Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker CHAPTER 4


As sanity returns, I open my eyes and gaze up into the face of the man I love. Christian’s expression is soft, tender. He strokes his nose against mine, bearing his weight on his elbows, his hands holding mine by the side of my head. Sadly, I suspect that’s so I don’t touch him. He plants a gentle kiss on my lips as he eases himself out of me.
“I’ve missed this,” he breathes.
“Me too,” I whisper.
He takes hold of my chin and kisses me hard. A passionate, beseeching kiss, asking for what? I don’t know. It leaves me breathless.
“Don’t leave me again,” he implores, looking deep into my eyes, his face serious.
“Okay,” I whisper and smile at him. His answering smile is dazzling; relief, elation, and boyish delight combined into one enchanting look that would melt the coldest of hearts. “Thank you for the iPad.”
“You are most welcome, Anastasia.”
“What’s your favorite song on there?”
“Now that would be telling.” He grins. “Come cook me some food, wench. I’m famished,” he adds, sitting up suddenly and dragging me with him.
“Wench?” I giggle.
“Wench. Food, now, please.”
“Since you ask so nicely, sire, I’ll get right on to it.”
As I scramble out of bed, I dislodge my pillow, revealing the deflated helicopter balloon underneath. Christian reaches for it and gazes up at me, puzzled.
“That’s my balloon,” I say, feeling proprietary as I reach for my robe and wrap it round myself. Oh jeez . . . why did he have to find that?
“In your bed?” he murmurs.
“Yes,” I flush. “It’s been keeping me company.”
“Lucky Charlie Tango,” he says, in surprise.
Yes, I’m sentimental, Grey, because I love you.
“My balloon,” I say again and turn on my heel and head out to the kitchen, leaving him grinning from ear to ear.
Christian and I sit on Kate’s persian rug, eating stir-fry chicken and noodles from white china bowls with chopsticks and sipping chilled white Pinot Grigio. Christian leans against the couch, his long legs stretched out in front of him. He’s wearing his jeans and his shirt with his just-fucked hair, and that’s all. The Buena Vista Social Club croons softly in the background from Christian’s iPod.
“This is good,” he says appreciatively as he digs into his food.
I sit cross-legged beside him, eating greedily, beyond hungry, and admire his naked feet.
“I usually do all the cooking. Kate isn’t a great cook.”
“Did you your mother teach you?”
“Not really,” I scoff. “By the time I was interested in learning, my mom was living with Husband Number Three in Mansfield, Texas. And Ray, well, he would’ve lived on toast and takeout if it wasn’t for me.”
Christian gazes down at me. “You didn’t stay in Texas with your mom?”
“No. Steve, her husband and I, we didn’t get along. And I missed Ray. Her marriage to Steve didn’t last long. She came to her senses, I think. She never talks about him,” I add quietly. I think that’s a dark part of her life, which we’ve never discussed.
“So you came back to Washington to live with your stepfather.”
“Sounds like you looked after him,” he says softly.
“I suppose.” I shrug.
“You’re used to taking care of people.”
The edge in his voice attracts my attention, and I glance up at him.
“What is it?” I ask, startled by his wary expression.
“I want to take care of you.” His luminous eyes glow with some unnamed emotion.
My heart rate spikes.
“I’ve noticed,” I whisper. “You just go about it in a strange way.”
His brow creases. “It’s the only way I know how,” he says quietly.
“I’m still mad at you for buying SIP.”
He smiles. “I know but you being mad, baby, wouldn’t stop me.”
“What am I going to say to my work colleagues, to Jack?”
He narrows his eyes. “That fucker better watch himself.”
“Christian!” I admonish. “He’s my boss.”
Christian’s mouth presses into a hard line. He looks like a recalcitrant schoolboy.
“Don’t tell them,” he says.
“Don’t tell them what?”
“That I own it. The heads of agreement was signed yesterday. The news is embargoed for four weeks while the management at SIP makes some changes.”
“Oh . . . will I be out of a job?” I ask, alarmed.
“I sincerely doubt it,” Christian says wryly, trying to stifle his smile.
I scowl. “If I leave and find another job, will you buy that company, too?”
“You’re not thinking of leaving, are you?” His expression alters, wary once more.
“Possibly. I’m not sure you’ve given me a great deal of choice.”
“Yes, I will buy that company, too.” He is adamant.
I scowl at him again. I am in a no-win situation here.
“Don’t you think you’re being a tad overprotective?”
“Yes. I am fully aware of how this looks.”
“Paging Dr. Flynn,” I murmur.
He puts down his empty bowl and gazes at me impassively. I sigh. I don’t want to fight. Standing up, I reach for his bowl.
“Would you like dessert?”
“Now you’re talking!” he says, giving me a lascivious grin.
“Not me.” Why not me? My inner goddess wakes from her doze and sits upright, all ears. “We have ice cream. Vanilla.” I snicker.
“Really?” Christian’s grin gets bigger. “I think we could do something with that.”
What? I stare at him dumbfounded as he gracefully gets to his feet.
“Can I stay?” he asks.
“What do you mean?”
“The night.”
“I assumed that you were.” I flush.
“Good. Where’s the ice cream?”
“In the oven.” I smile sweetly at him.
He cocks his head to one side, sighs, and shakes his head at me. “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, Miss Steele.” His eyes glitter.
Oh shit. What’s he planning?
“I could still take you across my knee.”
I place the bowls in the sink. “Do you have those silver ball things?”
He pats his hands down his chest, belly, and the pockets of his jeans. “Funnily enough, I don’t carry a spare set around with me. Not much call for them in the office.”
“I am very glad to hear it, Mr. Grey, and I thought you said that sarcasm was the lowest form of wit.”
“Well, Anastasia, my new motto is if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
I gape at him—I can’t believe he’s just said that—and he looks sickeningly pleased with himself as he grins at me. Turning, he opens the freezer and takes out the carton of Ben & Jerry’s finest vanilla.
“This will do just fine.” He looks up at me, eyes dark. “Ben & Jerry’s & Ana.” He says each word slowly, enunciating every syllable clearly.
Oh fucking my. I think my lower jaw is on the floor. He opens the cutlery drawer and grabs a spoon. When he looks up, his are eyes hooded, and his tongue skims his top teeth. Oh, that tongue.
I feel winded. Desire, dark, sleek, and wanton runs hot through my veins. We’re going to have fun, with food.
“I hope you’re warm,” he whispers. “I’m going to cool you down with this. Come.” He holds out his hand, and I place mine in his.
In my bedroom he places the ice cream on my bedside table, pulls the duvet off the bed, and removes both the pillows, placing them all in a pile on the floor.
“You have a change of sheets, don’t you?”
I nod, watching him, fascinated. He holds up Charlie Tango.
“Don’t mess with my balloon,” I warn.
His lips quirk upward in half a smile. “Wouldn’t dream of it, baby, but I do want to mess with you and these sheets.”
My body practically convulses.
“I want to tie you up.”
Oh. “Okay,” I whisper.
“Just your hands. To the bed. I need you still.”
“Okay,” I whisper again, incapable of anything more.
He strolls over to me, not taking his eyes off mine.
“We’ll use this.” He takes hold of my robe sash and with delicious, teasing slowness, releases the bow, and gently pulls it free of the garment.
My robe falls open while I stand paralyzed under his heated gaze. After a moment, he pushes the robe off my shoulders. It falls and pools at my feet so that I’m standing naked before him. He strokes my face with the backs of his knuckles, and his touch resonates in the depths of my groin. Bending, he kisses my lips briefly.
“Lie on the bed, face up,” he murmurs, his eyes darkening, burning into mine.
I do as I’m told. My room is shrouded in darkness except for the soft, insipid light from my lamp.
Normally, I hate energy-saving bulbs—they are so dim—but being naked here, with Christian, I’m grateful for the muted light. He stands by the bed gazing down at me.
“I could look at you all day, Anastasia,” he says, and with that crawls on to the bed, up my body, and straddles me.
“Arms above your head,” he commands.
I comply and he fastens the end of my robe sash round my left wrist and threads the end through the metal bars at the head of my bed. He pulls it tight so my left arm is flexed above me. He then secures my right hand, tying the sash tightly.
When I’m tied-up, staring at him, he visibly relaxes. He likes me tethered. I can’t touch him this way. It occurs to me that none of his subs would have touched him either—and
what’s more, they would never have the opportunity to. He would have always been in control and at a distance. That’s why he likes his rules.
He climbs off me and bends to give me a quick peck on the lips. Then he stands and lifts his shirt over his head. He undoes his jeans and drops them to the floor.
He is gloriously naked. My inner goddess is doing a triple axel dismount off the uneven bars, and abruptly my mouth is dry. He really is beyond beautiful. He has a physique drawn on classical lines: broad muscular shoulders, narrow hips, the inverted triangle. He obviously works out. I could look at him all day. He moves to the end of the bed and grasps my ankles, pulling me swiftly and sharply downward so that my arms are stretched out and unable to move.
“That’s better,” he mutters.
Picking up the tub of ice cream, he climbs smoothly back onto the bed to straddle me once more. Very slowly, he peels off the lid of the tub and dips the spoon in.
“Hmm . . . it’s still quite hard,” he says with a raised brow. Scooping out a spoonful of the vanilla, he pops it into his mouth. “Delicious,” he murmurs, licking his lips. “Amazing how good plain old vanilla can taste.” He gazes down at me and smirks. “Want some?” he teases.
He looks so freaking hot, young and carefree—sitting on me and eating from a tub of ice cream—eyes bright, face luminous. Oh what the hell is he going to do to me? As if I can’t tell. I nod, shyly.
He scoops out another spoonful and offers me the spoon, so I open my mouth, then he quickly pops it in his mouth again.
“This is too good to share,” he says, smiling wickedly.
“Hey,” I start in protest.
“Why, Miss Steele, do you like your vanilla?”
“Yes,” I say more forcefully than I mean and try in vain to buck him off.
He laughs. “Getting feisty, are we? I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“Ice cream,” I plead.
“Well, as you’ve pleased me so much today, Miss Steele.” He relents and offers me another spoonful. This time he lets me eat it.
I want to giggle. He’s really enjoying himself, and his good humor is infectious. He scoops another spoonful and feeds me some more, then he does it again. Okay, enough.
“Hmm, well, this is one way to ensure you eat—force-feed you. I could get used to this.”
Taking another spoonful, he offers me more. This time I keep my mouth shut and shake my head, and he lets it slowly melt on the spoon so that the melted ice cream drips, onto my throat, onto my chest. He dips down and very slowly licks it off. My body lights up with longing.
“Mmm. Tastes even better off you, Miss Steele.”
I pull against my restraints and the bed creaks ominously, but I don’t care—I’m burning with desire, it’s consuming me. He takes another spoonful and lets the ice cream dribble onto my breasts. Then with the back of the spoon, he spreads it over each breast and nipple.
Oh . . . it’s cold. Each nipple peaks and hardens beneath the cool of the vanilla.
“Cold?” Christian asks softly and bends to lick and suckle all the ice cream off me once more, his mouth hot compared to the cool of the ice.
Oh my. It’s torture. As it starts to melt, the ice cream runs off me in rivulets on to the bed. His lips continue their slow torture, sucking hard, nuzzling, softly—Oh please!—I’m panting.
“Want some?” And before I can confirm or deny his offer, his tongue is in my mouth, and it’s cold and skilled and tastes of Christian and vanilla. Delicious.
And just as I am getting used to the sensation, he sits up again and trails a spoonful of ice cream down the center of my body, across my stomach, and into my navel where he deposits a large dollop of ice cream. Oh, this is chillier than before, but weirdly it burns.
“Now, you’ve done this before.” Christian’s eyes shine. “You’re going to have to stay still, or there will be ice cream all over the bed.” He kisses each of my breasts and sucks each of my nipples hard, then follows the line of ice cream down my body, sucking and licking as he goes.
And I try, I try to stay still despite the heady combination of cold and his inflaming touch. But my hips start to move involuntarily, gyrating to their own rhythm, caught up in his cool vanilla spell. He shifts lower and starts eating the ice cream in my belly, swirling his tongue into and around my navel.
I moan. Holy cow. It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s tantalizing, but he doesn’t stop. He trails the ice cream further down my body, into my pubic hair, on to my clitoris. I cry out, loudly.
“Hush now,” Christian says softly as his magical tongue sets to work lapping up the vanilla, and now I’m keening quietly.
“Oh . . . please . . . Christian.”
“I know, baby, I know,” he breathes as his tongue works its magic. He doesn’t stop, just doesn’t stop, and my body is climbing—higher, higher. He slips one finger inside me, then another and he moves them with agonizing slowness in and out.
“Just here,” he murmurs, and he rhythmically strokes the front wall of my vagina while he continues the exquisite, relentless licking and sucking. Holy fucking cow.
I erupt unexpectedly into a mind-blowing orgasm that stuns all my senses, obliterating all that’s happening outside of my body as I writhe and groan. Jeez, that was so quick.
I am vaguely aware that he has stopped his ministrations. He’s hovering over me, sliding on a condom, and then he’s inside me, hard and fast.
“Oh yes!” He groans as he slams into me. He’s sticky—the residual melted ice cream spreading between us. It’s a strangely distracting sensation, but one I can’t dwell on for more than a few seconds as Christian suddenly pulls out of me and flips me over.
“This way,” he murmurs and abruptly is inside me once more, but he doesn’t start his usual punishing rhythm straight away. He leans over, releases my hands, and pulls me upright so I am practically sitting on him. His hands move up to my breasts, and he palms them both, tugging gently on my nipples. I groan, tossing my head back against his shoulder. He nuzzles my neck, biting down, as he flexes his hips, deliciously slowly, filling me again and again.
“Do you know how much you mean to me?” he breathes against my ear.
“No,” I gasp.
He smiles against my neck, and his fingers curl around my jaw and throat, holding me fast for a moment.
“Yes, you do. I’m not going to let you go.”
I groan as he picks up speed.
“You are mine, Anastasia.”
“Yes, yours,” I pant.
“I take care of what’s mine,” he hisses and bites my ear.
I cry out.
“That’s right, baby, I want to hear you.” He snakes one hand around my waist while his other hand grasps my hip, and he pushes into me harder, making me cry out again. And the punishing rhythm starts. His breathing grows harsher and harsher, ragged, matching mine. I feel the familiar quickening deep inside. Jeez again!
I am just sensation. This is what he does to me—takes my body and possesses it wholly so that I think of nothing but him. His magic is powerful, intoxicating. I’m a butterfly caught in his net, unable and unwilling to escape. I’m his . . . totally his.
“Come on, baby,” he growls through gritted teeth and on cue, like the sorcerer’s apprentice I am, I let go, and we find our release together.
I am lying curled up in his arms on sticky sheets. His front is pressed to my back, his nose in my hair.
“What I feel for you frightens me,” I whisper.
He stills. “Me too, baby,” he says quietly.
“What if you leave me?” The thought is horrific.
“I’m not going anywhere. I don’t think I could ever have my fill of you, Anastasia.”
I turn and gaze at him. His expression is serious, sincere. I lean over and kiss him gently. He smiles and reaches up to tuck my hair behind my ear.
“I’ve never felt the way I felt when you left, Anastasia. I would move heaven and earth to avoid feeling like that again.” He sounds so sad, dazed even.
I kiss him again. I want to lighten our mood somehow, but Christian does it for me.
“Will you come with me to my father’s summer party tomorrow? It’s an annual charity thing. I said I’d go.”
I smile, feeling suddenly shy.
“Of course I’ll come.” Oh shit. I have nothing to wear.
“Tell me,” he insists.
“I have nothing to wear.”
Christian looks momentarily uncomfortable.
“Don’t be mad, but I still have all those clothes for you at home. I am sure there are a couple of dresses in there.”
I purse my lips. “Do you, now?” I mutter, my voice sardonic. I don’t want to fight with him tonight. I need a shower.
The girl who looks like me is standing outside SIP. Hang on—she is me. I am pale and unwashed, and all my clothes are too big; I’m staring at her, and she’s wearing my clothes—happy, healthy.
“What do you have that I don’t?” I ask her.
“Who are you?”
“I’m nobody . . . Who are you? Are you nobody, too . . . ?”
“Then there’s a pair of us—don’t tell, they’d banish us, you know . . .”1 She smiles, a slow, evil grimace that spreads across her face, and it’s so chilling that I start to scream.
“Jesus, Ana!” Christian is shaking me awake.
I am so disorientated. I’m at home . . . in the dark . . . in bed with Christian. I shake my head, trying to clear my mind.
“Baby, are you okay? You were having a bad dream.”
He switches on the lamp so we’re bathed in its dim light. He gazes down at me, his face etched with concern.
“The girl,” I whisper.
“What is it? What girl?” he asks soothingly.
“There was a girl outside SIP when I left this evening. She looked like me . . . but not really.”
Christian stills, and as the light from the bedside lamp warms up, I see his face is ashen.
“When was this?” he whispers, dismayed. He sits up, staring down at me.
“When I left this afternoon. Do you know who she is?”
“Yes.” He runs a hand through his hair.
His mouth presses into a hard line, but he says nothing.
“Who?” I press.
“It’s Leila.”
I swallow. The ex-sub! I remember Christian talking about her before we went gliding. Suddenly, he’s radiating tension. Something is going on.
“The girl who put ‘Toxic’ on your iPod?”
He glances at me anxiously.
“Yes,” he says. “Did she say anything?”
“She said, ‘what do you have that I don’t have?’ and when I asked who she was, she said, ‘nobody.’ ”
Christian closes his eyes as if in pain. Oh no. What’s happened? What does she mean to him?
My scalp prickles as adrenaline spikes through my body. What if she means a lot to him? Perhaps he misses her? I know so little about his past . . . um, relationships. She must have had a contract, and she would have done what he wanted, given him what he needed gladly.
1 Emily Dickinson, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” first stanza.
Oh no—when I can’t. The thought makes me nauseous.
Climbing out of bed, Christian drags on his jeans and heads into the main room. A glance at my alarm clock shows it’s five in the morning. I roll out of bed, putting his white shirt on, and follow him.
Holy shit, he’s on the phone.
“Yes, outside SIP, yesterday . . . early evening,” he says quietly. He turns to me as I move toward the kitchen and asks me directly, “What time exactly?”
“About ten to six?” I mumble. Who on earth is he calling at this hour? What’s Leila done? He relays the information to whoever’s on the line, not taking his eyes off me, his expression dark and earnest.
“Find out how . . . Yes . . . I wouldn’t have said so, but then I wouldn’t have thought she could do this.” He closes his eyes as if he’s in pain. “I don’t know how that will go down . . . Yes, I’ll talk to her . . . Yes . . . I know . . . Follow it up and let me know. Just find her, Welch—she’s in trouble. Find her.” He hangs up.
“Do you want some tea?” I ask. Tea, Ray’s answer to every crisis and the only thing he does well in the kitchen. I fill the kettle with water.
“Actually, I’d like to go back to bed.” His look tells me that it’s not to sleep.
“Well, I need some tea. Would you like to join me for a cup?” I want to know what’s going on. I will not be sidetracked by sex.
He runs his hand through his hair in exasperation. “Yes, please,” he says, but I can tell he’s irritated.
I put the kettle on the stove and busy myself with teacups and the teapot. My anxiety level has shot to defcon one. Is he going to tell me the problem? Or am I going to have to dig?
I sense his eyes on me—sense his uncertainty, and his anger is palpable. I glance up, and his eyes glitter with apprehension.
“What is it?” I ask softly.
He shakes his head.
“You’re not going to tell me?”
He sighs and closes his eyes. “No.”
“Because it shouldn’t concern you. I don’t want you tangled up in this.”
“It shouldn’t concern me, but it does. She found me and accosted me outside my office. How does she know about me? How does she know where I work? I think I have a right to know what’s going on.”
He runs a hand through his hair again, radiating frustration as if waging some internal battle.
“Please?” I ask softly.
His mouth sets into a hard line, and he rolls his eyes at me.
“Okay,” he says, resigned. “I have no idea how she found you. Maybe the photograph of us in Portland, I don’t know.” He sighs again, and I sense his frustration is directed at himself.
I wait patiently, pouring boiling water into the teapot as he paces back and forth. After a beat he continues.
“While I was with you in Georgia, Leila turned up at my apartment unannounced and made a scene in front of Gail.”
“Mrs. Jones.”
“What do you mean, ‘made a scene’?”
He glares at me, appraising.
“Tell me. You’re keeping something back.” My tone is more forceful than I feel.
He blinks at me, surprised. “Ana, I—” he stops.
He sighs in defeat. “She made a haphazard attempt to open a vein.”
“Oh no!” That explains the bandage on her wrist.
“Gail got her to hospital. But Leila discharged herself before I could get there.”
Crap. What does this mean? Suicidal? Why?
“The shrink who saw her called it a typical cry for help. He didn’t believe her to be truly at risk—one step from suicidal ideation, he called it. But I’m not convinced. I’ve been trying to track her down since then to get her some help.”
“Did she say anything to Mrs. Jones?”
He gazes at me. He looks really uncomfortable.
“Not much,” he says eventually, but I know he’s not telling me everything.
I distract myself with pouring tea into teacups. So Leila wants back into Christian’s life and chooses a suicide attempt to attract his attention? Whoa . . . scary. But effective. Christian left Georgia to be at her side, but she disappears before he gets there? How odd.
“You can’t find her? What about her family?”
“They don’t know where she is. Neither does her husband.”
“Yes,” he says distractedly, “she’s been married for about two years.”
What? “So she was with you while she was married?” Holy fuck. He really has no boundaries.
“No! Good God, no. She was with me nearly three years ago. Then she left and married this guy shortly afterward.”
Oh. “So why is she trying to get your attention now?”
He shakes his head sadly. “I don’t know. All we’ve managed to find out is that she ran out on her husband about four months ago.”
“Let me get this straight. She hasn’t been your submissive for three years?”
“About two and a half years.”
“And she wanted more.”
“But you didn’t?”
“You know this.”
“So she left you.”
“So why is she coming to you now?”
“I don’t know.” And the tone of this voice tells me that he at least has a theory.
“But you suspect . . .”
His eyes narrow perceptibly with anger. “I suspect it has something to do with you.”
Me? What would she want with me? “What do you have that I don’t?”
I stare at Fifty, magnificently naked from the waist up. I have him; he’s mine. That’s what I have, and yet she looked like me: same dark hair and pale skin. I frown at the thought. Yes . . . what do I have that she doesn’t?
“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?” he asks softly.
“I forgot about her.” I shrug apologetically. “You know, drinks after work, at the end of my first week. You turning up at the bar and your . . . testosterone rush with Jack, and then when we were here. It slipped my mind. You have a habit of making me forget things.”
“Testosterone rush?” His lips twitch.
“Yes. The pissing contest.”
“I’ll show you a testosterone rush.”
“Wouldn’t you rather have a cup of tea?”
“No, Anastasia, I wouldn’t.”
His eyes burn into me, scorching me with his I-want-you-and-I-want-you-now look. Fuck . . . it’s so hot.
“Forget about her. Come.” He holds out his hand.
My inner goddess does three back flips over the gym floor as I grasp his hand.
I wake, too warm, and I’m wrapped around a naked Christian Grey. Even though he’s fast asleep, he’s holding me close. Soft morning light filters through the curtains. My head is on his chest, my leg tangled with his, my arm across his stomach.
I raise my head slightly, scared that I might wake him. He looks so young, so relaxed in sleep, so utterly beautiful. I can’t quite believe this Adonis is mine, all mine.
Hmm . . . Reaching up, I tentatively stroke his chest, running my fingertips through the smattering of hair, and he doesn’t stir. Holy cow. I can’t quite believe it. He’s really mine—for a few more precious moments. I lean over and tenderly kiss one of his scars. He moans softly but doesn’t wake, and I smile. I kiss another and his eyes open.
“Hi.” I grin at him, guiltily.
“Hi,” he answers warily. “What are you doing?”
“Looking at you.” I run my fingers down his happy trail. He captures my hand, narrows his eyes, then smiles a brilliant Christian-at-ease smile, and I relax. My secret touching stays secret.
Oh . . . why won’t you let me touch you?
Suddenly he moves on top of me, pressing me into the mattress, his hands on mine, warning me. He strokes my nose with his.
“I think you’re up to no good, Miss Steele,” he accuses but his smile remains.
“I like being up to no good near you.”
“You do?” he asks and kisses me lightly on the lips. “Sex or breakfast?” he asks, his eyes dark but full of humor. His erection is digging into me, and I tilt my pelvis up to meet him.
“Good choice,” he murmurs against my throat, as he trails kisses down to my breast.
I stand at my chest of drawers, staring at my mirror, trying to coax my hair into some semblance of style—really, it’s just too long. I’m in jeans and a T-shirt, and Christian, freshly showered, is dressing behind me. I gaze at his body hungrily.
“How often do you work out?” I ask.
“Every weekday,” he says, buttoning his fly.
“What do you do?”
“Run, weights, kickbox.” He shrugs.
“Yes, I have a personal trainer, an ex-Olympic contender who teaches me. His name is Claude. He’s very good. You’d like him.”
I turn to gaze at him as he starts to button up his white shirt.
“What do you mean I’d like him?”
“You’d like him as a trainer.”
“Why would I need a personal trainer? I have you to keep me fit.” I smirk at him.
He saunters over and wraps his arms around me, his darkening eyes meeting mine in the mirror.
“But I want you fit, baby, for what I have in mind. I’ll need you to keep up.”
I flush as memories of the playroom flood my mind. Yes . . . the Red Room of Pain is exhausting. Is he going to let me back in there? Do I want to go back in?
Of course you do! My inner goddess screams at me from her chaise longue.
I stare into his unfathomable, mesmerizing gray eyes.
“You know you want to,” he mouths at me.
I flush, and the undesirable thought that Leila could probably keep up slithers invidious and unwelcome into my mind. I press my lips together and Christian frowns at me.
“What?” he asks, concerned.
“Nothing.” I shake my head at him. “Okay, I’ll meet Claude.”
“You will?” Christian’s face lights up in astounded disbelief. His expression makes me smile He looks like he’s won the lottery, though Christian’s probably never even bought a ticket—he has no need.
“Yes, jeez—if it makes you that happy,” I scoff.
He tightens his arms around me and kisses my cheek. “You have no idea,” he whispers. “So—what would you like to do today?” He nuzzles me, sending delicious tingles through my body.
“I’d like to get my hair cut, and um . . . I need to bank a check and buy a car.”
“Ah,” he says knowingly and bites his lip. Taking one hand off me, he reaches into his jeans pocket and holds up the key to my little Audi.
“It’s here,” he says quietly, his expression uncertain.
“What do you mean, it’s here?” Boy. I sound angry. Crap. I am angry. My subconscious glares at him. How dare he!
“Taylor brought it back yesterday.”
I open my mouth then close it and repeat the process twice, but I have been rendered speechless. He’s giving me back the car. Double crap. Why didn’t I foresee this? Well, two can play at that game. I fish in the back pocket of my jeans and pull out the envelope with his check.
“Here, this is yours.”
Christian looks at me quizzically, then recognizing the envelope, raises both his hands and steps away from me.
“Oh no. That’s your money.”
“No, it isn’t. I’d like to buy the car from you.”
His expression changes completely. Fury—yes, fury—sweeps across his face.
“No, Anastasia. Your money, your car,” he snaps at me.
“No, Christian. My money, your car. I’ll buy it from you.”
“I gave you that car for your graduation present.”
“If you’d given me a pen—that would be a suitable graduation present. You gave me an Audi.”
“Do you really want to argue about this?”
“Good—here are the keys.” He puts them on the chest of drawers.
“That’s not what I meant!”
“End of discussion, Anastasia. Don’t push me.”
I scowl at him, then inspiration hits me. Taking the envelope, I rip it in two, then two again and drop the contents into my waste bin. Oh, that feels good.
Christian gazes at me impassively, but I know I’ve just lit the blue touch paper and should stand well back. He strokes his chin.
“You are, as ever, challenging, Miss Steele,” he says dryly. He turns on his heel and stalks into the other room. That is not the reaction I expected. I was anticipating full scale Armageddon. I stare at myself in the mirror and shrug, deciding on a ponytail.
My curiosity is piqued. What is Fifty doing? I follow him into the room, and he’s on the phone.
“Yes, twenty-four thousand dollars. Directly.”
He glances up at me, still impassive.
“Good . . . Monday? Excellent . . . No that’s all, Andrea.”
He snaps the phone shut.
“Deposited in your bank account, Monday. Don’t play games with me.” He’s boiling mad, but I don’t care.
“Twenty-four thousand dollars!” I’m almost screaming. “And how do you know my account number?”
My ire takes Christian by surprise.
“I know everything about you, Anastasia,” he says quietly.
“There’s no way my car was worth twenty-four thousand dollars.”
“I would agree with you, but it’s about knowing your market, whether you’re buying or selling. Some lunatic out there wanted that death trap and was willing to pay that amount of money. Apparently, it’s a classic. Ask Taylor if you don’t believe me.”
I glower at him and he glowers back, two angry stubborn fools glaring at each other.
And I feel it, the pull—the electricity between us—tangible, drawing us together. Suddenly he grabs me and pushes me up against the door, his mouth on mine, claiming me hungrily, one hand on my behind pressing me to his groin and the other in the nape of my hair, tugging my head back. My fingers are in his hair, twisting hard, holding him to me. He
grinds his body into mine, imprisoning me, his breathing ragged. I feel him. He wants me, and I’m heady and reeling with excitement as I acknowledge his need for me.
“Why, why do you defy me?” he mumbles between his heated kisses.
My blood sings in my veins. Will he always have this effect on me? And I on him?
“Because I can.” I’m breathless. I feel rather than see his smile against my neck, and he presses his forehead to mine.
“Lord, I want to take you now, but I’m out of condoms. I can never get enough of you. You’re a maddening, maddening woman.”
“And you make me mad,” I whisper. “In every way.”
He shakes his head. “Come. Let’s go out for breakfast. And I know a place you can get your hair cut.”
“Okay,” I acquiesce and just like that, our fight is over.
“I’ll get this.” I pick up the tab for breakfast before he does.
He scowls at me.
“You have to be quick around here, Grey.”
“You’re right, I do,” he says sourly, though I think he’s teasing.
“Don’t look so cross. I’m twenty-four thousand dollars richer than I was this morning. I can afford”—I glance at the check—“twenty-two dollars and sixty-seven cents for breakfast.”
“Thank you,” he says grudgingly. Oh, the sulky schoolboy is back.
“Where to now?”
“You really want your hair cut?”
“Yes, look at it.”
“You look lovely to me. You always do.”
I blush and stare down at my fingers knotted in my lap. “And there’s your father’s function this evening.”
“Remember, it’s black tie.”
Oh Jeez. “Where is it?”
“At my parents’ house. They have a marquee. You know, the works.”
“What’s the charity?”
Christian rubs his hands down his thighs, looking uncomfortable.
“It’s a drug rehab program for parents with young kids called Coping Together.”
“Sounds like a good cause,” I say softly.
“Come, let’s go.” He stands, effectively halting that topic of conversation and holds out his hand. As I take it, he tightens his fingers around mine.
It’s strange. He’s so demonstrative in some ways and yet so closed in others. He leads me out of the restaurant, and we walk down the street. It is a lovely, mild morning. The sun is shining, and the air smells of coffee and freshly baked bread.
“Where are we going?”
Oh, okay. I don’t really like surprises.
We walk for two blocks, and the stores become decidedly more exclusive. I haven’t yet had an opportunity to explore, but this really is just around the corner from where I live. Kate will be pleased. There are plenty of small boutiques to feed her fashion passion. Actually, I need to buy some floaty skirts for work.
Christian stops outside a large, slick-looking beauty salon and opens the door for me. It’s called Esclava. The interior is all white and leather. At the stark white reception desk sits a young blond woman in a crisp white uniform. She glances up as we enter.
“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” she says brightly, color rising in her cheeks as she bats her eyelashes at him. It’s the Grey effect, but she knows him! How?
“Hello Greta.”
And he knows her. What is this?
“Is this the usual, sir?” she asks politely. She’s wearing very pink lipstick.
“No,” he says quickly, with a nervous glance at me.
The usual? What does that mean?
Holy fuck! It’s Rule no 6, the damned beauty salon. All the waxing nonsense . . . shit!
This is where he brought all his subs? Maybe Leila, too? What the hell am I supposed to make of this?
“Miss Steele will tell you what she wants.”
I glare at him. He’s introducing the Rules by stealth. I’ve agreed to the personal trainer—and now this?
“Why here?” I hiss at him.
“I own this place, and three more like it.”
“You own it?” I gasp in surprise. Well, that’s unexpected.
“Yes. It’s a sideline. Anyway—whatever you want, you can have it here, on the house. All sorts of massage; Swedish, shiatsu, hot stones, reflexology, seaweed baths, facials, all that stuff that women like—everything. It’s done here.” He waves his long-fingered hand dismissively.
He laughs. “Yes waxing, too. Everywhere,” he whispers conspiratorially, enjoying my discomfort.
I blush and glance at Greta, who is looking at me expectantly.
“I’d like a haircut, please.”
“Certainly, Miss Steele.”
Greta is all pink lipstick and bustling Germanic efficiency as she checks her computer screen.
“Franco is free in five minutes.”
“Franco’s fine,” says Christian reassuringly to me. I am trying to wrap my head around this. Christian Grey CEO owns a chain of beauty salons.
I peek up at him, and suddenly he blanches—something, or someone, has caught his eye. I turn to see where he’s looking, and right at the back of the salon a sleek platinum blonde has appeared, closing a door behind her and speaking to one of the hair stylists.
Platinum Blonde is tall, tanned, lovely, and in her late thirties or forties—it’s difficult to tell. She’s wearing the same uniform as Greta, but in black. She looks stunning. Her hair
shines like a halo, cut in sharp bob. As she turns, she catches sight of Christian and smiles at him, a dazzling smile of warm recognition.
“Excuse me,” Christian mumbles hurriedly.
He strides quickly through the salon, past the hair stylists all in white, past the apprentices at the sinks, and over to her, too far away for me to hear their conversation. Platinum Blonde greets him with obvious affection, kissing both his cheeks, her hands resting on his upper arms, and they talk animatedly together.
“Miss Steele?”
Greta the receptionist is trying to get my attention.
“Hang on a moment, please.” I watch Christian, fascinated.
Platinum Blonde turns and looks at me, and gives me the same dazzling smile, as if she knows me. I smile politely back.
Christian looks upset about something. He’s reasoning with her, and she’s acquiescing, holding her hands up and smiling at him. He’s smiling at her—clearly they know each other well. Perhaps they’ve worked together for a long time? Maybe she runs the place; after all, she has a certain look of authority.
Then it hits me like a wrecking ball, and I know, deep down in my gut on a visceral level, I know who it is. It’s her. Stunning, older, beautiful.
It’s Mrs. Robinson.

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