Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Fifty Shades of Grey CHAPTER 14
Christian is standing over me grasping a plaited, leather riding-crop. He’s wearing old, faded, ripped Levis and that’s all. He flicks the crop slowly into his palm as he gazes down at me. He’s smiling, triumphant. I cannot move. I am naked and shackled, spread-eagled on a large four-poster bed. Reaching forward, he trails the tip of the crop from my forehead down the length of my nose, so I can smell the leather, and over my parted, panting lips. He pushes the tip into my mouth so I can taste the smooth, rich leather.
“Suck,” he commands his voice soft. My mouth closes over the tip as I obey.
“Enough,” he snaps.
I’m panting once more as he tugs the crop out of my mouth, trails it down and under my chin, on down my neck to the hollow at the base of my throat. He swirls it slowly there and then continues to drag the tip down my body, along my sternum, between my breasts, over my torso down to my navel. I’m panting, squirming, pulling against my restraints that are biting into my wrists and my ankles. He swirls the tip around my navel then continues to trail the leather tip south, through my pubic hair to my clitoris. He flicks the crop and it hits my sweet spot with a sharp slap, and I come, gloriously, shouting my release.
Abruptly, I wake, gasping for breath, covered in sweat and feeling the aftershocks of my orgasm. Holy hell. I’m completely disorientated. What the hell just happened? I’m in my bedroom alone. How? Why? I sit bolt upright, shocked… wow. It’s morning. I glance at my alarm clock – eight o’clock. I put my head in my hands. I didn’t know I
could dream sex. Was it something I ate? Perhaps the oysters and my Internet research manifesting itself in my first wet dream. It’s bewildering. I had no idea that I could orgasm in my sleep.
Kate is skipping around the kitchen when I stagger in.
“Ana, are you okay? You look odd. Is that Christian’s jacket you’re wearing?”
“I’m fine.” Damn, should have checked in the mirror. I avoid her piercing green eyes. I’m still reeling from my morning’s event. “Yes, this is Christian’s jacket.”
“Did you sleep?”
“Not very well.”
I head for the kettle. I need tea.
“How was dinner?”
So it begins.
“We had oysters. Followed by cod, so I’d say it was fishy.”
“Ugh… I hate oysters, and I don’t want to know about the food. How was Christian? What did you talk about?”
“He was attentive,” I pause.
What can I say? His HIV status is clear, he’s heavily into role-play, wants me to obey his every command, he hurt someone he tied to his bedroom ceiling, and he wanted to fuck me in the private dining room. Would that be a good summary? I try desperately to remember something from my encounter with Christian that I can discuss with Kate.
“He doesn’t approve of Wanda.”
“Who does, Ana? That’s old news. Why are you being so coy? Give it up, girlfriend.”
“Oh, Kate, we talked about lots things. You know – how fussy he is about food. Incidentally, he liked your dress.” The kettle has boiled, so I make myself some tea. “Do you want tea? Would you like me to hear your speech for today?”
“Yes, please. I worked on it last night over at Lilah’s. I’ll go fetch it. And yes, I’d love some tea.” Kate races out of the kitchen.
Phew, Katherine Kavanagh sidetracked. I slice a bagel and pop it into the toaster. I flush remembering my very vivid dream. What on earth was that about?
Last night I found it hard to sleep. My head was buzzing with various options. I am so confused. Christian’s idea of a relationship is more like a job offer. It has set hours, a job description, and a rather harsh grievance procedure. It’s not how I envisaged my first romance – but, of course, Christian doesn’t do romance. If I tell him I want more, he may say no… and I could jeopardize what he has offered. And this is what concerns me most, because I don’t want to lose him. But I’m not sure I have the stomach to be his submissive – deep down, it’s the canes and whips that put me off. I’m a physical coward, and I will go a long way to avoid pain. I think of my dream… is that what it would be like? My inner goddess jumps up and down with cheerleading pom-poms shouting yes at me.
Kate comes back into the kitchen with her laptop. I concentrate on my bagel and listen patiently as she runs through her Valedictorian speech.
I am dressed and ready when Ray arrives. I open the front door, and he’s standing on the porch in his ill-fitting suit. A warm surge of gratitude and love for this uncomplicated man streaks through me, and I throw my arms around him in an uncharacteristic display of affection. He’s taken-aback, bemused.
“Hey, Annie, I’m pleased to see you too,” he mutters as he hugs me. Setting me back, his hands on my shoulders, he looks me up and down, his brow furrowed. “You okay, kid?”
“Of course, Dad, can’t a girl be pleased to see her old man?”
He smiles, his dark eyes crinkling at the corners, and follows me into the living area.
“You look good,” he says.
“This is Kate’s dress.” I glance down at the grey chiffon halter neck dress.
“Where is Kate?”
“She’s gone to campus. She’s giving a speech, so she has to be early.”
“Should we head on over?”
“Dad, we have half an hour. Would you like some tea? And you can tell me how everyone in Montesano is getting along. How was the drive down?”
Ray pulls his car into the campus parking lot, and we follow the stream of humanity dotted with ubiquitous black and red gowns, heading toward the sports auditorium.
“Good luck, Annie. You seem awfully nervous, do you have to do anything?”
Holy crap… why has Ray picked today to be so observant?
“No, Dad. It’s a big day.” And I’m going to see him.
“Yeah, my baby girl has gotten a degree. I’m proud of you, Annie.”
“Aw… thanks Ray.” Oh I love this man.
The sports auditorium is crowded. Ray has gone to sit with the other parents and well-wishers in the raked seating, while I make my way to my seat. I’m wearing my black gown and my cap, and I feel protected by them, anonymous. There is no one on the stage yet, but I can’t seem to steady my nerves. My heart is pounding, and my breathing is shallow. He’s here, somewhere. I wonder if Kate is talking to him, interrogating him maybe. I make my way to my seat amongst fellow students whose surnames also begin with S. I am in the second row, affording me yet more anonymity. I glance behind me and spot Ray sat up high in the bleachers. I give him a wave. He self-consciously gives me a half-wave, half-salute back. I sit and wait.
The auditorium fills quickly, and the buzz of excited voices gets louder and louder. The row of seats in front fills. On either side of me, I am joined by two girls whom I don’t know from a different faculty. They’re obviously close friends and talk across me excitedly.
At eleven precisely, the Chancellor appears from behind the stage, followed by the three Vice Chancellors, and then the senior professors, all decked out in their black and red regalia. We stand and applaud our teaching staff. Some Professors nod and wave, others look bored. Professor Collins, my tutor and my favorite teacher, looks like he’s just fallen out of bed, as usual. Last on to the stage are Kate and Christian. Christian stands out in his bespoke gray suit, copper highlights glinting in his hair under the auditorium lights. He looks so serious and self-contained. As he sits, he undoes his single-breasted jacket, and I
glimpse his tie. Holy shit… that tie! I rub my wrists reflexively. I cannot take my eyes off him – his beauty as distracting as ever – and he’s wearing that tie, on purpose no doubt. I can feel my mouth press into a hard line. The audience sits down and the applause ceases.
“Look at him!” One of the girls beside me breathes enthusiastically to her friend.
I stiffen. I’m sure they’re not talking about Professor Collins.
“Must be Christian Grey.”
“Is he single?”
“I don’t think so,” I murmur.
“Oh.” Both girls look at me in surprise.
“I think he’s gay,” I mutter.
“What a shame,” one of the girls groans.
As the Chancellor gets to his feet and kicks off the proceedings with his speech, I watch Christian subtly scanning the hall. I sink into my seat, hunching my shoulders, trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. I fail miserably as a second later his gray eyes find mine. He stares at me, his face impassive, completely inscrutable. I squirm uncomfortably, hypnotized by his glare as I feel a slow flush spread across my face. Unbidden, I recall my dream from this morning, and the muscles in my belly do the delectable clench thing. I inhale sharply. I can see the shadow of a smile cross his lips, but it’s fleeting. He briefly closes his eyes, and on opening them, resumes his indifferent expression. Following a swift glance up at the Chancellor, he stares ahead, focusing on the WSUV emblem hung above the entrance. He doesn’t turn his eyes toward me again. The Chancellor drones on, and Christian still doesn’t look at me, he just stares fixedly ahead.
Why won’t he look at me? Perhaps he’s changed his mind? A wave of unease washes over me. Perhaps walking out on him last night was the end for him too. He’s bored of waiting for me to make up my mind. Oh no, I could have completely blown it. I remember his email last night. Maybe he’s mad that I haven’t replied.
Suddenly, the room erupts into applause as Miss Katherine Kavanagh has taken the stage. The Chancellor sits, and Kate tosses her lovely long hair behind her as she places her papers on the lectern. She takes her time, not intimidated by a thousand people gawping at her. She smiles when she’s ready, looks up at the captivated throng, and launches eloquently into her speech. She’s so composed and funny, the girls beside me erupt on cue at her first joke. Oh, Katherine Kavanagh, you can deliver a good line. I feel so proud of her at that moment, my errant thoughts of Christian are pushed to one side. Even though I have heard her speech before, I listen carefully. She commands the room and takes her audience with her.
Her theme is What Next After College? Oh, what next indeed. Christian is watching Kate, his eyebrows slightly raised – in surprise, I think. Yes, it could have been Kate that went to interview him. And it could have been Kate that he was now making indecent proposals to. Beautiful Kate and beautiful Christian, together. I could be like the two girls beside me, admiring him from afar. I know Kate wouldn’t have given him the time of day. What did she call him the other day? Creepy. The thought of a confrontation between Kate
and Christian makes me uncomfortable. I have to say I don’t know which of them I would put my money on.
Kate concludes her speech with a flourish, and spontaneously everyone stands, applauding and cheering, her first standing ovation. I beam at her and cheer, and she grins back at me. Good job, Kate. She sits, as does the audience, and the Chancellor rises and introduces Christian… holy shit, Christian’s going to give a speech. The Chancellor touches briefly on Christian’s achievements: CEO of his own extraordinarily successful company, a real self-made man.
“And also a major benefactor to our University, please welcome, Mr. Christian Grey.”
The Chancellor pumps Christian’s hand, and there is a swell of polite applause. My heart’s in my throat. He approaches the lectern and surveys the hall. He looks so confident standing in front of us all, as Kate did before him. The two girls beside me lean in, enraptured. In fact, I think most of the female members of the audience inch closer and a few of the men. He begins, his voice soft, measured, and mesmerizing.
“I’m profoundly grateful and touched by the great compliment accorded to me by the authorities of WSU today. It offers me a rare opportunity to talk about the impressive work of the environmental science department here at the University. Our aim is to develop viable and ecologically sustainable methods of farming for third world countries; our ultimate goal is to help eradicate hunger and poverty across the globe. Over a billion people, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, live in abject poverty. Agricultural dysfunction is rife within these parts of the world and the result is ecological and social destruction. I have known what it’s like to be profoundly hungry. This is a very personal journey for me… ”
My jaw falls to the floor. What? Christian was hungry once. Holy crap. Well, that explains a great deal. And I recall the interview; he really does want to feed the world. I desperately rack my brains to remember what Kate had written in her article. Adopted at age four, I think. I can’t imagine that Grace starved him, so it must have been before then, as a little boy. I swallow, my heart constricting at the thought of a hungry, gray-eyed toddler. Oh no. What kind of life did he have before the Greys got hold of him and rescued him?
I’m seized by a sense of raw outrage, poor, fucked-up, kinky, philanthropic Christian – though I’m sure he wouldn’t see himself this way and would repel any thoughts of sympathy or pity. Abruptly, everyone bursts into applause and stands. I follow, though I haven’t heard half his speech. He’s doing all of these good works, running a huge company, and chasing me at the same time. It’s overwhelming. I remember the brief snippets of conversations he’s had about Darfur… it all falls into place. Food.
He smiles briefly at the warm applause – even Kate is clapping, then he resumes his seat. He doesn’t look my way, and I’m off-kilter trying to assimilate this new information about him.
One of the Vice Chancellors rises, and we begin the long, tedious process of collecting our degrees. There are over four hundred to be given out, and it takes just over an hour before I hear my name. I make my way up to the stage between the two giggling girls. Christian gazes down at me, his gaze warm but guarded.
“Congratulations, Miss Steele,” he says as he shakes my hand, squeezing it gently. I feel the charge of his flesh on mine. “Do you have a problem with your laptop?”
I frown as he hands me my degree.
“Then you are ignoring my emails?”
“I only saw the mergers and acquisitions one.”
He looks quizzically at me.
“Later,” he says, and I have to move on because I’m holding up the line.
I go back to my seat. Emails? He must have sent another. What did it say?
The ceremony takes another hour to conclude. It’s interminable. Finally, the Chancellor leads the faculty members off the stage to yet more rousing applause, preceded by Christian and Kate. Christian does not glance at me, even though I’m willing him to do it. My inner goddess is not pleased.
As I stand and wait for our row to disperse, Kate calls to me. She’s heading my way from behind the stage.
“Christian wants to talk to you,” she shouts. The two girls who are now standing beside me turn and gape at me.
“He’s sent me out here,” she continues.
“Your speech was great, Kate.”
“It was, wasn’t it?” she beams. “Are you coming? He can be very insistent.” She rolls her eyes, and I grin.
“You have no idea. I can’t leave Ray for long.” I glance up at Ray and hold my fingers up indicating five minutes. He nods, giving me an okay sign, and I follow Kate into the corridor behind the stage. Christian is talking to the Chancellor and two of the teaching staff. He looks up when he sees me.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” I hear him murmur. He comes toward me and smiles briefly at Kate.
“Thank you,” he says, and before she can reply, he takes my elbow and steers me into what looks like a men’s locker room. He checks to see if it’s empty, and then he locks the door.
Holy shit, what does he have in mind? I blink up at him as he turns on me.
“Why haven’t you emailed me? Or texted me back?” He glares. I’m nonplussed.
“I haven’t looked at my computer today, or my phone.” Crap, has he been trying to call? I try my distraction technique that’s so effective on Kate. “That was a great speech.”
“Explains your food issues to me.”
He runs a hand through his hair, exasperated.
“Anastasia, I don’t want to go there at the moment.” He closes his eyes, looking pained. “I’ve been worried about you.”
“Because you went home in that deathtrap you call a car.”
“What? It’s not a deathtrap. It’s fine. José regularly services it for me.”
“José, the photographer?” Christian’s eyes narrow, his face frosting. Oh Crap.
“Yes, the Beetle used to belong to his mother.”
“Yes, and probably her mother and her mother before her. It’s not safe.”
“I’ve been driving it for over three years. I’m sorry you were worried. Why didn’t you call?” Jeez, he’s completely over-reacting.
He takes a deep breath.
“Anastasia, I need an answer from you. This waiting around is driving me crazy.”
“Christian, I… look, I’ve left my stepdad on his own.”
“Tomorrow. I want an answer by tomorrow.”
“Okay. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you then.” I blink at him.
He steps back, regarding me coolly, and his shoulders relax.
“Are you staying for drinks?” he asks.
“I don’t know what Ray wants to do.”
“Your stepfather? I’d like to meet him.”
Oh no… why?
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
Christian unlocks the door, his mouth in a grim line.
“Are you ashamed of me?”
“No!” It’s my turn to sound exasperated. “Introduce you to my dad as what? ‘This is the man who deflowered me and wants us to start a BDSM relationship’. You’re not wearing running shoes.”
Christian glares down at me, and then his lips twitch up in a smile. And in spite of the fact I’m mad at him, my face is unwillingly pulled into an answering grin.
“Just so you know, I can run quite fast. Just tell him I’m your friend, Anastasia.”
He opens the door, and I head out. My mind is whirling. The Chancellor, the three Vice Chancellors, four professors, and Kate stare at me as I walk hastily past them. Holy crap. Leaving Christian with the faculty I go in search of Ray.
Tell him I’m your friend. Friend with benefits, my subconscious scowls. I know, I know. I shake the unpleasant thought away. How will I introduce him to Ray? The hall is still at least half full, and Ray has not moved from his spot. He sees me, waves, and makes his way down.
“Hey, Annie. Congratulations.” He puts his arm around me.
“Would you like to come and have a drink in the marquee?”
“Sure. It’s your day. Lead the way.”
“We don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Please say no…
“Annie, I’ve just sat for two and half hours listening to all kinds of jabbering. I need a drink.”
I put my arm through his, and we stroll out with the throng into the warmth of the early afternoon. We pass the line for the official photographer.
“Oh, that reminds me.” Ray drags a digital camera out of his pocket. “One for the album, Annie.” I roll my eyes at him as he snaps a picture of me.
“Can I take the cap and gown off now? I feel kind of dorky.”
You look kinda dorky… my subconscious is at her snarky best. So are you going to introduce Ray to the man you’re fucking? She is glaring at me over her wing-shaped spectacles. He’d be so proud. God, I hate her sometimes.
The marquee is immense, and crowded – students, parents, teachers, and friends, all chattering happily. Ray hands me a glass of champagne or cheap fizzy wine, I suspect. It’s not chilled, and it tastes sweet. My thoughts turn to Christian… he won’t like this.
“Ana!” I turn, and Ethan Kavanagh scoops me into his arms. He twirls me around, without spilling my wine, some feat.
“Congratulations!” He beams down at me, green eyes twinkling.
What a surprise. His dirty blonde hair tousled and sexy-looking. He’s as beautiful as Kate. The family resemblance is striking.
“Wow – Ethan! How lovely to see you. Dad, this is Ethan, Kate’s brother. Ethan, this is my dad, Ray Steele.” They shake hands, my dad coolly assessing Mr. Kavanagh.
“When did you get back from Europe?” I ask.
“I’ve been back for a week, but I wanted to surprise my little sister,” he says conspiratorially.
“That’s so sweet.” I grin up at him.
“She is Valedictorian, couldn’t miss that.” He looks immensely proud of his sister.
“She gave a great speech.”
“That she did,” Ray agrees.
Ethan has his arm around my waist when I look up into the frosty gray eyes of Christian Grey. Kate is beside him.
“Hello, Ray,” Kate kisses Ray on both cheeks, making him blush. “Have you met Ana’s boyfriend? Christian Grey.”
Holy shit… Kate! Fuck! All the blood drains from my face.
“Mr. Steele, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Christian says smoothly, warmly, completely unflustered by Kate’s introduction. He holds out his hand, which, all credit to Ray, Ray takes, not showing a hint of the drop-dead surprise he’s just had thrust upon him.
Thank you very much, Katherine Kavanagh, I fume. I think my subconscious has fainted.
“Mr. Grey,” Ray murmurs, his expression indecipherable except perhaps for the slight widening of his big brown eyes. They slide over my face with a when-were-you-going-to-give-me-this-news look. I bite my lip.
“And this is my brother, Ethan Kavanagh.” says Kate to Christian.
Christian turns his arctic glare on Ethan, who still has one arm around me.
They shake hands. Christian holds his hand out to me.
“Ana, baby,” he murmurs, and I nearly expire at the endearment.
I walk out of Ethan’s grasp, while Christian smiles icily at him, and I take my place at his side. Kate grins at me. She knows exactly what she’s doing, the vixen!
“Ethan, Mom and Dad wanted a word.” Kate drags Ethan away.
“So how long have you kids known each other?” Ray looks impassively from Christian to me.
The power of speech has deserted me. I want the ground to swallow me up. Christian puts his arm around me, his thumb skimming my naked back in a caress, before his hand clasps my shoulder.
“Couple of weeks or so now,” he says smoothly. “We met when Anastasia came to interview me for the student magazine.”
“Didn’t know you worked on the student magazine, Ana.” Ray’s voice is a quiet admonishment, revealing his irritation. Shit.
“Kate was ill,” I murmur. It’s all I can manage.
“Fine speech you gave, Mr. Grey.”
“Thank you, sir. I understand that you’re a keen fisherman.”
Ray raises his eyebrows and smiles – a rare, genuine, bona fide Ray Steele smile – and off they go, talking fish. In fact, I soon feel surplus to requirements. He’s charming the pants off my dad… like he did you, my subconscious snaps at me. His power knows no bounds. I excuse myself to go and find Kate.
She’s talking to her parents, who are delightful as ever and greet me warmly. We exchange brief pleasantries, mostly about their up and coming holiday to Barbados and about our move.
“Kate, how could you out me to Ray?” I hiss at the first opportunity we won’t be overheard.
“Because I knew you never would, and I want to help with Christian’s commitment issues.” Kate smiles at me sweetly.
I scowl. It’s me that won’t commit to him, silly!
“He seems trés cool about it, Ana. Don’t sweat it. Look at him now – Christian cannot take his eyes off you.” I glance up, and both Ray and Christian are looking at me. “He’s been watching you like a hawk.”
“I’d better go rescue Ray or Christian. I don’t know which. You haven’t heard the last of this, Katherine Kavanagh!” I glare at her.
“Ana, I did you a favor,” she calls after me.
“Hi.” I smile at both of them on my return.
They seem okay. Christian is enjoying some private joke, and my dad looks unbelievably relaxed given he’s in a social situation. What have they been discussing apart from fish?
“Ana, where are the restrooms?”
“Back out front of the marquee and to the left.”
“See you in a moment. You kids enjoy yourselves.”
Ray heads out. I glance nervously up at Christian. We pause briefly as a photographer takes a picture of both of us.
“Thank you, Mr. Grey.” The photographer scurries off. I blink from the flash.
“So you’ve charmed my father as well?”
“As well?” Christian’s gray eyes burn, and he raises a questioning eyebrow. I flush. He lifts his hand and traces my cheek with his fingers.
“Oh, I wish I knew what you were thinking, Anastasia,” he whispers darkly, cupping my chin and raising my head so that we gaze intently into each other’s eyes.
My breath hitches. How can he have this effect on me, even in this crowded tent?
“Right now, I’m thinking, nice tie,” I breathe.
“It’s recently become my favorite.”
I blush scarlet.
“You look lovely, Anastasia, this halter-neck dress suits you, and I get to stroke your back, feel your beautiful skin.”
Suddenly, it’s like we’re on our own in the room. Just the two of us, my whole body has come alive, every nerve ending singing softly, that electricity pulling me to him, charging between us.
“You know it’s going to be good, don’t you, baby?” he whispers. I close my eyes as my insides uncoil and melt.
“But I want more,” I whisper.
“More?” he looks down at me puzzled, his eyes darkening. I nod and swallow. Now he knows.
“More,” he says again softly. Testing the word – a small, simple word, but so full of promise. His thumb traces my lower lip. “You want hearts and flowers.”
I nod again. He blinks down at me, and I watch his internal struggle played out in his eyes.
“Anastasia.” His voice is soft. “It’s not something I know.”
He smiles slightly.
“You don’t know much,” he murmurs.
“You know all the wrong things.”
“Wrong? Not to me.” He shakes his head. He looks so sincere. “Try it,” he whispers. A challenge, daring me, and he cocks his head to one side and smiles his crooked, dazzling smile.
I gasp, and I’m Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he’s the serpent, and I cannot resist.
“Okay,” I whisper.
“What?” I have his full, undivided attention. I swallow.
“Okay. I’ll try.”
“You’re agreeing?” His disbelief is evident.
“Subject to the soft limits, yes. I’ll try.” My voice is so small. Christian closes his eyes and pulls me into an embrace.
“Jesus, Ana, you’re so unexpected. You take my breath away.”
He steps back, and suddenly Ray’s returned, and the volume in the marquee gradually rises and fills my ears. We are not alone. Holy shit, I’ve just agreed to be his sub. Christian smiles at Ray, and his eyes are dancing with joy.
“Annie, should we get some lunch?”
“Okay.” I blink up at Ray, trying to find my equilibrium. What have you done? My subconscious screams at me. My inner goddess is doing back flips in a routine worthy of a Russian Olympic gymnast.
“Would you like to join us, Christian?” Ray asks.
Christian! I stare up at him, imploring him to refuse. I need space to think… what the fuck have I done?
“Thank you, Mr. Steele, but I have plans. It’s been great to meet you, sir.”
“Likewise,” Ray responds. “Look after my baby girl.”
“Oh, I fully intend to, Mr. Steele.”
They shake hands. I feel sick. Ray has no idea how Christian intends to look after me. Christian takes my hand and raises it to his lips and kisses my knuckles tenderly, his scorching eyes intent on mine.
“Later, Miss Steele,” he breathes, his voice full of promise.
My belly curls at the thought… oh my. Hang on… later?
Ray takes my elbow and leads me toward the entrance to the tent.
“Seems a solid young man. Well-off too. You could do a lot worse, Annie. Though why I had to hear about him from Katherine,” he scolds.
I shrug apologetically.
“Well, any man who likes and knows his fly-fishing is okay with me.”
Holy cow – Ray approves. If only he knew.
Ray drops me back at the house at dusk.
“Call your mom,” he says.
“I will. Thanks for coming, Dad.”
“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, Annie. You make me so proud.”
Oh no. I’m not going to get emotional. A huge lump forms in my throat, and I hug him, hard. He puts his arms around me, bemused, and I can’t help it – tears pool in my eyes.
“Hey, Annie, sweetheart,” Ray croons. “Big old day… eh? Want me to come in and make you some tea?”
I laugh, in spite of my tears. Tea is always the answer according to Ray. I remember my mother complaining about him, saying that when it came to tea and sympathy, he was always good at the tea, not so hot on the sympathy.
“No, Dad, I’m good. It’s been so great to see you. I’ll visit real soon once I’m settled in Seattle.”
“Good luck with the interviews. Let me know how they go.”
“Sure thing, Dad.”
“Love you, Annie.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
He smiles, his brown eyes warm, glowing, and he climbs back into his car. I wave him off as he drives into the dusk, and I wander listlessly back into the apartment.
First thing I do is check my cell phone. It needs recharging, so I have to hunt down the charger and plug it in before I can collect my messages. Four missed calls, one voice message, and two texts. Three missed calls from Christian… no messages. One missed call from José and a voice mail from him wishing me all the best for graduation.
I open the texts.
*Are you home safe*
They are both from Christian, why didn’t he call the house? I head into my bedroom and fire up the mean machine.
From: Christian Grey
Date: May 25 2011 23:58
To: Anastasia Steele
I hope you made it home in that car of yours.
Let me know if you’re okay.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Jeez... why is he so worried about my Beetle. It has given me three years of loyal service, and José has always been on hand to maintain it for me. Christian’s next email is from today.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Soft Limits
Date: May 26 2011 17:22
To: Anastasia Steele
What can I say that I haven’t already?
Happy to talk these through anytime.
You looked beautiful today.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I want to see him. I hit reply
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Soft Limits
Date: May 26 2011 19:23
To: Christian Grey
I can come over this evening to discuss if you’d like.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Soft Limits
Date: May 26 2011 19:27
To: Anastasia Steele
I’ll come to you. I meant it when I said I wasn’t happy about you driving that car.
I’ll be with you shortly.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Holy crap… he’s coming over now. I have to get one thing ready for him – the first edition Thomas Hardy books are still on the shelves in the living room. I cannot keep them. I wrap them in brown paper, and I scrawl on the wrapping a direct quote from Tess from the book:
"I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my patients ought to be; only - only - don't make it more than I can bear!"