay,” he says cautiously.
I reach for the second button on his shirt and hear him catch his breath.
“I won’t touch you if you don’t want me to,” I whisper.
“No,” he responds quickly. “Do. It’s fine. I’m good,” he mutters.
I gently undo the button and my fingers glide down his shirt to the next. His eyes are large and luminous, his lips parted as his breathing shallows. He is so beautiful, even in his fear . . . because of his fear. I undo the third button and notice his soft hair poking through the large V of the shirt.
“I want to kiss you there,” I murmur.
He inhales sharply. “Kiss me?”
“Yes,” I murmur.
His gasps as I undo the next button and very slowly lean forward, making my intention clear. He’s holding his breath, but stands stock-still as I plant a gentle kiss among the soft, exposed curls. I undo the final button and lift my face to him. He’s gazing at me, and there’s a look of satisfaction, calm, and . . . wonder on his face.
“It’s getting easier, isn’t it?” I whisper.
He nods as I slowly push his shirt off his shoulders and let it fall to the floor.
“What have you done to me, Ana?” he murmurs. “Whatever it is, don’t stop.” And he gathers me in his arms, fisting both his hands in my hair and pulling my head right back so that he can have easy access to my throat.
He runs his lips up to my jaw, nipping softly. I groan. Oh, I want this man. My fingers fumble at his waistband, undoing the button and pulling down the zipper.
“Oh, baby,” he breathes as he kisses me behind my ear. I feel his erection, firm and hard, straining against me. I want him—in my mouth. I step back abruptly and drop to my knees.
“Whoa?” he gasps.
I tug his pants and boxers sharply, and he springs free. Before he can stop me, I take him into my mouth, sucking hard, enjoying his shocked astonishment as his mouth drops open. He gazes down at me, watching my every move, eyes so dark and filled with carnal bliss. Oh my. I sheath my teeth and suck harder. He closes his eyes and surrenders to this blissful carnal pleasure is so arousing. I know what I do to him, and it’s hedonistic, liberating, and sexy as hell. The feeling is heady, I’m not just powerful—I’m omniscient.
“Fuck,” he hisses and gently cradles my head, flexing his hips so he moves deeper inside my mouth. Oh yes, I want this and I swirl my tongue around him, pulling hard . . . over and over.
“Ana.” He tries to step back.
Oh no you don’t, Grey. I want you. I grab his hips firmly, doubling my efforts, and I can tell he’s close.
“Please,” he pants. “I’m gonna come, Ana,” he groans.
Good. My inner goddess’s head is thrown back in ecstasy, and he comes, loudly and wetly, into my mouth.
He opens his bright gray eyes, gazing down at me, and I smile up at him, licking my lips. He grins back at me, a wicked, salacious grin.
“Oh, so this is the game we’re playing, Miss Steele?” He bends, hooks his hands under my arms, and pulls me to my feet. Suddenly his mouth is on mine. He groans.
“I can taste myself. You taste better,” he murmurs against my lips. He tugs my T-shirt off and throws it carelessly onto the floor, then picks me up and tosses me onto the bed. Grabbing the end of my sweats, he tugs abruptly so that they come off in one swift move. I’m naked underneath, sprawled across his bed. Waiting. Wanting. His eyes drink me in, and slowly he removes his remaining clothes, not taking his eyes off me.
“You are one beautiful woman, Anastasia,” he murmurs appreciatively.
Hmm . . . I tilt my head coquettishly to one side and beam at him.
“You are one beautiful man, Christian, and you taste mighty fine.”
He gives me a wicked grin and reaches for the spreader bar. Grabbing my left ankle, he quickly cuffs it, strapping the buckle tightly, but not too tight. He tests how much room I have by sliding his little finger between the cuff and my ankle. He doesn’t take his eyes off mine; he doesn’t need to see what he’s doing. Hmm . . . he’s done this before.
“We’ll have to see how you taste. If I recall, you’re a rare, exquisite delicacy, Miss Steele.”
Grasping my other ankle, he quickly and efficiently cuffs that one as well, so that my feet are about two feet apart.
“The good thing about this spreader is, it expands,” he murmurs. He clicks something on the bar, then pushes, so my legs spread further. Whoa, three feet apart. My mouth drops open, and I take a deep breath. Fuck, this is hot. I’m on fire, restless and needy.
Christian licks his lower lip.
“Oh, we’re going to have some fun with this, Ana.” Reaching down he grasps the bar and twists it so I flip on to my front. It takes me by surprise.
“See what I can do to you?” he says darkly and twists it again abruptly, so I am once more on my back, gaping up at him, breathless.
“These other cuffs are for your wrists. I’ll think about that. Depends if you behave or not.”
“When do I not behave?”
“I can think of a few infractions,” he says softly, running his fingers up the soles of my feet. It tickles, but the bar holds me in place, though I try to writhe away from his fingers.
“Your Blackberry, for one.”
I gasp. “What are you going to do?”
“Oh, I never disclose my plans.” He smirks, his eyes alight with pure devilment.
Holy cow. He’s so mind-bogglingly sexy, it takes my breath away.
He crawls up the bed so that he’s kneeling between my legs, gloriously naked, and I’m helpless.
“Hmm. You are so exposed, Miss Steele.” He runs the fingers of both his hands up the inside of each of my legs, slowly, surely, making small circular patterns. Never breaking eye contact with me.
“It’s all about anticipation, Ana. What will I do to you?” His softly spoken words penetrate right to the deepest, darkest, part of me. I wriggle on the bed and moan. His fingers continue their slow assault up my legs, past the backs of my knees. Instinctively, I want to close my legs but I can’t.
“Remember, if you don’t like something, just tell me to stop,” he murmurs. Bending over, he kisses my belly, soft, sucky kisses while his hands continue their slow tortuous journey north up my inner thighs, touching and teasing.
“Oh please, Christian,” I plead.
“Oh, Miss Steele. I’ve discovered you can be merciless in your amorous assaults upon me. I think I should return the favor.”
My fingers clutch the duvet as I surrender myself to him, his mouth gently heading south, his fingers north, to the vulnerable and exposed apex of my thighs. I groan as he eases his fingers inside me and buck my pelvis up to meet them. Christian moans in response.
“You never cease to amaze me, Ana. You’re so wet,” he murmurs against the line where my pubic hair joins my belly. My body bows as his mouth finds me.
Oh my.
He begins a slow and sensual assault, his tongue swirling around and around while his fingers move inside me. Because I can’t close my legs, or move, it’s intense, really intense. My back arches as I try to absorb the sensations.
“Oh, Christian,” I cry.
“I know, baby,” he whispers, and to ease up on me, he blows softly on the most sensitive part of my body.
“Arrgh! Please!” I beg.
“Say my name,” he commands.
“Christian,” I call, hardly recognizing my own voice—it’s so high-pitched and needy.
“Again,” he breathes.
“Christian, Christian, Christian Grey,” I call out loudly.
“You are mine.” His voice is soft and deadly and with one last flick of his tongue, I fall—spectacularly—embracing my orgasm, and because my legs are so far apart, it goes on and on and I am lost.
Vaguely, I’m aware that Christian has flipped me on to my front.
“We’re going to try this, baby. If you don’t like it, or it’s too uncomfortable, tell me, and we’ll stop.”
What? I am too lost in the afterglow to form any sentient or coherent thoughts. I am sitting on Christian’s lap. How did that happen?
“Lean down, baby,” he murmurs at my ear. “Head and chest on the bed.”
In a daze I do as I’m told. He pulls both my hands backward and cuffs them to the bar, next to my ankles. Oh . . . My knees are drawn up, my ass in the air, utterly vulnerable, completely his.
“Ana, you look so beautiful.” His voice is full of wonder, and I hear the rip of foil. He runs his fingers from the base of my spine down toward my sex and pauses a beat over my ass.
“When you’re ready, I want this, too.” His finger is hovering over me. I gasp loudly as I feel myself tense under his gentle probing. “Not today, sweet Ana, but one day . . . I want you every way. I want to possess every inch of you. You’re mine.”
I think about the butt plug, and everything tightens deep inside me. His words make me groan, and his fingers move down and around to more familiar territory.
Moments later, he’s slamming into me. “Aagh! Gently,” I cry, and he stills.
“You okay?”
“Gently . . . let me get used to this.”
He eases slowly out of me then eases gently back, filling me, stretching me, twice, thrice, and I am helpless.
“Yes, good, I’ve got it now,” I murmur, relishing the feeling.
He groans, and picks up his rhythm. Moving, moving . . . relentless . . . onward, inward, filling me . . . and it’s exquisite. There’s joy in my helplessness, joy in my surrender to him, and to know that he can lose himself in me the way he wants to. I can do this. He
takes me to these dark places, places I didn’t know existed, and together we fill them with blinding light. Oh yes . . . blazing, blinding light.
And I let go, glorying in what he does to me, finding my sweet, sweet release, as I come again, loudly, screaming his name. And he stills, pouring his heart and soul into me.
“Ana, baby,” he cries and collapses beside me.
His fingers deftly undo the straps, and he rubs my ankles then my wrists. When he’s finished and I’m finally free, he pulls me into his arms and I drift, exhausted.
When I surface again, I am curled beside him and he’s gazing at me. I have no idea what the time is.
“I could watch you sleep forever, Ana,” he murmurs and he kisses my forehead.
I smile and shift languorously beside him.
“I never want to let you go,” he says softly and wraps his arms around me.
Hmm. “I never want to go. Never let me go,” I mutter sleepily, my eyelids refusing to open.
“I need you,” he whispers, but his voice is a distant, ethereal part of my dreams. He needs me . . . needs me . . . and as I finally slip into the darkness, my last thoughts are of a small boy with gray eyes and dirty, messy, copper-colored hair smiling shyly at me.

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