Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey CHAPTER 26


I wake with a jolt. I think I’ve just fallen down some stairs in a dream, and I bolt upright, momentarily disorientated. It is dark, and I’m in Christian’s bed alone. Something has woken me, some nagging thought. I glance over at the alarm clock on his bedside. It is 5:00 in the morning, but I feel rested. Why is that? Oh – it’s the time difference – it would be 8:00 a.m. in Georgia. Holy crap… I need to take my pill. I clamber out of bed, grateful for whatever it is that has woken me. I can hear faint notes from the piano. Christian is playing. This I must see. I love watching him play. Naked, I grab my bathrobe from the chair and wander quietly down the corridor, slipping on my robeand listening to the magical sound of the melodic lament that’s coming from the great room.
Shrouded in darkness, Christian sits in a bubble of light as he plays, and his hair glints with burnished copper highlights. He looks naked, though I know he’s wearing his PJ bottoms. He’s concentrating, playing beautifully, lost in the melancholy of the music. I hesitate, watching from the shadows, not wanting to interrupt him. I want to hold him. He looks lost, sad even, and achingly lonely – or maybe it’s just the music that’s so full of poignant sorrow. He finishes the piece, pauses for a split second, then starts to play it again. I move cautiously toward him, drawn as the moth to the flame… the idea makes me smile. He glances up at me and frowns before his gaze returns to his hands
Oh crap, is he pissed off that I am disturbing him?
“You should be asleep,” he scolds mildly.
I can tell he’s pre-occupied with something.
“So should you,” I retort not quite as mildly.
He glances up again, his lips twitching with a trace of a smile.
“Are you scolding me, Miss Steele?”
“Yes, Mr. Grey, I am.”
“Well, I can’t sleep.” He frowns once more as a trace of irritation or anger flashes across his face. With me? Surely not.
I ignore his facial expression and very bravely sit down beside him on the piano stool, placing my head on his bare shoulder to watch his deft, agile fingers caress the keys. He pauses fractionally, and then continues to the end of the piece.
“What was that?” I ask softly.
“Chopin. Opus 28, number 4. In E minor, if you’re interested,” he murmurs.
“I’m always interested in what you do.”
He turns and softly presses his lips against my hair.
“I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t. Play the other one.”
“Other one?”
“The Bach piece that you played the first night I stayed.”
“Oh, the Marcello.”
He starts to play slowly and deliberately. I feel the movement of his hands in his shoulder as I lean against him and close my eyes. The sad, soulful notes swirl slowly and mournfully around us, echoing off the walls. It is a hauntingly beautiful piece, sadder even than the Chopin, and I lose myself to the beauty of the lament. To a certain extent, it reflects how I feel. The deep poignant longing I have to know this extraordinary man better, to try and understand his sadness. All too soon, the piece is at an end.
“Why do you only play such sad music?”
I sit upright and gaze up at him as he shrugs in answer to my question, his expression wary.
“So you were just six when you started to play?” I prompt.
He nods, his wary look intensifying. After a moment he volunteers.
“I threw myself into learning the piano to please my new mother.”
“To fit into the perfect family?”
“Yes, so to speak,” he says evasively. “Why are you awake? Don’t you need to recover from yesterday’s exertions?”
“It’s 8:00 in the morning for me. And I need to take my pill.”
He raises his eyebrows in surprise.
“Well remembered,” he murmurs, and I can tell he’s impressed. His lips quirk up in a half smile.
“Only you would start a course of time-specific birth control pills in a different time zone. Perhaps you should wait half an hour and then another half hour tomorrow morning. So s eventually you can take them at a reasonable time.”
“Good plan,” I breathe. “So what shall we do for half an hour?” I blink innocently at him.
“I can think of a few things,” he grins, gray eyes bright. I gaze back impassively as my insides clench and melt under his knowing look.
“On the other hand, we could talk,” I suggest quietly.
His brow creases.
“I prefer what I have in mind.” He scoops me onto his lap.
“You’d always rather have sex than talk,” I laugh, steadying myself by holding on to his upper arms.
“True. Especially with you.” He nuzzles my hair and starts a steady trail of kisses from below my ear to my throat. “Maybe on my piano,” he whispers.
Oh my. My whole body tightens at the thought. Piano. Wow.
“I want to get something straight,” I whisper as my pulse starts to accelerate, and my inner goddess closes her eyes, reveling in the feel of his lips on me.
He pauses momentarily before continuing his sensual assault.
“Always so eager for information, Miss Steele. What needs straightening out?” he breathes against my skin at the base of my neck, continuing his soft gentle kisses.
“Us,” I whisper as I close my eyes.
“Hmm. What about us?” He pauses his trail of kisses along my shoulder.
“The contract.”
He lifts his head to gaze down at me, a hint of amusement in his eyes, and sighs. He strokes his fingertips down my cheek.
“Well, I think the contract is moot, don’t you?” His voice is low and husky, his eyes soft.
“Moot.” He smiles. I gape at him quizzically.
“But you were so keen.”
“Well, that was before. Anyway, the Rules aren’t moot, they still stand.” His expression hardens slightly.
“Before? Before what?”
“Before,”… He pauses, and the wary expression is back, “more.” He shrugs.
“Besides, we’ve been in the playroom twice now, and you haven’t run screaming for the hills.”
“Do you expect me to?”
“Nothing you do is expected, Anastasia,” he says dryly.
“So, let me be clear. You just want me to follow the Rules element of the contract all the time but not the rest of the contract?”
“Except in the playroom. I want you to follow the spirit of the contract in the playroom, and yes, I want you to follow the rules – all the time. Then I know you’ll be safe, and I’ll be able to have you anytime I wish.”
“And if I break one of the rules?”
“Then I’ll punish you.”
“But won’t you need my permission?”
“Yes, I will.”
“And if I say no?”
He gazes at me for a moment, with a confused expression.
“If you say no, you’ll say no. I’ll have to find a way to persuade you.”
I pull away from him and stand. I need some distance. He frowns as I stare down at him. He looks puzzled and wary again.
“So the punishment aspect remains.”
“Yes, but only if you break the rules.”
“I’ll need to re-read them,” I say, trying to recall the detail.
“I’ll fetch them for you.” His tone is suddenly businesslike.
Whoa. This has gotten serious so quickly. He rises from the piano and walks lithely to his study. My scalp prickles. Jeez, I need some tea. The future of our so-called relationship is being discussed at 5:45 in the morning when he’s pre-occupied with something else – is this wise? I head into the kitchen which is still shrouded in darkness. Where are the light switches? I find them, flick them on, and pour water into the kettle. My pill! I rummage in my purse that I left on the breakfast bar and find them quickly. One swallow, and I’m done. By the time I finish, Christian is back, sitting on one of the bar stools, watching me intently.
“Here you go.” He pushes a typed piece of paper toward me, and I notice that he’s crossed some things out.
The Submissive will obey any instructions given by The Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix A). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.
The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of eight seven hours sleep a night when she is not with The Dominant.
The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing from a prescribed list of foods (Appendix 4). The Submissive will not snack between meals, with the exception of fruit.
While with The Dominant, The Submissive will wear clothing only approved by The Dominant. The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for The Submissive, which The Submissive shall utilize. The Dominant shall accompany The Submissive to purchase clothing on an ad hoc basis.
The Dominant shall provide The Submissive with a personal trainer four three times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and The Submissive. The personal trainer will report to The Dominant on The Submissive’s progress.
Personal Hygiene/Beauty:
The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Submissive will visit a beauty salon of The Dominant’s choosing at times to be decided by The Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments The Dominant sees fit.
Personal Safety:
The Submissive will not drink to excess, smoke, take recreational drugs or put herself in any unnecessary danger.
Personal Qualities:
The Submissive will not enter into any sexual relations with anyone other than The Dominant. The Submissive will conduct herself in a respectful and modest manner at all times. She must recognize that her behavior is a direct reflection on The Dominant. She shall be held accountable for any misdeeds, wrongdoings and misbehavior committed when not in the presence of the Dominant.
Failure to comply with any of the above will result in immediate punishment, the nature of which shall be determined by The Dominant.
“So the obedience thing still stands?”
“Oh, yes.” He grins.
I shake my head amused, and before I realize it, I roll my eyes at him.
“Did you just roll your eyes at me, Anastasia?” He breathes.
Oh fuck.
“Possibly, depends what your reaction is.”
“Same as always,” he says, shaking his head slightly, his eyes alight with excitement.
I swallow instinctively and a frisson of exhilaration runs through me.
“So... ” Holy shit. What am I going to do?
“Yes?” He licks his lower lip.
“You want to spank me now.”
“Yes. And I will.”
“Oh, really, Mr. Grey?” I challenge, grinning back at him. Two can play this game.
“Are you going to stop me?”
“You’re going to have to catch me first.”
His eyes widen a fraction, and he grins, slowly getting to his feet.
“Oh, really, Miss Steele?”
The breakfast bar is between us. I have never been so grateful for its existence than in this moment.
“And you’re biting your lip,” he breathes, moving slowly to his left as I move to mine.
“You wouldn’t,” I tease. “After all, you roll your eyes.” I try reasoning with him. He continues to move toward his left, as do I.
“Yes, but you’ve just raised the bar on the excitement stakes with this game.” His eyes blaze, and wild anticipation emanates from him.
“I’m quite fast you know.” I try for nonchalance.
“So am I.”
He’s stalking me, in his own kitchen.
“Are you going to come quietly?” he asks.
“Do I ever?”
“Miss Steele, what do you mean?” he smirks. “It’ll be worse for you if I have to come and get you.”
“That’s only if you catch me, Christian. And right now, I have no intention of letting you catch me.”
“Anastasia, you may fall and hurt yourself. Which will put you in direct contravention of rule number seven.”
“I have been in danger since I met you, Mr. Grey, rules or no rules.”
“Yes you have.” He pauses, and his brow furrows slightly.
Suddenly, he lunges for me, making me squeal and run for the dining room table. I manage to escape, putting the table between us. My heart is pounding and adrenaline has spiked through my body… boy... this is so thrilling. I’m a child again, though that’s not right. I watch him carefully as he paces deliberately toward me. I inch away.
“You certainly know how to distract a man, Anastasia.”
“We aim to please, Mr. Grey. Distract you from what?”
“Life. The universe.” He waves one of his hands vaguely.
“You did seem very pre-occupied as you were playing.”
He stops and folds his arms, his expression amused.
“We can do this all day, baby, but I will get you, and it will just be worse for you when I do.”
“No, you won’t.” I must not be over-confident. I repeat this as a mantra. My subconscious has found her Nikes, and she’s on the starting blocks.
“Anyone would think you didn’t want me to catch you.”
“I don’t. That’s the point. I feel about punishment the way you feel about me touching you.”
His entire demeanor changes in a nanosecond. Gone is playful Christian, and he stands staring at me as if I’d slapped him. He’s ashen.
“That’s how you feel?” he whispers.
Those four words, and the way he utters them, speaks volumes. Oh no. They tell me so much more about him and how he feels. They tell me about his fear and loathing. I frown. No, I don’t feel that bad. No way. Do I?
“No. It doesn’t affect me quite as much as that, but it gives you an idea,” I murmur, staring anxiously at him.
“Oh,” he says.
Crap. He looks completely and utterly lost, like I’ve pulled the rug from under his feet.
Taking a deep breath, I move round the table until I am standing in front of him, gazing into his apprehensive eyes.
“You hate it that much?” he breathes, his eyes filled with horror.
“Well… no,” I reassure him. Jeez – that’s how he feels about people touching him? “No. I feel ambivalent about it. I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it.”
“But last night, in the playroom, you… ” he trails off.
“I do it for you, Christian, because you need it. I don’t. You didn’t hurt me last night. That was in a different context, and I can rationalize that internally, and I trust you. But when you want to punish me, I worry that you’ll hurt me.”
His gray eyes blaze like a turbulent storm. Time moves, and expands and slips away before he answers softly.
“I want to hurt you. But not beyond anything that you couldn’t take.”
He runs his hand through his hair, and he shrugs.
“I just need it.” He pauses, gazing at me with anguish, and he closes his eyes and shakes his head. “I can’t tell you,” he whispers.
“Can’t or won’t?”
“So you know why.”
“But you won’t tell me.”
“If I do, you will run screaming from this room, and you’ll never want to return.” He stares at me warily. “I can’t risk that, Anastasia.”
“You want me to stay.”
“More than you know. I couldn’t bear to lose you.”
Oh my.
He gazes down at me, and suddenly, he pulls me into his arms and he’s kissing me, kissing me passionately. It takes me completely by surprise, and I sense his panic and desperate need in his kiss.
“Don’t leave me. You said you wouldn’t leave me, and you begged me not to leave you, in your sleep,” he murmurs against my lips.
Oh… my nocturnal confessions.
“I don’t want to go.” And my heart clenches, turning itself inside out.
This is a man in need. His fear is naked and obvious, but he’s lost… somewhere in his darkness. His eyes wide and bleak and tortured. I can soothe him. Join him briefly in the darkness and bring him into the light.
“Show me,” I whisper.
“Show you?”
“Show me how much it can hurt.”
“Punish me. I want to know how bad it can get.”
Christian steps back away from me, completely confused.
“You would try?”
“Yes. I said I would.” But I have an ulterior motive. If I do this for him, maybe he will let me touch him.
He blinks at me.
“Ana, you’re so confusing.”
“I’m confused too. I’m trying to work this out. And you and I will know, once and for all, if I can do this. If I can handle this, then maybe you –” My words fail me, and his eyes widen again. He knows I am referring to the touch thing. For a moment, he looks torn, but then a steely resolve settles on his features, and he narrows his eyes, gazing at me speculatively as if weighing up alternatives.
Abruptly, he clasps my arm in a firm grip and turns, leading me out of the great room, up the stairs, and to the playroom. Pleasure and pain, reward and punishment – his words from so long ago echo through my mind.
“I’ll show you how bad it can be, and you can make your own mind up.” He pauses by the door. “Are you ready for this?”
I nod, my mind made up, and I’m vaguely lightheaded, faint as all the blood leaves my face.
He opens the door, and still grasping my arm, grabs what looks like a belt from the rack beside the door, then leads me over to the red leather bench in the far corner of the room.
“Bend over the bench,” he murmurs softly.
Okay. I can do this. I bend over the smooth soft leather. He’s left my bathrobe on. In a quiet part of my brain, I’m vaguely surprised that he hasn’t made me take it off. Holy fuck this is going to hurt… I know. My subconscious has passed out, and my inner goddess is endeavoring to look brave.
“We’re here because you said yes, Anastasia. And you ran from me. I am going to hit you six times, and you will count with me.”
Why the hell doesn’t he just get on with it? He always makes such a meal of punishing me. I roll my eyes, knowing full well he can’t see me.
He lifts the hem of my bathrobe, and for some reason, this feels more intimate than being naked. He gently caresses my behind, running his warm hand all over both cheeks and down to the tops of my thighs.
“I am doing this so that you remember not to run from me, and as exciting as it is, I never want you to run from me,” he whispers.
And the irony is not lost on me. I was running to avoid this. If he’d opened his arms, I’d run to him, not away from him.
“And you rolled your eyes at me. You know how I feel about that.” Suddenly, it’s gone – that nervous edgy fear in his voice. He’s back from wherever he’s been. I hear it in his tone, in the way he places his fingers on my back, holding me – and the atmosphere in the room changes.
I close my eyes, bracing myself for the blow. It comes hard, snapping across my backside, and the bite of the belt is everything I feared. I cry out involuntarily, and take a huge gulp of air.
“Count, Anastasia!” he commands.
“One!” I shout at him, and it sounds like an expletive.
He hits me again, and the pain pulses and echoes along the line of the belt. Holy shit… that smarts.
“Two!” I scream. It feels so good to scream.
His breathing is ragged and harsh. Whereas mine is almost non-existent as I desperately scrabble around my psyche looking for some internal strength. The belt cuts into my flesh again.
“Three!” Tears spring unwelcome into my eyes. Jeez – this is harder than I thought – so much harder than the spanking. He’s not holding anything back.
“Four!” I yell as the belt bites me again, and now the tears are streaming down my face. I don’t want to cry. It angers me that I am crying. He hits me again.
“Five.” My voice is more a choked, strangled sob, and in this moment, I think I hate him. One more, I can do one more. My backside feels as if it’s on fire.
“Six,” I whisper as the blistering pain cuts across me again, and I hear him drop the belt behind me, and he’s pulling me into his arms, all breathless and compassionate… and I want none of him.
“Let go… no... ” And I find myself struggling out his grasp, pushing him away. Fighting him.
“Don’t touch me!” I hiss. I straighten and stare at him, and he’s watching me as if I might bolt, gray eyes wide, bemused. I dash the tears angrily out of my eyes with the backs of my hands, glaring at him.
“This is what you really like? Me, like this?” I use the sleeve of the bathrobe to wipe my nose.
He gazes at me warily.
“Well, you are one fucked-up son of a bitch.”
“Ana,” he pleads, shocked.
“Don’t you dare, Ana me! You need to sort your shit out, Grey!” And with that, I turn stiffly, and I walk out of the playroom, closing the door quietly behind me.
I clasp the door handle behind me and briefly lean back against the door. Where to go? Do I run? Do I stay? I am so mad, angry scalding tears spill down my cheeks, and I brush them furiously aside. I just want to curl up. Curl up and recuperate in some way. Heal my shattered faith. How could I have been so stupid? Of course it hurts.
Tentatively, I rub my backside. Aah! It’s sore. Where to go? Not his room. My room, or the room that will be mine, no, is mine… was mine. This is why he wanted me to keep it. He knew I would need distance from him.
I launch myself stiffly in that direction, conscious that Christian may follow me. It is still dark in the bedroom, dawn only a whisper in the skyline. I climb awkwardly into bed, careful not to sit on my aching and tender backside. I keep the bathrobe on, wrapping it around me, and curl up and really let go – sobbing hard into my pillow.
What was I thinking? Why did I let him do that to me? I wanted the dark, to explore how bad it could be – but it’s too dark for me. I cannot do this. Yet, this is what he does, this is how he gets his kicks.
What a monumental wake-up call. And to be fair to him, he warned me and warned me, time and again. He’s not normal. He has needs that I cannot fulfill. I realize that now. I don’t want him to hit me like that again, ever. I think of the couple of times he has hit me, and how easy he was on me by comparison. Is that enough for him? I sob harder into the pillow. I am going to lose him. He won’t want to be with me if I can’t give him this. Why, why, why have I fallen in love with Fifty Shades? Why? Why can’t I love José, or Paul Clayton, or someone like me?
Oh, his distraught look as I left. I was so cruel, so shocked by the savagery… will he forgive me… will I forgive him? My thoughts are all haywire and jumbled, echoing and bouncing off the inside of my skull. My subconscious is shaking her head sadly, and my inner goddess is nowhere to be seen. Oh, this is a dark morning of the soul for me. I’m so alone. I want my Mom. I remember her parting words at the airport,
Follow your heart, darling, and please, please – try not to over-think things. Relax and enjoy. You are so young, sweetheart, you have so much to experience, just let it happen. You deserve the best of everything.
I did follow my heart, and I have a sore ass and an anguished, broken spirit to show for it. I have to go. That’s it… I have to leave. He’s no good for me, and I am no good for him. How can we possibly make this work? And the thought of not seeing him again practically chokes me… my Fifty Shades.
I hear the door click open. Oh no – he’s here. He puts something down on the bedside table, and the bed shifts under his weight as he climbs in behind me.
“Hush,” he breathes, and I want to pull away from him, move to the other side of the bed, but I’m paralyzed. I cannot move and lie stiffly, not yielding at all. “Don’t fight me, Ana, please,” he whispers. Gently, he pulls me into his arms, burying his nose in my hair, kissing my neck.
“Don’t hate me,” he breathes softly against my skin, his voice achingly sad. My heart clenches anew and releases a fresh wave of silent sobbing. He continues to kiss me softly, tenderly, but I remain aloof and wary.
We lie together like this, neither saying anything for ages. He just holds me, and very gradually, I relax and stop crying. Dawn comes and goes, and the soft light gets brighter as morning moves on, and still we lie quietly.
“I bought you some Advil and some arnica cream,” he says after a long while.
I turn very slowly in his arms so I can face him. I am resting my head on his arm. His eyes are flinty gray and guarded.
I gaze at his beautiful face. He’s giving nothing away, but he keeps his eyes on mine, hardly blinking. Oh, he is so breathtakingly good-looking. In such a short time, he’s become so, so dear to me. Reaching up, I caress his cheek and run the tips of my fingers through his stubble. He closes his eyes and exhales slightly.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper.
He opens his eyes and looks at me puzzled.
“What for?”
“What I said.”
“You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know.” And his eyes soften with relief. “I am sorry I hurt you.”
I shrug.
“I asked for it.” And now I know. I swallow. Here goes. I need to say my piece. “I don’t think I can be everything you want me to be,” I whisper. His eyes widen slightly, and he blinks, his fearful expression returning.
“You are everything I want you to be.”
“I don’t understand. I’m not obedient, and you can be as sure as hell I’m not going to let you do that to me again. And that’s what you need, you said so.”
He closes his eyes again, and I can see a myriad of emotions cross his face. When he reopens them, his expression is bleak. Oh no.
“You’re right. I should let you go. I am no good for you.”
My scalp prickles as every single hair follicle on my body stands to attention, and the world falls away from me, leaving a wide, yawning abyss for me to fall into. Oh no.
“I don’t want to go,” I whisper. Fuck – this is it. Pay or play. Tears swim in my eyes once more.
“I don’t want you to go either,” he whispers, his voice raw. He reaches up and gently strokes my cheek and wipes away a falling tear with his thumb. “I’ve come alive since I met you.” His thumb traces the contours of my lower lip.
“Me too,” I whisper, “I’ve fallen in love with you, Christian.”
His eyes widen again, but this time, with pure, undiluted fear.
“No,” he breathes as if I’ve knocked the wind out of him.
Oh no.
“You can’t love me, Ana. No… that’s wrong.” He’s horrified.
“Wrong? Why’s it wrong?”
“Well, look at you. I can’t make you happy.” His voice is anguished.
“But you do make me happy.” I frown.
“Not at the moment, not doing what I want to do.”
Holy fuck. This really is it. This is what it boils down to – incompatibility - and all those poor subs come to mind.
“We’ll never get past that, will we?” I whisper, my scalp prickling in fear.
He shakes his head bleakly. I close my eyes. I cannot bear to look at him.
“Well… I’d better go, then,” I murmur, wincing as I sit up.
“No, don’t go.” He sounds panicked.
“There’s no point in me staying.” Suddenly, I feel tired, really dog-tired, and I want to go now. I climb out of bed, and Christian follows.
“I’m going to get dressed. I’d like some privacy,” I say, my voice flat and empty as I leave him standing in the bedroom.
Heading downstairs, I glance at the great room, thinking how only hours before I had rested my head on his shoulder as he played the piano. So much has happened since then. I have had my eyes opened and glimpsed the extent of his depravity, and I now know he’s not capable of love – of giving or receiving love. My worst fears have been realized. And strangely, it’s very liberating.
The pain is such that I refuse to acknowledge it. I feel numb. I have somehow escaped from my body and am now a casual observer to this unfolding tragedy. I shower quickly and methodically, thinking only of each second in front of me. Now squeeze body wash bottle. Put body wash bottle back in rack. Rub cloth on face, on shoulders… on and on, all simple, mechanical actions, requiring simple mechanical thoughts.
I finish my shower – and as I haven’t washed my hair, I can dry myself quickly. I dress in the bathroom, taking my jeans and t-shirt out of my small suitcase. My jeans chafe against my backside, but quite frankly, it’s a pain I welcome as it distracts my mind from what’s happening to my splintering, shattered heart.
I stoop to shut my suitcase, and the bag holding Christian’s gift catches my eye, a modeling kit for a Blahnik L23 glider, something for him to build. Tears threaten. Oh no… happier times, when there was hope of more. I take it out of the case, knowing that I need
to give it to him. Quickly, I rip a small piece of paper from my notebook, hastily scribble a note for him, and leave it on top of the box.
This remind me of a happy time.
Thank you.

I gaze at myself in the mirror. A pale and haunted ghost stares back at me. I scoop my hair into a ponytail and ignore how swollen my eyelids are from the crying. My subconscious nods with approval. Even she knows not to be snarky right now. I cannot believe that my world is crumbling around me into a sterile pile of ashes, all my hopes and dreams cruelly dashed. No, no don’t think about it. Not now, not yet. Taking a deep breath, I pick up my case, and after placing the glider kit and my note on his pillow, I head for the great room.
Christian is on the phone. He’s dressed in black jeans and t-shirt. His feet are bare.
“He said what!” he shouts, making me jump. “Well, he could have told us the fucking truth. What’s his number, I need to call him… Welch, this is a real fuck-up.” He glances up and doesn’t take his dark and brooding eyes off me. “Find her,” he snaps and presses the off switch.
I walk over to the couch and collect my backpack, doing my best to ignore him. I take the Mac out of it and walk back toward the kitchen, placing it carefully on the breakfast bar, along with the BlackBerry and the car key. When I turn to face him, he’s staring at me, stupefied with horror.
“I need the money that Taylor got for my Beetle.” My voice is clear and calm, devoid of emotion… extraordinary.
“Ana, I don’t want those things, they’re yours,” he says in disbelief. “Please, take them.”
“No Christian – I only accepted them under sufferance – and I don’t want them anymore.”
“Ana, be reasonable,” he scolds me, even now.
“I don’t want anything that will remind me of you. I just need the money that Taylor got for my car.” My voice is quite monotone.
He gasps.
“Are you really trying to wound me?”
“No.” I frown staring at him. Of course not… I love you. “I’m not. I’m trying to protect myself,” I whisper. Because you don’t want me the way I want you.
“Please, Ana, take that stuff.”
“Christian, I don’t want to fight – I just need the money.”
He narrows his eyes, but I’m no longer intimidated by him. Well, only a little. I gaze impassively back, not blinking or backing down.
“Will you take a check?” he says acidly.
“Yes. I think you’re good for it.”
He doesn’t smile, he just turns on his heel and stalks into his study. I take a last lingering look around his apartment – at the art on the walls – all abstracts, serene, cool… cold, even. Fitting, I think absently. My eyes stray to the piano. Jeez – if I’d kept my mouth shut, we’d have made love on the piano. No, fucked, we would have fucked on the piano. Well, I would have made love. The thought lies heavy and sad in my mind. He has never made love to me, has he? It’s always been fucking to him.
Christian returns and hands me an envelope.
“Taylor got a good price. It’s a classic car. You can ask him. He’ll take you home.” He nods in the direction over my shoulder. I turn, and Taylor is standing in the doorway, wearing his suit, as impeccable as ever.
“That’s fine, I can get myself home, thank you.”
I turn to stare at Christian, and I see the barely-contained fury in his eyes.
“Are you going to defy me at every turn?”
“Why change a habit of a lifetime?” I give him a small, apologetic shrug.
He closes his eyes in frustration and runs his hand through his hair.
“Please, Ana, let Taylor take you home.”
“I’ll get the car, Miss Steele,” Taylor announces authoritatively. Christian nods at him, and when I glance around, Taylor has gone.
I turn back to face Christian. We are four feet apart. He steps forward, and instinctively I step back. He stops, and the anguish in his expression is palpable, his gray eyes burning.
“I don’t want you to go,” he murmurs, his voice full of longing.
“I can’t stay. I know what I want and you can’t give it to me, and I can’t give you what you need.”
He takes another step forward, and I hold up my hands.
“Don’t, please.” I recoil from him. There’s no way I can tolerate his touch now, it will slay me. “I can’t do this.”
Grabbing my suitcase and my backpack, I head for the foyer. He follows me, keeping a careful distance. He presses the elevator button, and the doors open. I climb in.
“Goodbye, Christian,” I murmur.
“Ana, goodbye,” he says softly, and he looks utterly, utterly broken, a man in agonizing pain, reflecting how I feel inside. I tear my gaze away from him before I change my mind and try to comfort him.
The elevator doors close, and it whisks me down to the bowels of the basement and to my own personal hell.
Taylor holds the door open for me, and I climb into the back of the car. I avoid eye contact. Embarrassment and shame washes over me. I’m a complete failure. I had hoped to drag
my Fifty Shades into the light, but it’s proved a task beyond my meager abilities. Desperately, I try to keep my emotions banked and at bay. As we head out onto 4th Avenue, I stare blankly out of the window, and the enormity of what I’ve done slowly washes over me. Shit – I’ve left him. The only man I’ve ever loved. The only man I’ve ever slept with. I gasp, and the levees burst. Tears course unbidden and unwelcome down my cheeks, and I wipe them away hurriedly with my fingers, scrambling in my bag for my sunglasses. As we pause at some traffic lights, Taylor holds out a linen handkerchief for me. He says nothing and doesn’t look in my direction, and I take it with gratitude.
“Thank you,” I mutter, and this small discreet act of kindness is my undoing. I sit back in the luxurious leather seats and weep.
The apartment is achingly empty and unfamiliar. I have not lived here long enough for it to feel like home. I head straight to my room, and there, hanging limply at the end of my bed, is a very sad, deflated helicopter balloon. Charlie Tango, looking and feeling exactly like me. I grab it angrily off my bedrail, snapping the tie, and hug it to me. Oh – what have I done?
I fall onto my bed, shoes and all, and howl. The pain is indescribable… physical, mental… metaphysical… it is everywhere, seeping into the marrow of my bones. Grief. This is grief – and I’ve brought it on myself. Deep down, a nasty, unbidden thought comes from my inner goddess, her lip curled in a snarl… the physical pain from the bite of a belt is nothing, nothing compared to this devastation. I curl up, desperately clutching the flat foil balloon and Taylor’s handkerchief, and surrender myself to my grief.
End of Part 1

Fifty Shades of Grey CHAPTER 25


My mother hugs me tightly.
“Follow your heart, darling, and please, please – try not to over-think things. Relax and enjoy yourself. You are so young, sweetheart. You have so much of life to experience yet, just let it happen. You deserve the best of everything.” Her heartfelt words are comforting whispered in my ear. She kisses my hair.
“Oh, Mom.” Hot, unwelcome tears prick my eyes as I cling to her.
“Darling, you know what they say. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.”
I give her a lopsided, bittersweet smile.
“I think I’ve kissed a prince, Mom. I hope he doesn’t turn into a frog.”
She gives me her most endearing-motherly-absolute-unconditional-love smile, and I marvel at the love I feel for this woman as we hug again.
“Ana – they’re calling your flight,” Bob’s voice is anxious.
“Will you visit, Mom?”
“Of course darling – soon. Love you.”
“Me too.”
Her eyes are red with unshed tears as she releases me. I hate leaving her. I hug Bob, and turning, head to the gate – I do not have time for the first class lounge today. I will myself not to glance back. But I do… and Bob is holding my mom, and tears are streaming
down her face. I can no longer hold mine back. I put my head down and proceed to the gate, keeping my eyes on the shiny, white floor, blurred through my watery tears.
Once on board, in the luxury of first class, I curl up in my seat and try to compose myself. It is always painful to wrench myself away from Mom… she is scatty, disorganized, but newly insightful, and she loves me. Unconditional love – what every child deserves from its parents. I frown at my wayward thoughts, and pulling out my BlackBerry, stare at it despondently.
What does Christian know of love? Seems he didn’t get the unconditional love he was entitled to during his very early years. My heart twists, and my mother’s words waft like a zephyr through my mind: Yes, Ana. Hell – what do you need? – a neon sign flashing on his forehead? She thinks Christian loves me, but then she’s my mother, of course she’d think that. She thinks I deserve the best of everything. I frown. It’s true, and in a moment of startling clarity, I see it. It’s very simple: I want his love. I need Christian Grey to love me. This is why I am so reticent about our relationship – because on some basic, fundamental level, I recognize within me a deep-seated compulsion to be loved and cherished.
And because of his fifty shades – I am holding myself back. The BDSM is a distraction from the real issue. The sex is amazing, he’s wealthy, he’s beautiful, but this is all meaningless without his love, and the real heart-fail is that I don’t know if he’s capable of love. He doesn’t even love himself. I recall his self-loathing, her love being the only form he found – acceptable. Punished – whipped, beaten, whatever their relationship entailed – he feels undeserving of love. Why does he feel like that? How can he feel like that? His words haunt me: ‘It’s very hard to grow up in a perfect family when you’re not perfect.’
I close my eyes, imagining his pain, and I can’t begin to comprehend it. I shudder as I remember that I may have divulged too much. What have I confessed to Christian in my sleep? What secrets have I revealed?
I stare at the BlackBerry in the vague hope that it will give me some answers. Rather unsurprisingly, it is not very forthcoming. As we haven’t taken off yet, I decide to email my Fifty Shades.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Homeward Bound
Date: June 3 2011 12:53 EST
To: Christian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
I am once again ensconced in first class, for which I thank you. I am counting the minutes until I see you this evening, and perhaps torturing the truth out of you about my nocturnal admissions.
Your Ana x
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Homeward Bound
Date: June 3 2011 09:58
To: Anastasia Steele
Anastasia, I look forward to seeing you.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
His response makes me frown. It sounds clipped and formal, not his usual witty, pithy style.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Homeward Bound
Date: June 3 2011 13:01 EST
To: Christian Grey
Dearest Mr. Grey
I hope everything is okay re ‘the situation.’ The tone of your email is worrying.
Ana x
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Homeward Bound
Date: June 3 2011 10:04
To: Anastasia Steele
The situation could be better. Have you taken off yet? If so you should not be emailing. You are putting yourself at risk, in direct contravention of the rule regarding your personal safety. I meant what I said about punishments.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Crap. Okay. Jeez. What is eating him? Perhaps ‘the situation’? Maybe Taylor’s gone AWOL, maybe he’s dropped a few million on the stock market – whatever the reason.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Over-Reaction
Date: June 3 2011 13:06 EST
To: Christian Grey
Dear Mr. Grumpy
The aircraft doors are still open. We are delayed but only by ten minutes. My welfare and that of the passengers around me is vouchsafed. You may stow your twitchy palm
for now.
Miss Steele
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Apologies - Twitchy Palm Stowed
Date: June 3 2011 10:08
To: Anastasia Steele
I miss you and your smart mouth Miss Steele.
I want you safely home.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Apology Accepted
Date: June 3 2011 13:10 EST
To: Christian Grey
They are shutting the doors. You won’t hear another peep from me, especially given your deafness.
Ana x
I switch off the BlackBerry, unable to shake my anxiety. Something is up with Christian. Perhaps ‘the situation’ is out of hand. I sit back, glancing up at the locker where my bags are stowed. I managed this morning, with my mother’s help, to buy Christian a small gift to say thank you for first class and for the gliding. I smile at the memory of the soaring – that was something else. I don’t know yet if I’ll give my silly gift to him. He might think it’s childish – and if he’s in a strange mood, maybe not. I am both eager to return and apprehensive of what awaits me at my journey’s end. As I mentally flick through all the scenarios that could be ‘the situation’, I become aware that once again the only empty seat is beside me. I shake my head as the thought crosses my mind that Christian might have purchased the adjacent seat so that I couldn’t talk to anyone. I dismiss the idea as ridiculous – no one could be that controlling, that jealous, surely. I close my eyes as the plane taxis towards the runway.
I emerge into the Sea-Tac arrivals terminal eight hours later to find Taylor waiting and holding up a board that reads Miss A Steele. Honestly! But it’s good to see him.
“Hello, Taylor.”
“Miss Steele,” he greets me formally, but I see a hint of smile in his sharp brown eyes. He looks his usual immaculate self – smart charcoal suit, white shirt, and charcoal tie.
“I do know what you look like Taylor, you don’t need a board, and I do wish you’d call me, Ana.”
“Ana. Can I take your bags, please?”
“No, I can manage. Thank you.”
His lips tighten perceptibly.
“But, if you’d be more comfortable taking them,” I stammer.
“Thank you.” He grabs my backpack and my newly acquired wheelie case for the clothes my mother has bought me. “This way, ma’am.”
I sigh. He’s so polite. I remember, though I would like to erase it from my memory, that this man has bought me underwear. In fact – and the thought unsettles me – he’s the only man who’s ever bought me underwear. Even Ray’s never had to endure that hardship. We walk in silence to the black Audi SUV outside in the airport parking lot, and he holds the door open for me. I clamber in, wondering if wearing such a short skirt for the return to Seattle was a good idea. It was cool and welcome in Georgia. Here I feel exposed. Once Taylor has stowed my bags in the trunk, we set off for Escala.
The journey is slow, caught up in rush hour traffic. Taylor keeps his eyes on the road ahead. Taciturn does not begin to describe him.
I can bear the silence no longer.
“How’s Christian, Taylor?”
“Mr. Grey is preoccupied, Miss Steele.”
Oh, this must be ‘the situation.’ I am mining a seam of gold.
“Yes, ma’am.”
I frown at Taylor, and he glances at me in the rear-view mirror, our eyes meet. He’s saying no more. Jeez, he can be as tightlipped as the control freak himself.
“Is he okay?”
“I believe so, ma’am.”
“Are you more comfortable calling me, Miss Steele?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Oh, okay.”
Well, that curtails our conversation, and we continue in silence. I begin to think that Taylor’s recent slip, when he told me that Christian had been hell on wheels, was an anomaly. Perhaps he’s embarrassed about it, worried that he’s been disloyal. The silence is suffocating.
“Could you put some music on please?”
“Certainly, ma’am. What would you like to hear?”
“Something soothing.”
I see a smile play on Taylor’s lips as our eyes meet briefly again in the mirror.
“Yes, ma’am.”
He pushes a few buttons on the steering wheel, and the gentle strains of Pachelbel’s canon fills the space between us. Oh yes… this is what I need.
“Thank you.” I sit back as we drive slowly but steadily along the I-5 into Seattle.
Twenty-five minutes, later he drops me outside the impressive façade that is the entrance to Escala.
“In you go, ma’am,” he says, holding the door open for me. “I’ll bring up your luggage is.”H expression is soft, warm, avuncular even.
Jeez… Uncle Taylor, what a thought.
“Thank you for meeting me.”
“It’s a pleasure, Miss Steele.” He smiles, and I head into the building. The doorman nods and waves.
As I ride up to the thirtieth floor, a thousand butterflies stretch their wings and flutter erratically in my stomach. Why am I so nervous? And I know it’s because I have no idea what kind of mood Christian’s going to be in when I arrive. My inner goddess is hopeful for one type of mood, my subconscious, like me, is fraught with nerves.
The elevator doors open, and I’m in the foyer. It is so strange not to be met by Taylor. Of course, he’s parking the car. In the great room, Christian is on his BlackBerry talking quietly as he stares out of the glass doors at the early evening Seattle skyline. He’s wearing a gray suit with the jacket undone, and he’s running his hand through his hair, he’s. H agitated, tense even. Oh no – what’s wrong? Agitated or not, he’s still beyond beautiful. How can he look so… arresting? It’s such a pleasure to stand and drink in the sheer sight of him.
“No trace… Okay… Yes.” He turns and sees me, and his whole demeanor changes. From tension to relief to something else: a look that calls directly to my inner goddess, a look of sensual carnality, gray eyes blazing.
My mouth goes dry and desire blooms in my body… whoa.
“Keep me informed,” he snaps and shuts off his phone as he strides purposefully toward me. I stand paralyzed as he closes the distance between us, devouring me with his eyes. Holy shit… something’s amiss – the strain in his jaw, the anxiety around his eyes. He shrugs out of his jacket, undoes his dark tie, and slings them both on to the couch en route to me. Then his arms are wrapped around me, and he’s pulling me to him, hard, fast, gripping my ponytail to tilt my head up, kissing me like his life depends on it. What the hell? He drags the hair tie painfully out of my hair, but I don’t care. There’s a desperate, primal quality to his kiss. He needs me, for whatever reason, at this point in time, and I have never felt so desired and coveted. It’s dark and sensual and alarming all at the same time. I kiss him back with equal fervor, my fingers twisting and fisting in his hair. Our tongues entwined, our passion and ardor erupting between us. He tastes divine, hot, sexy, and his scent – all body wash and Christian is so arousing. He drags his mouth away from mine, and he’s staring down at me, gripped by some unnamed emotion.
“What’s wrong?” I breathe.
“I’m so glad you’re back. Shower with me – now.”
I can’t decide if it’s a request or a command.
“Yes,” I whisper, and he grabs my hand, leading me out of the big room into his bedroom to his bathroom.
Once there, he releases me and sets the water running in the far too spacious shower. Turning slowly, he gazes at me, eyes hooded.
“I like your skirt. It’s very short,” he says, his voice low. “You have great legs.”
He steps out of his shoes and reaches down to take each of his socks off, never taking his eyes off me. I am rendered speechless by the look of hunger in his eyes. Wow… to be this wanted by this Greek god. I mirror his actions and step out of my black flats. Suddenly, he reaches for me, backing me up against the wall. Kissing me, my face, my throat, my lips… running his hands into my hair. I feel the cool, smooth tiled wall at my back as he pushes himself against me so that I’m flattened between his heat and the chill of the ceramic. Tentatively, I place my arms on his upper arms, and he groans as I squeeze tightly.
“I want you now. Here… fast, hard,” he breathes, and his hands are on my thighs, pushing up my skirt. “Are you still bleeding?”
“No.” I flush.
His thumbs hook over my white cotton panties, and abruptly he drops to his knees as he tugs them off. My skirt is now rucked up so that I’m naked from the waist down and panting, wanting. He grabs my hips, pushing me against the wall again, and kisses me at the apex of my thighs. Grabbing my upper thighs, he forces my legs apart. I groan loudly, feeling his tongue circling my clitoris. Oh my. Tipping my head back involuntarily, I moan as my fingers find their way into this hair.
His tongue is relentless, strong and insistent, laving me – swirling round and round, again and again – non-stop. It’s exquisite, the intensity of feeling – it’s almost painful. My body starts to quicken, and he releases me. What? No! My breathing is ragged as I pant, gazing at him with delicious anticipation. He grabs my face with both hands, holding me firmly, and he kisses me hard, thrusting his tongue into my mouth so I can taste my arousal. Unzipping his fly, he frees himself, grabs the backs of my thighs, and lifts me.
“Wrap your legs around me, baby,” he commands, his voice urgent, strained.
I do as I’m told and wrap my arms around his neck, and he moves quickly and sharply, filling me. Ah! He gasps, and I groan. Holding my behind, his fingers digging into my soft flesh, he begins to move, slowly at first – a steady even tempo… but as his control unravels, he speeds up… faster, and faster. Ahhh! I tip my head back and concentrate on the invading, punishing, heavenly sensation… pushing me, pushing me… onward, higher, up… and when I can take no more, I explode around him, spiraling into an intense, all-consuming orgasm. He lets go with a deep growl, and he buries his head in my neck as he buries himself inside me, groaning loudly and incoherently as he finds his release.
His breathing is erratic, but he kisses me tenderly, not moving, still inside me, and I blink, unseeing into his eyes. As he comes into focus, he gently pulls out of me, holding me steady while I place my feet on the floor. The bathroom is now cloudy with steam… and hot. I feel overdressed.
“You seem pleased to see me,” I murmur with a shy smile.
His lips quirk up.
“Yes, Miss Steele, I think my pleasure is pretty self-evident. Come – let me get you in the shower.”
He undoes the next three buttons of his shirt, removes the cufflinks, tugs it over his head, and discards it on the floor. Removing his suit pants and boxer briefs, he kicks them
to one side. He begins to undo the buttons on my blouse while I watch him, yearning to reach out and stroke his chest, but I contain myself.
“How was your journey?” he asks mildly. He seems so much calmer now, his apprehension gone, dissolved by sexual congress.
“Fine, thank you,” I murmur, still breathless. “Thanks once again for first class. It really is a much nicer way to travel.” I smile shyly at him. “I have some news,” I add nervously.
“Oh?” he looks down at me as he undoes the last button, slips my blouse down my arms, and throws it on top of his discarded clothes.
“I have a job.”
He stills, then smiles at me, his eyes warm and soft.
“Congratulations, Miss Steele. Now will you tell me where?” he teases.
“You don’t know?”
He shakes his head, frowning slightly.
“Why would I know?”
“With your stalking capabilities, I thought you might have… ” I trail off as his face falls.
“Anastasia, I wouldn’t dream of interfering in your career, unless you ask me to, of course.” He looks wounded.
“So you have no idea which company?”
“No. I know there are four publishing companies in Seattle – so I am assuming it’s one of them.”
“Oh, the small one, good. Well done.” He leans forward and kisses my forehead. “Clever girl. When do you start?”
“That soon, eh? I’d better take advantage of you while I still can. Turn round.”
I am thrown by his casual command, but do as I’m bid, and he undoes my bra and unzips my skirt. He pushes my skirt down, cupping my behind as he does, and kissing my shoulder. He leans against, me and his nose nuzzles my hair, inhaling deeply. He squeezes my buttocks.
“You intoxicate me, Miss Steele, and you calm me. Such a heady combination.” He kisses my hair. Grabbing my hand, he tugs me into the shower.
“Ow,” I squeal. The water is practically scalding. Christian grins down at me as the water cascades over him.
“It’s only a little hot water.”
And actually he’s right. It feels heavenly, washing off the sticky Georgia morning and the stickiness from our lovemaking.
“Turn round,” he orders, and I comply, turning to face the wall. “I want to wash you,” he murmurs and reaches for the body wash. He squirts a little into his hand.
“I have something else to tell you,” I murmur as his hands start on my shoulders.
“Oh, yes?” he asks mildly.
I steel myself with a deep breath.
“My friend José’s photography show is opening Thursday in Portland.”
He stills, his hands hovering over my breasts. I have emphasized the word ‘friend.’
“Yes, what about it?” he asks sternly.
“I said I would go. Do you want to come with me?”
After what feels like a monumental amount of time, he slowly starts washing me again.
“What time?”
“The opening is at 7:30 p.m.”
He kisses my ear.
Inside my subconscious relaxes and then collapses, slumped into an old battered armchair.
“Were you nervous about asking me?”
“Yes. How can you tell?”
“Anastasia, your whole body’s just relaxed,” he says dryly.
“Well, you just seem to be um… on the jealous side.”
“Yes, I am,” he says darkly. “And you’d do well to remember that. But thank you for asking. We’ll take Charlie Tango.”
Oh, the helicopter of course, silly me. More flying… cool! I grin.
“Can I wash you?” I ask.
“I don’t think so,” he murmurs, and he kisses me gently on my neck to take the sting out of his refusal. I pout at the wall as he caresses my back with soap.
“Will you ever let me touch you?” I ask boldly.
He stills again, his hand on my behind.
“Put your hands on the wall Anastasia. I’m going to take you again,” he murmurs in my ear as he grabs my hips, and I know that the discussion is over.
Later we are seated at the breakfast bar, dressed in bathrobes, having consumed Mrs. Jones’s rather excellent pasta alle vongole.
“More wine?” Christian asks, gray eyes glowing.
“A small glass, please.” The Sancerre is crisp and delicious. Christian pours one for me and one for himself.
“How’s the um… situation that bought you to Seattle?” I ask tentatively.
He frowns.
“Out of hand,” he murmurs bitterly. “But nothing for you to worry about, Anastasia. I have plans for you this evening.”
“Yes. I want you ready and waiting in my playroom in fifteen minutes.” He stands and gazes down at me.
“You can get ready in your room. Incidentally, the walk-in closet is now full of clothes for you. I don’t want any arguments about them.” He narrows his eyes, daring me to say something. When I don’t, he stalks off to his study.
Me! Argue? With you, Fifty Shades? It’s more than my backside’s worth. I sit on the bar stool, momentarily stupefied, trying to assimilate this morsel of information. He’s
bought me clothes. I roll my eyes in an exaggerated fashion knowing full well he can’t see me. Car, phone, computer… clothes, it’ll be a damn condo next, and then I really will be his mistress.
Ho! My subconscious has her snarky face on. I ignore her and make my way upstairs toward my room so, it is still mine… why? I thought he’d agreed to let me sleep with him. I suppose he’s not used to sharing his personal space, but then, neither am I. I console myself with the thought that at least I have somewhere to escape from him.
Examining the door, I find that it has a lock but no key. I wonder briefly if Mrs. Jones has a spare. I’ll ask her. I open the closet door and close it again quickly. Holy Crap – he’s spent a fortune. It resembles Kate’s – so many clothes hanging neatly on the rail. Deep down, I know that they’ll all fit. But I have no time to think about that – I have to get kneeling in the Red Room of… Pain… or Pleasure – hopefully this evening.
Kneeling by the door, I am naked except for my panties. My heart is in my mouth. Jeez, I thought after the bathroom he would have had enough. The man is insatiable, or maybe all men are like him. I have no idea, no one to compare him too. Closing my eyes, I try to calm myself down, to connect with my inner sub. She’s there somewhere, hiding behind my inner goddess.
Anticipation runs bubbling like soda through my veins. What will he do? I take a deep steadying breath, but I cannot deny it, I’m excited, aroused, wet already. This is so… I want to think wrong, but somehow it’s not. It’s right for Christian. It’s what he wants – and after the last few days… after all he’s done, I have to man up and take whatever he decides he wants, whatever he thinks he needs.
The memory of his look when I came in this evening, the longing in his face, his determined stride toward me like I was an oasis in the desert. I’d do almost anything to see that look again. I press my thighs together at the delicious memory, and it reminds me that I need to spread my knees. I shuffle them apart. How long will he make me wait? The wait is crippling me, crippling me with a dark and tantalizing desire. I glance quickly around the subtly lit room; the cross, the table, the couch, the bench… that bed. It looms so large, and it’s made up with red satin sheets. Which piece of apparatus will he use?
The door opens and Christian breezes in, ignoring me completely. I glance down quickly, staring at my hands, positioned with care on my spread thighs. Placing something on the large chest beside the door, he strolls casually toward the bed. I indulge myself in a quick glimpse at him, and my heart almost lurches to a stop. He’s naked except for those soft ripped jeans, top button casually undone. Jeez, he looks so freaking hot. My subconscious is frantically fanning herself, and my inner goddess is swaying and writhing to some primal carnal rhythm. She’s so ready. I lick my lips instinctively. My blood pounds through my body, thick and heavy with salacious hunger. What is he going to do to me?
Turning, he nonchalantly walks back to the chest of drawers. Opening one, he begins to remove items and place them on the top. My curiosity burns, blazes even, but I resist the overwhelming temptation to sneak a quick peek. When he finishes what he’s doing,
he comes to stand in front of me. I can see his naked feet, and I want to kiss every inch of them… run my tongue over his instep, suck each of his toes. Holy shit.
“You look lovely,” he breathes.
I keep my head down, conscious that he’s staring at me while I am practically naked. I feel the flush as it slowly spreads over my face. He bends down and cups my chin, forcing my face up to meet his gaze.
“You are one beautiful woman, Anastasia. And you’re all mine,” he murmurs. “Stand up.” His command is soft full of sensual promise.
Shakily, I get to my feet.
“Look at me,” he breathes, and I stare up into his smoldering gray gaze. It is his Dom gaze – cold, hard, and sexy as hell, seven shades of sin in one enticing look. My mouth dries, and I know I will do anything he asks. An almost cruel smile plays across his lips.
“We don’t have a signed contract, Anastasia. But we’ve discussed limits. And I want to re-iterate we have safe words, okay?”
Holy fuck… what has he got planned that I need safe words?
“What are they?” he asks authoritatively.
I frown slightly at his question, and his face hardens perceptibly.
“What are the safe words, Anastasia?” he says slowly and deliberately.
“Yellow,” I mumble.
“And?” he prompts, his mouth setting in a hard line.
“Red,” I breathe.
“Remember those.”
And I can’t help it… I raise my eyebrow at him and am about to remind him of my GPA, but the sudden frosty glint in his icy gray eyes stops me in my tracks.
“Don’t start with your smart mouth in here, Miss Steele. Or I will fuck it with you on your knees. Do you understand?”
I swallow instinctively. Okay. I blink rapidly, chastened. Actually, it’s his tone of voice, rather than the threat, that intimidates me.
“Yes, Sir,” I mumble hastily.
“Good girl,” he pauses as he stares at me. “My intention is not that you should safe-word because you’re in pain. What I intend to do to you will be intense. Very intense, and you have to guide me. Do you understand?”
Not really. Intense? Wow.
“This is about touch, Anastasia. You will not be able to see me or hear me. But you’ll be able to feel me.”
I frown – not hear him? How is that going to work? He turns, and I hadn’t noticed that above the chest is a sleek, flat, matt-black box. As he waves his hand in front, the box splits in half: two doors slide open revealing a CD player and a host of buttons. Christian presses several of these buttons in sequence. Nothing happens, but he seems satisfied. I am mystified. When he turns to face me again, he wears his small I-have-a-secret smile.
“I am going to tie you to that bed, Anastasia. But I’m going to blindfold you first and,” he reveals his iPod in his hand, “you will not be able to hear me. All you will hear is the music I am going to play for you.”
Okay. A musical interlude, not what I was expecting. Does he ever do what I expect? Jeez, I hope it’s not rap.
“Come.” Taking my hand, he leads me over to the antique four-poster bed. There are shackles attached at each corner, fine metal chains with leather cuffs, glinting against the red satin.
Oh boy, I think my heart is going to leave my chest, and I’m melting from the inside out, desire coursing through me. Could I be any more excited?
“Stand here.”
I am facing the bed. He leans down and whispers in my ear.
“Wait here, keep your eyes on the bed. Picture yourself lying here bound and totally at my mercy.”
Oh my.
He moves away for a moment, and I can hear him near the door fetching something. All my senses are hyper alert, my hearing more acute. He’s picked up something from the rack of whips and paddles by the door. Holy cow. What is he going to do?
I feel him behind me. He takes my hair, pulls it into a ponytail behind me, and starts to braid it.
“While I like your pigtails, Anastasia, I am too impatient to be at you right now. So one will have to do.” His voice is low, soft.
His deft fingers skim my back occasionally as they work down my hair, and each casual touch is like a sweet, electric shock against my skin. He fastens the end with a hair tie, then gently tugs the braid so that I’m forced to step back flush against him. He pulls again to the side so that I angle my head, giving him easier access to my neck. Leaning down, he nuzzles my neck. Tracing his teeth and tongue from the base of my ear to my shoulder. He hums softly as he does, and the sound resonates through me. Right down... right down there, inside me. Unbidden, I groan quietly.
“Hush now,” he breathes against my skin. He holds up his hands in front of me, his arms touching mine. In his right hand is a flogger. I remember the name from my first introduction to this room.
“Touch it,” he whispers, and he sounds like the devil himself. My body flames in response. Tentatively, I reach out and brush the long strands. It has many long fronds, all soft suede with small beads at the end.
“I will use this. It will not hurt, but it will bring your blood to the surface of your skin and make you very sensitive.”
Oh, he says it won’t hurt.
“What are the safe words, Anastasia?”
“Um… yellow and red, Sir,” I whisper.
“Good girl. Remember, most of your fear is in your mind.”
He drops the flogger on the bed, and his hands move to my waist.
“You won’t be needing these,” he murmurs and hooks his fingers into my panties and sweeps them down my legs. I step unsteadily out of them, supporting myself on the ornate post of the bed.
“Stand still,” he orders, and he kisses my behind and then gently nips me twice, making me tense. “Now lie down. Face up,” he adds as he smacks me hard on the behind, making me jump.
Hastily, I crawl onto the bed’s hard, unyielding mattress and lie down, looking up at him. The satin of the sheet beneath me is soft and cool against my skin. His gaze is impassive, except for his eyes which glow with a barely leashed excitement.
“Hands above your head,” he orders, and I do as I’m bid.
Jeez, my body hungers for him. I want him already.
He turns, and out of the corner of my eye, I watch him saunter back over to the chest of drawers, returning with the iPod and what looks like an eye mask, similar to the one I used on my flight to Atlanta. The thought makes me want to smile, but I can’t quite make my lips cooperate. I am too consumed with anticipation. I just know my face is completely immobile, my eyes huge, as I gaze at him.
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, he shows me the iPod. It has a strange antenna device as well headphones. How odd. I frown as I try to figure this out.
“This transmits what’s playing on the iPod to the system in the room.”, Christian answers my unspoken query as he taps the small antenna. “I can hear what you’re hearing, and I have a remote control unit for it.” He smirks his private-joke smile and holds up a small, flat device that looks like a very hip calculator. He leans across me, inserting the ear buds gently into my ears, and puts the iPod down somewhere on the bed above my head.
“Lift your head,” he commands, and I do so immediately.
Slowly, he slides the mask on, pulling the elastic over the back of my head, and I’m blind. The elastic on the mask holds the ear buds in place. I can still hear him, though the sound is muffled as he rises from the bed. I’m deafened by my own breathing – it’s shallow and erratic, reflecting my excitement. Christian takes my left arm, stretches it gently to the left-hand corner, and attaches the leather cuff around my wrist. His long fingers stroke the length of my arm once he’s finished. Oh! His touch elicits a delicious, tickly shiver. I hear him move slowly round to the other side, takes my right arm and cuffs it. Again, his long fingers linger along my arm. Oh my… I am fit to burst already. Why is this so erotic?
He moves to the bottom of the bed and grabs both of my ankles.
“Lift your head again,” he orders.
I comply, and he drags me down the bed so that my arms are stretched out and almost straining at the cuffs. Holy cow, I cannot move my arms. A frisson of trepidation mixed with tantalizing exhilaration sweeps through my body, making me wetter. I groan. Parting my legs, he cuffs first my right ankle and then my left so I am staked out, spread-eagled, and totally vulnerable to him. It’s so unnerving that I can’t see him. I listen hard… what’s he doing? And I hear nothing, just my breathing and the pounding thud of my heart as blood pulses furiously against my eardrums.
Abruptly, the soft silent hiss and pop of the iPod springs into life. From inside my head, a lone angelic voice sings unaccompanied a long sweet note, and it’s joined almost immediately by another voice, and then more voices – Holy cow, a celestial choir – singing acapella in my head, an ancient, ancient hymnal. What in heaven’s name is this? I have never heard anything like it. Something almost unbearably soft brushes against my neck, running languidly down my throat, slowly across my chest, over my breasts, caressing
me… pulling at my nipples, it’s so soft, skimming underneath. It’s so unexpected. It’s fur! A fur glove?
Christian trails his hand, unhurried and deliberate, down to my belly, circling my navel, then carefully from hip to hip, and I’m trying to anticipate where he’s going next… but the music… it’s in my head… transporting me… the fur across the line of my pubic hair… between my legs, along my thighs, down one leg… up the other… it almost tickles… but not quite… more voices join… the heavenly choir all singing different parts, their voices blending blissfully and sweetly together in a melodic harmony that is beyond anything I’ve ever heard. I catch one word -- ‘deus’-- and I realize they are singing in Latin. And still, the fur is moving down my arms and round my waist… back up across my breasts. My nipples harden beneath the soft touch… and I’m panting… wondering where his hand will go next. Suddenly, the fur is gone, and I can feel the fronds of the flogger flowing over my skin, following the same path as the fur, and it’s so hard to concentrate with the music in my head – it sounds like a hundred voices singing, weaving an ethereal tapestry of fine, silken gold and silver through my head, mixed with the feel of the soft suede against my skin… trailing over me… oh my… abruptly, it disappears. Then suddenly, sharply, it bites down on my belly.
“Aagghh!” I cry out. It takes me by surprise, and it doesn’t exactly hurt, but tingles all over, and he hits me again. Harder.
I want to move, to writhe… to escape, or to welcome, each blow… I don’t know – it’s so overwhelming… I can’t pull my arms… my legs are stuck… I am held very firmly in place… and again he strikes across my breasts – I cry out. And it’s a sweet agony – bearable, just… pleasant – no, not immediately, but as my skin sings with each blow in perfect counterpoint to the music in my head, I am dragged into a dark, dark part of my psyche that surrenders to this most erotic sensation. Yes – I get this. He hits me across my hip. Then,t moves in swift blows over my pubic hair, on my thighs, and down my inner thighs… and back up my body… across my hips. He keeps going as the music reaches a climax, and then suddenly – the music stops. And so does he. Then the singing starts again… building and building, and he rains down blows on me… and I groan and writhe. Once again, it ceases and all is quiet… except my wild breathing… and wild yearning. For… oh… what’s happening? What’s he going to do now? The excitement is almost unbearable. I’ve entered a very dark, carnal place.
The bed moves and shifts as I feel him clamber over me, and the song starts again. He’s got it on repeat… this time it’s his nose and lips that take the place of the fur… running down my neck and throat, kissing, sucking… trailing down to my breasts… Ah! Taunting each of my nipples in turn… his tongue swirling round one while his fingers relentlessly tease the other… I groan, loudly I think, though I can’t hear. I am lost. Lost in him… lost in the astral, seraphic voices… lost to all the sensations I cannot escape… I am completely at the mercy of his expert touch.
He moves down to my belly – his tongue circling my navel – following the path of the flogger and the fur… I moan. He’s kissing and sucking and nibbling… moving south… and then his tongue is there. At, a the junction of my thighs. I throw my head back and cry out as I almost detonate into orgasm… I’m on the brink, and he stops.
No! The bed shifts, and he kneels between my legs. He leans toward the bedpost, and the cuff on my ankle is suddenly gone. I pull my leg to the middle of the bed… resting it against him. He leans over to the opposite post and frees my other leg. His hands travel quickly down both my legs, squeezing and kneading, bringing life back into them. Then, grasping my hips, he lifts me so that my back is no longer on the bed. I am arched, resting on my shoulders. What? He’s kneeling up between my legs… and in one swift, slamming move he’s inside me… oh fuck… and I cry out again. The quiver of my impending orgasm begins, and he stills. The quiver dies… oh no… he’s going to torture me further.
“Please!” I wail.
He grips me harder… in warning? I don’t know, his fingers digging into the flesh of my behind as I lay panting… so I purposefully still. Very slowly, he starts to move again… out and then in… agonizingly slowly. Holy fuck – Please! I’m screaming inside… And as the number of voices in the choral piece increases… so does his pace, infinitesimally, he’s so controlled… so in time with the music. And I can no longer bear it.
“Please,” I beg, and in one swift move, he lowers me back onto the bed, and he’s lying on top of me, his hands on the bed beside my breasts as he supports his weight, and he thrusts into me,.as A the music reaches its climax, I fall… free fall… into the most intense, agonizing orgasm I have ever had, and Christian follows me… thrusting hard into me, three more times… finally stilling, then collapsing on top of me.
As my consciousness returns from wherever it’s been, Christian pulls out of me. The music has stopped, and I can feel him stretch across my body as he undoes the cuff on my right wrist. I groan as my hand is freed. He quickly frees my other hand, gently pulls the mask from my eyes, and removes the ear buds. I blink in the dim soft light and stare up into his intense gray gaze.
“Hi,” he murmurs.
“Hi, yourself,” I breathe shyly back at him. His lips quirk up into a smile, and he leans down and kisses me softly.
“Well done, you,” he whispers. “Turn over.”
Holy fuck – what’s he going to do now? His eyes soften.
“I’m just going to rub your shoulders.”
“Oh… okay.”
I roll stiffly onto my front. I am so tired. Christian sits astride me and starts to massage my shoulders. I groan loudly – he has such strong, knowing fingers. Leaning down, he kisses my head.
“What was that music?” I mumble almost inarticulately.
“It’s called Spem In Alium, or the Forty Part Motet, by Thomas Tallis.”
“It was… overwhelming.”
“I’ve always wanted to fuck to it.”
“Not another first, Mr. Grey?”
“Indeed, Miss Steele.”
I groan again as his fingers work their magic on my shoulders.
“Well, it’s the first time I’ve fucked to it, too,” I murmur sleepily.
“Hmm… you and I, we’re giving each other many firsts.” His voice is matter-of-fact.
“What did I say to you in my sleep, Ch – err, Sir?”
His hands pause their ministrations for a moment.
“You said lots of things, Anastasia. You talked about cages and strawberries… that you wanted more… and that you missed me.”
Oh, thank heavens for that.
“Is that all?” The relief in my voice is evident.
Christian stops his heavenly massage and shifts so that he’s lying beside me. His head propped up on his elbow. He’s frowning.
“What did you think you’d said?”
Oh crap.
“That I thought you were ugly, conceited, and that you were hopeless in bed.”
He crease on his brow deepens.
“Well, naturally I am all those things, and now you’ve got me really intrigued. What are you hiding from me, Miss Steele?”
I blink at him innocently.
“I’m not hiding anything.”
“Anastasia, you are a hopeless liar.”
“I thought you were going to make me giggle after sex, this isn’t doing it for me.”
His lips quirk up.
“I can’t tell jokes.”
“Mr. Grey! Something you can’t do?” I grin at him, and he grins back.
“No, hopeless joke teller.” He looks so proud of himself that I start to giggle.
“I’m a hopeless joke teller too,”
“That is such a lovely sound,” he murmurs, and he leans forward and kisses me.
“And you are hiding something, Anastasia. I may have to torture it out of you.”

Fifty Shades of Grey CHAPTER 24


Christian stands in a steel-barred cage. Wearing his soft, ripped jeans, his chest and feet are mouthwateringly naked, and he’s staring at me. His private-joke smile etched on his beautiful face and his eyes a molten gray. In his hands he holds a bowl of strawberries. He ambles with athletic grace to the front of the cage, gazing intently at me. Holding up a plump ripe strawberry, he extends his hand through the bars.
“Eat,” he says, his tongue caressing the front of his palate as he enunciates the ‘t’.
I try and move toward him, but I’m tethered, held back by some unseen force around my wrist, holding me. Let me go.
“Come, eat,” he says, smiling his delicious crooked smile.
I pull and pull… let me go! I want to scream and shout, but no sound emerges. I am mute. He stretches a little further, and the strawberry is at my lips.
“Eat, Anastasia.” His mouth forms my name, lingering sensually on each syllable.
I open my mouth and bite, the cage disappears, and my hands are free. I reach up to touch him, graze my fingers through his chest hair.
No. I moan.
“Come on, baby.”
No. I want to touch you.
“Wake up.”
No. Please. My eyes flicker unwillingly open for a split second. I’m in bed and someone is nuzzling my ear.
“Wake up, baby,” he whispers, and the effect of his sweet voice spreads like warm melted caramel through my veins.
It’s Christian. Jeez, it’s still dark, and the images of him from my dream persists, disconcerting and tantalizing in my head.
“Oh… no,” I groan. I want back at his chest, back to my dream. Why is he waking me? It’s the middle of the night, or so it feels. Holy shit. Does he want sex – now?
“Time to get up, baby. I’m going to switch on the sidelight.” His voice is quiet.
“No,” I groan.
“I want to chase the dawn with you,” he says, kissing my face, my eyelids, the tip of my nose, my mouth, and I open my eyes. The sidelight is on. “Good morning, beautiful,” he murmurs.
I groan, and he smiles.
“You are not a morning person,” he murmurs.
Through the haze of light, I squint and see Christian leaning over me, smiling. Amused. Amused at me. Dressed! In black.
“I thought you wanted sex,” I grumble.
“Anastasia, I always want sex with you. It’s heartwarming to know that you feel the same,” he says dryly.
I gaze at him as my eyes adjust to the light, but he still looks amused… thank heavens.
“Of course I do, just not when it’s so late.”
“It’s not late, it’s early. Come on – up you go. We’re going out. I’ll take a rain check on the sex.”
“I was having such a nice dream,” I whine.
“Dream about what?” he asks patiently.
“You.” I blush.
“What was I doing this time?”
“Trying to feed me strawberries.”
His lips twitch with a trace of a smile.
“Dr. Flynn could have a field day with that. Up – get dressed. Don’t bother to shower, we can do that later.”
I sit up, and the sheet pools at my waist, revealing my body. He stands to give me room, his eyes dark.
“What time is it?”
“5:30 in the morning.”
“Feels like 3:00 a.m.”
“We don’t have much time. I let you sleep as long as possible. Come.”
“Can’t I have a shower?”
He sighs.
“If you have a shower, I’ll want one with you, and you and I know what will happen then – the day will just go. Come.”
He’s excited. Like a small boy, he’s iridescent with anticipation and excitement. It makes me smile.
“What are we doing?’
“It’s a surprise. I told you.”
I can’t help but grin up at him.
“Okay.” I clamber off the bed and search for my clothes. Of course they are neatly folded on the chair beside my bed. He’s laid out a pair of his jersey boxer briefs too, Ralph Lauren, no less. I slip them on, and he grins at me. Hmm, another piece of Christian Grey’s underwear – a trophy to add to my collection – along with the car, the BlackBerry, the Mac, his black jacket, and a set of old valuable first editions. I shake my head at his largesse, and I frown as a scene from Tess crosses my mind: the strawberry scene. It evokes my dream. To hell with Dr. Flynn – Freud would have a field day – and then he’d probably expire trying to deal with Fifty Shades.
“I’ll give you some room now that you’re up.” Christian exits toward the living area, and I wander into the bathroom. I have needs to attend to, and I want a quick wash. Seven minutes later, I am in the living area, scrubbed, brushed and dressed in jeans, my camisole, and Christian Grey’s underwear. Christian glances up from the small dining table where he’s eating breakfast. Breakfast! Jeez, at this time.
“Eat,” he says.
Holy Moses… my dream. I gape at him, thinking about his tongue on his palate. Hmm, his expert tongue.
“Anastasia,” he says sternly, pulling me out of my reverie.
It really is too early for me. How to handle this?
“I’ll have some tea. Can I take a croissant for later?”
He eyes me suspiciously, and I smile very sweetly.
“Don’t rain on my parade, Anastasia,” he warns softly.
“I will eat later when my stomach’s woken up. About 7:30 a.m.… okay?”
“Okay.” He peers down at me.
Honestly. I have to concentrate hard on not making a face at him.
“I want to roll my eyes at you.”
“By all means, do, and you will make my day,” he says sternly.
I gaze up at the ceiling.
“Well a spanking would wake me up, I suppose.” I purse my lips in quiet contemplation.
Christian’s mouth drops open.
“On the other hand, I don’t want you to be all hot and bothered, the climate here is warm enough.” I shrug nonchalantly.
Christian closes his mouth and tries very hard to look displeased, but fails hopelessly. I can see the humor lurking in the back of his eyes.
“You are, as ever, challenging, Miss Steele. Drink your tea.”
I notice the Twinings label, and inside, my heart sings. See, he does care, my subconscious mouths at me. I sit and face him, drinking in his beauty. Will I ever get enough of this man?
As we leave the room, Christian throws a sweatshirt at me.
“You’ll need this.”
I look at him, puzzled.
“Trust me.” He grins, leans over and kisses me quickly on the lips, then grabs my hand and we head out.
Outside, in the relative cool of the half-light of pre-dawn, the valet hands Christian a set of keys to a flash sports car with a soft top. I raise an eyebrow at Christian, who smirks back at me.
“You know, sometimes it’s great being me,” he says with a conspiratorial but smug grin that I simply can’t help emulating. He’s so lovable when he’s playful and carefree. He opens my car door with an exaggerated bow, and in I climb. He is in such a good mood.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” He grins as he slips the car into drive, and we head out on Savannah Parkway. He programs the GPS and presses a switch on the steering wheel and a classical orchestral piece fills the car.
“What’s this?” I ask as the sweet, sweet sound of a hundred violin strings assails us.
“It’s from La Traviata. An opera by Verdi.”
Oh, my… it’s lovely.
“La Traviata? I’ve headr of that. I can’t think where. What does it mean?”
Christian glances at me and smirks.
“Well, literally, the woman led astray. It’s based on Alexander Dumas’s book, La Dame aux Camelias.”
“Ah. I’ve read it.”
“I thought you might.”
“The doomed courtesan.” I squirm uncomfortably in the plush leather seat. Is he trying to tell me something? “Hmm, it’s a depressing story,” I mutter.
“Too depressing? Do you want to choose some music? This is on my iPod.” Christian has that secret smile again.
I can’t see his iPod anywhere. He taps the screen on the console between us, and behold - there is a play list.
“You choose.” His lips twitch up into a smile, and I know it’s a challenge.
Christian Grey’s iPod, this should be interesting. I scroll through the touch screen, and find the perfect song. I press play. I wouldn’t have figured him for a Britney fan. The club-mix, techno beat assaults us both, and Christian turns the volume down. Maybe it’s too early for this: Britney’s at her most sultry.
“Toxic, eh?” Christian grins.
“I don’t know what you mean.” I feign innocence.
He turns the music down a little more, and inside I am hugging myself. My inner goddess is standing on the podium awaiting her gold medal. He turned the music down. Victory!
“I didn’t put that song on my iPod,” he says casually, and puts his foot down so that I am thrown back into my seat as the car accelerates along the freeway.
What? He knows what he’s doing, the bastard. Who did? And I have to listen to Britney going on and on. Who… who?
The song ends and the iPod shuffles to Damien Rice being mournful. Who? Who? I stare out of the window, my stomach churning. Who?
“It was Leila,” he answers my unspoken thoughts. How does he do that?
“An ex, who put the song on my iPod.”
Damien warbles away in the background as I sit stunned. An ex… ex-submissive? An ex–
“One of the fifteen?” I ask.
“What happened to her?”
“We finished.”
Oh jeez. It’s too early for this kind of conversation. But he looks relaxed, happy even, and what’s more, talkative.
“She wanted more.” His voice is low, introspective even, and he leaves the sentence hanging between us, ending it with that powerful little word again.
“And you didn’t?” I ask before I can employ my brain to mouth filter. Shit, do I want to know?
He shakes his head.
“I’ve never wanted more, until I met you.”
I gasp, reeling. Oh my. Isn’t this what I want? He wants more. He wants it, too! My inner goddess has back flipped off the podium and is doing cartwheels around the stadium. It’s not just me.
“What happened to the other fourteen?” I ask.
Jeez he’s talking – take advantage.
“You want a list? Divorced, beheaded, died?”
“You’re not Henry VIII.”
“Okay. In no particular order, I’ve only had long term relationships with four women, apart from Elena.”
“Mrs. Robinson to you.” He half smiles his secret private joke smile.
Elena! Holy Fuck. The evil one has a name and its all-foreign sounding. A vision of a glorious, pale-skinned vamp with raven hair and ruby-red lips comes to mind, and I know that she’s beautiful. I must not dwell. I must not dwell.
“What happened to the four?” I ask to distract myself.
“So inquisitive, so eager for information, Miss Steele,” he scolds playfully.
“Oh, Mr. When Is Your Period Due?”
“Anastasia – a man needs to know these things.”
“Does he?”
“I do.”
“Because I don’t want you to get pregnant.”
“Neither do I! Well, not for a few years yet.”
Christian blinks startled, then visibly relaxes. Okay. Christian doesn’t want children. Now or never? I am reeling from his sudden, unprecedented attack of candor. Perhaps it’s the early morning? Something in the Georgia water? The Georgia air? What else do I want to know? Carpe Diem.
“So the other four, what happened?” I ask.
“One met someone else. The other three wanted – more. I wasn’t in the market for more then.”
“And the others?” I press.
He glances at me briefly and just shakes his head.
“Just didn’t work out.”
Whoa, a bucket-load of information to process. I glance in the side mirror of the car, and I notice the soft swell of pink and aquamarine in the sky behind. Dawn is following us.
“Where are we headed?” I ask, perplexed, gazing out at the I-95. We’re heading south, that’s all I know.
“An airfield.”
“We’re not going back to Seattle are we?” I gasp, alarmed. I haven’t said goodbye to my mom. Jeez, she’s expecting us for dinner.
He laughs.
“No, Anastasia, we’re going to indulge in my second favorite pastime.”
“Second?” I frown at him.
“Yep. I told you my favorite this morning.”
I glance at his glorious profile, frowning, racking my brain.
“Indulging in you, Miss Steele, that’s got to be top of my list. Any way I can get you.”
“Well that’s quite high up on my list of diverting, kinky priorities too.” I mutter, blushing.
“I’m pleased to hear it,” he mutters dryly.
“So, airfield?”
He grins at me.
The term rings a vague bell. He’s mentioned it before.
“We’re going to chase the dawn, Anastasia.” He turns and grins at me as the GPS urges him to turn right into what looks like an industrial complex. He pulls up outside a large white building with a sign reading Brunswick Soaring Association.
Gliding! We’re going gliding?
He switches off the engine.
“You up for this?” he asks.
“You’re flying?”
“Yes, please!” I don’t hesitate. He grins and leans forward and kisses me.
“Another first, Miss Steele,” he says as he climbs out of the car.
First? What sort of first? First time flying a glider… shit! No – he said that he’s done it before. I relax. He walks round and opens my door. The sky has turned to a subtle opal, shimmering and glowing softly behind the sporadic childlike clouds. Dawn is upon us.
Taking my hand, Christian leads me round the building to a large stretch of tarmac where several planes are parked. Waiting beside them is a man with a shaved head and a wild look in his eye, accompanied by Taylor.
Taylor! Does Christian go any where without that man? I beam at him, and he smiles kindly back at me.
“Mr. Grey, this is your tow-pilot, Mr. Mark Benson,” says Taylor. Christian and Benson shake hands and strike up a conversation, which sounds very technical about wind speed, directions, and the like.
“Hello, Taylor,” I murmur shyly.
“Miss Steele.” He nods a greeting at me, and I frown. “Ana,” he corrects himself. “He’s been hell on wheels the last few days. Glad we’re here,” he says conspiratorially.
Oh, this is news – Why? Surely not because of me! Revelation Thursday! Must be something in the Savannah water that makes these men loosen up a bit.
“Anastasia,” Christian summons me. “Come.” He holds out his hand.
“See you later.” I smile at Taylor, and giving me a quick salute, he heads back to the parking lot.
“Mr. Benson, this is my girlfriend Anastasia Steele.”
“Pleased to meet you,” I murmur as we shake hands.
Benson gives me a dazzling smile.
“Likewise,” he says, and I can tell from his accent that he’s British.
As I take Christian’s hand, there’s a mounting excitement in my belly. Wow… gliding! We follow Mark Benson out across the tarmac towards the runway. He and Christian keep up a running conversation. I catch the gist. We will be in a Blanik L-23, which is apparently better than the L-13, although this is open to debate. Benson will be flying a Piper Pawnee. He’s been flying tail draggers for about five years now. It all means nothing to me, but glancing up at Christian, he is so animated, so in his element, it’s a pleasure to watch him.
The plane itself is long, sleek, and white with orange stripes. It has a small cockpit with two seats one in front of the other. It’s attached by a long white cable to a small, conventional single-propeller plane. Benson opens the large, clear Perspex dome that frames the cockpit, allowing us to climb in.
“First we need to strap on your parachute.”
“I’ll do that,” Christian interrupts him and takes the harness off Benson, who smiles amenably at him.
“I’ll fetch some ballast,” Benson says and heads toward the plane.
“You like strapping me into things.” I observe dryly.
“Miss Steele, you have no idea. Here, step into the straps.”
I do as I’m told, placing my arm on his shoulder. Christian stiffens slightly but doesn’t move. Once my feet are in the loops, he pulls the parachute up, and I place my arms through the shoulder straps. Deftly he fastens the harness and tightens all the straps.
“There, you’ll do,” he says mildly, but his eyes are gleaming. “Do you have your hair tie from yesterday?”
I nod.
“You want me to put my hair up?”
I quickly do as I’m asked.
“In you go,” Christian commands. He’s still so bossy. I go to climb into the back.
“No, front. Pilot sits at the back.”
“But won’t you be able to see.”
“I’ll see plenty.” He grins.
I don’t think I have ever seen him so happy, bossy, but happy. I clamber in, settling down into the leather seat. It is surprisingly comfortable. Christian leans over, pulls the harness over my shoulders, reaches between my legs for the lower belt, and slots it into the fastener that rests against my belly. He tightens all the restraining straps.
“Hmm, twice in one morning, I am a lucky man,” he whispers and kisses me quickly. “This won’t take long – twenty, thirty minutes at most. Thermals aren’t great this time of the morning, but it’s so breathtaking up there at this hour. I hope you’re not nervous.”
“Excited.” I beam.
Where did this ridiculous grin come from? Actually, part of me is terrified. My inner goddess – she’s under a blanket behind the sofa.
“Good.” He grins back, stroking my face, then disappears from view.
I hear and feel his movements as he climbs in behind me. Of course he’s strapped me in so tightly I can’t move round to see him… typical! We are very low on the ground. In front of me is a panel of dials and levers and a big stick thing. I leave well alone.
Mark Benson appears with a cheerful grin as he checks my straps and leans in and checks the cockpit floor. I think it’s the ballast.
“Yep, that’s secure. First time?” he asks me.
“You’ll love it.”
“Thanks, Mr. Benson.”
“Call me Mark.” He turns to Christian. “Okay?”
“Yep. Let’s go.”
I am so glad I haven’t eaten anything. I am beyond excited, and I don’t think my stomach would be game for food, excitement, and leaving the ground. Once again, I am putting myself into this beautiful man’s skilled hands. Mark shuts the cockpit lid, strolls over to the plane in front, and climbs in.
The Piper’s single propeller starts, and my nervous stomach relocates itself to my throat. Jeez… I’m really doing this. Mark taxis slowly down the runway, and as the cable takes the strain, we suddenly jolt forward. We’re off. I hear chatter over the radio set behind me. I think it’s Mark talking to the tower – but I can’t make out what he’s saying. As the Piper picks up speed, so do we. It’s very bumpy, and in front of us, the single prop plane is still on the ground. Jeez, will we ever get up? And suddenly, my stomach disappears from my throat and free-falls through my body to the ground – we’re airborne.
“Here we go, baby!” Christian shouts from behind me. And we are in our own bubble, just us two. All I hear is the sound of the wind ripping past and the distant hum of the Piper’s engine.
I’m gripping the edge of my seat with both hands, so tightly my knuckles are white. We head west, inland away from the rising sun, gaining height, crossing over fields and woods and homes and I-95. Oh my. This is amazing, above us only sky. The light is extraordinary, diffuse and warm in hue, and I remember José rambling on about ‘magic hour’, a time of day that photographers adore – this is it… just after dawn, and I’m in it, with Christian.
Abruptly, I’m reminded of José’s show. Hmm. I need to tell Christian. I wonder briefly how he’ll react. But I won’t worry about that, not now – I’m enjoying the ride. My ears pop as we gain height, and the ground slips further and further away. It is so peaceful. I completely get why he likes to be up here. Away from his BlackBerry and all the pressures of his job.
The radio crackles into life, and Mark mentions 3,000 feet. Jeez, that sounds high,. I check the ground, and I can no longer clearly distinguish anything down there.
“Release,” Christian says into the radio, and suddenly the Piper disappears, and the pulling sensation provided by the small plane ceases. We’re floating, floating over Georgia.
Holy fuck – it’s exciting. The plane banks and turns as the wing dips, and we spiral toward the sun. Icarus. This is it. I am flying close to the sun, but he’s with me, leading me. I gasp at the realization. We spiral and spiral and, the view in this morning light is spectacular.
“Hold on tight!” he shouts, and we dip again – only this time he doesn’t stop. suddenly, I am upside down, looking at the ground through the top of the cockpit canopy.
I squeal loudly, my arms automatically lashing out, my hands splayed on the Perspex to stop me falling. I can hear him laughing. Bastard! But his joy is infectious, and I am laughing too as he rights the plane.
“I’m glad I didn’t have breakfast!” I shout at him.
“Yes, in hindsight, it’s good you didn’t, because I’m going to do that again.”
He dips the plane once more until we are upside down. This time, because I’m prepared, I hang on to the harness, but it makes me grin and giggle like a fool. He levels the plane once more.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he calls.
We fly, swooping majestically through the air, listening to the wind and the silence, in the early morning light. Who could ask for more?
“See the joy-stick in front of you?” he shouts again.
I look at the stick that is moving slightly between my legs. Oh no, where’s he going with this?
“Grab hold.”
Oh shit. He’s going to make me fly the plane. No!
“Go on, Anastasia. Grab it,” he urges more vehemently.
Tentatively, I grasp it and feel the pitch and yaw of what I assume are rudders and paddles or whatever keeps this thing in the air.
“Hold tight… keep it steady. See the middle dial in front? Keep the needle dead center.”
My heart is in my mouth. Holy shit. I am flying a glider… I’m soaring.
“Good girl.” Christian sounds delighted.
“I am amazed you let me take control,” I shout.
“You’d be amazed what I’d let you do, Miss Steele. Back to me now.”
I feel the joystick move suddenly, and I let go as we spiral down several feet, my ears starting to pop again. The ground is getting closer, and it feels like we could be hitting it shortly. Jeez, that’s scary.
“BMA, this is BG N Papa 3 Alpha, entering left downwind runway seven to the grass, BMA.” Christian sounds his usual authoritative self. The tower squawks back at him over the radio, but I don’t understand what they say. We sail round again in a wide circle, sinking slowly to the ground. I can see the airport, the landing strips, and we’re flying back over I-95.
“Hang on, baby. This can get bumpy.”
After another circle we dip, and suddenly we are on the ground with a brief thump, racing along the grass – holy shit. My teeth chatter as we bump at an alarming speed along the ground, until we finally come to a stop. The plane sways slightly then dips to the right. I take a deep lungful of air while Christian leans over and opens the cockpit lid, clambering out and stretching.
“How was that?” he asks, and his eyes are a shining, dazzling silver gray. He leans down to unbuckle me.
“That was extraordinary. Thank you,” I whisper.
“Was it more?” he asks, his voice tinged with hope.
“Much more,” I breathe, and he grins.
“Come.” He holds out his hand for me, and I clamber out of the cockpit.
As soon as I’m out, he grabs me and holds me flush against his body. Suddenly his hand is in my hair, tugging it so my head tips back, and his other hand travels down to the base of my spine. He kisses me, long, hard, and passionately, his tongue in my mouth. His breathing is mounting, his ardor… Holy cow – his erection… we’re in a field. But I don’t care. My hands twist in his hair, anchoring him to me. I want him, here, now, on the ground. He breaks away and gazes down at me, his eyes now dark and luminous in the early morning light, full of raw, arrogant sensuality. Wow. He takes my breath away.
“Breakfast,” he whispers, making it sound deliciously erotic.
How can he make bacon and eggs sound like forbidden fruit? It’s an extraordinary skill. He turns, clasping my hand, and we head back toward the car.
“What about the glider?”
“Someone will take care of that?”, he says dismissively. “We’ll eat now.” His tone is unequivocal.
Food! He’s talking food, when really all I want is him.
“Come.” He smiles.
I have never seen him like this, and it’s a joy to behold. I find myself walking beside him, hand in hand, with a stupid, goofy grin plastered on my face. It reminds me of when I was ten and spending the day in Disneyland with Ray. It was a perfect day, and this is sure shaping out to be the same.
Back in the car, as we head back along I-95 towards Savannah, my phone alarm goes off. Oh yes… my pill.
“What’s that?” Christian asks, curious, glancing at me.
I fumble in my purse for the packet.
“Alarm for my pill,” I mutter as my cheeks flush.
His lips quirk up.
“Good, well done. I hate condoms.”
I flush some more. He’s as patronizing as ever.
“I like that you introduced me to Mark as your girlfriend,” I murmur.
“Isn’t that what you are?” He raises an eyebrow.
“Am I? I thought you wanted a submissive.”
“So did I, Anastasia, and I do. But I’ve told you, I want more, too.”
Oh my. He’s coming round, and hope surges through me, leaving me breathless.
“I’m very happy that you want more,” I whisper.
“We aim to please, Miss Steele.” He smirks as we pull into the International House of Pancakes.
“IHOP.” I grin back at him. I don’t believe it. Who would have thought… Christian Grey at IHOP.
It’s 8:30 a.m. but quiet in the restaurant. It smells of sweet batter, fried food, and disinfectant. Hmm… not such an enticing aroma. Christian leads me to a booth.
“I would never have pictured you here,” I say as we slide into a booth.
“My dad used to bring us to one of these whenever my mom went away at a medical conference. It was our secret.” He smiles at me, gray eyes dancing, then picks up a menu, running a hand through his wayward hair as he stares down at it.
Oh, I want to run my hands through that hair. I pick up a menu and examine it. I realize I’m starving.
“I know what I want,” he breathes, his voice low and husky.
I glance up at him, and he’s staring at me in that way that tightens all the muscles in my belly and takes my breath away, his eyes dark and smoldering. Holy shit. I gaze at him, my blood singing in my veins answering his call.
“I want what you want,” I whisper.
He inhales sharply.
“Here?” he asks suggestively, raising an eyebrow at me, smiling wickedly, his teeth trapping the tip of his tongue.
Oh my… sex in IHOP. His expression changes, growing darker.
“Don’t bite your lip,” he orders. “Not here, not now.” His eyes harden momentarily, and for a moment, he looks so deliciously dangerous. “If I can’t have you here, don’t tempt me.”
“Hi, My name’s Leandra, What can I get for you… er… folks… er… today, this mornin… ?” Her voice trails off, stumbling over her words as she gets an eye full of Mr. Beautiful opposite me. She flushes scarlet, and a small ounce of sympathy for her bubbles
unwelcome into my consciousness because he still does that to me. Her presence allows me to escape briefly from his sensual glare.
“Anastasia?” he prompts me, ignoring her, and I don’t think anyone could squeeze as much carnality into my name as he does at that moment.
I swallow, praying that I don’t go the same color as poor Leandra.
“I told you, I want what you want.” I keep my voice soft, low, and he looks at me hungrily. Jeez, my inner goddess swoons. Am I up to this game?
Leandra looks from me to him and back again. She’s practically the same color as her shiny red hair.
“Shall I give you folks another minute to decide?”
“No. We know what we want.” Christian’s mouth twitches with a small, sexy smile.
“We’ll have two portions of the original buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and bacon on the side, two glasses of orange juice, one black coffee with skim milk, and one English breakfast tea, if you have it,” says Christian, not taking his eyes off me.
“Thank you sir. Will that be all?” Leandra whispers, looking anywhere but at the two of us. We both turn to stare at her, and she flushes crimson again and scuttles away.
“You know it’s really not fair.” I glance down at the Formica tabletop, tracing a pattern in it with my index finger, trying to sound nonchalant.
“What’s not fair?”
“How you disarm people. Women. Me.”
“Do I disarm you?”
I snort.
“All the time.”
“It’s just looks, Anastasia,” he says mildly.
“No, Christian, it’s much more than that.”
His brow creases.
“You disarm me totally, Miss Steele. Your innocence. It cuts through all the crap.”
“Is that why you’ve changed your mind?”
“Changed my mind?”
“Yes – about … err… us?”
He strokes his chin thoughtfully with his long, skilled fingers.
“I don’t think I’ve changed my mind per se. We just need to re-define our parameters, re-draw our battle lines, if you will. We can make this work, I’m sure. I want you submissive in my playroom. I will punish you if you digress from the rules. Other than that… well, I think it’s all up for discussion. Those are my requirements, Miss Steele. What say you to that?”
“So I get to sleep with you? In your bed?”
“Is that what you want?”
“I agree then. Besides, I sleep very well when you’re in my bed. I had no idea.” His brow creases as his voice fades.
“I was frightened you’d leave me if I didn’t agree to all of it,” I whisper.
“I’m not going anywhere, Anastasia. Besides… ” He trails off, and after some thought, he adds. “We’re following your advice, your definition: compromise. You emailed it to me. And so far, it’s working for me.”
“I love that you want more,” I murmur shyly.
“I know.”
“How do you know?”
“Trust me. I just do.” He smirks at me. He’s hiding something. What?
At that moment, Leandra arrives with breakfast and our conversation ceases. My stomach rumbles, reminding me how ravenous I am. Christian watches with annoying approval as I devour everything on my plate.
“Can I treat you?” I ask Christian.
“Treat me how?”
“Pay for this meal.”
Christian snorts.
“I don’t think so.” he scoffs.
“Please. I want to.”
He frowns at me.
“Are you trying to completely emasculate me?”
“This is probably the only place that I’ll be able to afford to pay.”
“Anastasia, I appreciate the thought. I do. But no.”
I purse my lips.
“Don’t scowl,” he threatens, his eyes glinting ominously.
Of course he doesn’t ask me for my mother’s address. He knows it already, stalker that he is. When he pulls up outside the house, I don’t comment. What’s the point?
“Do you want to come in?” I ask shyly.
“I need to work, Anastasia, but I’ll be back this evening. What time?”
I ignore the unwelcome stab of disappointment. Why do I want to spend every single minute with this controlling sex god? Oh yes, I’ve fallen in love with him, and he can fly.
“Thank you… for the more.”
“My pleasure, Anastasia.” He kisses me, and I inhale his sexy Christian smell.
“I’ll see you later.”
“Try and stop me,” he whispers.
I wave goodbye as he drives off into the Georgia sunshine. I’m still wearing his sweatshirt and his underwear, and I’m too warm.
In the kitchen, my mom is in a complete flap. It’s not every day she has to entertain a multi-zillionaire, and it’s stressing her out.
“How are you, darling?” she asks, and I flush because she must know what I was doing last night.
“I’m good. Christian took me gliding this morning.” I hope the new information will distract her.
“Gliding? As in a small plane with no engine? That sort of gliding?”
I nod.
She’s speechless – a novel concept for my mother. She gapes at me, but eventually recovers herself and resumes her original line of questioning.
“How was last night? Did you talk?”
Jeez. I flush bright scarlet.
“We talked – last night and today. It’s getting better.”
“Good.” She turns her attention back to the four cookery books she has open on the kitchen table.
“Mom… if you like, I’ll cook this evening.”
“Oh, honey, that’s kind of you, but I want to do it.”
“Okay.” I grimace, knowing full well that my mother’s cooking is pretty hit or miss. Perhaps she’s improved since she moved to Savannah with Bob. There was a time I wouldn’t subject anyone to her cooking… even – who do I hate? Oh yes – Mrs. Robinson – Elena. Well, maybe her. Will I ever meet this damned woman?
I decide to send a quick thank-you to Christian.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Soaring as opposed to sore-ing
Date: June 2 2011 10:20 EST
To: Christian Grey
Sometimes, you really know how to show a girl a good time.
Thank you
Ana x
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Soaring vs sore-ing
Date: June 2 2011 10:24 EST
To: Anastasia Steele
I’ll take either of those over your snoring. I had a good time too.
But I always do when I’m with you.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: SNORING
Date: June 2 2011 10:26 EST
To: Christian Grey
I DO NOT SNORE. And if I do, it’s very ungallant of you to point it out.
You are no gentleman Mr. Grey! And you are in the Deep South too!
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Somniloquy
Date: June 2 2011 10:28 EST
To: Anastasia Steele
I have never claimed to be a gentleman, Anastasia, and I think I have demonstrated that point to you on numerous occasions. I am not intimidated by your SHOUTY capitals. But I will confess to a small white lie: No – you don’t snore, but you do talk. And it’s
What happened to my kiss?
Christian Grey
Cad & CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Holy shit. I know I talk in my sleep. Kate has told me enough times. What the hell have I said? Oh no.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Spill the Beans
Date: June 2 2011 10:32 EST
To: Christian Grey
You are a cad and a scoundrel – definitely no gentleman.
So, what did I say? No kisses for you until you talk!
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Sleeping talking Beauty
Date: June 2 2011 10:35 EST
To: Anastasia Steele
It would be most ungallant of me to say, and I have already been chastised for that.
But if you behave yourself, I may tell you this evening. I do have to go into a meeting now.
Laters, baby.
Christian Grey
CEO, Cad & Scoundrel, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Right! I shall maintain radio silence until this evening. I fume. Jeez. Supposing I’ve said I hate him, or worse still, that I love him, in my sleep. Oh, I hope not. I am not ready to
tell him that, and I’m sure he’s not ready to hear it, if he ever wants to hear it. I scowl at my computer and decide that whatever I cook, I will make bread.
My mom has decided on gazpacho soup and a barbecue with steaks marinated in olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Christian likes meat, and it’s simple to do. Bob has volunteered to man the BBQ grill. What is it about men and fire, I ponder as I trail after my mother through the supermarket with the shopping cart?
As we browse the raw meat cabinet, my phone rings. I scramble for it, thinking it may be Christian. I don’t recognize the number.
“Hello?” I answer breathlessly.
“Anastasia Steele?”
“It’s Elizabeth Morgan from SIP.”
“Oh – hi.”
“I’m calling to offer you the job of assistant to Mr. Jack Hyde. We’d like you to start on Monday.”
“Wow. That’s great. Thank you!”
“You know the salary details?”
“Yes. Yes… that’s – I mean, I accept your offer. I’d love to come and work for you.”
“Excellent. We’ll see you Monday at 8:30 a.m.?”
“See you then. Goodbye. And thank you.”
I beam at my mom.
“You have a job?”
I nod gleefully, and she squeals and hugs me in the middle of Publix supermarket.
“Congratulations, darling! We have to buy some champagne!” She’s clapping her hands and jumping up and down. Is she forty-two or twelve?
I glance down at my phone and frown, there’s a missed call from Christian. He never phones me. I call him straight back.
“Anastasia,” he answers immediately.
“Hi,” I murmur shyly.
“I have to return to Seattle. Something’s come up. I am on my way to Hilton Head now. Please apologize to your mother – I can’t make dinner.” He sounds very businesslike.
“Nothing serious, I hope?”
“I have a situation which I have to deal with. I’ll see you Friday. I’ll send Taylor to collect you from the airport if I can’t come myself.” He sounds cold. Angry even. But for the first time, I don’t immediately think it’s me.
“Okay. I hope you sort out your situation. Have a safe flight.”
“You too, baby,” he breathes, and with those words, my Christian is back briefly. Then he hangs up.
Oh no. The last ‘situation’ he had was my virginity. Jeez, I hope it’s nothing like that. I gaze at my mom. Her earlier jubilation has metamorphosed into concern.
“It’s Christian, he’s had to go back to Seattle. He apologizes.”
“Oh! That’s a shame, darling. We can still have our barbecue, and now we have something to celebrate – your new job! You have to tell me all about it.”
It’s late afternoon, and Mom and I are lying beside the pool. My mother has relaxed to the point where she is literally horizontal now that Mr. Megabucks is not coming to dinner. As I lie in the sun, endeavoring to lose the pale, I think about yesterday evening and breakfast today. I think about Christian, and my ridiculous grin refuses to subside. It keeps creeping across my face, unbidden and disconcerting, as I recall our various conversations and what we did… what he did.
There seems to be tidal shift in Christian’s attitude. He denies it but – he admits he’s trying for more. What could have changed? What has altered since he sent his long email and when I saw him yesterday? What has he done? I sit up suddenly, almost spilling my Dr. Pepper. He had dinner with… her. Elena.
Holy Fuck!
My scalp prickles at the realization. Did she say something to him? Oh… to have been a fly on the wall during their dinner. I could have landed in her soup or on her wine glass and choked her.
“What is it, Ana, honey?” Mom asks, startled from her torpor.
“I’m just having a moment, Mom. What time is it?”
“About 6:30 p.m., darling.”
Hmm… he won’t have landed yet. Can I ask him? Should I ask him? Or perhaps she has nothing to do with it. I fervently hope so. What did I say in my sleep? Crap… some unguarded remark while dreaming about him, I bet? Whatever it is, or was, I hope the sea of change is coming from within him and not because of her.
I am sweltering in this damned heat. I need another dip in the pool.
As I get ready for bed, I switch on my computer. I have heard nothing from Christian. Not even a word that he’s arrived safely.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Safe Arrival?
Date: June 2 2011 22:32 EST
To: Christian Grey
Dear Sir
Please let me know that you have arrived safely. I am starting to worry. Thinking of you.
Your Ana. x
Three minutes later, I hear the ping from my email in-box.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Sorry
Date: June 2 2011 19:36
To: Anastasia Steele
Dear Miss Steele
I have arrived safely, and please accept my apologies for not letting you know. I don’t want to cause you any worry, it’s heart warming to know that you care for me. I am thinking of you too and as ever looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I sigh, Christian is back to formality.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: The Situation
Date: June 2 2011 22:40 EST
To: Christian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
I think it is very evident that I care for you deeply. How could you doubt that?
I hope your ‘situation’ is in hand.
Your Ana xPS: Are you going to tell me what I said in my sleep?
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Pleading the Fifth
Date: June 2 2011 19:45
To: Anastasia Steele
Dear Miss Steele
I like very much that you care for me. The ‘situation’ here is not yet resolved.
With regard to your PS: The answer is - No.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Pleading Insanity
Date: June 2 2011 22:48 EST
To: Christian Grey
I hope it was amusing. But you should know I cannot accept any responsibility for what comes out of my mouth when I am unconscious. In fact – you probably misheard me.
A man of your advanced years is surely a little deaf.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Pleading Guilty
Date: June 2 2011 19:52
To: Anastasia Steele
Dear Miss Steele
Sorry, could you speak up? I can’t hear you.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Pleading Insanity Again
Date: June 2 2011 22:54 EST
To: Christian Grey
You are driving me crazy.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: I hope so…
Date: June 2 2011 19:59
To: Anastasia Steele
Dear Miss Steele
I intend to do exactly that on Friday evening. Looking forward to it
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Grrrrrr
Date: June 2 2011 23:02 EST
To: Christian Grey
I am officially pissed at you.
Miss A. R. Steele
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Wild Cat
Date: June 2 2011 20:05
To: Anastasia Steele
Are you growling at me Miss Steele?
I possess a cat of my own for growlers.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Cat of his own? I’ve never seen a cat in his apartment. No, I am not going to answer him. Oh, he can be so exasperating sometimes. Fifty shades of exasperating. I clamber into bed and lie glaring at the ceiling as my eyes adjust to the dark. I hear another ping from my computer. I am not going to look. No definitely not. No, I am not going to look. Gah! Like the fool I am, I cannot resist the lure of Christian Grey’s words.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: What you said in your sleep
Date: June 2 2011 20:20
To: Anastasia Steele
I’d rather hear you say the words that you uttered in your sleep when you’re conscious, that’s why I won’t tell you. Go to sleep. You’ll need to be rested with what I have in mind for you tomorrow.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Oh no… What have I said? It’s as bad as I think, I’m sure.