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First published by The Writ er’s Coffee Shop, 2011

Copyright © E L James, 2011
The right of E L James t o be ident ified as t he aut hor of t his work has been assert ed by her
under t he Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
This work is copyright . Apart from any use as permit t ed under t he Copyright Act 1968, no part
may be reproduced, copied, scanned, st ored in a ret rieval syst em, recorded or t ransmit t ed, in
any form or by any means, wit hout t he prior writ t en permission of t he publisher.
This book is a work of fict ion. Names, charact ers, places and incident s are eit her a product of
t he aut hor’s imaginat ion or are used fict it iously. Any resemblance t o act ual people living or
dead, event s or locales is ent irely coincident al.
The Writ er’s Coffee Shop
(Aust ralia) PO Box 2013 Hornsby West field NSW 1635
(USA) PO Box 2116 Waxahachie TX 75168
Paperback ISBN-978-1-61213-058-3
E-book ISBN-978-1-61213-059-0
A CIP cat alogue record for t his book is available from t he US Congress Library.
Cover image by: E. Spek
Cover design by: Jennifer McGuire
www.t hewrit erscoffeeshop.com/ejames
E L James is a TV execut ive, wife, and mot her of t wo, based in West London. Since early
childhood, she dreamt of writ ing st ories t hat readers would fall in love wit h, but put t hose
dreams on hold t o focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up t he courage t o put
pen t o paper wit h her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.
E L James is current ly working on t he sequel t o Fifty Shades Darker and a new romant ic t hriller
wit h a supernat ural t wist .
I owe a huge debt of grat it ude t o Sarah, Kay, and Jada. Thank you for all t hat you have done
for me.
Also HUGE t hanks t o Kat hleen and Krist i who st epped int o t he breach and sort ed st uff out .
Thank you t oo t o Niall, my husband, my lover, and my best friend (most of t he t ime).
And a big shout out t o all t he wonderful, wonderful women from all over t he world whom I have
had t he pleasure of meet ing since I st art ed all t his, and whom I now consider friends, including:
Ale, Alex, Amy, Andrea, Angela, Azucena, Babs, Bee, Belinda, Bet sy, Brandy, Brit t , Caroline,
Cat herine, Dawn, Gwen, Hannah, Janet , Jen, Jenn, Jill, Kat hy, Kat ie, Kel-lie, Kelly, Liz, Mandy,
Margaret , Nat alia, Nicole, Nora, Olga, Pam, Pauline, Raina, Raizie, Rajka, Rhian, Rut h, St eph,
Susi, Tasha, Taylor and Una. And also t o t he many, many t alent ed, funny, warm women (and
men) I have met online. You know who you are.
Thanks t o Morgan and Jenn for all t hings Heat hman.
And finally, t hank you t o Janine, my edit or. You rock. That is all.
He’s come back. Mommy’s asleep or she’s sick again.
I hide and curl up small under t he t able in t he kit chen. Through my fingers I can see Mommy.
She is asleep on t he couch. Her hand is on t he st icky green rug, and he’s wearing his big boot s
wit h t he shiny buckle and st anding over Mommy shout ing.
He hit s Mommy wit h a belt . Get up! Get up! You are one fucked-up bitch. You are one fucked-
up bitch. You are one fucked-up bitch. You are one fucked-up bitch. You are one fucked-up
bitch. You are one fucked-up bitch.
Mommy makes a sobbing noise. Stop. Please stop. Mommy doesn’t scream. Mommy curls up
small.
I have my fingers in my ears, and I close my eyes. The sound st ops.
He t urns and I can see his boot s as he st omps int o t he kit chen. He st ill has t he belt . He is t rying
t o find me.
He st oops down and grins. He smells nast y. Of cigaret t es and drink. There you are, you little
shit.
A chilling wail wakes him. Christ! He’s drenched in sweat and his heart is pounding. What the
fuck? He sit s bolt upright in bed and put s his head in hands. Fuck. They’re back. The noise was
me. He t akes a deep st eadying breat h, t rying t o rid his mind and nost rils of t he smell of cheap
bourbon and st ale Camel cigaret t es.
I have survived Day Three Post -Christ ian, and my first day at work. It has been a welcome
dist ract ion. The t ime has flown by in a haze of new faces, work t o do, and Mr. Jack Hyde.
Mr. Jack Hyde . . . he smiles down at me, his blue eyes t winkling, as he leans against my
desk.“Excellent work, Ana. I t hink we’re going t o make a great t eam.” Somehow, I manage t o
curl my lips upward in a semblance of a smile.
“I’ll be off, if t hat ’s okay wit h you,” I murmur.
“Of course, it ’s five t hirt y. I’ll see you t omorrow.”
“Goodnight , Jack.”
“Goodnight , Ana.”
Collect ing my bag, I shrug on my jacket and head for t he door. Out in t he early evening air of
Seat t le, I t ake a deep breat h. It doesn’t begin t o fill t he void in my chest , a void t hat ’s been
present since Sat urday morning, a painful hollow reminder of my loss. I walk t oward t he bus
st op wit h my head down, st aring at my feet and cont emplat ing being wit hout my beloved
Wanda, my old Beet le . . . or t he Audi.
I shut t he door on t hat t hought immediat ely. No. Don’t t hink about him. Of course, I can afford a
car—a nice, new car. I suspect he has been overgenerous in his payment , and t he t hought
leaves a bit t er t ast e in my mout h, but I dismiss it and t ry t o keep my mind as numb and as
blank as possible. I can’t t hink about him. I don’t want t o st art crying again—
not out on t he st reet .
The apart ment is empt y. I miss Kat e, and I imagine her lying on a beach in Barbados sipping a
cool cockt ail. I t urn on t he flat -screen t elevision so t here’s noise t o fill t he vacuum and provide
some semblance of company, but I don’t list en or wat ch. I sit and st are blankly at t he brick wall.
I am numb. I feel not hing but t he pain. How long must I endure t his?
The door buzzer st art les me from my anguish, and my heart skips a beat . Who could t hat be? I
press t he int ercom.
“Delivery for Ms. St eele.” A bored, disembodied voice answers, and disappoint ment crashes
t hrough me. I list lessly make my way downst airs and find a young man noisily chewing gum,
holding a large cardboard box, and leaning against t he front door. I sign for t he package and
t ake it upst airs. The box is huge and surprisingly light . Inside are t wo dozen long-st emmed,
whit e roses and a card.
Congratulations on your first day at work.
I hope it went well.
And thank you for the glider. That was very thoughtful.
It has pride of place on my desk.
Christian
I st are at t he t yped card, t he hollow in my chest expanding. No doubt , his assist ant sent t his.
Christ ian probably had very lit t le t o do wit h it . It ’s t oo painful t o t hink about . I examine t he roses
—t hey are beaut iful, and I can’t bring myself t o t hrow t hem in t he t rash.
Dut ifully, I make my way int o t he kit chen t o hunt down a vase.
And so a pat t ern develops: wake, work, cry, sleep. Well, t ry t o sleep. I can’t even escape him in
my dreams. Gray burning eyes, his lost look, his hair burnished and bright all haunt me. And t he
music . . . so much music—I cannot bear t o hear any music. I am careful t o avoid it at all cost s.
Even t he jingles in commercials make me shudder.
I have spoken t o no one, not even my mot her or Ray. I don’t have t he capacit y for idle t alk now.
No, I want none of it . I have become my own island st at e. A ravaged, war-t orn land where
not hing grows and t he horizons are bleak. Yes, t hat ’s me. I can int eract impersonally at work,
but t hat ’s it . If I t alk t o Mom, I know I will break even furt her—and I have not hing left t o break.
I am finding it difficult t o eat . By Wednesday luncht ime, I manage a cup of yogurt , and it ’s t he
first t hing I’ve eat en since Friday. I am surviving on a newfound t olerance for lat t es and Diet
Coke. It ’s t he caffeine t hat keeps me going, but it ’s making me anxious.
Jack has st art ed t o hover over me, irrit at ing me, asking me personal quest ions. What does he
want ? I’m polit e, but I need t o keep him at arm’s lengt h.
I sit and begin t rawling t hrough a pile of correspondence addressed t o him, and I’m pleased
wit h t he dist ract ion of menial work. My e-mail pings, and I quickly check t o see who it ’s from.
Holy shit . An e-mail from Christ ian. Oh no, not here . . . not at work.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Tomorrow
Dat e: June 8, 2011 14:05
To: Anast asia St eele
Dear Anast asia
Forgive t his int rusion at work. I hope t hat it ’s going well. Did you get my flowers?
I not e t hat t omorrow is t he gallery opening for your friend’s show, and I’m sure you’ve not had
t ime t o purchase a car, and it ’s a long drive. I would be more t han happy t o t ake you—should
you wish.
Let me know.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
Tears swim in my eyes. I hast ily leave my desk and bolt t o t he rest room t o escape int o one of
t he st alls. José’s show. Crap. I’d forgot t en all about it , and I promised him I’d go. Shit , Christ ian is
right ; how am I going t o get t here?
I clut ch my forehead. Why hasn’t José phoned? Come t o t hink of it —why hasn’t anyone
phoned? I’ve been so absent minded, I haven’t not iced t hat my cell phone has been silent .
Shit! I am such an idiot ! I st ill have it on divert t o t he Blackberry. Holy hell. Christ ian’s been
get t ing my calls—unless he’s just t hrown t he Blackberry away. How did he get my e-mail
address?
He knows my shoe size, an e-mail address is hardly going t o present him wit h many problems.
Can I see him again? Could I bear it ? Do I want t o see him? I close my eyes and t ilt my head
back as grief and longing lance t hrough me. Of course I do.
Perhaps, perhaps I can t ell him I’ve changed my mind . . . No, no, no. I cannot be wit h someone
who t akes pleasure in inflict ing pain on me, someone who can’t love me.
Tort urous memories flash t hrough my mind—t he gliding, holding hands, kissing, t he bat ht ub,
his gent leness, his humor, and his dark, brooding, sexy st are. I miss him. It ’s been five days, five
days of agony t hat has felt like an et ernit y.
I wrap my arms around my body, hugging myself t ight ly, holding myself t oget her. I miss him. I
really miss him . . . I love him. Simple.
I cry myself t o sleep at night , wishing I hadn’t walked out , wishing t hat he could be different ,
wishing t hat we were t oget her. How long will t his hideous overwhelming feeling last ? I am in
purgat ory.
Anastasia Steele, you are at work! I must be st rong, but I want t o go t o José’s show, and deep
down, t he masochist in me want s t o see Christ ian. Taking a deep breat h, I head back t o my
desk.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Tomorrow
Dat e: June 8, 2011 14:25
To: Christ ian Grey
Hi Christ ian
Thank you for t he flowers; t hey are lovely.
Yes, I would appreciat e a lift .
Thank you.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
Checking my phone, I find t hat it is st ill swit ched t o divert . Jack is in a meet ing, so I quickly call
José.
“Hi, José. It ’s Ana.”
“Hello, st ranger.” His t one is so warm and welcoming it ’s almost enough t o push me over t he
edge again.
“I can’t t alk long. What t ime should I be t here t omorrow for your show?”
“You’re st ill coming?” He sounds excit ed.
“Yes, of course.” I smile my first genuine smile in five days as I pict ure his broad grin.
“Seven t hirt y.”
“See you t hen. Good-bye, José.”
“Bye, Ana.”
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Tomorrow
Dat e: June 8, 2011 14:27
To: Anast asia St eele
Dear Anast asia
What t ime shall I collect you?
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Tomorrow
Dat e: June 8, 2011 14:32
To: Christ ian Grey
José’s show st art s at 7:30. What t ime would you suggest ?
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Tomorrow
Dat e: June 8, 2011 14:34
To: Anast asia St eele
Dear Anast asia
Port land is some dist ance away. I shall collect you at 5:45.
I look forward t o seeing you.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Tomorrow
Dat e: June 8, 2011 14:38
To: Christ ian Grey
See you t hen.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
Oh my. I’m going t o see Christ ian, and for t he first t ime in five days, my spirit s lift a fract ion and I
allow myself t o wonder how he’s been.
Has he missed me? Probably not like I’ve missed him. Has he found a new submissive from
wherever t hey come from? The t hought is so painful t hat I dismiss it immediat ely. I look at t he
pile of correspondence I need t o sort for Jack and t ackle it as I t ry t o push Christ ian out of my
mind once more.
That night in bed, I t oss and t urn, t rying t o sleep. It is t he first t ime in a while I haven’t cried
myself t o sleep.
In my mind’s eye, I visualize Christ ian’s face t he last t ime I saw him as I left his apart ment . His
t ort ured expression haunt s me. I remember he didn’t want me t o go, which was odd. Why
would I st ay when t hings had reached such an impasse? We were each skirt ing around our
own issues—my fear of punishment , his fear of . . . what ? Love?
Turning on my side, I hug my pillow, filled wit h an overwhelming sadness. He t hinks he doesn’t
deserve t o be loved. Why does he feel t hat way? Is it somet hing t o do wit h his upbringing? His
birt h mom, t he crack whore? My t hought s plague me int o t he early hours unt il event ually I fall
int o a fit ful, exhaust ed sleep.
The day drags and drags and Jack is unusually at t ent ive. I suspect it ’s Kat e’s plum dress and
t he black high-heeled boot s I’ve st olen from her closet , but I don’t dwell on t he t hought .
I resolve t o go clot hes shopping wit h my first paycheck. The dress is looser on me t han it was,
but I pret end not t o not ice.
Finally, it ’s five t hirt y, and I collect my jacket and purse, t rying t o quell my nerves. I’m going to
see him!
“Do you have a dat e t onight ?” Jack asks as he st rolls past my desk on his way out .
“Yes. No. Not really.”
He cocks an eyebrow at me, his int erest clearly piqued. “Boyfriend?” I flush. “No, a friend. An ex-
boyfriend.”
“Maybe t omorrow you’d like t o come for a drink aft er work. You’ve had a st ellar first week, Ana.
We should celebrat e.” He smiles and some unknown emot ion flit s across his face, making me
uneasy.
Put t ing his hands in his pocket s, he saunt ers t hrough t he double doors. I frown at his ret reat ing
back. Drinks wit h t he boss, is t hat a good idea?
I shake my head. I have an evening of Christ ian Grey t o get t hrough first . How am I going t o do
t his? I hurry int o t he rest room t o make last -minut e adjust ment s.
In t he large mirror on t he wall, I t ake a long, hard look at my face. I am my usual pale self, dark
circles round my t oo-large eyes. I look gaunt , haunt ed.
Jeez, I wish I knew how t o use makeup. I apply some mascara and eyeliner and pinch my
cheeks, hoping t o bring some color t heir way. Tidying my hair so t hat it hangs art fully down my
back, I t ake a deep breat h. This will have t o do.
Nervously I walk t hrough t he foyer wit h a smile and a wave t o Claire at recept ion. I t hink she
and I could become friends. Jack is t alking t o Elizabet h as I head for t he doors.
Smiling broadly, he hurries over t o open t hem for me.
“Aft er you, Ana,” he murmurs.
“Thank you.” I smile, embarrassed.
Out side on t he curb, Taylor is wait ing. He opens t he rear door of t he car. I glance hesit ant ly at
Jack who has followed me out . He’s looking t oward t he Audi SUV in dismay.
I t urn and climb int o t he back, and t here he sit s—Christ ian Grey—wearing his gray suit , no t ie,
his whit e shirt open at t he collar. His gray eyes are glowing.
My mout h dries. He looks glorious except he’s scowling at me. Oh no!
“When did you last eat ?” he snaps as Taylor closes t he door behind me.
Crap. “Hello, Christ ian. Yes, it ’s nice t o see you, t oo.”
“I don’t want your smart mout h now. Answer me.” His eyes blaze.
Holy shit. “Um . . . I had a yogurt at luncht ime. Oh—and a banana.”
“When did you last have a proper meal?” he asks acidly.
Taylor slips int o t he driver’s seat , st art s t he car, and pulls out int o t he t raffic.
I glance up and Jack is waving at me, t hough how he can see me t hrough t he dark glass, I don’t
know. I wave back.
“Who’s t hat ?” Christ ian snaps.
“My boss.” I peek up at t he beaut iful man beside me, and his mout h is pressed int o a hard line.
“Well? Your last meal?”
“Christ ian, t hat really is none of your concern,” I murmur, feeling ext raordinarily brave.
“What ever you do concerns me. Tell me.”
No, it doesn’t. I groan in frust rat ion, rolling my eyes heavenward, and Christ ian narrows his
eyes. And for t he first t ime in a long t ime, I want t o laugh. I t ry hard t o st ifle t he giggle t hat
t hreat ens t o bubble up. Christ ian’s face soft ens as I st ruggle t o keep a st raight face, and I see
a t race of a smile kiss his beaut ifully sculpt ured lips.
“Well?” he asks, his voice soft er.
“Well?” he asks, his voice soft er.
“Past a alla vongole, last Friday,” I whisper.
He closes his eyes as fury and possibly regret , sweeps across his face. “I see,” he says, his
voice expressionless. “You look like you’ve lost at least five pounds, possibly more since t hen.
Please eat , Anast asia,” he scolds.
I st are down at t he knot t ed fingers in my lap. Why does he always make me feel like an errant
child?
He shift s and t urns t oward me. “How are you?” he asks, his voice st ill soft .
Well, I’m shit really . . . I swallow. “If I t old you I was fine, I’d be lying.” He inhales sharply. “Me,
t oo,” he murmurs and reaches over and clasps my hand. “I miss you,” he adds.
Oh no. Skin against skin.
“Christ ian, I—”
“Ana, please. We need t o t alk.”
I’m going to cry. No. “Christ ian, I . . . please . . . I’ve cried so much,” I whisper, t rying t o keep my
emot ions in check
“Oh, baby, no.” He t ugs my hand, and before I know it I’m on his lap. He has his arms around me,
and his nose is in my hair. “I’ve missed you so much, Anast asia,” he breat hes.
I want t o st ruggle out of his hold, t o maint ain some dist ance, but his arms are wrapped around
me. He’s pressing me t o his chest . I melt . Oh, t his is where I want t o be.
I rest my head against him, and he kisses my hair repeat edly. This is home. He smells of linen,
fabric soft ener, body wash, and my favorit e smell—Christ ian. For a moment , I allow myself t he
illusion t hat all will be well, and it soot hes my ravaged soul.
A few minut es lat er Taylor pulls t o a st op at t he curb, even t hough we’re st ill in t he cit y.
“Come”—Christ ian shift s me off his lap—“we’re here.” What ?
“Helipad—on t he t op of t his building.” Christ ian glances t oward t he building by way of
explanat ion.
Of course. Charlie Tango. Taylor opens t he door and I slide out . He gives me a warm, avuncular
smile t hat makes me feel safe. I smile back.
“I should give you back your handkerchief.”
“Keep it , Miss St eele, wit h my best wishes.”
I flush as Christ ian comes around t he car and t akes my hand. He looks quizzically at Taylor
who st ares impassively back at him, revealing not hing.
“Nine?” Christ ian says t o him.
“Yes, sir.”
Christ ian nods as he t urns and leads me t hrough t he double doors int o t he grandiose foyer. I
revel in t he feel of his large hand and his long, skilled fingers curled around mine.
I feel t he familiar pull—I am drawn, Icarus t o his sun. I have been burned already, and yet here I
am again.
Reaching t he elevat ors, he presses t he call but t on. I peek up at him, and he’s wearing his
enigmat ic half smile. As t he doors open, he releases my hand and ushers me in.
The doors close and I risk a second peek. He glances down at me, gray eyes alive, and it ’s
t here in t he air bet ween us, t hat elect ricit y. It ’s palpable. I can almost t ast e it , pulsing bet ween
us, drawing us t oget her.
“Oh my,” I gasp as I bask briefly in t he int ensit y of t his visceral, primal at t ract ion.
“I feel it , t oo,” he says, his eyes clouded and int ense.
Desire pools dark and deadly in my groin. He clasps my hand and grazes my knuckles wit h his
t humb, and all my muscles clench t ight ly, deliciously, deep inside me.
Holy cow. How can he still do this to me?
“Please don’t bit e your lip, Anast asia,” he whispers.
I gaze up at him, releasing my lip. I want him. Here, now, in t he elevat or. How could I not ?
“You know what it does t o me,” he murmurs.
Oh, I st ill affect him. My inner goddess st irs from her five-day sulk.
Abrupt ly t he doors open, breaking t he spell, and we’re on t he roof. It ’s windy, and despit e my
black jacket , I’m cold. Christ ian put s his arm around me, pulling me int o his side, and we hurry
across t o where Charlie Tango st ands in t he cent er of t he helipad wit h it s rot or blades slowly
spinning.
A t all, blond, square-jawed man in a dark suit leaps out and, ducking low, runs t oward us.
Shaking hands wit h Christ ian, he shout s above t he noise of t he rot ors.
“Ready t o go, sir. She’s all yours!”
“All checks done?”
“Yes, sir.”
“You’ll collect her around eight t hirt y?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Taylor’s wait ing for you out front .”
“Thank you, Mr. Grey. Safe flight t o Port land. Ma’am.” He salut es me. Wit hout releasing me,
Christ ian nods, ducks down, and leads me t o t he helicopt er door.
Once inside he buckles me firmly int o my harness, cinching t he st raps t ight . He gives me a
knowing look and his secret smile.
“This should keep you in your place,” he murmurs. “I must say I do like t his harness on you.
Don’t t ouch anyt hing.”
I flush a deep crimson, and he runs his index finger down my cheek before handing me t he
headphones. I’d like to touch you, too, but you won’t let me. I scowl at him. Besides, he’s pulled
t he st raps so t ight I can barely move.
He sit s in his seat and buckles himself in, t hen st art s running t hrough all his preflight checks.
He’s just so compet ent . It ’s very alluring. He put s on his headphones and flips a swit ch and t he
rot ors speed up, deafening me.
Turning, he gazes at me. “Ready, baby?” His voice echoes t hrough t he headphones.
“Yes.”
He grins his boyish grin. Wow—I’ve not seen it for so long.
“Sea-Tac t ower, t his is Charlie Tango—Tango Echo Hot el, cleared for t akeoff t o Port land via
PDX. Please confirm, over.”
The disembodied voice of t he air t raffic cont roller answers, issuing inst ruct ions.
“Roger, t ower, Charlie Tango set , over and out .” Christ ian flips t wo swit ches, grasps t he st ick,
and t he helicopt er rises slowly and smoot hly int o t he evening sky.
Seat t le and my st omach drop away from us, and t here’s so much t o see.
“We’ve chased t he dawn, Anast asia, now t he dusk,” his voice comes t hrough on t he
headphones. I t urn t o gape at him in surprise.
What does t his mean? How is it t hat he can say t he most romant ic t hings? He smiles, and I
can’t help but smile shyly back at him.
“As well as t he evening sun, t here’s more t o see t his t ime,” he says.
The last t ime we flew t o Seat t le it was dark, but t his evening t he view is spect acular, lit erally
out of t his world. We’re up among t he t allest buildings, going higher and higher.
“Escala’s over t here.” He point s t oward t he building. “Boeing t here, and you can just see t he
Space Needle.”
I crane my head. “I’ve never been.”
“I’ll t ake you—we can eat t here.”
What? “Christ ian, we broke up.”
“I know. I can st ill t ake you t here and feed you.” He glares at me.
I shake my head and flush before t aking a less confront at ional approach. “It ’s very beaut iful up
here, t hank you.”
“Impressive, isn’t it ?”
“Impressive t hat you can do t his.”
“Flat t ery from you, Miss St eele? But I’m a man of many t alent s.”
“I’m fully aware of t hat , Mr. Grey.”
He t urns and smirks at me, and for t he first t ime in five days, I relax a lit t le. Perhaps t his won’t
be so bad.
“How’s t he new job?”
“Good, t hank you. Int erest ing.”
“What ’s your boss like?”
“Oh, he’s okay.” How can I t ell Christ ian t hat Jack makes me uncomfort able? Christ ian t urns
and gazes at me.
“What ’s wrong?” he asks.
“Aside from t he obvious, not hing.”
“The obvious?”
“Oh, Christ ian, you really are very obt use somet imes.”
“Obt use? Me? I’m not sure I appreciat e your t one, Miss St eele.”
“Well, don’t t hen.”
His lips t wit ch int o a smile. “I have missed your smart mout h.” I gasp and I want t o shout , I’ve
missed you—all of you—not just your mouth! But I keep quiet and gaze out t he glass fishbowl
t hat is Charlie Tango’s windshield as we cont inue sout h. The dusk is t o our right , t he sun low
on t he horizon—large, blazing fiery orange—
and I am Icarus again, flying far t oo close.
The dusk has followed us from Seat t le, and t he sky is awash wit h opal, pinks, and aquamarines
woven seamlessly t oget her as only Mot her Nat ure knows how. It ’s a clear, crisp evening, and
t he light s of Port land t winkle and wink, welcoming us as Christ ian set s t he helicopt er down on
t he helipad. We are on t op of t he st range brown brick building in Port land we left less t han
t hree weeks ago.
Jeez, it ’s been hardly any t ime at all. Yet I feel like I’ve known Christ ian for a lifet ime.
He powers down Charlie Tango, flipping various swit ches so t he rot ors st op, and event ually all I
hear is my own breat hing t hrough t he headphones. Hmm. Briefly it reminds me of t he Thomas
Tallis experience. I blanch. I so don’t want t o go t here right now.
Christ ian unbuckles his harness and leans across t o undo mine.
“Good t rip, Miss St eele?” he asks, his voice mild, his gray eyes glowing.
“Yes, t hank you, Mr. Grey,” I reply polit ely.
“Well, let ’s go see t he boy’s phot os.” He holds his hand out t o me and t aking it , I climb out of
Charlie Tango.
A gray-haired man wit h a beard walks over t o meet us, smiling broadly, and I recognize him as
t he old-t imer from t he last t ime we were here.
“Joe.” Christ ian smiles and releases my hand t o shake Joe’s warmly.
“Keep her safe for St ephan. He’ll be along around eight or nine.”
“Will do, Mr. Grey. Ma’am,” he says, nodding at me. “Your car’s wait ing downst airs, sir. Oh, and
t he elevat or’s out of order; you’ll need t o use t he st airs.”
“Thank you, Joe.”
Christ ian t akes my hand, and we head t o t he emergency st airs.
“Good t hing for you t his is only t hree floors, in t hose heels,” he mut t ers t o me in disapproval.
No kidding.
“Don’t you like t he boot s?”
“I like t hem very much, Anast asia.” His gaze darkens and I t hink he might say somet hing else,
but he st ops. “Come. We’ll t ake it slow. I don’t want you falling and breaking your neck.”
We sit in silence as our driver t akes us t o t he gallery. My anxiet y has ret urned full force, and I
realize t hat our t ime in Charlie Tango has been t he eye of t he st orm. Christ ian is quiet and
brooding . . . apprehensive even; our light er mood from earlier has dissipat ed. There’s so much I
want t o say, but t his journey is t oo short . Christ ian st ares pensively out t he window.
“José is just a friend,” I murmur.
Christ ian t urns and gazes at me, his eyes dark and guarded, giving not hing away. His mout h—
oh, his mout h is dist ract ing, and unbidden. I remember it on me—everywhere. My skin heat s. He
shift s in his seat and frowns.
“Those beaut iful eyes look t oo large in your face, Anast asia. Please t ell me you’ll eat .”
“Yes, Christ ian, I’ll eat ,” I answer aut omat ically, a plat it ude.
“I mean it .”
“Do you now?” I cannot keep t he disdain out of my voice. Honest ly, t he audacit y of t his man—
t his man who has put me t hrough hell over t he last few days. No, t hat ’s wrong.
I’ve put myself t hrough hell. No. It ’s him. I shake my head, confused.
“I don’t want t o fight wit h you, Anast asia. I want you back, and I want you healt hy,” he says
soft ly.
What ? What does t hat mean? “But not hing’s changed.” You’re still fifty shades.
“Let ’s t alk on t he way back. We’re here.”
The car pulls up in front of t he gallery, and Christ ian climbs out , leaving me speechless. He
opens t he car door for me, and I clamber out .
“Why do you do t hat ?” My voice is louder t han I expect ed.
“Do what ?” Christ ian is t aken aback.
“Say somet hing like t hat and t hen just st op.”
“Anast asia, we’re here. Where you want t o be. Let ’s do t his and t hen t alk. I don’t part icularly
want a scene in t he st reet .”
I flush and glance around. He’s right . It ’s t oo public. I press my lips t oget her as he glares down
at me.
“Okay,” I mut t er sulkily. Taking my hand, he leads me int o t he building.
We are in a convert ed warehouse—brick walls, dark wood floors, whit e ceilings, and whit e pipe
work. It ’s airy and modern, and t here are several people wandering across t he gallery floor,
sipping wine and admiring José’s work. For a moment , my t roubles melt away as I grasp t hat
José has realized his dream. Way to go, José!
“Good evening and welcome t o José Rodriguez’s show.” A young woman dressed in black wit h
very short brown hair, bright red lipst ick, and large hooped earrings greet s us.
She glances briefly at me, t hen much longer t han is st rict ly necessary at Christ ian, t hen t urns
back t o me, blinking as she blushes.
My brow creases. He’s mine—or was. I t ry hard not t o scowl at her. As her eyes regain t heir
focus, she blinks again.
“Oh, it ’s you, Ana. We’ll want your t ake on all t his, t oo.” Grinning, she hands me a brochure and
direct s me t o a t able laden wit h drinks and snacks.
How does she know my name?
“You know her?” Christ ian frowns.
I shake my head, equally puzzled.
He shrugs, dist ract ed. “What would you like t o drink?”
“I’ll have a glass of whit e wine, t hank you.”
His brow furrows, but he holds his t ongue and heads for t he open bar.
“Ana!”
José comes barreling t hrough a t hrong of people.
Holy cow! He’s wearing a suit . He looks good and he’s beaming at me. He enfolds me in his
arms, hugging me hard. And it ’s all I can do not t o burst int o t ears. My friend, my only friend
while Kat e is away. Tears pool in my eyes.
“Ana, I’m so glad you made it ,” he whispers in my ear, t hen pauses and abrupt ly holds me at
arm’s lengt h, st aring at me.
“What ?”
“Hey are you okay? You look, well, odd. Dios mio, have you lost weight ?” I blink back my t ears.
“José, I’m fine. I’m just so happy for you.” Crap—not him, too.
“Congrat ulat ions on t he show.” My voice wavers as I see his concern et ched on his oh-so-
familiar face, but I have t o hold myself t oget her.
“How did you get here?” he asks.
“Christ ian brought me,” I say, suddenly apprehensive.
“Oh.” José’s face falls and he releases me. “Where is he?” His expression darkens.
“Over t here, fet ching drinks.” I nod in Christ ian’s direct ion and see he’s exchanging pleasant ries
wit h someone wait ing in line. Christ ian glances up when I look his way and our eyes lock. And in
t hat brief moment , I’m paralyzed, st aring at t he impossibly handsome man who gazes at me
wit h some unfat homable emot ion. His gaze hot , burning int o me, and we’re lost for a moment
st aring at each ot her.
Holy cow . . . This beaut iful man want s me back, and deep down inside me sweet joy slowly
unfurls like a morning glory in t he early dawn.
“Ana!” José dist ract s me, and I’m dragged back t o t he here and now. “I am so glad you came—
list en, I should warn you—”
Suddenly, Miss Very Short Hair and Red Lipst ick cut s him off. “José, t he journalist from t he
Port land Print z is here t o see you. Come on.” She gives me a polit e smile.
“How cool is t his? The fame.” He grins, and I can’t help but grin back—he’s so happy.
“Cat ch you lat er, Ana.” He kisses my cheek, and I wat ch him st roll over t o a young woman
st anding by a t all lanky phot ographer.
José’s phot ographs are everywhere, and in some cases, blown up ont o huge canvases.
There are bot h monochromes and colors. There’s an et hereal beaut y t o many of t he
landscapes. In one t aken out near t he lake at Vancouver, it ’s early evening and pink clouds are
reflect ed in t he st illness of t he wat er. Briefly, I’m t ransport ed by t he t ranquilit y and t he peace.
It ’s st unning.
Christ ian joins me, and I t ake a deep breat h and swallow, t rying t o recover some of my earlier
equilibrium. He hands me my glass of whit e wine.
“Does it come up t o scrat ch?” My voice sounds more normal.
He looks quizzically at me.
“The wine.”
“No. Rarely does at t hese kinds of event s. The boy’s quit e t alent ed, isn’t he?” Christ ian is
admiring t he lake phot o.
“Why else do you t hink I asked him t o t ake your port rait ?” I can’t help t he pride in my voice. His
eyes glide impassively from t he phot ograph t o me.
“Christ ian Grey?” The phot ographer from t he Port land Print z approaches Christ ian.
“Can I have a pict ure, sir?”
“Sure.” Christ ian hides his scowl. I st ep back, but he grabs my hand and pulls me t o his side.
The phot ographer looks at bot h of us and can’t hide his surprise.
“Mr. Grey, t hank you.” He snaps a couple of phot os. “Miss . . . ?” he asks.
“St eele,” I reply.
“Thank you, Miss St eele.” He scurries off.
“I looked for pict ures of you wit h dat es on t he Int ernet . There aren’t any. That ’s why Kat e
t hought you were gay.”
Christ ian’s mout h t wit ches wit h a smile. “That explains your inappropriat e quest ion.
No, I don’t do dat es, Anast asia—only wit h you. But you know t hat .” His eyes burn wit h sincerit y.
“So you never t ook your”—I glance around nervously t o check no one can overhear us—“subs
out ?”
“Somet imes. Not on dat es. Shopping, you know.” He shrugs, his eyes not leaving mine.
Oh, so just in t he playroom—his Red Room of Pain and his apart ment . I don’t know what t o feel
about t hat .
“Just you, Anast asia,” he whispers.
I blush and st are down at my fingers. In his own way, he does care about me.
“Your friend here seems more of a landscape man, not port rait s. Let ’s look round.” He holds his
hand out t o me, and I t ake it .
We wander past a few more print s, and I not ice a couple nodding at me, smiling broadly as if
t hey know me. It must be because I’m wit h Christ ian, but one young man is blat ant ly st aring.
Odd.
We t urn t he corner, and I can see why I’ve been get t ing st range looks. Hanging on t he far wall
are seven huge port rait s—of me.
I st are blankly at t hem, st upefied, t he blood draining from my face. Me: pout ing, laughing,
scowling, serious, amused. All in super close up, all in black and whit e.
Holy crap! I remember José messing wit h t he camera on a couple of occasions when he was
visit ing and when I’d been out wit h him as driver and phot ographer’s assist ant . He t ook
snapshot s, or so I t hought . Not t hese invasive candids.
I glance up at Christ ian, who is st aring, t ransfixed, at each of t he pict ures in t urn.
“Seems I’m not t he only one,” he mut t ers crypt ically, his mout h set t ling int o a hard line.I t hink
he’s angry. Oh no.
“Excuse me,” he says, pinning me wit h his bright gray gaze for a moment . He t urns and heads
t o t he recept ion desk.
What ’s his problem now? I wat ch mesmerized as he t alks animat edly wit h Miss Very Short Hair
and Red Lipst ick. He fishes out his wallet and produces his credit card.
Shit. He must have bought one of t hem.
“Hey. You’re t he muse. These phot ographs are t errific.” A young man wit h a shock of bright
blond hair st art les me. I feel a hand at my elbow and Christ ian is back.
“You’re a lucky guy.” Blond Shock smirks at Christ ian, who gives him a cold st are.
“That I am,” he mut t ers darkly, as he pulls me over t o one side.
“Did you just buy one of t hese?”
“One of t hese?” he snort s, not t aking his eyes off t hem.
“You bought more t han one?”
He rolls his eyes. “I bought t hem all, Anast asia. I don’t want some st ranger ogling you in t he
privacy of t heir home.”
My first inclinat ion is t o laugh. “You’d rat her it was you?” I scoff.
He glares down at me, caught off guard by my audacit y, I t hink, but he’s t rying t o hide his
amusement .
“Frankly, yes.”
“Pervert ,” I mout h at him and bit e my lower lip t o prevent my smile.
His mout h drops open, and now his amusement is obvious. He st rokes his chin
t hought fully.“Can’t argue wit h t hat assessment , Anast asia.” He shakes his head, and his eyes
soft en wit h humor.
“I’d discuss it furt her wit h you, but I’ve signed an NDA.” He sighs, gazing at me, and his eyes
darken. “What I’d like t o do t o your smart mout h,” he murmurs.
I gasp, knowing full well what he means. “You’re very rude.” I t ry t o sound shocked and
succeed. Does he have no boundaries?
He smirks at me, amused, and t hen he frowns.
“You look very relaxed in t hese phot ographs, Anast asia. I don’t see you like t hat very oft en.”
What ? Whoa! Change of subject —t alk about non sequit ur—from playful t o serious.
I flush and glance down at my fingers. He t ilt s my head back, and I inhale sharply at t he cont act
wit h his long fingers.
“I want you t hat relaxed wit h me,” he whispers. All t race of humor has gone.
Deep inside me t hat joy st irs again. But how can this be? We have issues.
“You have t o st op int imidat ing me if you want t hat ,” I snap.
“You have t o learn t o communicat e and t ell me how you feel,” he snaps back, eyes blazing.
I t ake a deep breat h. “Christ ian, you want ed me as a submissive. That ’s where t he problem lies.
It ’s in t he definit ion of a submissive—you e-mailed it t o me once.” I pause, t rying t o recall t he
wording. “I t hink t he synonyms were, and I quot e, ‘compliant , pliant , amenable, passive,
t ract able, resigned, pat ient , docile, t ame, subdued.’ I wasn’t supposed t o look at you. Not t alk t o
you unless you gave me permission t o do so. What do you expect ?” I hiss at him.
He blinks, and his frown deepens as I cont inue.
“It ’s very confusing being wit h you. You don’t want me t o defy you, but t hen you like my ‘smart
mout h.’ You want obedience, except when you don’t , so you can punish me. I just don’t know
which way is up when I’m wit h you.”
He narrows his eyes. “Good point well made, as usual, Miss St eele.” His voice is frigid. “Come,
let ’s go eat .”
“We’ve only been here for half an hour.”
“You’ve seen t he phot os; you’ve spoken t o t he boy.”
“His name is José.”
“You’ve spoken t o José—t he man who, t he last t ime I met him, was t rying t o push his t ongue
int o your reluct ant mout h while you were drunk and ill,” he snarls.
“He’s never hit me,” I spit at him.
Christ ian scowls at me, fury emanat ing from every pore. “That ’s a low blow, Anast asia,” he
whispers menacingly.
I flush, and Christ ian runs his hands t hrough his hair, brist ling wit h barely cont ained anger. I
glare back at him.
“I’m t aking you for somet hing t o eat . You’re fading away in front of me. Find t he boy, say good-
bye.”
“Please, can we st ay longer?”
“No. Go. Now. Say good-bye.”
I glare at him, my blood boiling. Mr. Damned Cont rol Freak. Angry is good. Angry is bet t er t han
t earful.
I drag my gaze away from him and scan t he room for José. He’s t alking t o a group of young
women. I st alk off t oward him and away from Fift y. Just because he brought me here, I have t o
do as he says? Who t he hell does he t hink he is?
The girls are hanging on José’s every word. One of t hem gasps as I approach, no doubt
recognizing me from t he port rait s.
“José.”
“Ana. Excuse me, girls.” José grins at t hem and put s his arm around me, and on some level I’m
amused—José all smoot h, impressing t he ladies.
“You look mad,” he says.
“I have t o go,” I mut t er mulishly.
“You just got here.”
“I know but Christ ian needs t o get back. The pict ures are fant ast ic, José—you’re very
t alent ed.”
He beams. “It was so cool seeing you.”
Jose sweeps me int o a big bear hug, spinning me so I can see Christ ian across t he gallery. He’s
scowling, and I realize it ’s because I’m in José’s arms. So in a very calculat ing move, I wrap my
arms around José’s neck. I t hink Christ ian is going t o expire. His glare darkens t o somet hing
quit e sinist er, and slowly he makes his way t oward us.
“Thanks for t he warning about t he port rait s of me,” I mumble.
“Shit . Sorry, Ana. I should have t old you. D’you like t hem?”
“Um . . . I don’t know,” I answer t rut hfully, moment arily knocked off balance by his quest ion.
“Well, t hey’re all sold, so somebody likes t hem. How cool is t hat ? You’re a post er girl.” He hugs
me t ight er st ill as Christ ian reaches us, glowering at me now, t hough fort unat ely José doesn’t
see.
José releases me. “Don’t be a st ranger, Ana. Oh, Mr. Grey, good evening.”
“Mr. Rodriguez, very impressive.” Christ ian sounds icily polit e. “I’m sorry we can’t st ay longer,
but we need t o head back t o Seat t le. Anast asia?” He subt ly st resses we and t akes my hand
as he does so.
“Bye, José. Congrat ulat ions again.” I give him a quick kiss on t he cheek, and before I know it
Christ ian is dragging me out of t he building. I know he’s boiling wit h silent wrat h, but so am I.
He looks quickly up and down t he st reet t hen heads left and suddenly sweeps me int o a side
alley, abrupt ly pushing me up against a wall. He grabs my face bet ween his hands, forcing me
t o look up int o his ardent det ermined eyes.
I gasp, and his mout h swoops down. He’s kissing me, violent ly. Briefly our t eet h clash, t hen his
t ongue is in my mout h.
Desire explodes like t he Fourt h of July t hroughout my body, and I’m kissing him back, mat ching
his fervor, my hands knot t ing in his hair, pulling it , hard. He groans, a low sexy sound in t he back
of his t hroat t hat reverberat es t hrough me, and his hand moves down my body t o t he t op of
my t high, his fingers digging int o my flesh t hrough t he plum dress.
I pour all t he angst and heart break of t he last few days int o our kiss, binding him t o me, and it
hit s me—in t his moment of blinding passion—he’s doing t he same, he feels t he same.
He breaks off t he kiss, pant ing. His eyes are luminous wit h desire, firing t he already heat ed
blood t hat is pounding t hrough my body. My mout h is slack as I t ry t o drag precious air int o my
lungs.
“You. Are. Mine,” he snarls, emphasizing each word. He pushes away from me and bends,
hands on his knees as if he’s run a marat hon. “For t he love of God, Ana.” I lean against t he wall,
pant ing, t rying t o cont rol t he riot ous react ion in my body, t rying t o find my equilibrium again.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper once my breat h has ret urned.
“You should be. I know what you were doing. Do you want t he phot ographer, Anast asia? He
obviously has feelings for you.”
I flush and shake my head.
“No. He’s just a friend.”
“I have spent all my adult life t rying t o avoid any ext reme emot ion. Yet you . . . you bring out
feelings in me t hat are complet ely alien. It ’s very . . .” He frowns, grasping for t he word.
“Unset t ling.
“I like cont rol, Ana, and around you t hat just ”—he st ands, his gaze int ense—
“evaporat es.” He waves his hand vaguely, t hen runs it t hrough his hair and t akes a deep
breat h. He clasps my hand.
“Come, we need t o t alk, and you need t o eat .”
He leads me int o a small, int imat e rest aurant .
“This place will have t o do,” Christ ian grumbles. “We don’t have much t ime.” The rest aurant
looks fine t o me. Wooden chairs, linen t ableclot hs, and walls t he same color as Christ ian’s
playroom—deep blood red—wit h small gilt mirrors randomly placed, whit e candles, and small
vases of whit e roses. Ella Fit zgerald croons soft ly in t he background about t his t hing called
love. It ’s very romant ic.
The wait er leads us t o a t able for t wo in a small alcove, and I sit , apprehensive and wondering
what he’s going t o say.
“We don’t have long,” Christ ian says t o t he wait er as we sit . “So we’ll each have sirloin st eak
cooked medium, béarnaise sauce if you have it , fries, and green veget ables, what ever t he chef
has; and bring me t he wine list .”
“Cert ainly, sir.” The wait er, t aken aback by Christ ian’s cool, calm efficiency, scut t les off.
Christ ian places his Blackberry on t he t able. Jeez, don’t I get a choice?
“And if I don’t like st eak?”
He sighs. “Don’t st art , Anast asia.”
“I am not a child, Christ ian.”
“Well, st op act ing like one.”
It ’s as if he’s slapped me. I blink at him. So t his is how it will be, an agit at ed, fraught
conversat ion, albeit in a very romant ic set t ing but cert ainly no heart s and flowers.
“I’m a child because I don’t like st eak?” I mut t er t rying t o conceal my hurt .
“For deliberat ely making me jealous. It ’s a childish t hing t o do. Have you no regard for your
friend’s feelings, leading him on like t hat ?” Christ ian presses his lips t oget her in a t hin line and
scowls as t he wait er ret urns wit h t he wine list .
I blush—I hadn’t t hought of t hat . Poor José—I cert ainly don’t want t o encourage him.
Suddenly, I’m mort ified. Christ ian has a point ; it was a t hought less t hing t o do. He glances at
t he wine list .
“Would you like t o choose t he wine?” he asks, raising his eyebrows at me expect ant ly,
arrogance personified. He knows I know not hing about wine.
“You choose,” I answer, sullen but chast ened.
“Two glasses of t he Barossa Valley Shiraz, please.”
“Er . . . we only sell t hat wine by t he bot t le, sir.”
“A bot t le t hen,” Christ ian snaps.
“Sir.” He ret reat s, subdued, and I don’t blame him. I frown at Fift y. What ’s eat ing him?
Oh, me probably, and somewhere in t he dept hs of my psyche, my inner goddess rises sleepily,
st ret ches, and smiles. She’s been asleep for a while.
“You’re very grumpy.”
He gazes at me impassively. “I wonder why t hat is?”
“Well, it ’s good t o set t he right t one for an int imat e and honest discussion about t he fut ure,
wouldn’t you say?” I smile at him sweet ly.
His mout h presses int o a hard line, but t hen, almost reluct ant ly, his lips lift , and I know he’s
t rying t o st ifle his smile.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“Apology accept ed, and I’m pleased t o inform you I haven’t decided t o become a veg-et arian
since we last at e.”
“Since t hat was t he last t ime you at e, I t hink t hat ’s a moot point .”
“There’s t hat word again, moot.”
“Moot ,” he mout hs and his eyes soft en wit h humor. He runs his hand t hrough his hair, and he’s
serious again. “Ana, t he last t ime we spoke, you left me. I’m a lit t le nervous. I’ve t old you I want
you back, and you’ve said . . . not hing.” His gaze is int ense and expect ant while his candor is
t ot ally disarming. What t he hell do I say t o t his?
“I’ve missed you . . . really missed you, Christ ian. The past few days have been . . .
difficult .” I swallow, and a lump in my t hroat swells as I recall my desperat e anguish since I left
him.
This last week has been t he worst in my life, t he pain almost indescribable. Not hing has come
close. But realit y hit s home, winding me.
“Not hing’s changed. I can’t be what you want me t o be.” I squeeze t he words out past t he
lump in my t hroat .
“You are what I want you t o be,” he says, his soft voice emphat ic.
“No, Christ ian, I’m not .”
“You’re upset because of what happened last t ime. I behaved st upidly, and you . . . So did you.
Why didn’t you safe word, Anast asia?” His t one changes, becoming accusat ory.
What? Whoa—change of direction. I flush, blinking at him.
“Answer me.”
“I don’t know. I was overwhelmed. I was t rying t o be what you want ed me t o be, t rying t o deal
wit h t he pain, and it went out of my mind. You know . . . I forgot ,” I whisper ashamed, and I shrug
apologet ically.
Jeez, perhaps we could have avoided all this heartache.
“You forgot !” he gasps wit h horror, grabbing t he sides of t he t able and glaring at me.
I wit her under his st are.
Shi t! He’s furious again. My inner goddess glares at me, t oo. See, you brought all this on
yourself!
“How can I t rust you?” he says, his voice low. “Ever?” The wait er arrives wit h our wine as we sit
st aring at each ot her, blue eyes t o gray. Bot h of us filled wit h unspoken recriminat ions, while
t he wait er removes t he cork wit h an un-necessary flourish and pours a lit t le wine int o
Christ ian’s glass. Aut omat ically Christ ian reaches out and t akes a sip.
“That ’s fine.” His voice is curt .
Gingerly t he wait er fills our glasses, placing t he bot t le on t he t able before beat ing a hast y
ret reat . Christ ian has not t aken his eyes off me t he whole t ime. I am t he first t o crack, breaking
eye cont act , picking up my glass and t aking a large gulp. I barely t ast e it .
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, suddenly feeling st upid. I left because I t hought we were incompat ible, but
he’s saying I could have st opped him?
“Sorry for what ?” he says alarmed.
“Not using t he safe word.”
He closes his eyes, as if in relief.
“We might have avoided all t his suffering,” he mut t ers.
“You look fine.” More t han fine. You look like you.
“Appearances can be decept ive,” he says quiet ly. “I’m anyt hing but fine. I feel like t he sun has
set and not risen for five days, Ana. I’m in perpet ual night here.” I’m winded by his admission. Oh
my, like me.
“You said you’d never leave, yet t he going get s t ough and you’re out t he door.”
“When did I say I’d never leave?”
“In your sleep. It was t he most comfort ing t hing I’d heard in so long, Anast asia. It made me
relax.”
My heart const rict s and I reach for my wine.
“You said you loved me,” he whispers. “Is t hat now in t he past t ense?” His voice is low, laced
wit h anxiet y.
“No, Christ ian, it ’s not .”
He gazes at me, and he looks so vulnerable as he exhales. “Good,” he murmurs.
I’m shocked by his admission. He’s had a change of heart . When I t old him I loved him before, he
was horrified. The wait er is back. Briskly he places our plat es in front of us and scut t les away.
Holy hell. Food.
“Eat ,” Christ ian commands.
Deep down I know I’m hungry, but right now, my st omach is in knot s. Sit t ing across from t he
only man I have ever loved and debat ing our uncert ain fut ure does not promot e a healt hy
appet it e. I look dubiously at my food.
“So help me God, Anast asia, if you don’t eat , I will t ake you across my knee here in t his
rest aurant , and it will have not hing t o do wit h my sexual grat ificat ion. Eat !” Jeez, keep your hair
on, Grey. My subconscious st ares at me over her half-moon specs.
She is wholeheart edly in agreement wit h Fift y Shades.
“Okay, I’ll eat . St ow your t wit ching palm, please.”
He doesn’t smile but cont inues t o glare at me. Reluct ant ly I lift my knife and fork and slice int o
my st eak. Oh, it ’s mout hwat eringly good. I am hungry, really hungry. I chew and he visibly
relaxes.
We eat our supper in silence. The music’s changed. A soft -voiced woman sings in t he
background, her words echoing my t hought s.
I glance at Fift y. He’s eat ing and wat ching me. Hunger, longing, anxiet y combined in one hot
look.
“Do you know who’s singing?” I t ry for some normal conversat ion.
Christ ian pauses and list ens. “No . . . but she’s good, whoever she is.”
“I like her, t oo.”
Finally he smiles his privat e enigmat ic smile. What ’s he planning?
“What ?” I ask.
He shakes his head. “Eat up,” he says mildly.
I have eat en half t he food on my plat e. I cannot eat any more. How can I negot iat e t his?
“I can’t manage any more. Have I eat en enough for Sir?” He st ares at me impassively, not
answering, t hen glances at his wat ch.
“I am really full,” I add, t aking a sip of t he delicious wine.
“We have t o go short ly. Taylor’s here, and you have t o be up for work in t he morning.”
“So do you.”
“I funct ion on a lot less sleep t han you do, Anast asia. At least you’ve eat en somet hing.”
“Aren’t we going back via Charlie Tango?”
“No, I t hought I might have a drink. Taylor will collect us. Besides, t his way I have you in t he car
all t o myself for a few hours, at least . What can we do but t alk?” Oh, t hat ’s his plan.
Christ ian summons t he wait er t o ask for t he check, t hen picks up his Blackberry and makes a
call.
“We’re at Le Picot in, Sout h West Third Avenue.” He hangs up.
Jeez, he’s curt over t he phone.
“You’re very brusque wit h Taylor, in fact , wit h most people.”
“I just get t o t he point quickly, Anast asia.”
“You haven’t got t en t o t he point t his evening. Not hing’s changed, Christ ian.”
“I have a proposit ion for you.”
“This st art ed wit h a proposit ion.”
“A different proposit ion.”
The wait er ret urns, and Christ ian hands over his credit card wit hout checking t he bill.
He gazes at me speculat ively while t he wait er swipes his card. Christ ian’s phone buzzes once,
and he peers at it .
He has a proposit ion? What now? A couple of scenarios run t hrough my mind: kidnap, working
for him. No, not hing makes sense. Christ ian finishes paying.
“Come. Taylor’s out side.”
We st and and he t akes my hand.
“I don’t want t o lose you, Anast asia.” He kisses my knuckles t enderly, and t he t ouch of his lips
on my skin resonat es t hroughout my body.
Out side t he Audi is wait ing. Christ ian opens my door. Climbing in, I sink int o t he plush leat her.
He heads t o t he driver’s side, Taylor st eps out of t he car and t hey t alk briefly.
This isn’t t heir usual prot ocol. I’m curious. What are t hey t alking about ? Moment s lat er, t hey
bot h climb in, and I glance at Christ ian who’s wearing his impassive face as he st ares ahead.
I allow myself a brief moment t o examine his godlike profile: st raight nose, sculpt ured full lips,
hair falling deliciously over his forehead. This divine man is surely not meant for me. Soft music
suddenly fills t he rear of t he car, an orchest ral piece t hat I don’t know, and Taylor pulls int o t he
light t raffic, heading for t he I-5 and Seat t le.
Christ ian shift s t o face me. “As I was saying, Anast asia, I have a proposit ion for you.” I glance
nervously at Taylor.
“Taylor can’t hear you,” Christ ian reassures me.
“How?”
“Taylor,” Christ ian calls. Taylor doesn’t respond. He calls again, st ill no response.
Christ ian leans over and t aps his shoulder. Taylor removes an ear bud I hadn’t not iced.
“Yes, sir?”
“Thank you, Taylor. It ’s okay; resume your list ening.”
“Sir.”
“Happy now? He’s list ening t o his iPod. Puccini. Forget he’s here. I do.”
“Did you deliberat ely ask him t o do t hat ?”
“Yes.”
Oh. “Okay, your proposit ion?”
Christ ian looks suddenly det ermined and businesslike. Holy shit. We’re negot iat ing a deal. I
list en at t ent ively.
“Let me ask you somet hing first . Do you want a regular vanilla relat ionship wit h no kinky
fuckery at all?”
My mout h drops open. “Kinky fuckery?” I squeak.
“Kinky fuckery.”
“I can’t believe you said t hat .” I glance nervously at Taylor.
“Well, I did. Answer me,” he says calmly.
I flush. My inner goddess is down on bended knee wit h her hands clasped in supplicat ion
begging me.
“I like your kinky fuckery,” I whisper.
“That ’s what I t hought . So what don’t you like?”
Not being able to touch you. You enjoying my pain, the bite of the belt . . .
“The t hreat of cruel and unusual punishment .”
“What does t hat mean?”
“Well, you have all t hose canes and whips and st uff in your playroom, and t hey fright en t he
living daylight s out of me. I don’t want you t o use t hem on me.”
“Okay, so no whips or canes—or belt s, for t hat mat t er,” he says sardonically.
I gaze at him puzzled. “Are you at t empt ing t o redefine t he hard limit s?”
“Not as such, I’m just t rying t o underst and you, get a clearer pict ure of what you do and don’t
like.”
“Fundament ally, Christ ian, it ’s your joy in inflict ing pain on me t hat ’s difficult for me t o handle.
And t he idea t hat you’ll do it because I have crossed some arbit rary line.”
“But it ’s not arbit rary; t he rules are writ t en down.”
“I don’t want a set of rules.”
“None at all?”
“No rules.” I shake my head, but my heart is in my mout h. Where is he going wit h t his?
“But you don’t mind if I spank you?”
“Spank me wit h what ?”
“This.” He holds up his hand.
I squirm uncomfort ably. “No, not really. Especially wit h t hose silver balls . . .” Thank heavens it ’s
dark, my face is flaming and my voice t rails off as I recall t hat night . Yeah . . .
I’d do that again.
He smirks at me. “Yes, t hat was fun.”
“More t han fun,” I mut t er.
“So you can deal wit h some pain.”
I shrug. “Yes, I suppose.” Oh, where is he going wit h t his? My anxiet y level has shot up several
magnit udes on t he Richt er scale.
He st rokes his chin, deep in t hought . “Anast asia, I want t o st art again. Do t he vanilla t hing and
t hen maybe, once you t rust me more and I t rust you t o be honest and t o communicat e wit h
me, we could move on and do some of t he t hings t hat I like t o do.” I st are at him, st unned, wit h
no t hought s in my head at all—like a comput er crash. He gazes at me anxiously, but I can’t see
him clearly, as we’re shrouded in t he Oregon darkness. It occurs t o me, finally, t his is it .
He want s t he light , but can I ask him t o do t his for me? And don’t I like t he dark? Some dark,
somet imes. Memories of t he Thomas Tallis night drift invit ingly t hrough my mind.
“But what about punishment s?”
“No punishment s.” He shakes his head. “None.”
“And t he rules?”
“No rules.”
“None at all? But you have needs.”
“I need you more, Anast asia. These last few days have been purgat ory. All my inst inct s t ell me
t o let you go, t ell me I don’t deserve you.
“Those phot os t he boy t ook . . . I can see how he sees you. You look so unt roubled and
beaut iful, not t hat you’re not beaut iful now, but here you sit . I see your pain. It ’s hard knowing
t hat I’m t he one who has made you feel t his way.
“But I’m a selfish man. I’ve want ed you since you fell int o my office. You are exquisit e, honest ,
warm, st rong, wit t y, beguilingly innocent ; t he list is endless. I am in awe of you. I want you, and
t he t hought of anyone else having you is like a knife t wist ing in my dark soul.”
My mout h goes dry. Holy shit. My subconscious nods wit h sat isfact ion. If t hat isn’t a
declarat ion of love, I don’t know what is. And t he words t umble out of me—a dam breached.
“Christ ian, why do you t hink you have a dark soul? I would never say t hat . Sad maybe, but
you’re a good man. I can see t hat . . . you’re generous, you’re kind, and you’ve never lied t o me.
And I haven’t t ried very hard.
“Last Sat urday was such a shock t o my syst em. It was my wake-up call. I realized t hat you’d
been easy on me and t hat I couldn’t be t he person you want ed me t o be. Then, aft er I left , it
dawned on me t hat t he physical pain you inflict ed was not as bad as t he pain of losing you. I do
want t o please you, but it ’s hard.”
“You please me all t he t ime,” he whispers. “How oft en do I have t o t ell you t hat ?”
“I never know what you’re t hinking. Somet imes you’re so closed off . . . like an island st at e. You
int imidat e me. That ’s why I keep quiet . I don’t know which way your mood is going t o go. It
swings from nort h t o sout h and back again in a nanosecond. It ’s confusing and you won’t let
me t ouch you, and I want t o so much t o show you how much I love you.” He blinks at me in t he
darkness, warily I t hink, and I can resist him no longer. I unbuckle my seat belt and scramble int o
his lap, t aking him by surprise, and t ake his head in my hands.
“I love you, Christ ian Grey. And you’re prepared t o do all t his for me. I’m t he one who is
undeserving, and I’m just sorry t hat I can’t do all t hose t hings for you. Maybe wit h t ime . . . I don’t
know . . . but yes, I accept your proposit ion. Where do I sign?” He snakes his arms around me
and crushes me t o him.
“Oh, Ana,” he breat hes as he buries his nose in my hair.
We sit , our arms wrapped around each ot her, list ening t o t he music—a soot hing piano piece—
mirroring t he emot ions in t he car, t he sweet t ranquil calm aft er t he st orm. I snuggle int o his
arms, rest ing my head in t he crook of his neck. He gent ly st rokes my back.
“Touching is a hard limit for me, Anast asia,” he whispers.
“I know. I wish I underst ood why.”
Aft er a while, he sighs, and in a soft voice he says, “I had a horrific childhood. One of t he crack
whore’s pimps . . .” His voice t rails off, and his body t enses as he recalls some unimaginable
horror. “I can remember t hat ,” he whispers, shuddering.
Abrupt ly, my heart const rict s as I remember t he burn scars marring his skin. Oh, Christian. I
t ight en my arms around his neck.
“Was she abusive? Your mot her?” My voice is low and soft wit h unshed t ears.
“Not t hat I remember. She was neglect ful. She didn’t prot ect me from her pimp.” He snort s. “I
t hink it was me who looked aft er her. When she finally killed herself, it t ook four days for
someone t o raise t he alarm and find us . . . I remember t hat .” I cannot cont ain my gasp of horror.
Holy mot her fuck. Bile rises in my t hroat .
“That ’s pret t y fucked-up,” I whisper.
“Fift y shades,” he murmurs.
I t urn my head and press my lips against his neck, seeking and offering solace as I imagine a
small, dirt y, gray-eyed boy lost and lonely beside t he body of his dead mot her.
Oh, Christian. I breat he in his scent . He smells heavenly, my favorit e fragrance in t he ent ire
world. He t ight ens his arms around me and kisses my hair, and I sit wrapped in his embrace as
Taylor speeds int o t he night .
When I wake, we’re driving t hrough Seat t le.
“Hey,” Christ ian says soft ly.
“Sorry,” I murmur as I sit up, blinking and st ret ching. I am st ill in his arms, on his lap.
“I could wat ch you sleep forever, Ana.”
“Did I say anyt hing?”
“No. We’re nearly at your place.”
Oh? “We’re not going t o yours?”
“No.”
I sit up and gaze at him. “Why not ?”
“Because you have work t omorrow.”
“Oh.” I pout .
He smirks at me. “Why, did you have somet hing in mind?” I flush. “Well, maybe.”
He chuckles. “Anast asia, I am not going t o t ouch you again, not unt il you beg me t o.”
“What !”
“So t hat you’ll st art communicat ing wit h me. Next t ime we make love, you’re going t o have t o
t ell me exact ly what you want in fine det ail.”
“Oh.” He shift s me off his lap as Taylor pulls up out side my apart ment . Christ ian climbs out and
holds t he car door open for me.
“I have somet hing for you.” He moves t o t he back of t he car, opens t he t runk, and pulls out a
large gift -wrapped box. What t he hell is t his?
“Open it when you get inside.”
“You’re not coming in?”
“No, Anast asia.”
“So when will I see you?”
“Tomorrow.”
“My boss want s me t o go for a drink wit h him t omorrow.” Christ ian’s face hardens. “Does he,
now?” His voice is laced wit h lat ent menace.
“To celebrat e my first week,” I add quickly.
“Where?”
“I don’t know.”
“I could pick you up from t here.”
“Okay . . . I’ll e-mail or t ext you.”
“Good.”
He walks me t o t he lobby door and wait s while I dig my keys out of my purse. As I unlock t he
door, he leans forward and cups my chin, t ilt ing my head back. His mout h hov-
ers over mine, and closing his eyes, he runs a t rail of kisses from t he corner of my eye t o t he
corner of my mout h.
A small moan escapes my mout h as my insides melt and unfurl.
“Unt il t omorrow,” he breat hes.
“Goodnight , Christ ian,” I whisper, and I hear t he need in my voice.
He smiles.
“In you go,” he orders, and I walk t hrough t he lobby carrying my myst erious parcel.
“Lat ers, baby,” he calls, t hen t urns and wit h his easy grace, heads back t o t he car.
Once in t he apart ment , I open t he gift box and find my MacBook Pro lapt op, t he Blackberry,
and anot her rect angular box. What is t his? I unwrap t he silver paper. Inside is a black, slim,
leat her case.
Opening t he case, I find an iPad. Holy shit . . . an iPad. A whit e card is rest ing on t he screen
wit h a message writ t en in Christ ian’s handwrit ing: Holy cow. I have a Christ ian Grey mix-t ape in
t he guise of a high-end iPad. I shake my head in disapproval because of t he expense, but deep
down I love it . Jack at t he office has one, so I know how t hey work.
I swit ch it on and gasp as t he wallpaper image appears: a small model glider. Oh my.
It ’s t he Blanik L23 I gave him, mount ed on a glass st and and sit t ing on what I t hink is Christ ian’s
desk at his office. I gape at it .
He built it! He really did build it . I remember now he ment ioned it in t he not e wit h t he flowers. I’m
reeling, and I know in t hat inst ant t hat he’s put a great deal of t hought int o t his gift .
I slide t he arrow at t he bot t om of t he screen t o unlock it and gasp again. The background
phot ograph is of Christ ian and me at my graduat ion in t he marquee. It ’s t he one t hat appeared
in t he Seattle Times. Christ ian looks so handsome and I can’t help my face-split t ing grin, as my
inner goddess curls up hugging herself on her chaise longue— Yes, and he’s mine!
Wit h a swipe of my finger, t he icons shift , and several new ones appear on t he next screen. A
Kindle app, iBooks, Words—what ever t hat is.
Holy shit! The British Library? I t ouch t he icon and a menu appears: Hist orical collect ion.
Scrolling down, I select novels of t He 18t H and 19t H cent ury. Anot her menu. I t ap on a t it le: The
AmericAn by Henry James. A new window opens, offering me a scanned copy of t he book t o
read. Holy crap—it ’s an early edit ion, published in 1879, and it ’s on my iPad! He’s bought me
t he Brit ish Library at a t ouch of a but t on.
I exit quickly, knowing t hat I could be lost in t his app for an et ernit y. I not ice a “good food” app
t hat makes me roll my eyes and smile at t he same t ime, a news app, a weat her app, but his
not e ment ioned music. I go back t o t he main screen, hit t he iPod icon and a
playlist appears. I scroll t hrough t he songs, and t he list makes me smile. Thomas Tallis—
I’m not going t o forget t hat in a hurry. I heard it t wice, aft er all, while he flogged and fucked me.
“Wit chcraft .” My grin get s wider—dancing round t he great room. The Bach Marcello piece— oh
no, that’s way too sad for my mood right now. Hmm. Jeff Buckley— yeah, I’ve heard of him.
Snow Pat rol—my favorit e band—and a song called “Principles of Lust ” by Enigma. How
Christ ian. I smirk. Anot her called “Possession” . . . oh yes, very Fifty Shades.
And a few more I have never heard.
Select ing a song t hat cat ches my eye, I press play. It ’s called “Try” by Nellie Furt ado.
She st art s t o sing, and her voice is a silken scarf wrapping around me, enveloping me. I lie down
on my bed.
Does t his mean Christ ian’s going t o t ry? Try t his new relat ionship? I drink in t he lyrics, st aring
at t he ceiling, t rying t o underst and his t urnaround. He missed me. I missed him. He must have
some feelings for me. He must . This iPad, t hese songs, t hese apps—he cares. He really cares.
My heart swells wit h hope.
The song ends and t ears spring t o my eyes. I quickly scroll t o anot her—“The Scient ist ” by
Coldplay—one of Kat e’s favorit e bands. I know t he t rack, but I’ve never really list ened t o t he
lyrics before. I close my eyes and let t he words wash over and t hrough me.
My t ears st art t o flow. I can’t st em t hem. If t his isn’t an apology, what is it ? Oh, Christian. Or is
t his an invit at ion? Will he answer my quest ions? Am I reading too much into this?
I am probably reading too much into this. My subconscious nods at me, t rying t o hide her pit y.I
dash my t ears away. I have t o e-mail him t o t hank him. I leap off my bed t o fet ch t he mean
machine.
Coldplay cont inues as I sit cross-legged on my bed. The Mac powers up and I log in.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : IPAD
Dat e: June 9, 2011 23:56
To: Christ ian Grey
You’ve made me cry again.
I love t he iPad.
I love t he songs.
I love t he Brit ish Library App.
I love you.
Thank you.
Goodnight .
Ana xx
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : iPad
Dat e: June 10, 2011 00:03
To: Anast asia St eele
I’m glad you like it . I bought one for myself.
Now, if I were t here, I would kiss away your t ears.
But I’m not —so go t o sleep.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
His response makes me smile, st ill so bossy, st ill so Christ ian. Will t hat change, t oo? And I
realize in t hat moment t hat I hope not . I like him like t his—commanding—as long as I can st and
up t o him wit hout fear of punishment .
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Mr. Grumpy
Dat e: June 10, 2011 00:07
To: Christ ian Grey
You sound your usual bossy and possibly t ense, possibly grumpy self, Mr. Grey.
I know somet hing t hat could ease t hat . But t hen, you’re not here—you wouldn’t let me st ay,
and you expect me t o beg . . .
Dream on, Sir.
Ana xx
PS: I also not e t hat you included t he St alker’s Ant hem, “Every Breat h You Take.” I do enjoy
your sense of humor, but does Dr. Flynn know?
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Zen-Like Calm
Dat e: June 10, 2011 00.10
To: Anast asia St eele
My Dearest Miss St eele
Spanking occurs in vanilla relat ionships, t oo, you know. Usually consensually and in a sexual
cont ext . . . but I am more t han happy t o make an except ion.
You’ll be relieved t o know t hat Dr. Flynn also enjoys my sense of humor.
Now, please go t o sleep as you won’t get much t omorrow.
Incident ally—you will beg, t rust me. And I look forward t o it .
Christ ian Grey
Tense CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Goodnight , Sweet Dreams
Dat e: June 10, 2011 00:12
To: Christ ian Grey
Well, since you ask so nicely, and I like your delicious t hreat , I shall curl up wit h t he iPad t hat you
have so kindly given me and fall asleep browsing in t he Brit ish Library, list ening t o t he music
t hat says it for you.
A xxx
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : One more request
Dat e: June 10, 2011 00:15
To: Anast asia St eele
Dream of me.
x
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
Dream of you, Christ ian Grey? Always.
I change quickly int o my pajamas, brush my t eet h, and slip int o bed. Put t ing my ear buds in, I
pull t he flat t ened Charlie Tango balloon from underneat h my pillow and hug it t o me.
I am brimming wit h joy, a st upid, widemout hed grin on my face. What a difference a day can
make. How am I ever going t o sleep?
José Gonzalez st art s t o sing a soot hing melody wit h a hypnot ic guit ar riff, and I drift slowly int o
sleep, marveling how t he world has right ed it self in one evening and wondering idly if I should
make a playlist for Christ ian.
The one good t hing about being car-less is t hat on t he bus on my way t o work, I can plug my
headphones int o my iPad while it ’s safely in my purse and list en t o all t he wonderful t unes
Christ ian has given me. By t he t ime I arrive at t he office, I have t he most ludicrous grin on my
face.
Jack glances up at me and does a double t ake.
“Good morning, Ana. You look . . . radiant .” His remark flust ers me. How inappropriate! “I slept
well, t hank you, Jack. Good morning.” His brow crinkles.
“Can you read t hese for me and have report s on t hem by luncht ime, please?” He hands me
four manuscript s. At my horrified expression, he adds, “Just first chapt ers.”
“Sure,” I smile wit h relief, and he gives me a broad smile in ret urn.
I swit ch on t he comput er t o st art work, finishing my lat t e and eat ing a banana. There’s an e-
mail from Christ ian.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : So Help Me . . .
Dat e: June 10, 2011 08:05
To: Anast asia St eele
I do hope you’ve had breakfast .
I missed you last night .
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Old books . . .
Dat e: June 10, 2011 08:33
To: Christ ian Grey
I am eat ing a banana as I t ype. I have not had breakfast for several days, so it is a st ep forward.
I love t he Brit ish Library App—I st art ed rereading Robinson Crusoe . . . and of course, I love you.
Now leave me alone—I am t rying t o work.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Is t hat all you’ve eat en?
Dat e: June 10, 2011 08:36
To: Anast asia St eele
You can do bet t er t han t hat . You’re going t o need your energy for begging.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Pest
Dat e: June 10, 2011 08:39
To: Christ ian Grey
Mr. Grey—I am t rying t o work for a living—and it ’s you t hat will be begging.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Bring it On!
Dat e: June 10, 2011 08:36
To: Anast asia St eele
Why Miss St eele, I love a challenge . . .
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I sit grinning at t he screen like an idiot . But I need t o read t hese chapt ers for Jack and writ e
report s on all of t hem. Placing t he manuscript s on my desk, I begin.
At luncht ime I head t o t he deli for a past rami sandwich and list en t o t he playlist on my iPad.
First up t here’s Nit in Sawhney, some world music called “Homelands”—it ’s good.
Mr. Grey has an eclect ic t ast e in music. I wander back, list ening t o a classical piece, Fanta-sia
on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Vaughn Williams. Oh, Fift y has a sense of humor, and I love
him for it . Will t his st upid grin ever leave my face?
The aft ernoon drags. I decide, in an unguarded moment , t o e-mail Christ ian.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Bored . . .
Dat e: June 10, 2011 16:05
To: Christ ian Grey
Twiddling my t humbs.
How are you?
What are you doing?
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Your t humbs
Dat e: June 10, 2011 16:15
To: Anast asia St eele
You should have come t o work for me.
You wouldn’t be t widdling your t humbs.
I am sure I could put t hem t o bet t er use.
In fact I can t hink of a number of opt ions . . .
I am doing t he usual humdrum mergers and acquisit ions.
It ’s all very dry.
Your e-mails at SIP are monit ored.
Christ ian Grey
Dist ract ed CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
Oh shit . I had no idea. How t he hell does he know? I scowl at t he screen and quickly check t he
e-mails we’ve sent , delet ing t hem as I do.
Prompt ly at five t hirt y, Jack is at my desk. It is Dress-down Friday so he’s wearing jeans and a
black shirt . He looks very casual.
“Drink, Ana? We usually like t o go for a quick one at t he bar across t he st reet .”
“We?” I ask, hopeful.
“Yeah, most of us go . . . you coming?”
For some unknown reason, which I don’t want t o examine t oo closely, relief floods t hrough me.
“I’d love t o. What ’s t he bar called?”
“50s.”
“You’re kidding.”
He looks at me oddly. “No. Some significance for you?”
“No, sorry. I’ll join you over t here.”
“What would you like t o drink?”
“A beer please.”
“Cool.”
I make my way t o t he powder room and e-mail Christ ian from t he Blackberry.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : You’ll Fit Right In
Dat e: June 10, 2011 17:36
To: Christ ian Grey
We are going t o a bar called Fift y’s.
The rich seam of humor t hat I could mine from t his is endless.
I look forward t o seeing you t here, Mr. Grey.
A x
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Hazards
Dat e: June 10, 2011 17:38
To: Anast asia St eele
Mining is a very, very dangerous occupat ion.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Hazards?
Dat e: June 10, 2011 17:40
To: Christ ian Grey
And your point is?
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Merely . . .
Dat e: June 10, 2011 17:42
To: Anast asia St eele
Making an observat ion, Miss St eele.
I’ll see you short ly.
Sooners rat her t han lat ers, baby.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I check myself in t he mirror. What a difference a day can make. I have more color in my cheeks,
and my eyes are shining. It ’s t he Christ ian Grey effect . A lit t le e-mail sparring wit h him will do
t hat t o a girl. I grin at t he mirror and st raight en my pale blue shirt —t he one Taylor bought me. I
am wearing my favorit e jeans t oday, t oo. Most of t he women in t he office wear eit her jeans or
float y skirt s. I will need t o invest in a float y skirt or t wo. Perhaps I’ll do t hat t his weekend and
bank t he check Christ ian gave me for Wanda, my Beet le.
As I head out of t he building, I hear my name called.
“Miss St eele?”
I t urn expect ant ly, and an ashen young woman approaches me caut iously. She looks like a
ghost —so pale and st rangely blank.
“Miss Anast asia St eele?” she repeat s, and her feat ures st ay st at ic even t hough she’s
speaking.
“Yes?”
She st ops, st aring at me from about t hree feet away on t he sidewalk, and I st are back,
immobilized. Who is she? What does she want ?
“Can I help you?” I ask. How does she know my name?
“No . . . I just want ed t o look at you.” Her voice is eerily soft . Like me, she has dark hair t hat
st arkly cont rast s wit h her fair skin. Her eyes are brown, like bourbon, but flat .
There’s no life in t hem at all. Her beaut iful face is pale, and et ched wit h sorrow.
“Sorry—you have me at a disadvant age,” I say polit ely, t rying t o ignore t he warning t ingle up
my spine. On closer inspect ion, she looks odd, disheveled and uncared for. Her clot hes are t wo
sizes t oo big, including her designer t rench coat .
She laughs, a st range, discordant sound t hat only feeds my anxiet y.
“What do you have t hat I don’t ?” she asks sadly.
My anxiet y t urns t o fear. “I’m sorry—who are you?”
“Me? I’m nobody.” She lift s her arm t o drag her hand t hrough her shoulder lengt h hair, and as
she does, t he sleeve of her t rench coat rides up, revealing a soiled bandage around her wrist .
Holy fuck.
“Good day, Miss St eele.” Turning, she walks up t he st reet as I st and root ed t o t he spot .
I wat ch as her slight frame disappears from view, lost amongst t he workers pouring out of t heir
various offices.
What was that about?
Confused, I cross t he st reet t o t he bar, t rying t o assimilat e what has just happened, while my
subconscious rears her ugly head and hisses at me— She has something to do with Christian.
Fift y’s is a cavernous, impersonal bar wit h baseball pennant s and post ers hanging on t he wall.
Jack is at t he bar wit h Elizabet h, Court ney t he ot her commissioning edit or, t wo guys from
finance, and Claire from recept ion. She is wearing her t rademark silver hooped earrings.
“Hi, Ana!” Jack hands me a bot t le of Bud.
“Cheers . . . t hank you,” I murmur, st ill shaken by my encount er wit h Ghost Girl.
“Cheers.” We clink bot t les, and he cont inues his conversat ion wit h Elizabet h. Claire smiles
sweet ly at me.
“So, how has your first week been?” she asks.
“Good, t hank you. Everyone seems very friendly.”
“You seem much happier t oday.”
I flush. “It ’s Friday,” I mut t er quickly. “So—have you any plans t his weekend?” My pat ent ed
dist ract ion t echnique works and I’m saved. Claire t urns out t o be one of seven kids, and she’s
going t o a big family get -t oget her in Tacoma. She becomes quit e animat ed, and I realize I
haven’t spoken t o any women my own age since Kat e left for Barbados.
Absent ly I wonder how Kat e is . . . and Elliot . I must remember t o ask Christ ian if he’s heard from
him. Oh, and Et han her brot her will be back next Tuesday, and he’ll be st aying in our
apart ment . I can’t imagine Christ ian is going t o be happy about t hat . My earlier encount er wit h
st range Ghost Girl slips furt her from my mind.
During my conversat ion wit h Claire, Elizabet h hands me anot her beer.
“Thanks,” I smile at her.
Claire is very easy t o t alk t o—she likes t o t alk—and before I know it , I am on my t hird beer,
court esy of one of t he guys from finance.
When Elizabet h and Court ney leave, Jack joins Claire and me. Where is Christ ian?
One of t he finance guys engages Claire in conversat ion.
“Ana, t hink you made t he right decision coming here?” Jack’s voice is soft , and he’s st anding a
bit t oo close. But I’ve not iced t hat he has a t endency t o do t his wit h everyone, even at t he
office. My subconscious narrows her eyes. You’re reading too much into this, she admonishes
me.
“I’ve enjoyed myself t his week, t hank you, Jack. Yes, I t hink I made t he right decision.”
“You’re a very bright girl, Ana. You’ll go far.”
I blush. “Thank you,” I mut t er, because I don’t know what else t o say.
“Do you live far?”
“The Pike Market dist rict .”
“Not far from me.” Smiling, he moves even closer and leans against t he bar, effect ively t rapping
me. “Do you have any plans t his weekend?”
“Well . . . um—”
I feel him before I see him. It ’s as if my whole body is highly at t uned t o his presence.
It relaxes and ignit es at t he same t ime—a weird, int ernal dualit y—and I sense t hat st range
pulsing elect ricit y.
Christ ian drapes his arm around my shoulder in a seemingly casual display of affect ion—but I
know different ly. He is st aking a claim, and on t his occasion, it ’s very welcome.
Soft ly he kisses my hair.
“Hello, baby,” he murmurs.
I can’t help but feel relieved, safe, and excit ed wit h his arm around me. He draws me t o his side,
and I glance up at him while he st ares at Jack, his expression impassive. Turning his at t ent ion
t o me, he gives me a brief crooked smile followed by a swift kiss. He’s wearing his navy
pinst riped jacket over jeans and an open whit e shirt . He looks edible.
Jack shuffles back uncomfort ably.
“Jack, t his is Christ ian,” I mumble apologet ically. Why am I apologizing? “Christ ian, Jack.”
“I’m t he boyfriend,” Christ ian says wit h a small, cool smile t hat doesn’t reach his eyes as he
shakes Jack’s hand. I glance up at Jack who is ment ally assessing t he fine specimen of
manhood in front of him.
“I’m t he boss,” Jack replies arrogant ly. “Ana did ment ion an ex-boyfriend.” Oh, shit. You don’t
want to play this game with Fifty.
“Well, no longer ex,” Christ ian replies calmly. “Come on, baby, t ime t o go.”
“Please, st ay and join us for a drink,” Jack says smoot hly.
I don’t t hink t hat ’s a good idea. Why is t his so uncomfort able? I glance at Claire, who is, of
course st aring, open-mout hed and wit h frankly carnal appreciat ion at Christ ian.
When will I st op caring about t he effect he has on ot her women?
“We have plans,” Christ ian replies wit h his enigmat ic smile.
We do? And a frisson of ant icipat ion runs t hrough my body.
“Anot her t ime, perhaps,” he adds. “Come,” he says t o me as he t akes my hand.
“See you Monday.” I smile at Jack, Claire, and t he guys from finance, t rying hard t o ignore Jack’s
less-t han-pleased expression, and follow Christ ian out of t he door.
Taylor is at t he wheel of t he Audi wait ing at t he curb.
“Why did t hat feel like a pissing cont est ?” I ask Christ ian as he opens t he car door for me.
“Because it was,” he murmurs and gives me his enigmat ic smile t hen shut s my door.
“Hello, Taylor,” I say and our eyes meet in t he review mirror.
“Miss St eele,” Taylor acknowledges wit h a genial smile.
Christ ian slides in beside me, clasps my hand, and gent ly kisses my knuckles. “Hi,” he says
soft ly.
My cheeks t urn pink, knowing t hat Taylor can hear us, grat eful t hat he can’t see t he scorching,
pant y-combust ing look t hat Christ ian is giving me. It t akes all my self-rest raint not t o leap on
him right here, in t he back seat of t he car.
Oh, the back seat of the car . . . hmm. My inner goddess st rokes her chin gent ly in quiet
cont emplat ion.
“Hi,” I breat he, my mout h dry.
“What would you like t o do t his evening?”
“I t hought you said we had plans.”
“Oh, I know what I’d like t o do, Anast asia. I’m asking you what you want t o do.” I beam at him.
“I see,” he says wit h a wickedly salacious grin. “So . . . begging it is, t hen. Do you want t o beg at
my place or yours?” He t ilt s his head t o one side and smiles his oh-so-sexy smile at me.
“I t hink you’re being very presumpt uous, Mr. Grey. But by way of a change, we could go t o my
apart ment .” I bit e my lip deliberat ely, and his expression darkens.
“Taylor, Miss St eele’s, please.”
“Sir,” Taylor acknowledges and he heads off int o t he t raffic.
“So how has your day been?” he asks.
“Good. Yours?”
“Good, t hank you.”
His ridiculously broad grin reflect s mine, and he kisses my hand again.
“You look lovely,” he says.
“As do you.”
“Your boss, Jack Hyde, is he good at his job?”
Whoa! That ’s a sudden change in direct ion? I frown. “Why? This isn’t about your pissing
cont est ?”
Christ ian smirks. “That man want s int o your pant ies, Anast asia,” he says dryly.
I go crimson as my mout h drops open, and I glance nervously at Taylor. My subconscious
inhales sharply, shocked.
“Well, he can want all he likes . . . why are we even having t his conversat ion? You know I have
no int erest in him what soever. He’s just my boss.”
“That ’s t he point . He want s what ’s mine. I need t o know if he’s good at his job.” I shrug. “I t hink
so.” Where is he going wit h t his?
“Well, he’d bet t er leave you alone, or he’ll find himself on his ass on t he sidewalk.”
“Oh, Christ ian, what are you t alking about ? He hasn’t done anyt hing wrong.” . . . Yet.
He just st ands t oo close.
“He makes one move, you t ell me. It ’s called gross moral t urpit ude—or sexual harass-ment .”
“It was just a drink aft er work.”
“I mean it . One move and he’s out .”
“You don’t have t hat kind of power.” Honest ly! And before I roll my eyes at him, t he realizat ion
hit s me wit h t he force of a speeding freight t ruck. “Do you, Christ ian?” Christ ian gives me his
enigmat ic smile.
“You’re buying t he company,” I whisper in horror.
His smile slips in response t o t he panic in my voice. “Not exact ly,” he says.
“You’ve bought it . SIP. Already.”
He blinks at me, warily. “Possibly.”
“You have or you haven’t ?”
“Have.”
What the hell? “Why?” I gasp, appalled. Oh, t his just is t oo much.
“Because I can, Anast asia. I need you safe.”
“But you said you wouldn’t int erfere in my career!”
“And I won’t .”
I snat ch my hand out of his. “Christ ian . . .” Words fail me.
“Are you mad at me?”
“Yes. Of course I’m mad at you.” I seet he. “I mean, what kind of responsible business execut ive
makes decisions based on who t hey are current ly fucking?” I blanch and glance nervously once
more at Taylor who is st oically ignoring us.
Shit . What a t ime t o have a brain-t o-mout h filt er malfunct ion. Anastasia! My subconscious
glares at me.
Christ ian opens his mout h t hen closes it again and scowls at me. I glare at him. The
at mosphere in t he car plunges from warm wit h sweet reunion t o frigid wit h unspoken words
and pot ent ial recriminat ions as we glower at each ot her.
Fort unat ely, our uncomfort able car journey doesn’t last long, and Taylor pulls up out side my
apart ment .
I scramble out of t he car quickly, not wait ing for anyone t o open t he door.
I hear Christ ian mut t er t o Taylor, “I t hink you’d bet t er wait here.” I sense him st anding close
behind me as I st ruggle t o find t he front door keys in my purse.
“Anast asia,” he says calmly as if I’m some cornered wild animal.
I sigh and t urn t o face him. I am so mad at him, my anger is palpable—a dark ent it y t hreat ening
t o choke me.
“First , I haven’t fucked you for a while—a long while, it feels—and second, I want ed t o get int o
publishing. Of t he four companies in Seat t le, SIP is t he most profit able, but it ’s on t he cusp and
it ’s going t o st agnat e—it needs t o branch out .” I st are frigidly at him. His eyes are so int ense,
t hreat ening even, but sexy as hell. I could get lost in t heir st eely dept hs.
“So you’re my boss now,” I snap.
“Technically, I’m your boss’s boss’s boss.”
“And, t echnically, it ’s gross moral t urpit ude—t he fact t hat I am fucking my boss’s boss’s boss.”
“At t he moment , you’re arguing wit h him.” Christ ian scowls.
“That ’s because he’s such an arse,” I hiss.
Christ ian st eps back in st unned surprise. Oh shit. Have I gone t oo far?
“An arse?” he murmurs as his expression changes t o one of amusement .
Goddamn it! I am mad at you, do not make me laugh!
“Yes.” I st ruggle t o maint ain my look of moral out rage.
“An arse?” Christ ian says again. This t ime his lips t wit ch wit h a repressed smile.
“Don’t make me laugh when I am mad at you!” I shout .
And he smiles, a dazzling, full-t oot hed, all-American-boy smile, and I can’t help it . I am grinning
and laughing, t oo. How could I not be affect ed by t he joy I see in his smile?
“Just because I have a st upid damn grin on my face doesn’t mean I’m not mad as hell at you,” I
mut t er breat hlessly, t rying t o suppress my high-school-cheerleader giggling.
Though I was never cheerleader—t he bit t er t hought crosses my mind.
He leans in, and I t hink he’s going t o kiss me but he doesn’t . He nuzzles my hair and inhales
deeply.
“As ever, Miss St eele, you are unexpect ed.” He leans back and gazes at me, his eyes dancing
wit h humor. “So are you going t o invit e me in, or am I t o be sent packing for exercising my
democrat ic right as an American cit izen, ent repreneur, and consumer t o purchase what ever I
damn well please?”
“Have you spoken t o Dr. Flynn about t his?”
He laughs. “Are you going t o let me in or not , Anast asia?” I t ry for a grudging look—bit ing my lip
helps—but I’m smiling as I open t he door.
Christ ian t urns and waves t o Taylor, and t he Audi pulls away.
It ’s odd having Christ ian Grey in t he apart ment . The place feels t oo small for him.
I am st ill mad at him—his st alking knows no bounds, and it dawns on me t hat t his is how he
knew about t he e-mail being monit ored at SIP. He probably knows more about SIP
t han I do. The t hought is unsavory.
What can I do? Why does he have t his need t o keep me safe? I am a grown-up— sort of—for
heaven’s sake. What can I do t o reassure him?
I gaze at his beaut iful face as he paces t he room like a caged predat or, and my anger subsides.
Seeing him here in my space when I t hought we were over is heart warming.
More t han heart warming, I love him, and my heart swells wit h a nervous, heady elat ion.
He glances around, assessing his surroundings.
“Nice place,” he says.
“Kat e’s parent s bought it for her.”
He nods dist ract edly, and his bold gray eyes come t o rest on mine, st aring at me.
“Er . . . would you like a drink?” I mut t er, flushing wit h nerves.
“No, t hank you, Anast asia.” His eyes darken.
Oh crap. Why am I so nervous?
“What would you like t o do, Anast asia?” he asks soft ly as he walks t oward me, all feral and hot .
“I know what I want t o do,” he adds in a low voice.
I back up unt il I bump against t he concret e kit chen island.
“I’m st ill mad at you.”
“I know.” He smiles a lopsided apologet ic smile and I melt . . . Well, maybe not so mad.
“Would you like somet hing t o eat ?” I ask.
He nods slowly. “Yes. You,” he murmurs. Everyt hing sout h of my waist line clenches.
I’m seduced by his voice alone, but t hat look, t hat hungry I-want -you-now look—oh my.
He’s st anding in front of me, not quit e t ouching, st aring down int o my eyes and bat hing me in
t he heat t hat ’s radiat ing off his body. I’m st iflingly hot , flust ered, and my legs are like jelly as
dark desire courses t hrough me. I want him.
“Have you eat en t oday?” he murmurs.
“I had a sandwich at lunch,” I whisper. I don’t want t o t alk food.
He narrows his eyes. “You need t o eat .”
“I’m really not hungry right now . . . for food.”
“What are you hungry for, Miss St eele?”
“I t hink you know, Mr. Grey.”
He leans down, and again I t hink he’s going t o kiss me, but he doesn’t .
“Do you want me t o kiss you, Anast asia?” he whispers soft ly in my ear.
“Yes,” I breat he.
“Where?”
“Everywhere.”
“You’re going t o have t o be a bit more specific t han t hat . I t old you I am not going t o t ouch you
unt il you beg me and t ell me what t o do.”
My inner goddess is writ hing on her chaise longue. I am lost ; he’s not playing fair.
“Please,” I whisper.
“Please what ?”
“Touch me.”
“Where, baby?”
He is so t ant alizingly close, his scent int oxicat ing. I reach up, and immediat ely he st eps
back.“No, no,” he chides, his eyes suddenly wide and alarmed.
“What ?” No . . . come back.
“No.” He shakes his head.
“Not at all?” I can’t keep t he longing out of my voice.
He looks at me uncert ainly, and I’m emboldened by his hesit at ion. I st ep t oward him, and he
st eps back, holding up his hands in defense, but smiling.
“Look, Ana.” It ’s a warning, and he runs his hand t hrough his hair, exasperat ed.
“Somet imes you don’t mind,” I observe plaint ively. “Perhaps I should find a marker pen, and we
could map out t he no-go areas.”
He raises an eyebrow. “That ’s not a bad idea. Where’s your bedroom?” I nod in t he direct ion. Is
he deliberat ely changing t he subject ?
“Have you been t aking your pill?”
Oh shit. My pill.
His face falls at my expression.
“No,” I squeak.
“I see,” he says, and his lips press int o a t hin line. “Come, let ’s have somet hing t o eat .” Oh no!
“I t hought we were going t o bed! I want t o go t o bed wit h you.”
“I know, baby.” He smiles, and suddenly dart ing t oward me, he grabs my wrist s and pulls me
int o his arms so t hat his body is pressed against mine.
“You need t o eat and so do I,” he murmurs, burning gray eyes gazing down at me.
“Besides . . . ant icipat ion is t he key t o seduct ion, and right now, I’m really int o delayed
grat ificat ion.”
Huh, since when?
“I’m seduced and I want my grat ificat ion now. I’ll beg, please.” I sound whiney. My inner goddess
is beside herself.
He smiles at me t enderly. “Eat . You’re t oo slender.” He kisses my forehead and releases me.
This is a game, part of some evil plan. I scowl at him.
“I’m st ill mad t hat you bought SIP, and now I am mad at you because you’re making me wait .” I
pout .
“You are one angry lit t le madam, aren’t you? You’ll feel bet t er aft er a good meal.”
“I know what I’ll feel bet t er aft er.”
“Anast asia St eele, I’m shocked.” His t one is gent ly mocking.
“St op t easing me. You don’t fight fair.”
He st ifles his grin by bit ing his lower lip. He looks simply adorable . . . playful Christ ian t oying wit h
my libido. If only my seduct ion skills were bet t er, I’d know what t o do, but not being able t o
t ouch him does hamper me.
My inner goddess narrows her eyes and looks t hought ful. We need t o work on t his.
As Christ ian and I gaze at each ot her—me hot , bot hered and yearning and him, relaxed and
amused at my expense—I realize I have no food in t he apart ment .
“I could cook somet hing—except we’ll have t o go shopping.”
“Shopping?”
“For groceries.”
“You have no food here?” His expression hardens.
I shake my head. Crap, he looks quit e angry.
“Let ’s go shopping, t hen,” he says st ernly as he t urns on his heel and heads for t he door,
opening it wide for me.
“When was t he last t ime you were in a supermarket ?”
Christ ian looks out of place, but he follows me dut ifully, holding a shopping basket .
“I can’t remember.”
“Does Mrs. Jones do all t he shopping?”
“I t hink Taylor helps her. I’m not sure.”
“Are you happy wit h a st ir-fry? It ’s quick.”
“St ir-fry sounds good.” Christ ian grins, no doubt figuring out my ult erior mot ive for a speedy
meal.
“Have t hey worked for you long?”
“Taylor, four years, I t hink. Mrs. Jones about t he same. Why didn’t you have any food in t he
apart ment ?”
“You know why,” I murmur, flushing.
“It was you who left me,” he mut t ers disapprovingly.
“I know,” I reply in a small voice, not want ing t hat reminder.
We reach t he checkout and silent ly st and in line.
If I hadn’t left, would he have offered the vanilla alternative? I wonder idly.
“Do you have anyt hing t o drink?” He pulls me back t o t he present .
“Beer . . . I t hink.”
“I’ll get some wine.”
Oh dear. I’m not sure what sort of wine is available in Ernie’s Supermarket . Christ ian remerges
empt y handed, grimacing wit h a look of disgust .
“There’s a good liquor st ore next door,” I say quickly.
“I’ll see what t hey have.”
Maybe we should just go t o his place, t hen we wouldn’t have all t his hassle. I wat ch as he
st rolls purposefully and wit h easy grace out of t he door. Two women coming in st op and st are.
Oh yes, eye my Fifty Shades, I t hink despondent ly.
I want t he memory of him in my bed, but he’s playing hard t o get . Maybe I should, t oo.
My inner goddess nods frant ically in agreement . And as I st and in line, we come up wit h a plan.
Hmm . . .
Christ ian carries t he grocery bags int o t he apart ment . He’s carried t hem as we’ve walked back
t o t he apart ment from t he st ore. He looks odd. Not his usual CEO demeanor at all.
“You look very—domest ic.”
“No one has ever accused me of t hat before,” he says dryly. He places t he bags on t he kit chen
island. As I st art t o unload t hem, he t akes out a bot t le of whit e wine and searches for a
corkscrew.
“This place is st ill new t o me. I t hink t he opener is in t hat drawer t here.” I point wit h my chin.
This feels so . . . normal. Two people, get t ing t o know each ot her, having a meal. Yet it ’s so
st range. The fear t hat I’d always felt in his presence has gone. We’ve already done so much
t oget her, I blush just t hinking about it , and yet I hardly know him.
“What are you t hinking about ?” Christ ian int errupt s my reverie as he shrugs out of his pinst ripe
jacket and places it on t he couch.
“How lit t le I know you, really.”
He gazes at me and his eyes soft en. “You know me bet t er t han anyone.”
“I don’t t hink t hat ’s t rue.” Mrs. Robinson comes unbidden, and very unwelcome, int o my mind.
“It is, Anast asia. I am a very, very privat e person.” He hands me a glass of whit e wine.
“Cheers,” he says.
“Cheers,” I respond t aking a sip as he put s t he bot t le in t he fridge.
“Can I help you wit h t hat ?” he asks.
“No it ’s fine . . . sit .”
“I’d like t o help.” His expression is sincere.
“You can chop t he veget ables.”
“I don’t cook,” he says, regarding t he knife I hand him wit h suspicion.
“I imagine you don’t need t o.” I place a chopping board and some red peppers in front of him.
He st ares down at t hem in confusion.
“You’ve never chopped a veget able?”
“No.”
I smirk at him.
“Are you smirking at me?”
“It appears t his is somet hing t hat I can do and you can’t . Let ’s face it , Christ ian, I t hink t his is a
first . Here, I’ll show you.”
I brush up against him and he st eps back. My inner goddess sit s up and t akes not ice.
“Like t his.” I slice t he red pepper, careful t o remove t he seeds.
“Looks simple enough.”
“You shouldn’t have any t rouble wit h it ,” I mut t er ironically.
He gazes at me impassively for a moment t hen set s about his t ask as I cont inue t o prepare
t he diced chicken. He st art s t o slice, carefully, slowly. Oh my, we’ll be here all day.
I wash my hands and hunt for t he wok, t he oil, and t he ot her ingredient s I need, repeat edly
brushing against him—my hip, my arm, my back, my hands. Small, seemingly innocent t ouches.
He st ills each t ime I do.
“I know what you’re doing, Anast asia,” he murmurs darkly, st ill preparing t he first pepper.
“I t hink it ’s called cooking,” I say, flut t ering my eyelashes. Grabbing anot her knife, I join him at
t he chopping board peeling and slicing garlic, shallot s, and French beans, cont inually bumping
against him.
“You’re quit e good at t his,” he mut t ers as he st art s on his second red pepper.
“Chopping?” I bat my eyelashes at him. “Years of pract ice.” I brush against him again, t his t ime
wit h my behind. He st ills once more.
“If you do t hat again, Anast asia, I am going t o t ake you on t he kit chen floor.” Oh, wow. It ’s
working. “You’ll have t o beg me first .”
“Is t hat a challenge?”
“Maybe.”
He put s down his knife and saunt ers slowly over t o me, his eyes burning. Leaning past me, he
swit ches t he gas off. The oil in t he wok quiet s almost immediat ely.
“I t hink we’ll eat lat er,” he says. “Put t he chicken in t he fridge.” This is not a sent ence I had ever
expect ed t o hear from Christ ian Grey, and only he can make it sound hot , really hot . I pick up
t he bowl of diced chicken, rat her shakily place a plat e on t op of it , and st ow it in t he fridge.
When I t urn back, he’s beside me.
“So you’re going t o beg?” I whisper, bravely gazing int o his darkening eyes.
“No, Anast asia.” He shakes his head. “No begging.” His voice is soft , seduct ive.
And we st and st aring at each ot her, drinking each ot her in—t he at mosphere charging
bet ween us, almost crackling, neit her saying anyt hing, just looking. I bit e my lip as desire for t his
beaut iful man seizes me wit h a vengeance, ignit ing my blood, shallowing my breat h, pooling
below my waist . I see my react ions reflect ed in his st ance, in his eyes.
In a beat , he grabs me by my hips and pulls me t o him as my hands reach for his hair and his
mout h claims me. He pushes me against t he fridge, and I hear t he vague prot est ing rat t le of
bot t les and jars from wit hin as his t ongue finds mine. I moan int o his mout h, and one of his
hands moves int o my hair, pulling my head back as we kiss, savagely.
“What do you want , Anast asia?” he breat hes.
“You.” I gasp.
“Where?”
“Bed.”
He breaks free, scoops me int o his arms, and carries me quickly and seemingly wit hout any
st rain int o my bedroom. Set t ing me on my feet beside my bed, he leans down and swit ches on
my bedside lamp. He glances quickly round t he room and hast ily closes t he pale cream
curt ains.
“Now what ?” he says soft ly.
“Make love t o me.”
“How?”
Jeez.
“You have got t o t ell me, baby.”
Holy crap. “Undress me.” I am pant ing already.
He smiles and hooks his index finger int o my open shirt , pulling me t oward him.
“Good girl,” he murmurs, and wit hout t aking his blazing eyes off mine, slowly st art s t o unbut t on
my shirt .
Tent at ively I put my hands on his arms t o st eady myself. He doesn’t complain. His arms are a
safe area. When he’s finished wit h t he but t ons, he pulls my shirt over my shoulders, and I let go
of him t o let t he shirt fall t o t he floor. He reaches down t o t he waist band of my jeans, pops t he
but t on, and pulls down t he zipper.
“Tell me what you want , Anast asia.” His eyes smolder and his lips part as he t akes quick
shallow breat hs.
“Kiss me from here t o here,” I whisper t railing my finger from t he base of my ear, down my
t hroat . He smoot hes my hair out of t he line of fire and bends, leaving sweet soft kisses along
t he pat h my finger t ook and t hen back again.
“My jeans and pant ies,” I murmur, and he smiles against my t hroat before he drops t o his knees
in front of me. Oh, I feel so powerful. Hooking his t humbs int o my jeans, he gent ly pulls t hem
and my pant ies down my legs. I st ep out of my pumps and my clot hes so t hat I’m left wearing
only my bra. He st ops and looks up at me expect ant ly, but he doesn’t get up.
“What now, Anast asia?”
“Kiss me,” I whisper.
“Where?”
“You know where.”
“Where?”
Oh, he’s t aking no prisoners. Embarrassed I quickly point at t he apex of my t highs, and he grins
wickedly. I close my eyes, mort ified, but at t he same t ime beyond aroused.
“Oh, wit h pleasure,” he chuckles. He kisses me and unleashes his t ongue, his joy-inspiring
expert t ongue. I groan and fist my hands int o his hair. He doesn’t st op, his t ongue circling my
clit oris, driving me insane, on and on, round and round. Ahhh . . . it’s only been . . . how long . . .
? Oh . . .
“Christ ian, please,” I beg. I don’t want t o come st anding up. I don’t have t he st rengt h.
“Please what , Anast asia?”
“Make love t o me.”
“I am,” he murmurs, gent ly blowing against me.
“No. I want you inside me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Please.”
He doesn’t st op his sweet , exquisit e t ort ure. I moan loudly.
“Christ ian . . . please.”
He st ands and gazes down at me, and his lips glist en wit h t he evidence of my arousal.
Holy cow . . .
“Well?” he asks.
“Well what ?” I pant , st aring up at him in frant ic need.
“I’m st ill dressed.”
I gape at him in confusion.
Undress him? Yes, I can do t his. I reach for his shirt and he st eps back.
“Oh no,” he admonishes. Shit , he means his jeans.
Oh, and t his gives me an idea. My inner goddess cheers loudly t o t he raft ers, and I drop t o my
knees in front of him. Rat her clumsily and wit h shaking fingers, I undo his waist band and fly,
t hen yank down his jeans and boxers, and he springs free. Wow.
I peek up at him t hrough my lashes, and he’s gazing at me wit h . . . what ? Trepidat ion?
Awe? Surprise?
He st eps out of his jeans and pulls off his socks, and I t ake hold of him in my hand and squeeze
t ight ly, pushing my hand back like he’s shown me before. He groans and t enses, and his breat h
hisses t hrough clenched t eet h. Very t ent at ively, I put him in my mout h and suck—hard. Mmm,
he t ast es good.
“Ahh. Ana . . . whoa, gent ly.”
He cups my head t enderly, and I push him deeper int o my mout h, pressing my lips t oget her as
t ight ly as I can, sheat hing my t eet h, and sucking hard.
“Fuck,” he hisses.
Oh, t hat ’s a good, inspiring, sexy sound, so I do it again, pulling his lengt h deeper, swirling my
t ongue around t he end. Hmm . . . I feel like Aphrodit e.
“Ana, t hat ’s enough. No more.”
I do it again— Beg, Grey, beg— and again.
“Ana, you’ve made your point ,” he grunt s t hrough grit t ed t eet h. “I do not want t o come in your
mout h.”
I do it once more, and he bends down, grasps me by my shoulders, hauls me t o my feet , and
t osses me on t he bed. Dragging his shirt over his head, he t hen reaches down t o his discarded
jeans, and like a good boy scout , produces a foil packet . He’s pant ing, like me.
“Take your bra off,” he orders.
I sit up and do as I’m t old.
“Lie down. I want t o look at you.”
I lie down, gazing up at him as he slowly rolls t he condom on. I want him so badly. He st ares
down at me and licks his lips.
“You are a fine sight , Anast asia St eele.” He bends over t he bed and slowly crawls up and over
me, kissing me as he goes. He kisses each of my breast s and t eases my nipples in t urn, while I
groan and writ he beneat h him, and he doesn’t st op.
No . . . Stop. I want you.
“Christ ian, please.”
“Please what ?” he murmurs bet ween my breast s.
“I want you inside me.”
“Do you now?”
“Please.”
Gazing at me, he pushes my legs apart wit h his and moves so t hat he’s hovering above me.
Wit hout t aking his eyes off mine, he sinks int o me at a deliciously slow pace.
I close my eyes, relishing t he fullness, t he exquisit e feeling of his possession, inst inct ively t ilt ing
my pelvis up t o meet him, t o join wit h him, groaning loudly. He eases back and very slowly fills
me again. My fingers find t heir way int o his silken unruly hair, and he oh-so-slowly moves in and
out again.
“Fast er, Christ ian, fast er . . . please.”
He gazes down at me in t riumph and kisses me hard, t hen really st art s t o move— holy cow, a
punishing, relentless . . . oh fuck—and I know it will not be long. He set s a pounding rhyt hm. I
st art t o quicken, my legs t ensing beneat h him.
“Come on, baby,” he gasps. “Give it t o me.”
His words are my undoing, and I explode, magnificent ly, mind-numbingly, int o a million pieces
around him, and he follows calling out my name.
“Ana! Oh fuck, Ana!” He collapses on t op of me, his head buried in my neck.
As sanit y ret urns, I open my eyes and gaze up int o t he face of t he man I love. Christ ian’s
expression is soft , t ender. He st rokes his nose against mine, bearing his weight on his elbows,
his hands holding mine by t he side of my head. Sadly, I suspect t hat ’s so I don’t t ouch him. He
plant s a gent le kiss on my lips as he eases himself out of me.
“I’ve missed t his,” he breat hes.
“Me t oo,” I whisper.
He t akes hold of my chin and kisses me hard. A passionat e, beseeching kiss, asking for what ? I
don’t know. It leaves me breat hless.
“Don’t leave me again,” he implores, looking deep int o my eyes, his face serious.
“Okay,” I whisper and smile at him. His answering smile is dazzling; relief, elat ion, and boyish
delight combined int o one enchant ing look t hat would melt t he coldest of heart s.
“Thank you for t he iPad.”
“You are most welcome, Anast asia.”
“What ’s your favorit e song on t here?”
“Now t hat would be t elling.” He grins. “Come cook me some food, wench. I’m famished,” he
adds, sit t ing up suddenly and dragging me wit h him.
“Wench?” I giggle.
“Wench. Food, now, please.”
“Since you ask so nicely, sire, I’ll get right on t o it .” As I scramble out of bed, I dislodge my pillow,
revealing t he deflat ed helicopt er balloon underneat h. Christ ian reaches for it and gazes up at
me, puzzled.
“That ’s my balloon,” I say, feeling propriet ary as I reach for my robe and wrap it round myself.
Oh jeez . . . why did he have to find that?
“In your bed?” he murmurs.
“Yes,” I flush. “It ’s been keeping me company.”
“Lucky Charlie Tango,” he says, in surprise.
Yes, I’m sentimental, Grey, because I love you.
“My balloon,” I say again and t urn on my heel and head out t o t he kit chen, leaving him grinning
from ear t o ear.
Christ ian and I sit on Kat e’s persian rug, eat ing st ir-fry chicken and noodles from whit e china
bowls wit h chopst icks and sipping chilled whit e Pinot Grigio. Christ ian leans against t he couch,
his long legs st ret ched out in front of him. He’s wearing his jeans and his shirt wit h his just -
fucked hair, and t hat ’s all. The Buena Vist a Social Club croons soft ly in t he background from
Christ ian’s iPod.
“This is good,” he says appreciat ively as he digs int o his food.
I sit cross-legged beside him, eat ing greedily, beyond hungry, and admire his naked feet .“I
usually do all t he cooking. Kat e isn’t a great cook.”
“Did you your mot her t each you?”
“Not really,” I scoff. “By t he t ime I was int erest ed in learning, my mom was living wit h Husband
Number Three in Mansfield, Texas. And Ray, well, he would’ve lived on t oast and t akeout if it
wasn’t for me.”
Christ ian gazes down at me. “You didn’t st ay in Texas wit h your mom?”
“No. St eve, her husband and I, we didn’t get along. And I missed Ray. Her marriage t o St eve
didn’t last long. She came t o her senses, I t hink. She never t alks about him,” I add quiet ly. I t hink
t hat ’s a dark part of her life, which we’ve never discussed.
“So you came back t o Washingt on t o live wit h your st epfat her.”
“Yes.”
“Sounds like you looked aft er him,” he says soft ly.
“I suppose.” I shrug.
“You’re used t o t aking care of people.”
The edge in his voice at t ract s my at t ent ion, and I glance up at him.
“What is it ?” I ask, st art led by his wary expression.
“I want t o t ake care of you.” His luminous eyes glow wit h some unnamed emot ion.
My heart rat e spikes.
“I’ve not iced,” I whisper. “You just go about it in a st range way.” His brow creases. “It ’s t he only
way I know how,” he says quiet ly.
“I’m st ill mad at you for buying SIP.”
He smiles. “I know but you being mad, baby, wouldn’t st op me.”
“What am I going t o say t o my work colleagues, t o Jack?” He narrows his eyes. “That fucker
bet t er wat ch himself.”
“Christ ian!” I admonish. “He’s my boss.”
Christ ian’s mout h presses int o a hard line. He looks like a recalcit rant schoolboy.
“Don’t t ell t hem,” he says.
“Don’t t ell t hem what ?”
“That I own it . The heads of agreement was signed yest erday. The news is embargoed for four
weeks while t he management at SIP makes some changes.”
“Oh . . . will I be out of a job?” I ask, alarmed.
“I sincerely doubt it ,” Christ ian says wryly, t rying t o st ifle his smile.
I scowl. “If I leave and find anot her job, will you buy t hat company, t oo?”
“You’re not t hinking of leaving, are you?” His expression alt ers, wary once more.
“Possibly. I’m not sure you’ve given me a great deal of choice.”
“Yes, I will buy t hat company, t oo.” He is adamant .
I scowl at him again. I am in a no-win sit uat ion here.
“Don’t you t hink you’re being a t ad overprot ect ive?”
“Yes. I am fully aware of how t his looks.”
“Paging Dr. Flynn,” I murmur.
He put s down his empt y bowl and gazes at me impassively. I sigh. I don’t want t o fight .
St anding up, I reach for his bowl.
“Would you like dessert ?”
“Now you’re t alking!” he says, giving me a lascivious grin.
“Not me.” Why not me? My inner goddess wakes from her doze and sit s upright , all ears. “We
have ice cream. Vanilla.” I snicker.
“Really?” Christ ian’s grin get s bigger. “I t hink we could do somet hing wit h t hat .” What? I st are
at him dumbfounded as he gracefully get s t o his feet .
“Can I st ay?” he asks.
“What do you mean?”
“The night .”
“I assumed t hat you were.” I flush.
“Good. Where’s t he ice cream?”
“In t he oven.” I smile sweet ly at him.
He cocks his head t o one side, sighs, and shakes his head at me. “Sarcasm is t he lowest form
of wit , Miss St eele.” His eyes glit t er.
Oh shit. What’s he planning?
“I could st ill t ake you across my knee.”
I place t he bowls in t he sink. “Do you have t hose silver ball t hings?” He pat s his hands down his
chest , belly, and t he pocket s of his jeans. “Funnily enough, I don’t carry a spare set around wit h
me. Not much call for t hem in t he office.”
“I am very glad t o hear it , Mr. Grey, and I t hought you said t hat sarcasm was t he lowest form of
wit .”
“Well, Anast asia, my new mot t o is if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I gape at him— I can’t believe
he’s just said that—and he looks sickeningly pleased wit h himself as he grins at me. Turning, he
opens t he freezer and t akes out t he cart on of Ben & Jerry’s finest vanilla.
“This will do just fine.” He looks up at me, eyes dark. “Ben & Jerry’s & Ana.” He says each word
slowly, enunciat ing every syllable clearly.
Oh fucking my. I t hink my lower jaw is on t he floor. He opens t he cut lery drawer and grabs a
spoon. When he looks up, his are eyes hooded, and his t ongue skims his t op t eet h.
Oh, t hat t ongue.
I feel winded. Desire, dark, sleek, and want on runs hot t hrough my veins. We’re going t o have
fun, wit h food.
“I hope you’re warm,” he whispers. “I’m going t o cool you down wit h t his. Come.” He holds out
his hand, and I place mine in his.
In my bedroom he places t he ice cream on my bedside t able, pulls t he duvet off t he bed, and
removes bot h t he pillows, placing t hem all in a pile on t he floor.
“You have a change of sheet s, don’t you?”
I nod, wat ching him, fascinat ed. He holds up Charlie Tango.
“Don’t mess wit h my balloon,” I warn.
His lips quirk upward in half a smile. “Wouldn’t dream of it , baby, but I do want t o mess wit h you
and t hese sheet s.”
My body pract ically convulses.
“I want t o t ie you up.”
Oh. “Okay,” I whisper.
“Just your hands. To t he bed. I need you st ill.”
“Okay,” I whisper again, incapable of anyt hing more.
He st rolls over t o me, not t aking his eyes off mine.
“We’ll use t his.” He t akes hold of my robe sash and wit h delicious, t easing slowness, releases
t he bow, and gent ly pulls it free of t he garment .
My robe falls open while I st and paralyzed under his heat ed gaze. Aft er a moment , he pushes
t he robe off my shoulders. It falls and pools at my feet so t hat I’m st anding naked before him.
He st rokes my face wit h t he backs of his knuckles, and his t ouch resonat es in t he dept hs of
my groin. Bending, he kisses my lips briefly.
“Lie on t he bed, face up,” he murmurs, his eyes darkening, burning int o mine.
I do as I’m t old. My room is shrouded in darkness except for t he soft , insipid light from my lamp.
Normally, I hat e energy-saving bulbs—t hey are so dim—but being naked here, wit h Christ ian,
I’m grat eful for t he mut ed light . He st ands by t he bed gazing down at me.
“I could look at you all day, Anast asia,” he says, and wit h t hat crawls on t o t he bed, up my body,
and st raddles me.
“Arms above your head,” he commands.
I comply and he fast ens t he end of my robe sash round my left wrist and t hreads t he end
t hrough t he met al bars at t he head of my bed. He pulls it t ight so my left arm is flexed above
me. He t hen secures my right hand, t ying t he sash t ight ly.
When I’m t ied-up, st aring at him, he visibly relaxes. He likes me t et hered. I can’t t ouch him t his
way. It occurs t o me t hat none of his subs would have t ouched him eit her—and what ’s more,
t hey would never have t he opport unit y t o. He would have always been in cont rol and at a
dist ance. That ’s why he likes his rules.
He climbs off me and bends t o give me a quick peck on t he lips. Then he st ands and lift s his
shirt over his head. He undoes his jeans and drops t hem t o t he floor.
He is gloriously naked. My inner goddess is doing a t riple axel dismount off t he un-even bars,
and abrupt ly my mout h is dry. He really is beyond beaut iful. He has a physique drawn on
classical lines: broad muscular shoulders, narrow hips, t he invert ed t riangle. He obviously works
out . I could look at him all day. He moves t o t he end of t he bed and grasps my ankles, pulling
me swift ly and sharply downward so t hat my arms are st ret ched out and unable t o move.
“That ’s bet t er,” he mut t ers.
Picking up t he t ub of ice cream, he climbs smoot hly back ont o t he bed t o st raddle me once
more. Very slowly, he peels off t he lid of t he t ub and dips t he spoon in.
“Hmm . . . it ’s st ill quit e hard,” he says wit h a raised brow. Scooping out a spoonful of t he vanilla,
he pops it int o his mout h. “Delicious,” he murmurs, licking his lips. “Amazing how good plain old
vanilla can t ast e.” He gazes down at me and smirks. “Want some?” he t eases.
He looks so freaking hot , young and carefree—sit t ing on me and eat ing from a t ub of ice cream
—eyes bright , face luminous. Oh what t he hell is he going t o do t o me? As if I can’t t ell. I nod,
shyly.
He scoops out anot her spoonful and offers me t he spoon, so I open my mout h, t hen he quickly
pops it in his mout h again.
“This is t oo good t o share,” he says, smiling wickedly.
“Hey,” I st art in prot est .
“Why, Miss St eele, do you like your vanilla?”
“Yes,” I say more forcefully t han I mean and t ry in vain t o buck him off.
He laughs. “Get t ing feist y, are we? I wouldn’t do t hat if I were you.”
“Ice cream,” I plead.
“Well, as you’ve pleased me so much t oday, Miss St eele.” He relent s and offers me anot her
spoonful. This t ime he let s me eat it .
I want t o giggle. He’s really enjoying himself, and his good humor is infect ious. He scoops
anot her spoonful and feeds me some more, t hen he does it again. Okay, enough.
“Hmm, well, t his is one way t o ensure you eat —force-feed you. I could get used t o t his.”Taking
anot her spoonful, he offers me more. This t ime I keep my mout h shut and shake my head, and
he let s it slowly melt on t he spoon so t hat t he melt ed ice cream drips, ont o my t hroat , ont o my
chest . He dips down and very slowly licks it off. My body light s up wit h longing.
“Mmm. Tast es even bet t er off you, Miss St eele.”
I pull against my rest raint s and t he bed creaks ominously, but I don’t care—I’m burning wit h
desire, it ’s consuming me. He t akes anot her spoonful and let s t he ice cream dribble ont o my
breast s. Then wit h t he back of t he spoon, he spreads it over each breast and nipple.
Oh . . . it’s cold. Each nipple peaks and hardens beneat h t he cool of t he vanilla.
“Cold?” Christ ian asks soft ly and bends t o lick and suckle all t he ice cream off me once more,
his mout h hot compared t o t he cool of t he ice.
Oh my. It ’s t ort ure. As it st art s t o melt , t he ice cream runs off me in rivulet s on t o t he bed. His
lips cont inue t heir slow t ort ure, sucking hard, nuzzling, soft ly— Oh please! —I’m pant ing.
“Want some?” And before I can confirm or deny his offer, his t ongue is in my mout h, and it ’s
cold and skilled and t ast es of Christ ian and vanilla. Delicious.
And just as I am get t ing used t o t he sensat ion, he sit s up again and t rails a spoonful of ice
cream down t he cent er of my body, across my st omach, and int o my navel where he deposit s a
large dollop of ice cream. Oh, this is chillier than before, but weirdly it burns.
“Now, you’ve done t his before.” Christ ian’s eyes shine. “You’re going t o have t o st ay st ill, or
t here will be ice cream all over t he bed.” He kisses each of my breast s and sucks each of my
nipples hard, t hen follows t he line of ice cream down my body, sucking and licking as he goes.
And I t ry, I t ry t o st ay st ill despit e t he heady combinat ion of cold and his inflaming t ouch. But my
hips st art t o move involunt arily, gyrat ing t o t heir own rhyt hm, caught up in his cool vanilla spell.
He shift s lower and st art s eat ing t he ice cream in my belly, swirling his t ongue int o and around
my navel.
I moan. Holy cow. It ’s cold, it ’s hot , it ’s t ant alizing, but he doesn’t st op. He t rails t he ice cream
furt her down my body, int o my pubic hair, on t o my clit oris. I cry out , loudly.
“Hush now,” Christ ian says soft ly as his magical t ongue set s t o work lapping up t he vanilla, and
now I’m keening quiet ly.
“Oh . . . please . . . Christ ian.”
“I know, baby, I know,” he breat hes as his t ongue works it s magic. He doesn’t st op, just doesn’t
st op, and my body is climbing—higher, higher. He slips one finger inside me, t hen anot her and
he moves t hem wit h agonizing slowness in and out .
“Just here,” he murmurs, and he rhyt hmically st rokes t he front wall of my vagina while he
cont inues t he exquisit e, relent less licking and sucking. Holy fucking cow.
I erupt unexpect edly int o a mind-blowing orgasm t hat st uns all my senses, oblit erat ing all t hat ’s
happening out side of my body as I writ he and groan. Jeez, t hat was so quick.
I am vaguely aware t hat he has st opped his minist rat ions. He’s hovering over me, sliding on a
condom, and t hen he’s inside me, hard and fast .
“Oh yes!” He groans as he slams int o me. He’s st icky—t he residual melt ed ice cream spreading
bet ween us. It ’s a st rangely dist ract ing sensat ion, but one I can’t dwell on for more t han a few
seconds as Christ ian suddenly pulls out of me and flips me over.
“This way,” he murmurs and abrupt ly is inside me once more, but he doesn’t st art his usual
punishing rhyt hm st raight away. He leans over, releases my hands, and pulls me upright so I am
pract ically sit t ing on him. His hands move up t o my breast s, and he palms t hem bot h, t ugging
gent ly on my nipples. I groan, t ossing my head back against his shoulder. He nuzzles my neck,
bit ing down, as he flexes his hips, deliciously slowly, filling me again and again.
“Do you know how much you mean t o me?” he breat hes against my ear.
“No,” I gasp.
He smiles against my neck, and his fingers curl around my jaw and t hroat , holding me fast for a
moment .
“Yes, you do. I’m not going t o let you go.”
I groan as he picks up speed.
“You are mine, Anast asia.”
“Yes, yours,” I pant .
“I t ake care of what ’s mine,” he hisses and bit es my ear.
I cry out .
“That ’s right , baby, I want t o hear you.” He snakes one hand around my waist while his ot her
hand grasps my hip, and he pushes int o me harder, making me cry out again. And t he
punishing rhyt hm st art s. His breat hing grows harsher and harsher, ragged, mat ching mine.
I feel t he familiar quickening deep inside. Jeez again!
I am just sensat ion. This is what he does t o me—t akes my body and possesses it wholly so
t hat I t hink of not hing but him. His magic is powerful, int oxicat ing. I’m a but t erfly caught in his
net , unable and unwilling t o escape. I’m his . . . totally his.
“Come on, baby,” he growls t hrough grit t ed t eet h and on cue, like t he sorcerer’s ap-prent ice I
am, I let go, and we find our release t oget her.
I am lying curled up in his arms on st icky sheet s. His front is pressed t o my back, his nose in my
hair.
“What I feel for you fright ens me,” I whisper.
He st ills. “Me t oo, baby,” he says quiet ly.
“What if you leave me?” The t hought is horrific.
“I’m not going anywhere. I don’t t hink I could ever have my fill of you, Anast asia.” I t urn and gaze
at him. His expression is serious, sincere. I lean over and kiss him gent ly. He smiles and reaches
up t o t uck my hair behind my ear.
“I’ve never felt t he way I felt when you left , Anast asia. I would move heaven and eart h t o avoid
feeling like t hat again.” He sounds so sad, dazed even.
I kiss him again. I want t o light en our mood somehow, but Christ ian does it for me.
“Will you come wit h me t o my fat her’s summer part y t omorrow? It ’s an annual charit y t hing. I
said I’d go.”
I smile, feeling suddenly shy.
“Of course I’ll come.” Oh shit . I have not hing t o wear.
“What ?”
“Not hing.”
“Tell me,” he insist s.
“I have not hing t o wear.”
Christ ian looks moment arily uncomfort able.
“Don’t be mad, but I st ill have all t hose clot hes for you at home. I am sure t here are a couple of
dresses in t here.”
I purse my lips. “Do you, now?” I mut t er, my voice sardonic. I don’t want t o fight wit h him t onight .
I need a shower.
The girl who looks like me is st anding out side SIP. Hang on—she is me. I am pale and un-
washed, and all my clot hes are t oo big; I’m st aring at her, and she’s wearing my clot hes—
happy, healt hy.
“What do you have t hat I don’t ?” I ask her.
“Who are you?”
“I’m nobody . . . Who are you? Are you nobody, t oo . . . ?”
“Then t here’s a pair of us—don’t t ell, t hey’d banish us, you know . . .”1 She smiles, a slow, evil
grimace t hat spreads across her face, and it ’s so chilling t hat I st art t o scream.
“Jesus, Ana!” Christ ian is shaking me awake.
I am so disorient at ed. I’m at home . . . in the dark . . . in bed with Christian. I shake my head,
t rying t o clear my mind.
“Baby, are you okay? You were having a bad dream.”
“Oh.”
He swit ches on t he lamp so we’re bat hed in it s dim light . He gazes down at me, his face et ched
wit h concern.
“The girl,” I whisper.
“What is it ? What girl?” he asks soot hingly.
“There was a girl out side SIP when I left t his evening. She looked like me . . . but not really.”
Christ ian st ills, and as t he light from t he bedside lamp warms up, I see his face is ashen.
“When was t his?” he whispers, dismayed. He sit s up, st aring down at me.
“When I left t his aft ernoon. Do you know who she is?”
“Yes.” He runs a hand t hrough his hair.
“Who?”
His mout h presses int o a hard line, but he says not hing.
“Who?” I press.
“It ’s Leila.”
I swallow. The ex-sub! I remember Christ ian t alking about her before we went gliding.
Suddenly, he’s radiat ing t ension. Somet hing is going on.
“The girl who put ‘Toxic’ on your iPod?”
He glances at me anxiously.
“Yes,” he says. “Did she say anyt hing?”
“She said, ‘what do you have t hat I don’t have?’ and when I asked who she was, she said,
‘nobody.’ ”
Christ ian closes his eyes as if in pain. Oh no. What ’s happened? What does she mean t o him?
My scalp prickles as adrenaline spikes t hrough my body. What if she means a lot to him?
Perhaps he misses her? I know so little about his past . . . um, relationships. She must have
had a cont ract , and she would have done what he want ed, given him what he needed gladly.
1 Emily Dickinson, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” first st anza.
Oh no—when I can’t. The t hought makes me nauseous.
Climbing out of bed, Christ ian drags on his jeans and heads int o t he main room. A glance at my
alarm clock shows it ’s five in t he morning. I roll out of bed, put t ing his whit e shirt on, and follow
him.
Holy shit , he’s on t he phone.
“Yes, out side SIP, yest erday . . . early evening,” he says quiet ly. He t urns t o me as I move
t oward t he kit chen and asks me direct ly, “What t ime exact ly?”
“About t en t o six?” I mumble. Who on eart h is he calling at t his hour? What ’s Leila done? He
relays t he informat ion t o whoever’s on t he line, not t aking his eyes off me, his expression dark
and earnest .
“Find out how . . . Yes . . . I wouldn’t have said so, but t hen I wouldn’t have t hought she could do
t his.” He closes his eyes as if he’s in pain. “I don’t know how t hat will go down . . . Yes, I’ll t alk t o
her . . . Yes . . . I know . . . Follow it up and let me know. Just find her, Welch—she’s in t rouble.
Find her.” He hangs up.
“Do you want some t ea?” I ask. Tea, Ray’s answer t o every crisis and t he only t hing he does
well in t he kit chen. I fill t he ket t le wit h wat er.
“Act ually, I’d like t o go back t o bed.” His look t ells me t hat it ’s not t o sleep.
“Well, I need some t ea. Would you like t o join me for a cup?” I want t o know what ’s going on. I
will not be sidet racked by sex.
He runs his hand t hrough his hair in exasperat ion. “Yes, please,” he says, but I can t ell he’s
irrit at ed.
I put t he ket t le on t he st ove and busy myself wit h t eacups and t he t eapot . My anxiet y level
has shot t o defcon one. Is he going t o t ell me t he problem? Or am I going t o have t o dig? I
sense his eyes on me—sense his uncert aint y, and his anger is palpable. I glance up, and his
eyes glit t er wit h apprehension.
“What is it ?” I ask soft ly.
He shakes his head.
“You’re not going t o t ell me?”
He sighs and closes his eyes. “No.”
“Why?”
“Because it shouldn’t concern you. I don’t want you t angled up in t his.”
“It shouldn’t concern me, but it does. She found me and accost ed me out side my office.
How does she know about me? How does she know where I work? I t hink I have a right t o
know what ’s going on.”
He runs a hand t hrough his hair again, radiat ing frust rat ion as if waging some int ernal bat t le.
“Please?” I ask soft ly.
His mout h set s int o a hard line, and he rolls his eyes at me.
“Okay,” he says, resigned. “I have no idea how she found you. Maybe t he phot ograph of us in
Port land, I don’t know.” He sighs again, and I sense his frust rat ion is direct ed at himself.
I wait pat ient ly, pouring boiling wat er int o t he t eapot as he paces back and fort h. Aft er a beat
he cont inues.
“While I was wit h you in Georgia, Leila t urned up at my apart ment unannounced and made a
scene in front of Gail.”
“Gail?”
“Mrs. Jones.”
“What do you mean, ‘made a scene’?”
He glares at me, appraising.
“Tell me. You’re keeping somet hing back.” My t one is more forceful t han I feel.
He blinks at me, surprised. “Ana, I—” he st ops.
“Please?”
He sighs in defeat . “She made a haphazard at t empt t o open a vein.”
“Oh no!” That explains t he bandage on her wrist .
“Gail got her t o hospit al. But Leila discharged herself before I could get t here.” Crap. What does
t his mean? Suicidal? Why?
“The shrink who saw her called it a t ypical cry for help. He didn’t believe her t o be t ruly at risk—
one st ep from suicidal ideat ion, he called it . But I’m not convinced. I’ve been t rying t o t rack her
down since t hen t o get her some help.”
“Did she say anyt hing t o Mrs. Jones?”
He gazes at me. He looks really uncomfort able.
“Not much,” he says event ually, but I know he’s not t elling me everyt hing.
I dist ract myself wit h pouring t ea int o t eacups. So Leila want s back int o Christ ian’s life and
chooses a suicide at t empt t o at t ract his at t ent ion? Whoa . . . scary. But effect ive.
Christ ian left Georgia t o be at her side, but she disappears before he get s t here? How odd.
“You can’t find her? What about her family?”
“They don’t know where she is. Neit her does her husband.”
“Husband?”
“Yes,” he says dist ract edly, “she’s been married for about t wo years.” What? “So she was wit h
you while she was married?” Holy fuck. He really has no boundaries.
“No! Good God, no. She was wit h me nearly t hree years ago. Then she left and married t his
guy short ly aft erward.”
Oh. “So why is she t rying t o get your at t ent ion now?” He shakes his head sadly. “I don’t know.
All we’ve managed t o find out is t hat she ran out on her husband about four mont hs ago.”
“Let me get t his st raight . She hasn’t been your submissive for t hree years?”
“About t wo and a half years.”
“And she want ed more.”
“Yes.”
“But you didn’t ?”
“You know t his.”
“So she left you.”
“Yes.”
“So why is she coming t o you now?”
“I don’t know.” And t he t one of t his voice t ells me t hat he at least has a t heory.
“But you suspect . . .”
His eyes narrow percept ibly wit h anger. “I suspect it has somet hing t o do wit h you.” Me? What
would she want wit h me? “What do you have that I don’t?” I st are at Fift y, magnificent ly naked
from t he waist up. I have him; he’s mine. That ’s what I have, and yet she looked like me: same
dark hair and pale skin. I frown at t he t hought . Yes . . . what do I have that she doesn’t?
“Why didn’t you t ell me yest erday?” he asks soft ly.
“I forgot about her.” I shrug apologet ically. “You know, drinks aft er work, at t he end of my first
week. You t urning up at t he bar and your . . . t est ost erone rush wit h Jack, and t hen when we
were here. It slipped my mind. You have a habit of making me forget t hings.”
“Test ost erone rush?” His lips t wit ch.
“Yes. The pissing cont est .”
“I’ll show you a t est ost erone rush.”
“Wouldn’t you rat her have a cup of t ea?”
“No, Anast asia, I wouldn’t .”
His eyes burn int o me, scorching me wit h his I-want -you-and-I-want -you-now look.
Fuck . . . it’s so hot.
“Forget about her. Come.” He holds out his hand.
My inner goddess does t hree back flips over t he gym floor as I grasp his hand.
I wake, t oo warm, and I’m wrapped around a naked Christ ian Grey. Even t hough he’s fast
asleep, he’s holding me close. Soft morning light filt ers t hrough t he curt ains. My head is on his
chest , my leg t angled wit h his, my arm across his st omach.
I raise my head slight ly, scared t hat I might wake him. He looks so young, so relaxed in sleep, so
ut t erly beaut iful. I can’t quit e believe t his Adonis is mine, all mine.
Hmm . . . Reaching up, I t ent at ively st roke his chest , running my fingert ips t hrough t he
smat t ering of hair, and he doesn’t st ir. Holy cow. I can’t quit e believe it . He’s really mine—
for a few more precious moment s. I lean over and t enderly kiss one of his scars. He moans
soft ly but doesn’t wake, and I smile. I kiss anot her and his eyes open.
“Hi.” I grin at him, guilt ily.
“Hi,” he answers warily. “What are you doing?”
“Looking at you.” I run my fingers down his happy t rail. He capt ures my hand, narrows his eyes,
t hen smiles a brilliant Christ ian-at -ease smile, and I relax. My secret t ouching st ays secret .
Oh . . . why won’t you let me touch you?
Suddenly he moves on t op of me, pressing me int o t he mat t ress, his hands on mine, warning
me. He st rokes my nose wit h his.
“I t hink you’re up t o no good, Miss St eele,” he accuses but his smile remains.
“I like being up t o no good near you.”
“You do?” he asks and kisses me light ly on t he lips. “Sex or breakfast ?” he asks, his eyes dark
but full of humor. His erect ion is digging int o me, and I t ilt my pelvis up t o meet him.“Good
choice,” he murmurs against my t hroat , as he t rails kisses down t o my breast .
I st and at my chest of drawers, st aring at my mirror, t rying t o coax my hair int o some
semblance of st yle—really, it ’s just t oo long. I’m in jeans and a T-shirt , and Christ ian, freshly
showered, is dressing behind me. I gaze at his body hungrily.
“How oft en do you work out ?” I ask.
“Every weekday,” he says, but t oning his fly.
“What do you do?”
“Run, weight s, kickbox.” He shrugs.
“Kickbox?”
“Yes, I have a personal t rainer, an ex-Olympic cont ender who t eaches me. His name is Claude.
He’s very good. You’d like him.”
I t urn t o gaze at him as he st art s t o but t on up his whit e shirt .
“What do you mean I’d like him?”
“You’d like him as a t rainer.”
“Why would I need a personal t rainer? I have you t o keep me fit .” I smirk at him.
He saunt ers over and wraps his arms around me, his darkening eyes meet ing mine in t he
mirror.
“But I want you fit , baby, for what I have in mind. I’ll need you t o keep up.” I flush as memories of
t he playroom flood my mind. Yes . . . t he Red Room of Pain is exhaust ing. Is he going t o let me
back in t here? Do I want t o go back in?
Of course you do! My inner goddess screams at me from her chaise longue.
I st are int o his unfat homable, mesmerizing gray eyes.
“You know you want t o,” he mout hs at me.
I flush, and t he undesirable t hought t hat Leila could probably keep up slit hers invidious and
unwelcome int o my mind. I press my lips t oget her and Christ ian frowns at me.
“What ?” he asks, concerned.
“Not hing.” I shake my head at him. “Okay, I’ll meet Claude.”
“You will?” Christ ian’s face light s up in ast ounded disbelief. His expression makes me smile He
looks like he’s won t he lot t ery, t hough Christ ian’s probably never even bought a t icket —he has
no need.
“Yes, jeez—if it makes you t hat happy,” I scoff.
He t ight ens his arms around me and kisses my cheek. “You have no idea,” he whispers.
“So—what would you like t o do t oday?” He nuzzles me, sending delicious t ingles t hrough my
body.
“I’d like t o get my hair cut , and um . . . I need t o bank a check and buy a car.”
“Ah,” he says knowingly and bit es his lip. Taking one hand off me, he reaches int o his jeans
pocket and holds up t he key t o my lit t le Audi.
“It ’s here,” he says quiet ly, his expression uncert ain.
“What do you mean, it ’s here?” Boy. I sound angry. Crap. I am angry. My subconscious glares at
him. How dare he!
“Taylor brought it back yest erday.”
I open my mout h t hen close it and repeat t he process t wice, but I have been rendered
speechless. He’s giving me back t he car. Double crap. Why didn’t I foresee t his? Well, t wo can
play at t hat game. I fish in t he back pocket of my jeans and pull out t he envelope wit h his
check.
“Here, t his is yours.”
Christ ian looks at me quizzically, t hen recognizing t he envelope, raises bot h his hands and
st eps away from me.
“Oh no. That ’s your money.”
“No, it isn’t . I’d like t o buy t he car from you.”
His expression changes complet ely. Fury—yes, fury—sweeps across his face.
“No, Anast asia. Your money, your car,” he snaps at me.
“No, Christ ian. My money, your car. I’ll buy it from you.”
“I gave you t hat car for your graduat ion present .”
“If you’d given me a pen—t hat would be a suit able graduat ion present . You gave me an Audi.”
“Do you really want t o argue about t his?”
“No.”
“Good—here are t he keys.” He put s t hem on t he chest of drawers.
“That ’s not what I meant !”
“End of discussion, Anast asia. Don’t push me.”
I scowl at him, t hen inspirat ion hit s me. Taking t he envelope, I rip it in t wo, t hen t wo again and
drop t he cont ent s int o my wast e bin. Oh, t hat feels good.
Christ ian gazes at me impassively, but I know I’ve just lit t he blue t ouch paper and should
st and well back. He st rokes his chin.
“You are, as ever, challenging, Miss St eele,” he says dryly. He t urns on his heel and st alks int o
t he ot her room. That is not t he react ion I expect ed. I was ant icipat ing full scale Armageddon. I
st are at myself in t he mirror and shrug, deciding on a ponyt ail.
My curiosit y is piqued. What is Fift y doing? I follow him int o t he room, and he’s on t he phone.
“Yes, t went y-four t housand dollars. Direct ly.”
He glances up at me, st ill impassive.
“Good . . . Monday? Excellent . . . No t hat ’s all, Andrea.” He snaps t he phone shut .
“Deposit ed in your bank account , Monday. Don’t play games wit h me.” He’s boiling mad, but I
don’t care.
“Twent y-four t housand dollars!” I’m almost screaming. “And how do you know my account
number?”
My ire t akes Christ ian by surprise.
“I know everyt hing about you, Anast asia,” he says quiet ly.
“There’s no way my car was wort h t went y-four t housand dollars.”
“I would agree wit h you, but it ’s about knowing your market , whet her you’re buying or selling.
Some lunat ic out t here want ed t hat deat h t rap and was willing t o pay t hat amount of money.
Apparent ly, it ’s a classic. Ask Taylor if you don’t believe me.” I glower at him and he glowers
back, t wo angry st ubborn fools glaring at each ot her.
And I feel it , t he pull—t he elect ricit y bet ween us—t angible, drawing us t oget her. Suddenly he
grabs me and pushes me up against t he door, his mout h on mine, claiming me hungrily, one
hand on my behind pressing me t o his groin and t he ot her in t he nape of my hair, t ugging my
head back. My fingers are in his hair, t wist ing hard, holding him t o me. He grinds his body int o
mine, imprisoning me, his breat hing ragged. I feel him. He want s me, and I’m heady and reeling
wit h excit ement as I acknowledge his need for me.
“Why, why do you defy me?” he mumbles bet ween his heat ed kisses.
My blood sings in my veins. Will he always have t his effect on me? And I on him?
“Because I can.” I’m breat hless. I feel rat her t han see his smile against my neck, and he presses
his forehead t o mine.
“Lord, I want t o t ake you now, but I’m out of condoms. I can never get enough of you.
You’re a maddening, maddening woman.”
“And you make me mad,” I whisper. “In every way.”
He shakes his head. “Come. Let ’s go out for breakfast . And I know a place you can get your
hair cut .”
“Okay,” I acquiesce and just like t hat , our fight is over.
“I’ll get t his.” I pick up t he t ab for breakfast before he does.
He scowls at me.
“You have t o be quick around here, Grey.”
“You’re right , I do,” he says sourly, t hough I t hink he’s t easing.
“Don’t look so cross. I’m t went y-four t housand dollars richer t han I was t his morning. I can
afford”—I glance at t he check—“t went y-t wo dollars and sixt y-seven cent s for breakfast .”
“Thank you,” he says grudgingly. Oh, t he sulky schoolboy is back.
“Where t o now?”
“You really want your hair cut ?”
“Yes, look at it .”
“You look lovely t o me. You always do.”
I blush and st are down at my fingers knot t ed in my lap. “And t here’s your fat her’s funct ion t his
evening.”
“Remember, it ’s black t ie.”
Oh Jeez. “Where is it ?”
“At my parent s’ house. They have a marquee. You know, t he works.”
“What ’s t he charit y?”
Christ ian rubs his hands down his t highs, looking uncomfort able.
“It ’s a drug rehab program for parent s wit h young kids called Coping Toget her.”
“Sounds like a good cause,” I say soft ly.
“Come, let ’s go.” He st ands, effect ively halt ing t hat t opic of conversat ion and holds out his
hand. As I t ake it , he t ight ens his fingers around mine.
It ’s st range. He’s so demonst rat ive in some ways and yet so closed in ot hers. He leads me out
of t he rest aurant , and we walk down t he st reet . It is a lovely, mild morning. The sun is shining,
and t he air smells of coffee and freshly baked bread.
“Where are we going?”
“Surprise.”
Oh, okay. I don’t really like surprises.
We walk for t wo blocks, and t he st ores become decidedly more exclusive. I haven’t yet had an
opport unit y t o explore, but t his really is just around t he corner from where I live. Kat e will be
pleased. There are plent y of small bout iques t o feed her fashion passion.
Act ually, I need t o buy some float y skirt s for work.
Christ ian st ops out side a large, slick-looking beaut y salon and opens t he door for me.
It ’s called Esclava. The int erior is all whit e and leat her. At t he st ark whit e recept ion desk sit s a
young blond woman in a crisp whit e uniform. She glances up as we ent er.
“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” she says bright ly, color rising in her cheeks as she bat s her
eyelashes at him. It ’s t he Grey effect , but she knows him! How?
“Hello Gret a.”
And he knows her. What is t his?
“Is t his t he usual, sir?” she asks polit ely. She’s wearing very pink lipst ick.
“No,” he says quickly, wit h a nervous glance at me.
The usual? What does t hat mean?
Holy fuck! It’s Rule no 6, the damned beauty salon. All the waxing nonsense . . . shit!
This is where he brought all his subs? Maybe Leila, t oo? What t he hell am I supposed t o make
of t his?
“Miss St eele will t ell you what she want s.”
I glare at him. He’s int roducing t he Rules by st ealt h. I’ve agreed t o t he personal t rainer—and
now t his?
“Why here?” I hiss at him.
“I own t his place, and t hree more like it .”
“You own it ?” I gasp in surprise. Well, t hat ’s unexpect ed.
“Yes. It ’s a sideline. Anyway—what ever you want , you can have it here, on t he house.
All sort s of massage; Swedish, shiat su, hot st ones, reflexology, seaweed bat hs, facials, all t hat
st uff t hat women like—everyt hing. It ’s done here.” He waves his long-fingered hand
dismissively.
“Waxing?”
He laughs. “Yes waxing, t oo. Everywhere,” he whispers conspirat orially, enjoying my discomfort .
I blush and glance at Gret a, who is looking at me expect ant ly.
“I’d like a haircut , please.”
“Cert ainly, Miss St eele.”
Gret a is all pink lipst ick and bust ling Germanic efficiency as she checks her comput er screen.
“Franco is free in five minut es.”
“Franco’s fine,” says Christ ian reassuringly t o me. I am t rying t o wrap my head around t his.
Christ ian Grey CEO owns a chain of beaut y salons.
I peek up at him, and suddenly he blanches—somet hing, or someone, has caught his eye. I t urn
t o see where he’s looking, and right at t he back of t he salon a sleek plat inum blonde has
appeared, closing a door behind her and speaking t o one of t he hair st ylist s.
Plat inum Blonde is t all, t anned, lovely, and in her lat e t hirt ies or fort ies—it ’s difficult t o t ell. She’s
wearing t he same uniform as Gret a, but in black. She looks st unning. Her hair shines like a halo,
cut in sharp bob. As she t urns, she cat ches sight of Christ ian and smiles at him, a dazzling
smile of warm recognit ion.
“Excuse me,” Christ ian mumbles hurriedly.
He st rides quickly t hrough t he salon, past t he hair st ylist s all in whit e, past t he appren-t ices at
t he sinks, and over t o her, t oo far away for me t o hear t heir conversat ion. Plat inum Blonde
greet s him wit h obvious affect ion, kissing bot h his cheeks, her hands rest ing on his upper arms,
and t hey t alk animat edly t oget her.
“Miss St eele?”
Gret a t he recept ionist is t rying t o get my at t ent ion.
“Hang on a moment , please.” I wat ch Christ ian, fascinat ed.
Plat inum Blonde t urns and looks at me, and gives me t he same dazzling smile, as if she knows
me. I smile polit ely back.
Christ ian looks upset about somet hing. He’s reasoning wit h her, and she’s acquiesc-ing,
holding her hands up and smiling at him. He’s smiling at her—clearly t hey know each ot her well.
Perhaps t hey’ve worked t oget her for a long t ime? Maybe she runs t he place; aft er all, she has
a cert ain look of aut horit y.
Then it hit s me like a wrecking ball, and I know, deep down in my gut on a visceral level, I know
who it is. It ’s her. Stunning, older, beautiful.
It ’s Mrs. Robinson.
“Gret a, who is Mr. Grey t alking t o?” My scalp is t rying t o leave t he building. It ’s prickling wit h
apprehension, and my subconscious is screaming at me t o follow it . But I sound nonchalant
enough.
“Oh, t hat ’s Mrs. Lincoln. She owns t he place wit h Mr. Grey.” Gret a seems more t han happy t o
share.
“Mrs. Lincoln?” I t hought Mrs. Robinson was divorced. Perhaps she’s remarried t o some poor
sap.
“Yes. She’s not usually here, but one of our t echnicians is sick t oday so she’s filling in.”
“Do you know Mrs. Lincoln’s first name?”
Gret a looks up at me, frowning, and purses her bright pink lips, quest ioning my curiosit y. Shit ,
perhaps t his is a st ep t oo far.
“Elena,” she says, almost reluct ant ly.
I’m swamped by a st range sense of relief t hat my spidey sense has not let me down.
Spidey sense? My subconscious snort s, Paedo sense.
They are st ill deep in discussion. Christ ian is t alking rapidly t o Elena, and she looks worried,
nodding, grimacing, and shaking her head. Reaching out , she rubs his arm soot hingly while
bit ing her lip. Anot her nod, and she glances at me and offers me a small reassuring smile.
I can only st are at her st ony-faced. I t hink I’m in shock. How could he bring me here?
She murmurs somet hing t o Christ ian, and he looks my way briefly t hen t urns back t o her and
replies. She nods, and I t hink she’s wishing him luck, but my lip-reading skills aren’t highly
developed.
Fift y st rides back t o me, anxiet y et ched on his face. Damn right. Mrs. Robinson ret urns t o t he
back room, closing t he door behind her.
Christ ian frowns. “Are you okay?” he asks, but his voice is st rained, caut ious.
“Not really. You didn’t want t o int roduce me?” My voice sounds cold, hard.
His mout h drops open, he looks as if I’ve pulled t he rug from under his feet .
“But I t hought —”
“For a bright man, somet imes . . .” Words fail me. “I’d like t o go, please.”
“Why?”
“You know why.” I roll my eyes.
He gazes down at me, his eyes burning.
“I’m sorry, Ana. I didn’t know she’d be here. She’s never here. She’s opened a new branch at t he
Bravern Cent er, and t hat ’s where she’s normally based. Someone was sick t oday.”
I t urn on my heel and head for t he door.
“We won’t need Franco, Gret a,” Christ ian snaps as we head out of t he door. I have t o suppress
t he impulse t o run. I want t o run fast and far away. I have an overwhelming urge t o cry. I just
need t o get away from all t his fuckedupness.
Christ ian walks wordlessly beside me as I t ry t o mull all t his over in my head. Wrapping my arms
prot ect ively around myself, I keep my head down, avoiding t he t rees on Second Avenue.
Wisely, he makes no move t o t ouch me. My mind is boiling wit h unanswered quest ions. Will Mr.
Evasive fess up?
“You used t o t ake your subs t here?” I snap.
“Some of t hem, yes,” he says quiet ly, his t one clipped.
“Leila?”
“Yes.”
“The place looks very new.”
“It ’s been refurbished recent ly.”
“I see. So Mrs. Robinson met all your subs.”
“Yes.”
“Did t hey know about her?”
“No. None of t hem did. Only you.”
“But I’m not your sub.”
“No, you most definit ely are not .”
I st op and face him. His eyes are wide, fearful. His lips are pressed int o a hard, uncompromising
line.
“Can you see how fucked-up t his is?” I glare up at him, my voice low.
“Yes. I’m sorry.” And he has t he grace t o look cont rit e.
“I want t o get my hair cut , preferably somewhere where you haven’t fucked eit her t he st aff or
t he client ele.”
He flinches.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
“You’re not running. Are you?” he asks.
“No, I just want a damn haircut . Somewhere I can close my eyes, have someone wash my hair,
and forget about all t his baggage t hat accompanies you.” He runs his hand t hrough his hair. “I
can have Franco come t o t he apart ment , or your place,” he says quiet ly.
“She’s very at t ract ive.”
He blinks. “Yes, she is.”
“Is she st ill married?”
“No. She divorced about five years ago.”
“Why aren’t you wit h her?”
“Because t hat ’s over bet ween us. I’ve t old you t his.” His brow creases suddenly. Holding his
finger up, he fishes his Blackberry out of his jacket pocket . It must be vibrat ing because I don’t
hear it ring.
“Welch,” he snaps, t hen list ens. We are st anding on Second Avenue, and I gaze in t he direct ion
of t he larch sapling in front of me, it s leaves t he newest green.
People bust le past us, lost in t heir Sat urday morning chores. No doubt cont emplat ing t heir own
personal dramas. I wonder if t hey include st alker ex-submissives, st unning ex-Dommes, and a
man who has no concept of privacy under Unit ed St at es law.
“Killed in a car crash? When?” Christ ian int errupt s my reverie.
Oh no. Who? I list en more closely.
“That ’s t wice t hat bast ard’s not been fort hcoming. He must know. Does he have no feelings
for her what soever?” Christ ian shakes his head in disgust . “This is beginning t o make sense . . .
no . . . explains why, but not where.” Christ ian glances around us as if searching for somet hing,
and I find myself mirroring his act ions. Not hing cat ches my eye.
There are just t he shoppers, t he t raffic, and t he t rees.
“She’s here,” Christ ian cont inues. “She’s wat ching us . . . Yes . . . No. Two or four, t went y-four
seven . . . I haven’t broached t hat yet .” Christ ian looks at me direct ly.
Broached what? I frown, at him and he regards me warily.
“What . . . ,” he whispers and pales, his eyes widening. “I see. When? . . . That recent ly? But
how? . . . No background checks? . . . I see. E-mail t he name, address, and phot os if you have
t hem . . . t went y-four seven, from t his aft ernoon. Liaise wit h Taylor.” Christ ian hangs up.
“Well?” I ask, exasperat ed. Is he going t o t ell me?
“That was Welch.”
“Who’s Welch?”
“My securit y advisor.”
“Okay. So what ’s happened?”
“Leila left her husband about t hree mont hs ago and ran off wit h a guy who was killed in a car
accident four weeks ago.”
“Oh.”
“The asshole shrink should have found t hat out ,” he says angrily. “Grief, t hat ’s what t his is.
Come.” He holds out his hand, and I aut omat ically place mine in his before I snat ch it away
again.
“Wait a minut e. We were in t he middle of a discussion, about us. About her, your Mrs.
Robinson.”
Christ ian’s face hardens. “She’s not my Mrs. Robinson. We can t alk about it at my place.”
“I don’t want t o go t o your place. I want t o get my hair cut !” I shout . If I can just focus on t his
one t hing . . .
He grabs his Blackberry from his pocket again and dials a number. “Gret a, Christ ian Grey. I want
Franco at my place in an hour. Ask Mrs. Lincoln . . . Good.” He put s his phone away. “He’s
coming at one.”
“Christ ian . . . !” I splut t er, exasperat ed.
“Anast asia, Leila is obviously suffering a psychot ic break. I don’t know if it ’s you or me she’s
aft er, or what lengt hs she’s prepared t o go t o. We’ll go t o your place, pick up your t hings, and
you can st ay wit h me unt il we’ve t racked her down.”
“Why would I want t o do t hat ?”
“So I can keep you safe.”
“But —”
He glares at me. “You are coming back t o my apart ment if I have t o drag you t here by your
hair.”
I gape at him . . . t his is beyond belief. Fift y Shades in Glorious Technicolor.
“I t hink you’re overreact ing.”
“I don’t . We can cont inue our discussion back at my place. Come.” I fold my arms and glare at
him. This has gone t oo far.
“No,” I st at e st ubbornly. I have t o make a st and.
“You can walk or I can carry you. I don’t mind eit her way, Anast asia.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” I scowl at him. Surely he wouldn’t make a scene on Second Avenue?
He half smiles at me, but t he smile doesn’t reach his eyes.
“Oh, baby, we bot h know t hat if you t hrow down t he gaunt let I’ll be only t oo happy t o pick it
up.”
We glare at each ot her—and abrupt ly he sweeps down, clasps me round my t highs, and lift s
me. Before I know it , I am over his shoulder.
“Put me down!” I scream. Oh, it feels good t o scream.
He st art s st riding along Second Avenue, ignoring me. Clasping his arm firmly around my t highs,
he swat s my behind wit h his free hand.
“Christ ian!” I shout . People are st aring. Could t his be any more humiliat ing? “I’ll walk! I’ll walk.”
He put s me down, and before he’s even st ood upright , I st omp off in t he direct ion of my
apart ment , seet hing, ignoring him. Of course, he’s by my side in moment s, but I cont inue t o
ignore him. What am I going t o do? I am so angry, but I’m not even sure what I am angry about
—t here’s so much.
As I st alk back home, I make a ment al list :
1. Shoulder carrying—unaccept able for anyone over t he age of six.
2. Taking me t o t he salon t hat he owns wit h his ex-lover—how st upid can he be?
3. The same place he t ook his submissives—same st upidit y at work here.
4. Not even realizing t hat t his was a bad idea—and he’s supposed t o be a bright guy.
5. Having crazy ex-girlfriends. Can I blame him for t hat ? I am so furious; yes, I can.
6. Knowing my bank account number—t hat ’s just t oo st alkery by half.
7. Buying SIP—he’s got more money t han sense.
8. Insist ing I st ay wit h him—t he t hreat from Leila must be worse t han he feared . . .
he didn’t ment ion t hat yest erday.
Oh no, realizat ion dawns. Somet hing’s changed. What could t hat be? I halt , and Christ ian halt s
wit h me. “What ’s happened?” I demand.
He knit s his brow. “What do you mean?”
“Wit h Leila.”
“I’ve t old you.”
“No, you haven’t . There’s somet hing else. You didn’t insist t hat I go t o your place yest erday. So
what ’s happened?”
He shift s uncomfort ably.
“Christ ian! Tell me!” I snap.
“She managed t o obt ain a concealed weapons permit yest erday.” Oh shit. I gaze at him,
blinking, and feel t he blood draining from my face as I absorb t his news. I may faint . Suppose
she want s t o kill him? No.
“That means she can just buy a gun,” I whisper.
“Ana,” he says, his voice full of concern. He places his hands on my shoulders, pulling me close
t o him. “I don’t t hink she’ll do anyt hing st upid, but —I just don’t want t o t ake t hat risk wit h you.”
“Not me . . . what about you?” I whisper.
He frowns down at me, and I wrap my arms around him and hug him hard, my face against his
chest . He doesn’t seem t o mind.
“Let ’s get back,” he murmurs, and he reaches down and kisses my hair, and t hat ’s it .
All my fury is gone, but not forgot t en. Dissipat ed under t he t hreat of some harm coming t o
Christ ian. The t hought is unbearable.
Solemnly I pack a small case and place my Mac, t he Blackberry, my iPad, and Charlie Tango in
my backpack.
“Charlie Tango’s coming, t oo?” Christ ian asks.
I nod and he gives me a small, indulgent smile.
“Et han is back Tuesday,” I mut t er.
“Et han?”
“Kat e’s brot her. He’s st aying here unt il he finds a place in Seat t le.” Christ ian gazes at me
blankly, but I not ice t he frost iness creep int o his eyes.
“Well, it ’s good t hat you’ll be st aying wit h me. Give him more room,” he says quiet ly.
“I don’t know t hat he’s got keys. I’ll need t o be back t hen.” Christ ian gazes at me impassively
but says not hing.
“That ’s everyt hing.”
He grabs my case, and we head out t he door. As we walk around t o t he back of t he building t o
t he parking lot , I’m aware t hat I am looking over my shoulder. I don’t know if my paranoia has
t aken over or if someone really is wat ching me. Christ ian opens t he passenger door of t he Audi
and looks at me expect ant ly.
“Are you get t ing in?” he asks.
“I t hought I was driving.”
“No. I’ll drive.”
“Somet hing wrong wit h my driving? Don’t t ell me you know what I scored on my driving t est . . . I
wouldn’t be surprised wit h your st alking t endencies.” Maybe he knows t hat I just scraped
t hrough t he writ t en t est .
“Get in t he car, Anast asia,” he snaps angrily.
“Okay.” I hast ily climb in. Honestly, chill, will you?
Perhaps he has t he same uneasy feeling, t oo. Some dark sent inel wat ching us—well, a pale
brunet t e wit h brown eyes who has an uncanny resemblance t o yours t ruly and quit e possibly a
concealed firearm.
Christ ian set s off int o t he t raffic.
“Were all your submissives brunet t es?”
He frowns and glances at me quickly. “Yes,” he mut t ers. He sounds uncert ain, and I imagine
him t hinking, where’s she going with this?
“I just wondered.”
“I t old you. I prefer brunet t es.”
“Mrs. Robinson isn’t a brunet t e.”
“That ’s probably why,” he mut t ers. “She put me off blondes forever.”
“You’re kidding,” I gasp.
“Yes. I’m kidding,” he replies, exasperat ed.
I st are impassively out t he window, spying brunet t es everywhere, none of t hem Leila, t hough.
So, he only likes brunet t es. I wonder why? Did Mrs. Ext raordinarily-Glamorous-In-Spit e-Of-
Being-Old Robinson really put him off blondes? I shake my head—Christ ian Mindfuck Grey.
“Tell me about her.”
“What do you want t o know?” Christ ian’s brow furrows, and his t one of voice t ries t o warn me
off.
“Tell me about your business arrangement .”
He visibly relaxes, happy t o t alk about work. “I am a silent part ner. I’m not part icularly int erest ed
in t he beaut y business, but she’s built it int o a successful vent ure. I just invest ed and helped
get her st art ed.”
“Why?”
“I owed it t o her.”
“Oh?”
“When I dropped out of Harvard, she lent me a hundred grand t o st art my business.” Holy fuck .
. . she’s rich, too.
“You dropped out ?”
“It wasn’t my t hing. I did t wo years. Unfort unat ely, my parent s were not so underst anding.”I
frown. Mr. Grey and Dr. Grace Trevelyan disapproving, I can’t pict ure it .
“You don’t seem t o have done t oo badly dropping out . What was your major?”
“Polit ics and Economics.”
Hmm . . . figures.
“So she’s rich?” I murmur.
“She was a bored t rophy wife, Anast asia. Her husband was wealt hy—big in t imber.” He smirks.
“He wouldn’t let her work. You know, he was cont rolling. Some men are like t hat .” He gives me
a quick sideways grin.
“Really? A cont rolling man, surely a myt hical creat ure?” I don’t t hink I can squeeze any more
sarcasm int o my response.
Christ ian’s grin get s bigger.
“She lent you her husband’s money?”
He nods and a small mischievous smile appears on his lips.
“That ’s t errible.”
“He got his own back,” Christ ian says darkly as he pulls int o t he underground garage at Escala.
Oh?
“How?”
Christ ian shakes his head as if recalling a part icularly sour memory and parks beside t he Audi
Quat t ro SUV. “Come—Franco will be here short ly.” In t he elevat or Christ ian peers down at me.
“St ill mad at me?” he asks mat t er-of-fact ly.
“Very.”
He nods. “Okay,” he says, and st ares st raight ahead.
Taylor is wait ing for us when we arrive in t he foyer. How does he always know? He t akes my
case.
“Has Welch been in t ouch?” Christ ian asks.
“Yes, sir.”
“And?”
“Everyt hing’s arranged.”
“Excellent . How’s your daught er?”
“She’s fine, t hank you, sir.”
“Good. We have a hairdresser arriving at one—Franco De Luca.”
“Miss St eele,” Taylor nods at me.
“Hi, Taylor. You have a daught er?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“How old is she?”
“She’s seven.”
Christ ian gazes at me impat ient ly.
“She lives wit h her mot her,” Taylor clarifies.
“Oh, I see.”
Taylor smiles at me. This is unexpect ed. Taylor’s a fat her? I follow Christ ian int o t he great
room, int rigued by t his informat ion.
I glance around. I haven’t been here since I walked out .
“Are you hungry?”
I shake my head. Christ ian gazes at me for a beat and decides not t o argue.
“I have t o make a few calls. Make yourself at home.”
“Okay.”
Christ ian disappears int o his st udy, leaving me st anding in t he huge art gallery he calls home
and wondering what t o do wit h myself.
Clothes! Picking up my backpack, I wander upst airs t o my bedroom and check out t he walk-in
closet . It ’s st ill full of clot hes—all brand new wit h price t ags st ill at t ached. Three long evening
dresses, t hree cockt ail dresses, and t hree more for everyday wear. All t his must have cost a
fort une.
I check t he t ag on one of t he evening dresses: $2,998. Holy fuck. I sink t o t he floor.
This isn’t me. I put my head in my hands and t ry t o process t he last few hours. It ’s exhaust ing.
Why, oh why have I fallen for someone who is plain crazy—beaut iful, sexy as fuck, richer t han
Croesus, and crazy wit h a capit al K?
I fish my Blackberry out of my backpack and call my mom.
“Ana, honey! It ’s been so long. How are you, darling?”
“Oh, you know . . .”
“What ’s wrong? St ill not worked it out wit h Christ ian?”
“Mom, it ’s complicat ed. I t hink he’s nut s. That ’s t he problem.”
“Tell me about it . Men, t here’s just no reading t hem somet imes. Bob’s wondering if our move t o
Georgia was a good one.”
“What ?”
“Yeah, he’s t alking about going back t o Vegas.”
Oh, someone else has problems. I’m not t he only one.
Christ ian appears in t he doorway. “There you are. I t hought you’d run off.” His relief is obvious.
Christ ian appears in t he doorway. “There you are. I t hought you’d run off.” His relief is obvious.
I hold my hand up t o indicat e t hat I’m on t he phone. “Sorry, Mom, I have t o go. I’ll call again
soon.”
“Okay, honey—t ake care of yourself. Love you!”
“Love you, t oo, Mom.”
I hang up and gaze at Fift y. He frowns, looking st rangely awkward.
“Why are you hiding in here?” he asks.
“I’m not hiding. I’m despairing.”
“Despairing?”
“Of all t his, Christ ian.” I wave my hand in t he general direct ion of t he clot hes.
“Can I come in?”
“It ’s your closet .”
He frowns again and sit s down, cross-legged, facing me.
“They’re just clot hes. If you don’t like t hem I’ll send t hem back.”
“You’re a lot t o t ake on, you know?”
He blinks at me and scrat ches his chin . . . his st ubbly chin. My fingers it ch t o t ouch him.“I know.
I’m t rying,” he murmurs.
“You’re very t rying.”
“As are you, Miss St eele.”
“Why are you doing t his?”
His eyes widen and his wary look ret urns. “You know why.”
“No, I don’t .”
He runs a hand t hrough his hair. “You are one frust rat ing female.”
“You could have a nice brunet t e submissive. One who’d say, ‘how high?’ every t ime you said
jump, provided of course she had permission t o speak. So why me, Christ ian? I just don’t get it .”
He gazes at me for a moment , and I have no idea what he’s t hinking.
“You make me look at t he world different ly, Anast asia. You don’t want me for my money. You
give me . . . hope,” he says soft ly.
What ? Mr. Crypt ic is back. “Hope of what ?”
He shrugs. “More.” His voice is low and quiet . “And you’re right . I am used t o women doing
exact ly what I say, when I say, doing exact ly what I want . It get s old quickly. There’s somet hing
about you, Anast asia, t hat calls t o me on some deep level I don’t underst and.
It ’s a siren’s call. I can’t resist you, and I don’t want t o lose you.” He reaches forward and t akes
my hand. “Don’t run, please—have a lit t le fait h in me and a lit t le pat ience. Please.” He looks so
vulnerable . . . Jeez, it’s disturbing. Leaning up on my knees, I bend forward and kiss him gent ly
on his lips.
“Okay. Fait h and pat ience, I can live wit h t hat .”
“Good. Because Franco’s here.”
Franco is small, dark, and gay. I love him.
“Such beaut iful hair!” he gushes wit h an out rageous, probably fake It alian accent . I bet he’s
from Balt imore or somewhere, but his ent husiasm is infect ious. Christ ian leads us bot h int o his
bat hroom, exit s hurriedly, and reent ers carrying a chair from his room.
“I’ll leave you t wo t o it ,” he mut t ers.
“Grazie, Mr. Grey.” Franco t urns t o me. “ Bene, Anast asia, what shall we do wit h you?” Christ ian
is sit t ing on his couch, plowing t hrough what look like spreadsheet s. Soft , mellow classical
music drift s t hrough t he great room. A woman sings passionat ely, pouring her soul int o t he
song. It ’s breat ht aking. Christ ian glances up and smiles, dist ract ing me from t he music.
“See! I t ell you he like it ,” Franco ent huses.
“You look lovely, Ana,” Christ ian says appreciat ively.
“My work ‘ere is done,” Franco exclaims.
Christ ian rises and st rolls t oward us. “Thank you, Franco.” Franco t urns, grasps me in an
overwhelming bear hug, and kisses bot h my cheeks.
“Never let anyone else be cut t ing your hair, bellissima Anast asia!” I laugh, slight ly embarrassed
by his familiarit y. Christ ian shows him t o t he foyer door and ret urns moment s lat er.
“I’m glad you kept it long,” he says as he walks t oward me, his eyes bright . He t akes a st rand
bet ween his fingers.
“So soft ,” he murmurs, gazing down at me. “Are you st ill mad at me?” I nod and he smiles.
“What precisely are you mad at me about ?”
I roll my eyes. “You want t he list ?”
“There’s a list ?”
“A long one.”
“Can we discuss it in bed?”
“No.” I pout at him childishly.
“Over lunch, t hen. I’m hungry, and not just for food,” he gives me a salacious smile.
“I am not going t o let you dazzle me wit h your sexpert ise.” He st ifles a smile. “What is
bot hering you specifically, Miss St eele? Spit it out .” Okay.
“What ’s bot hering me? Well, t here’s your gross invasion of my privacy, t he fact t hat you t ook
me t o some place where your ex-mist ress works and you used t o t ake all your lovers t o have
t heir bit s waxed, you manhandled me in t he st reet like I was six years old—and t o cap it all, you
let your Mrs. Robinson t ouch you!” My voice has risen t o a crescendo.
He raises his eyebrows, and his good humor vanishes.
“That ’s quit e a list . But just t o clarify once more—she’s not my Mrs. Robinson.”
“She can t ouch you,” I repeat .
He purses his lips. “She knows where.”
“What does t hat mean?”
He runs bot h hands t hrough his hair and closes his eyes briefly, as if he’s seeking divine
guidance of some kind. He swallows.
“You and I don’t have any rules. I have never had a relat ionship wit hout rules, and I never know
where you’re going t o t ouch me. It makes me nervous. Your t ouch complet ely—” He st ops,
searching for t he words. “It just means more . . . so much more” More? His answer’s complet ely
unexpect ed, t hrowing me, and t here’s t hat lit t le word wit h t he big meaning hanging bet ween
us again.
My t ouch means . . . more. Holy cow. How am I supposed t o resist when he says t his st uff?
Gray eyes search mine, wat ching, apprehensive.
Tent at ively I reach out and apprehension shift s t o alarm. Christ ian st eps back and I drop my
hand.
“Hard limit ,” he whispers urgent ly, a pained, panicked look on his face.
I can’t help but feel a crushing disappoint ment . “How would you feel if you couldn’t t ouch me?”
“Devast at ed and deprived,” he says immediat ely.
Oh, my Fifty Shades. Shaking my head, I offer him a small, reassuring smile and he relaxes.
“You’ll have t o t ell me exact ly why t his is a hard limit , one day, please.”
“One day,” he murmurs and seems t o snap out of his vulnerabilit y in a nanosecond.
How can he swit ch so quickly? He’s t he most capricious person I know.
“So, t he rest of your list . Invading your privacy.” His mout h t wist s as he cont emplat es t his.
“Because I know your bank account number?”
“Yes, t hat ’s out rageous.”
“I do background checks on all my submissives. I’ll show you.” He t urns and heads for his st udy.
I dut ifully follow him, dazed. From a locked filing cabinet , he pulls a manila folder.
Typed on t he t ab: anast asia rose st eele.
Holy fucking shit . I glare at him.
He shrugs apologet ically. “You can keep it ,” he says quiet ly.
“Well, gee, t hanks,” I snap. I flick t hrough t he cont ent s. He has a copy of my birt h cert ificat e, for
heaven’s sake, my hard limit s, t he NDA, t he cont ract — Jeez—my social securit y number,
resume, employment records.
“So you knew I worked at Clayt on’s?”
“Yes.”
“It wasn’t a coincidence. You didn’t just drop by?”
“No.”
I don’t know whet her t o be angry or flat t ered.
“This is fucked-up. You know t hat ?”
“I don’t see it t hat way. What I do, I have t o be careful.”
“But t his is privat e.”
“I don’t misuse t he informat ion. Anyone can get hold of it if t hey have half a mind t o, Anast asia.
To have cont rol—I need informat ion. It ’s how I’ve always operat ed.” He gazes at me, his
expression guarded and unreadable.
“You do misuse t he informat ion. You deposit ed t went y-four t housand dollars t hat I didn’t want
int o my account .”
His mout h presses in a hard line. “I t old you. That ’s what Taylor managed t o get for your car.
Unbelievable, I know, but t here you go.”
“But t he Audi . . .”
“Anast asia, do you have any idea how much money I make?” I flush, of course not . “Why should
I? I don’t need t o know t he bot t om line of your bank account , Christ ian.”
His eyes soft en. “I know. That ’s one of t he t hings I love about you.” I gaze at him, shocked.
Love about me?
“Anast asia, I earn roughly one hundred t housand dollars an hour.” My mout h drops open. That
is an obscene amount of money.
“Twent y-four t housand dollars is not hing. The car, t he Tess books, t he clot hes, t hey’re
not hing.” His voice is soft .
I gaze at him. He really has no idea. Ext raordinary.
“If you were me, how would you feel about all t his . . . largesse coming your way?” I ask.He
st ares at me blankly, and t here it is, his problem in a nut shell—empat hy or t he lack t hereof.
The silence st ret ches bet ween us.
Finally, he shrugs. “I don’t know,” he says, and he looks genuinely bemused.
My heart swells. This is it , t he crux of his Fift y Shades, surely. He can’t put himself in my shoes.
Well, now I know.
“It doesn’t feel great . I mean, you’re very generous, but it makes me uncomfort able. I have t old
you t his enough t imes.”
He sighs. “I want t o give you t he world, Anast asia.”
“I just want you, Christ ian. Not all t he add-ons.”
“They’re part of t he deal. Part of what I am.”
Oh, t his is going nowhere.
“Shall we eat ?” I ask. This t ension bet ween us is draining.
He frowns. “Sure.”
“I’ll cook.”
“Good. Ot herwise t here’s food in t he fridge.”
“Mrs. Jones is off on t he weekends? So you eat cold cut s most weekends?”
“No.”
“Oh?”
He sighs. “My submissives cook, Anast asia.”
“Oh, of course.” I flush. How could I be so st upid? I smile sweet ly at him. “What would Sir like t o
eat ?”
He smirks. “What ever Madam can find,” he says darkly.
Inspect ing t he impressive cont ent s of t he fridge, I decide on Spanish omelet . There are even
cold pot at oes—perfect . It ’s quick and easy. Christ ian is st ill in his st udy, no doubt invading
some poor, unsuspect ing fool’s privacy and compiling informat ion. The t hought is unpleasant
and leaves a bit t er t ast e in my mout h. My mind is reeling. He really knows no bounds.
I need music if I’m going t o cook, and I’m going t o cook unsubmissively! I wander over t o t he
iPod dock beside t he fireplace and pick up Christ ian’s iPod. I bet t here are more of Leila’s
choices on here,—I dread t he very idea.
Where is she? I wonder. What does she want?
I shudder. What a legacy. I can’t wrap my head around it .
I scroll t hrough t he ext ensive list . I want somet hing upbeat . Hmm, Beyoncé—doesn’t sound like
Christ ian’s t ast e. Crazy in Love. Oh yes! How apt . I hit t he repeat but t on and put it on loud.
I sashay back t o t he kit chen and find a bowl, open t he fridge, and t ake out t he eggs. I crack
t hem open and begin t o whisk, dancing t he whole t ime.
Raiding t he fridge once more, I gat her pot at oes, ham, and— Yes!—peas from t he freezer. All of
t hese will do. Finding a pan, I place it on t he st ove, put in a lit t le olive oil, and go back t o
whisking.
No empathy, I muse. Is t his unique t o Christ ian? Maybe all men are like t his, baffled by women. I
just don’t know. Perhaps it ’s not such a revelat ion.
I wish Kat e were home; she would know. She’s been in Barbados far t oo long. She should be
back at t he end of t he week aft er her addit ional vacat ion wit h Elliot . I wonder if it ’s st ill lust at
first sight for t hem.
One of the things I love about you.
I st op whisking. He said it . Does t hat mean t here are ot her t hings? I smile for t he first t ime since
seeing Mrs. Robinson—a genuine, heart felt , face-split t ing smile.
Christ ian slips his arms around me, making me jump.
“Int erest ing choice of music,” he purrs as he kisses me below my ear. “Your hair smells good.”
He nuzzles my hair and inhales deeply.
Desire uncurls in my belly. No. I shrug out of his embrace.
“I’m st ill mad at you.”
He frowns. “How long are you going t o keep t his up?” he asks, dragging a hand t hrough his
hair.
I shrug. “At least unt il I’ve eat en.”
His lips t wit ch wit h amusement . Turning, he picks up t he remot e cont rol from t he count er and
swit ches off t he music.
“Did you put t hat on your iPod?” I ask.
He shakes his head, his expression somber, and I know it was her—Ghost Girl.
“Don’t you t hink she was t rying t o t ell you somet hing back t hen?”
“Well, wit h hindsight , probably,” he says quiet ly.
qed. No empat hy. My subconscious folds her arms and smacks her lips in disgust .
“Why’s it st ill on t here?”
“I quit e like t he song. But if it offends you I’ll remove it .”
“No, it ’s fine. I like t o cook t o music.”
“What would you like t o hear?”
“Surprise me.”
He smirks at me and heads over t o t he iPod dock while I go back t o my whisking.
Moment s lat er t he heavenly sweet , soulful voice of Nina Simone fills t he room. It ’s one of Ray’s
favorit es: “I Put a Spell on You.”
I flush, t urning t o gape at Christ ian. What is he t rying t o t ell me? He put a spell on me a long
t ime ago. Oh my . . . his look has changed, t he levit y gone, his eyes darker, int ense.
I wat ch him, ent hralled as slowly, like t he predat or he is, he st alks me in t ime t o t he slow sult ry
beat of t he music. He’s barefoot , wearing just an unt ucked whit e shirt , jeans, and a smoldering
look.
Nina sings, “you’re mine” as Christ ian reaches me, his int ent ion clear.
“Christ ian, please,” I whisper, t he whisk redundant in my hand.
“Please what ?”
“Don’t do t his.”
“Do what ?”
“This.”
He’s st anding in front of me, gazing down at me.
“Are you sure?” he breat hes and reaching over, he t akes t he whisk from my hand and places it
back in t he bowl wit h t he eggs. My heart is in my mout h. I don’t want t his—I do want t his—
badly.
He’s so frust rat ing. He’s so hot and desirable. I t ear my gaze away from his spellbind-ing look.
“I want you, Anast asia,” he murmurs. “I love and I hat e, and I love arguing wit h you.
It ’s very new. I need t o know t hat we’re okay. It ’s t he only way I know how.”
“My feelings for you haven’t changed,” I whisper.
His proximit y is overwhelming, exhilarat ing. The familiar pull is t here, all my synaps-es goading
me t oward him, my inner goddess at her most libidinous. St aring at t he pat ch of hair in t he V of
his shirt , I bit e my lip, helpless, driven by desire—I want t o t ast e him t here.
He’s so close, but he doesn’t t ouch me. His heat is warming my skin.
“I’m not going t o t ouch you unt il you say yes,” he says soft ly. “But right now, aft er a really shit t y
morning, I want t o bury myself in you and just forget everyt hing but us.” Oh my . . . Us. A
magical combinat ion, a small pot ent pronoun t hat clinches t he deal. I raise my head t o st are at
his beaut iful yet serious face.
“I’m going t o t ouch your face,” I breat he, and see his surprise reflect ed briefly in his eyes before
his accept ance regist ers.
Lift ing my hand, I caress his cheek, and run my fingert ips across his st ubble. He closes his eyes
and exhales, leaning his face int o my t ouch.
He leans down slowly, and my lips aut omat ically lift t o meet his. He hovers over me.
“Yes or no, Anast asia?” he whispers.
“Yes.”
His mout h soft ly closes on mine, coaxing, coercing my lips apart as his arms fold around me,
pulling me t o him. His hand moves up my back, fingers t angling in t he hair at t he back of my
head and t ugging gent ly, while his ot her hand flat t ens on my behind, forcing me against him. I
moan soft ly.
“Mr. Grey.” Taylor coughs, and Christ ian releases me immediat ely.
“Taylor,” he says, his voice frigid.
I whirl round t o see an uncomfort able Taylor st anding on t he t hreshold of t he great room.
Christ ian and Taylor st are at each ot her, some unspoken communicat ion passing bet ween
t hem.
“My st udy,” Christ ian snaps, and Taylor walks briskly across t he room.
“Rain check,” Christ ian whispers t o me before following Taylor out of t he room.
I t ake a deep, st eadying breat h. Holy hell. Can I not resist him for one minut e? I shake my head,
disgust ed at myself, grat eful for Taylor’s int errupt ion, embarrassing t hough it is.
I wonder what Taylor has had t o int errupt in t he past . What ’s he seen? I don’t want t o t hink
about t hat . Lunch. I’ll make lunch. I busy myself slicing pot at oes. What does Taylor want ? My
mind races—is t his about Leila?
Ten minut es lat er, t hey emerge, just as t he omelet is ready. Christ ian looks preoccupied as he
glances at me.
“I’ll brief t hem in t en,” he says t o Taylor.
“We’ll be ready,” Taylor answers and leaves t he great room.
I produce t wo warmed plat es and place t hem on t he kit chen island.
“Lunch?”
“Please,” Christ ian says as he perches on one of t he bar st ools. Now he’s wat ching me
carefully.
“Problem?”
“No.”
I scowl. He’s not t elling me. I dish out lunch and sit down beside him, resigned t o st aying in t he
dark.
“This is good,” Christ ian murmurs appreciat ively as he t akes a bit e. “Would you like a glass of
wine?”
“No, t hank you.” I need to keep a clear head around you, Grey.
It does t ast e good, even t hough I’m not t hat hungry. But I eat , knowing Christ ian will nag if I
don’t . Event ually Christ ian disrupt s our brooding silence and swit ches on t he classical piece I
heard earlier.
“What ’s t his?” I ask.
“Cant eloube, Songs of the Auvergne. This is called ‘Bailero.’ ”
“It ’s lovely. What language is it ?”
“It ’s in old French—Occit an, in fact .”
“You speak French, do you underst and it ?” Memories of t he flawless French he spoke at his
parent s’ dinner come t o mind . . .
“Some words, yes.” Christ ian smiles, visibly relaxing. “My mot her had a mant ra: musical
inst rument , foreign language, mart ial art . Elliot speaks Spanish; Mia and I speak French. Elliot
plays guit ar, I play piano, and Mia t he cello.”
“Wow. And t he mart ial art s?”
“Elliot does Judo. Mia put her foot down at age t welve and refused.” He smirks at t he memory.
“I wish my mot her had been t hat organized.”
“Dr. Grace is formidable when it comes t o t he accomplishment s of her children.”
“She must be very proud of you. I would be.”
A dark t hought flashes across Christ ian’s face, and he looks moment arily uncomfort able. He
regards me warily as if he’s in unchart ed t errit ory.
“Have you decided what you’ll wear t his evening? Or do I need t o come and pick somet hing for
you?” His t one is suddenly brusque.
Whoa! He sounds angry. Why? What have I said?
“Um . . . not yet . Did you choose all t hose clot hes?”
“No, Anast asia, I didn’t . I gave a list and your size t o a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus.
They should fit . Just so t hat you know, I have ordered addit ional securit y for t his evening and
t he next few days. Wit h Leila unpredict able and unaccount ed for somewhere on t he st reet s of
Seat t le, I t hink it ’s a wise precaut ion. I don’t want you going out unac-companied. Okay?”
I blink at him. “Okay.” What happened t o I-must -have-you-now Grey?
“Good. I’m going t o brief t hem. I shouldn’t be long.”
“They’re here?”
“Yes.”
Where?
Collect ing his plat e, Christ ian places it in t he sink and disappears from t he room. What t he hell
was t hat about ? He’s like several different people in one body. Isn’t t hat a sympt om of
schizophrenia? I must Google t hat .
I clear my plat e, wash up quickly, and head back up t o my bedroom carrying t he anast asia rose
st eele dossier. Back in t he walk-in closet , I pull out t he t hree long evening dresses. Now, which
one?
Lying down on t he bed, I gaze at my Mac, my iPad, and my Blackberry. I am overwhelmed wit h
t echnology. I set about t ransferring Christ ian’s playlist from my iPad t o t he Mac, t hen fire up
Google t o surf t he net .
I’m lying across t he bed looking at my Mac as Christ ian ent ers.
“What are you doing?” he inquires soft ly.
I panic briefly, wondering if I should let him see t he websit e I’m on: Mult iple Personalit y Disorder:
The Sympt oms.
St ret ching out beside me, he eyes t he webpage wit h amusement .
“On t his sit e for a reason?” he asks nonchalant ly.
Brusque Christ ian has gone—playful Christ ian is back. How t he hell am I supposed t o keep up
wit h t his?
“Research. Int o a difficult personalit y.” I give him my most deadpan look.
His lips t wit ch wit h a suppressed smile. “A difficult personalit y?”
“My own pet project .”
“I’m a pet project now? A sideline. Science experiment maybe. When I t hought I was everyt hing.
Miss St eele, you wound me.”
“How do you know it ’s you?”
“Wild guess.” He smirks.
“It ’s t rue t hat you are t he only fucked-up, mercurial, cont rol freak t hat I know, int imat ely.”
“I t hought I was t he only person you know int imat ely.” He arches a brow.
I flush. “Yes. That , t oo.”
“Have you reached any conclusions yet ?”
I t urn and gaze at him. He’s on his side st ret ched out beside me wit h his head rest ing on his
elbow, his expression soft , amused.
“I t hink you’re in need of int ense t herapy.”
He reaches up and gent ly t ucks my hair behind my ears.
“I t hink I’m in need of you. Here.” He hands me a t ube of lipst ick.
I frown at him, perplexed. It ’s harlot red, not my color at all.
“You want me t o wear t his?” I squeak.
He laughs. “No, Anast asia, not unless you want t o. Not sure it ’s your color,” he finishes dryly.
He sit s up on t he bed cross-legged and drags his shirt off over his head. Oh my. “I like your road
map idea.”
I st are at him blankly. Road map?
“The no-go areas,” he says by way of explanat ion.
“Oh. I was kidding.”
“I’m not .”
“You want me t o draw on you, wit h lipst ick?”
“It washes off. Event ually.”
This means I could t ouch him freely. A small smile of wonder plays on my lips, and I smirk at him.
“What about somet hing more permanent like a Sharpie?”
“I could get a t at t oo.” His eyes are alight wit h humor.
Christ ian Grey wit h a t at t ? Marring his lovely body, when it ’s marked in so many ways already?
No way!
“No t o t he t at t oo!” I laugh t o hide my horror.
“Lipst ick, t hen.” He grins.
Shut t ing t he Mac, I push it t o t he side. This could be fun.
“Come.” He holds his hands out t o me. “Sit on me.”
I push my flat s off my feet , scramble int o a sit t ing posit ion, and crawl over t o him. He lies down
on t he bed but keeps his knees flexed.
“Lean against my legs.”
I clamber over him and sit ast ride as inst ruct ed. His eyes are wide and caut ious. But he’s
amused, t oo.
“You seem—ent husiast ic for t his,” he comment s wryly.
“I’m always eager for informat ion, Mr. Grey, and it means you’ll relax, because I’ll know where
t he boundaries lie.”
He shakes his head, as if he can’t quit e believe t hat he’s about t o let me draw all over his body.
“Open t he lipst ick,” he orders.
Oh, he’s in über-bossy mode, but I don’t care.
“Give me your hand.”
I give him my ot her hand.
“The one wit h t he lipst ick.” He rolls his eyes at me.
“Are you rolling your eyes at me?”
“Yep.”
“That ’s very rude, Mr. Grey. I know some people who get posit ively violent at eye-rolling.”
“Do you now?” His t one is ironic.
I give him my hand wit h t he lipst ick, and suddenly he sit s up so we are nose t o nose.
“Ready?” he asks in a low, soft murmur t hat makes everyt hing t ight en and t ense inside me. Oh
wow.
“Yes,” I whisper. His proximit y is alluring, his t oned flesh close, his Christ ian-smell mixed wit h my
bodywash. He guides my hand up t o t he curve of his shoulder.
“Press down,” he breat hes, and my mout h goes dry as he direct s my hand down, from t he t op
of his shoulder, around his arm socket t hen down t he side of his chest . The lipst ick leaves a
broad, livid red st reak it in it s wake. He st ops at t he bot t om of t his ribcage t hen direct s me
across his st omach. He t enses and st ares, seemingly impassive, int o my eyes, but beneat h his
careful blank look, I see his rest raint .
His aversion is held in st rict check, t he line of his jaw is st rained, and t here’s t ension around his
eyes. Midway across his st omach he murmurs, “And up t he ot her side.” He releases my hand.
I mirror t he line I’ve drawn on his left side. The t rust he’s giving me is heady but t empered by
t he fact t hat I can I count his pain. Seven small, round whit e scars dot his chest , and it ’s deep,
dark purgat ory t o see t his hideous, evil desecrat ion of his beaut iful body.
Who would do t his t o a child?
“There, done,” I whisper, cont aining my emot ion.
“No, you’re not ,” he replies and t races a line wit h his long index finger around t he base of his
neck. I follow t he line of his finger wit h a scarlet st reak. Finishing, I gaze int o t he gray dept hs of
his eyes.
“Now my back,” he murmurs. He shift s so I have t o climb off him, t hen he t urns around on t he
bed and sit s cross-legged wit h his back t o me.
“Follow t he line from my chest , all t he way round t o t he ot her side.” His voice is low and husky.
I do as he says unt il a crimson line runs across t he middle of his back, and as I do, I count more
scars marring his beaut iful body. Nine in all.
Holy fuck. I have t o fight t he overwhelming need t o kiss each one and st op t he t ears pooling in
my eyes. What kind of animal would do t his? His head is down, and his body t ense as I
complet e t he circuit round his back.
“Around your neck, t oo?” I whisper.
He nods, and I draw anot her line joining t he first around t he base of his neck beneat h his hair.
“Finished,” I murmur, and it looks like he’s wearing a bizarre skin-colored vest wit h a harlot -red
t rim.
His shoulders slump as he relaxes, and he t urns slowly t o face me once again.
“Those are t he boundaries,” he says quiet ly, his eyes dark and pupils dilat ed . . . from fear?
From lust ? I want t o hurl myself at him, but I rest rain myself and gaze at him in wonder.
“I can live wit h t hose. Right now I want t o launch myself at you,” I whisper.
He gives me a wicked smile and holds out his hands, a gest ure of supplicat ion.
“Well, Miss St eele, I’m all yours.”
I squeal wit h childish delight and cat apult myself int o his arms, knocking him flat . He t wist s,
let t ing out a boyish laugh filled wit h relief t hat t he ordeal is over. Somehow, I end up beneat h
him on t he bed.
“Now, about t hat rain check,” he breat hes and his mout h claims mine once more.
My hands fist in his hair while my mout h is feverish against Christ ian’s, consuming him, relishing
t he feel of his t ongue against mine. And he’s t he same, devouring me. It ’s heavenly. Suddenly
he drags me up and grasps t he hem of my T-shirt , whipping it over my head and t hrowing it on
t he floor.
“I want t o feel you,” he says greedily against my mout h as his hands move behind me t o undo
my bra. In one smoot h move, it ’s off and he pit ches it aside.
He pushes me back down ont o t he bed, pressing me int o t he mat t ress, and his mout h and
hand move t o my breast s. My fingers curl int o his hair as he t akes one of my nipples bet ween
his lips and t ugs hard.
I cry out as t he sensat ion sweeps t hrough my body, spikes, and t ight ens all t he muscles
around my groin.
“Yes, baby, let me hear you,” he murmurs against my overheat ed skin.
Boy, I want him inside me, now. Wit h his mout h, he t oys wit h my nipple, pulling at it , making me
squirm and writ he and yearn for him. I sense his longing mixed wit h—what ?
Venerat ion. It ’s as if he’s worshipping me.
He t eases me wit h his fingers, my nipple growing hard and elongat ing under his skillful t ouch.
His hand moves t o my jeans, and he deft ly undoes t he but t on, t ugs t he zipper down, and slips
his hand inside my pant ies, sliding his fingers against my sex.
His breat h hisses out as his finger glides int o me. I push my pelvis up int o t he heel of his hand,
and he responds, rubbing against me.
“Oh, baby,” he breat hes as he hovers over me, st aring int ent ly int o my eyes. “You’re so wet .”
His voice is filled wit h wonder.
“I want you,” I murmur.
His mout h joins wit h mine again, and I feel his hungry desperat ion, his need for me.
This is new—it ’s never been like t his except perhaps when I came back from Georgia—and his
words from earlier drift back t o me . . . I need to know we’re okay. This is the only way I know
how.
The t hought unravels me. To know t hat I have such an effect on him, t hat I can offer him so
much solace, doing t his—my inner goddess purrs wit h pure pleasure. He sit s up, grasps t he
hem of my jeans, and t ugs t hem off, followed by my pant ies.
Keeping his eyes fixed on mine, he st ands, t akes a foil packet out of his pocket , and t osses it
at me, t hen removes his jeans and boxers in one swift mot ion.
I rip t he packet open greedily, and when he lies beside me again, I slowly roll t he condom on t o
him. He grabs bot h my hands and rolls on t o his back.
“You. On t op,” he orders, pulling me ast ride him. “I want t o see you.” Oh.
He guides me, and hesit ant ly I ease myself down ont o him. He closes his eyes and flexes his
hips t o meet me, filling me, st ret ching me, his mout h forming a perfect O as he exhales.
Oh, t hat feels so good—possessing him, possessing me.
He holds my hands, and I don’t know if it ’s t o st eady me or keep me from t ouching him, even
t hough I have my road map.
“You feel so good,” he murmurs.
I rise again, heady wit h t he power I have over him, wat ching Christ ian Grey slowly coming apart
beneat h me. He let s go of my hands and grabs my hips, and I place my hands on his arms. He
t hrust s int o me sharply, causing me t o cry out .
“That ’s right , baby, feel me,” he says, his voice st rained.
I t ip my head back and do exact ly t hat . This is what he does so well.
I move—count ering his rhyt hm in perfect symmet ry—numbing all t hought and reason.
I am just sensat ion lost in t his void of pleasure. Up and down . . . again and again . . . Oh yes . . .
Opening my eyes, I st are down at him, my breat hing ragged, and he’s st aring back at me, eyes
blazing.
“My Ana,” he mout hs.
“Yes,” I rasp. “Always.”
“Yes,” I rasp. “Always.”
He groans loudly, closing his eyes again, t ipping his head back. Oh my . . . Seeing Christ ian
undone is enough t o seal my fat e, and I come audibly, exhaust ingly, spinning down and around,
collapsing on t op of him.
“Oh, baby,” he groans as he finds his release, holding me st ill and let t ing go.
My head is on his chest in t he no-go area, my cheek nest led against t he springy hair on his
st ernum. I am pant ing, glowing, and I resist t he urge t o pucker my lips and kiss him.
I just lie on t op of him, cat ching my breat h. He smoot hes my hair, and his hand runs down my
back, caressing me as his breat hing calms.
“You are so beaut iful.”
I lift my head t o gaze at him, my expression skept ical. He frowns in response and sit s up
quickly, t aking me by surprise, his arm sweeping round t o hold me in place. I clut ch his biceps as
we are nose t o nose.
“You. Are. Beaut iful,” he says again, his t one emphat ic.
“And you’re amazingly sweet somet imes.” I kiss him gent ly.
He lift s me and eases out of me. I wince as he does. Leaning forward, he kisses me soft ly.
“You have no idea how at t ract ive you are, do you?”
I flush. Why’s he going on about t his?
“All t hose boys pursuing you—t hat isn’t enough of a clue?”
“Boys? What boys?”
“You want t he list ?” Christ ian frowns. “The phot ographer, he’s crazy about you, t hat boy in t he
hardware st ore, your roommat e’s older brot her. Your boss,” he adds bit t erly.
“Oh, Christ ian, t hat ’s just not t rue.”
“Trust me. They want you. They want what ’s mine.” He pulls me against him, and I lift my arms
t o his shoulders, my hands in his hair, regarding him wit h amusement .
“Mine,” he repeat s, his eyes glowing possessively.
“Yes, yours.” I reassure him, smiling. He looks mollified, and I feel perfect ly comfort able naked in
his lap on a bed in t he full light of a Sat urday aft ernoon. Who would have t hought ? The lipst ick
marks remain on his exquisit e body. I not e some smears on t he duvet cover t hough, and
wonder briefly what Mrs. Jones will make of t hem.
“The line is st ill int act ,” I murmur and bravely t race t he mark on his shoulder wit h my index
finger. He st iffens, blinking suddenly. “I want t o go exploring.” He regards me skept ically.
“The apart ment ?”
“No. I was t hinking of t he t reasure map t hat we’ve drawn on you.” My fingers it ch t o t ouch him.
His eyebrows lift in surprise, and he blinks wit h uncert aint y. I rub my nose against his.
“And what would t hat ent ail exact ly, Miss St eele?”
I lift my hand from his shoulder and run my fingert ips down t his face.
“I just want t o t ouch you everywhere I’m allowed.”
Christ ian cat ches my index finger in his t eet h, bit ing down gent ly.
“Ow,” I prot est and he grins, a low growl coming from his t hroat .
“Okay,” he says, releasing my finger, but his voice is laced wit h apprehension. “Wait .” He leans
behind me, lift ing me again, and removes his condom, dropping it unceremoniously on t he floor
beside t he bed.
“I hat e t hose t hings. I’ve a good mind t o call Dr. Greene around t o give you a shot .”
“You t hink t he t op ob-gyn in Seat t le is going t o come running?”
“I can be very persuasive,” he murmurs, hooking my hair behind my ear. “Franco’s done a great
job on your hair. I like t hese layers.” What?
“St op changing t he subject .”
He shift s me back so I’m st raddling him, leaning on his propped-up knees, my feet on eit her
side of his hips. He leans back on his arms.
“Touch away,” he says wit hout humor. He looks nervous, but he’s t rying t o hide it .
Keeping my eyes on his, I reach down and t race my finger underneat h t he lipst ick line, across
his finely sculpt ured abdominal muscles. He flinches and I st op.
“I don’t have t o,” I whisper.
“No, it ’s fine. Just t akes some . . . readjust ment on my part . No one’s t ouched me for a long
t ime,” he murmurs.
“Mrs. Robinson?” The words pop unbidden out of my mout h, and amazingly, I manage t o keep
all bit t erness and rancor out of my voice.
He nods, his discomfort obvious. “I don’t want t o t alk about her. It will sour your good mood.”
“I can handle it .”
“No, you can’t , Ana. You see red whenever I ment ion her. My past is my past . It ’s a fact . I can’t
change it . I’m lucky t hat you don’t have one, because it would drive me crazy if you did.”
I frown at him, but I don’t want t o fight . “Drive you crazy? More t han you are already?” I smile,
hoping t o light en t he at mosphere bet ween us.
His lips t wit ch. “Crazy for you,” he whispers.
My heart swells wit h joy.
“Shall I call Dr. Flynn?”
“I don’t t hink t hat will be necessary,” he says dryly.
Shift ing back so he drops his legs, I place my fingers back on his st omach and let t hem drift
across his skin. He st ills once more.
“I like t ouching you.” My fingers skat e down t o his navel t hen sout hward along his happy,
happy t rail. His lips part as his breat hing changes, his eyes darken and his erect ion st irs and
t wit ches beneat h me. Holy cow. Round two.
“Again?” I murmur.
He smiles. “Oh yes, Miss St eele, again.”
What a delicious way t o spend a Sat urday aft ernoon. I st and beneat h t he shower,
absent mindedly washing myself, careful not t o wet my t ied-back hair, cont emplat ing t he last
couple of hours. Christ ian and vanilla seem t o be going well.
He’s revealed so much t oday. It ’s st aggering, t rying t o assimilat e all t he informat ion and t o
reflect on what I’ve learned: his salary det ails— Whoa, he’s stinking rich, and for someone so
young; it’s just extraordinary—and t he dossiers he has on me and on all his brunet t e
submissives. I wonder if t hey are all in t hat filing cabinet ?
My subconscious purses her lips at me and shakes her head— don’t even go there. I frown.
Just a quick peek?
And t here’s Leila—wit h a gun, pot ent ially, somewhere—and her crap t ast e in music st ill on his
iPod. But even worse, Mrs. Paedo Robinson, I cannot wrap my head around her, and I don’t
want t o. I don’t want her t o be a shimmering-haired spect er in our relat ionship.
He’s right , I do go off t he deep end when I t hink of her, so perhaps it ’s best if I don’t .
I st ep out of t he shower and dry myself, and I’m suddenly seized by unexpect ed anger.
But who wouldn’t go off t he deep end? What normal, sane person would do t hat t o a fift een-
year-old boy? How much has she cont ribut ed t o his fuckedupness? I don’t underst and her.
And worse st ill, he says she helped him. How?
I t hink of his scars, t he st ark physical embodiment of a horrific childhood and a sickening
reminder of what ment al scars he must bear. My sweet , sad Fift y Shades. He’s said such loving
t hings t oday. He’s crazy for me.
St aring at my reflect ion, I smile at t he memory of his words, my heart brimming once more, and
my face t ransforms wit h a ridiculous smile. Perhaps we can make t his work. But how long will
he want t o do t his wit hout want ing t o beat t he crap out of me because I cross some arbit rary
line?
My smile dissolves. This is what I don’t know. This is t he shadow t hat hangs over us.
Kinky fuckery, yes, I can do t hat , but more?
My subconscious st ares at me blankly, for once offering no snarky words of wisdom. I head
back t o my bedroom t o dress.
Christ ian is downst airs get t ing ready, doing what ever he’s doing, so I have t he bedroom t o
myself. As well as all t he dresses in t he closet , I have drawers full of new underwear. I select a
black bust ier corset creat ion wit h a price t ag of five hundred fort y dollars. It has silver t rim like
filigree and t he briefest of pant ies t o mat ch. Thigh-high st ockings, t oo, in a nat ural color, so
fine, pure silk. Wow, they feel . . . slinky . . . and kind of hot . . . yeah.
I am reaching for t he dress when Christ ian ent ers unannounced. Whoa, you could knock! He
st ands immobilized, st aring at me, gray eyes glimmering, hungrily. I blush crimson everywhere, it
feels. He is wearing a whit e shirt and black suit pant s, t he neck of his shirt is open. I can see
t he lipst ick line st ill in place, and he’s st ill st aring.
“Can I help you, Mr. Grey? I assume t here is some purpose t o your visit ot her t han t o gawk
mindlessly at me.”
“I am rat her enjoying my mindless gawk, t hank you, Miss St eele,” he murmurs darkly, st epping
furt her int o t he room and drinking me in. “Remind me t o send a personal not e of t hanks t o
Caroline Act on.”
I frown. Who the hell is she?
“The personal shopper at Neiman’s,” he says, spookily answering my unspoken quest ion.“Oh.”
“I’m quit e dist ract ed.”
“I can see t hat . What do you want , Christ ian?” I give him my no-nonsense st are.
He ret aliat es wit h his crooked smile and pulls t he silver ball egg-t hings from his pocket ,
st opping me in my t racks. Holy shit ! He want s t o spank me? Now? Why?
“It ’s not what you t hink,” he says quickly.
“Enlight en me,” I whisper.
“I t hought you could wear t hese t onight .”
And t he implicat ions of t hat sent ence hang bet ween us as t he idea sinks in.
“To t his event ?” I’m shocked.
He nods slowly, his eyes darkening.
Oh my.
“Will you spank me lat er?”
“No.”
For a moment , I feel a t iny fleet ing st ab of disappoint ment .
He chuckles. “You want me t o?”
I swallow. I just don’t know.
“Well, rest assured I am not going t o t ouch you like t hat , not even if you beg me.” Oh! This is
news.
“Do you want t o play t his game?” he cont inues, holding up t he balls. “You can always t ake
t hem out if it ’s t oo much.”
I gaze at him. He looks so wickedly t empt ing—unkempt , recent ly fucked hair, dark eyes
dancing wit h erot ic t hought s, t hat beaut iful sculpt ured mout h, lips raised in a sexy, amused
smile.
“Okay,” I acquiesce soft ly. Hell, yes! My inner goddess has found her voice and is shout ing from
t he rooft ops.
“Good girl,” Christ ian grins. “Come here, and I’ll put t hem in, once you’ve put your shoes on.”
My shoes? I t urn and glance at t he dove gray suede st ilet t os t hat mat ch t he dress I’ve chosen
t o wear.
Humor him! my inner goddess barks at me.
He holds out his hand t o support me while I st ep int o t he Christ ian Loubout in shoes, a st eal at
t hree-t housand t wo hundred ninet y-five dollars. I must be at least five inches t aller now. He
leads me t o t he bedside and doesn’t sit , but walks over t o t he only chair in t he room.
Picking it up, he carries it over and places it in front of me.
“When I nod, you bend down and hold on t o t he chair. Underst and?” His voice is husky.
“Yes.”
“Good. Now open your mout h,” he orders, his voice st ill low.
I do as I’m t old, t hinking t hat he’s going t o put t he balls in my mout h again t o lubricat e t hem.
No, he slips his index finger in.
Oh . . .
“Suck,” he says. I reach up and clasp his hand, holding him st eady, and do as I’m t old—see, I
can be obedient , when I want .
He tastes of soap . . . hmm. I suck hard, and I’m rewarded when his eyes widen and his lips part
as he inhales. I’m not going t o need any lubricant at t his rat e. He put s t he balls in his mout h as I
fellat e his finger, t wirling my t ongue round it . When he t ries t o wit hdraw it , I clamp my t eet h
down.
He grins t hen shakes his head, admonishing me, so I let go. He nods, and I bend down and
grasp t he sides of t he chair. He moves my pant ies t o one side and very slowly slides a finger
int o me, circling leisurely, so I feel him, on all sides. I can’t help t he moan t hat escapes from my
lips.
He wit hdraws his finger briefly and wit h t ender care, insert s t he balls one at a t ime, pushing
t hem deep inside me. Once t hey are in posit ion, he smoot hes my pant ies back int o place and
kisses my backside. Running his hands up each of my legs from ankle t o t high, he gent ly kisses
t he t op of each t high where my hold-ups finish.
“You have fine, fine legs, Miss St eele,” he murmurs.
St anding, he grasps my hips and pulls my behind against him so I feel his erect ion.
“Maybe I’ll have you t his way when we get home, Anast asia. You can st and now.” I feel giddy,
beyond aroused as t he weight of t he balls push and pull inside me. Leaning down from behind
me Christ ian kisses my shoulder.
“I bought t hese for you t o wear t o last Sat urday’s gala.” He put s his arm around me and holds
out his hand. In his palm rest s a small red box wit h Cartier inscribed on t he lid. “But you left me,
so I never had t he opport unit y t o give t hem t o you.” Oh!
“This is my second chance,” he murmurs, his voice st iff wit h some unnamed emot ion.
He’s nervous.
Tent at ively, I reach for t he box and open it . Inside shines a pair of drop earrings. Each has four
diamonds, one at t he base, t hen a gap, t hen t hree perfect ly spaced diamonds hanging one
aft er t he ot her. They’re beaut iful, simple, and classic. What I would choose myself, if I were ever
given t he opport unit y t o shop at Cart ier.
“They’re lovely,” I whisper, and because t hey are second-chance earrings, I love t hem.
“Thank you.”
He relaxes against me as t he t ension leaves his body, and he kisses my shoulder again.
“You’re wearing t he silver sat in dress?” he asks.
“Yes? Is t hat okay?”
“Of course. I’ll let you get ready.” He heads out t he door wit hout a backward glance.
I have ent ered an alt ernat e universe. The young woman st aring back at me looks wort hy of a
red carpet . Her st rapless, floor-lengt h, silver sat in gown is simply st unning. Maybe I’ll writ e t o
Caroline Act on myself. It ’s fit t ed and flat t ers what lit t le curves I have.
My hair falls in soft waves around my face, spilling over my shoulders t o my breast s. I t uck one
side behind my ear, revealing my second-chance earrings. I have kept my makeup t o a
minimum, a nat ural look. Eyeliner, mascara, a lit t le pink blush, and pale pink lipst ick.
I don’t really need t he blush. I am slight ly flushed from t he const ant movement of t he silver
balls. Yes, t hey’ll guarant ee I have some color in my cheeks t onight . Shaking my head at t he
audacit y of Christ ian’s erot ic ideas, I lean down t o collect my sat in wrap and silver clut ch purse
and go in search of my Fift y Shades.
He is t alking t o Taylor and t hree ot her men in t he hallway, his back t o me. Their surprised,
appreciat ive expressions alert Christ ian t o my presence. He t urns as I st and and wait
awkwardly.
Holy cow! My mout h dries. He looks st unning . . . Black dinner suit , black bow t ie, and his
expression as he gazes at me is one of awe. He st rolls t oward me and kisses my hair.
“Anast asia. You look breat ht aking.”
I flush at t his compliment in front of Taylor and t he ot her men.
“A glass of champagne before we go?”
“Please,” I murmur, far t oo quickly.
Christ ian nods t o Taylor who heads int o t he foyer wit h his t hree cohort s.
In t he great room, Christ ian ret rieves a bot t le of champagne from t he fridge.
“Securit y t eam?” I ask.
“Close prot ect ion. They’re under Taylor’s cont rol. He’s t rained in t hat , t oo.” Christ ian hands me
a champagne flut e.
“He’s very versat ile.”
“Yes, he is.” Christ ian smiles. “You look lovely, Anast asia. Cheers.” He raises his glass, and I
clink it wit h mine. The champagne is a pale rose color. It t ast es deliciously crisp and light .
“How are you feeling?” he asks, his eyes heat ed.
“Fine, t hank you.” I smile sweet ly, giving not hing away, knowing full well he’s referring t o t he
silver balls.
He smirks at me.
“Here, you’re going t o need t his.” He hands me a large velvet pouch t hat was rest ing on t he
kit chen island. “Open it ,” he says bet ween sips of champagne. Int rigued, I reach int o t he bag
and pull out an int ricat e silver masquerade mask wit h cobalt blue feat hers in a plume crowning
t he t op.
“It ’s a masked ball,” he st at es mat t er-of-fact ly.
“I see.” The mask is beaut iful. A silver ribbon is t hreaded around t he edges and exquisit e silver
filigree is et ched around t he eyes.
“This will show off your beaut iful eyes, Anast asia.” I grin at him, shyly.
“Are you wearing one?”
“Of course. They’re very liberat ing in a way,” he adds, raising an eyebrow, and he smirks.
Oh. This is going to be fun.
“Come. I want t o show you somet hing.” Holding out his hand, he leads me out int o t he hallway
and t o a door beside t he st airs. He opens it , revealing a large room roughly t he same size as
his playroom, which must be direct ly above us. This one is filled wit h books.
Wow, a library, every wall crammed floor t o ceiling. In t he cent er is a full-size billiard t able
illuminat ed by a long t riangular-prism-shaped Tiffany lamp.
“You have a library!” I squeak in awe, overwhelmed wit h excit ement .
“Yes, t he balls room as Elliot calls it . The apart ment is quit e spacious. I realized t oday, when
you ment ioned exploring, t hat I’ve never given you a t our. We don’t have t ime now, but I
t hought I’d show you t his room, and maybe challenge you t o a game of billiards in t he not -t oo-
dist ant fut ure.”
I grin at him.
“Bring it on.” I secret ly hug myself wit h glee. José and I bonded over pool. We’ve been playing
for t he last t hree years. I am ace wit h a cue. José has been a good t eacher.
“What ?” Christ ian asks, amused.
Oh! I really must stop expressing every emotion I feel the instant I feel it, I scold
myself.“Not hing,” I say quickly.
Christ ian narrows his eyes.
“Well, maybe Doct or Flynn can uncover your secret s. You’ll meet him t his evening.”
“The expensive charlat an?” Holy shit.
“The very same. He’s dying t o meet you.”
Christ ian t akes my hand and gent ly skims his t humb across my knuckles as we sit in t he back
of t he Audi heading nort h. I squirm, and feel t he sensat ion in my groin. I resist t he urge t o moan,
as Taylor is in t he front , not wearing his iPod, wit h one of t he securit y guys whose name I t hink
is Sawyer.
I am beginning t o feel a dull, pleasurable ache deep in my belly, caused by t he balls.
Idly, I wonder, how long will I be able t o manage wit hout some, um . . . relief? I cross my legs. As I
do, somet hing t hat ’s been niggling me in t he back of my mind suddenly surfaces.
“Where did you get t he lipst ick?” I ask Christ ian quiet ly.
He smirks at me and point s t oward t he front . “Taylor,” he mout hs.
I burst out laughing. “Oh.” And st op quickly—t he balls.
I bit e my lip. Christ ian smiles at me, his eyes gleaming wickedly. He knows exact ly what he’s
doing, sexy beast t hat he is.
“Relax,” he breat hes. “If it ’s t oo much . . .” His voice t rails off, and he gent ly kisses each knuckle
in t urn, t hen gent ly sucks t he t ip of my lit t le finger.
Now I know he’s doing t his on purpose. I close my eyes as dark desire unfolds t hroughout my
body. I surrender briefly t o t he sensat ion, my muscles clenching deep inside me.
Oh my.
When I open my eyes again, Christ ian is regarding me closely, a dark prince. It must be t he
dinner jacket and bow t ie, but he looks older, sophist icat ed, a devast at ingly handsome roué
wit h licent ious int ent .
He simply t akes my breat h away. I’m in his sexual t hrall, and if I’m t o believe him, he’s in mine.
The t hought brings a smile t o my face, and his answering grin is blinding.
“So what can we expect at t his event ?”
“Oh, t he usual st uff,” Christ ian says breezily.
“Not usual for me,” I remind him.
Christ ian smiles fondly and kisses my hand again. “Lot s of people flashing t heir cash.
Auct ion, raffle, dinner, dancing—my mot her knows how t o t hrow a part y.” He smiles and for t he
first t ime all day, I allow myself t o feel a lit t le excit ed about t his part y.
There is a line of expensive cars heading up t he driveway of t he Grey mansion. Long, pale pink
paper lant erns hang over t he drive, and as we inch closer in t he Audi, I can see t hey are
everywhere. In t he early evening light , t hey look magical, as if we’re ent ering an enchant ed
kingdom. I glance at Christ ian. How suit able for my prince—and my childish excit ement blooms,
eclipsing all ot her feelings.
“Masks on,” Christ ian grins, and as he dons his simple black mask, my prince becomes
somet hing darker, more sensual.
All I can see of his face is his beaut iful chiseled mout h and st rong jaw.
Holy fuck . . . My heart beat lurches at t he sight of him. I fast en my mask and grin at him,
ignoring t he hunger deep in my body.
Taylor pulls int o t he driveway, and a valet opens Christ ian’s door. Sawyer leaps out t o open
mine.
“Ready?” Christ ian asks.
“As I’ll ever be.”
“You look beaut iful, Anast asia.” He kisses my hand and exit s t he car.
A dark green carpet runs along t he lawn t o one side of t he house, leading t o t he impressive
grounds at t he rear. Christ ian has a prot ect ive arm around me, rest ing his hand on my waist , as
we follow t he green carpet wit h a st eady st ream of Seat t le’s elit e dressed in t heir finery and
wearing all manner of masks t he lant erns light ing t he way. Two phot ographers marshal guest s
t o pose for pict ures against t he backdrop of an ivy-st rewn arbor.
“Mr. Grey!” one of t he phot ographers calls. Christ ian nods in acknowledgement and pulls me
close as we pose quickly for a phot o. How do t hey know it ’s him? His t rademark, unruly copper
hair no doubt .
“Two phot ographers?” I ask Christ ian.
“One is from t he Seat t le Times; t he ot her is for a souvenir. We’ll be able t o buy a copy lat er.”
Oh, my pict ure in t he press again. Leila briefly ent ers my mind. This is how she found me,
posing wit h Christ ian. The t hought is unset t ling, t hough it ’s comfort ing t hat I am
unrecognizable beneat h my mask.
At t he end of t he line, whit e-suit ed servers hold t rays of glasses brimming wit h champagne,
and I’m grat eful when Christ ian passes me a glass—effect ively dist ract ing me from my dark
t hought s.
We approach a large whit e pergola hung wit h smaller versions of t he paper lant erns.
Beneat h it , shines a black and whit e checkered dance floor surrounded by a low fence wit h
ent rances on t hree sides. At each ent rance st and t wo elaborat e ice sculpt ures of swans. The
fourt h side of t he pergola is occupied by a st age where a st ring quart et is playing soft ly, a
haunt ing, et hereal piece I don’t recognize. The st age looks set for a big band but as t here’s no
sign of t he musicians yet . I figure t his must be for lat er. Taking my hand, Christ ian leads me
bet ween swans ont o t he dance floor where t he ot her guest s are congregat ing, chat t ing over
glasses of champagne.
Toward t he shoreline st ands an enormous marquee, open on t he side nearest t o us so I can
glimpse t he formally arranged t ables and chairs. There are so many!
“How many people are coming?” I ask Christ ian, t hrown by t he scale of t he marquee.
“I t hink about t hree hundred. You’ll have t o ask my mot her.” He smiles down at me, and maybe
it ’s because I can only see his smile t hat light s up his face, but my inner goddess swoons.
“Christ ian!”
A young woman appears out of t he t hrong and t hrows her arms around his neck, and
immediat ely I know it ’s Mia. She’s dressed in a sleek, pale pink, full-lengt h chiffon gown wit h a
st unning, delicat ely det ailed Venet ian mask t o mat ch. She looks amazing. And for a moment , I
have never felt so grat eful for t he dress Christ ian has given me.
“Ana! Oh, darling, you look gorgeous!” She gives me a quick hug. “You must come and meet
my friends. None of t hem can believe t hat Christ ian finally has a girlfriend.” I shoot a quick
panicked glance at Christ ian, who shrugs in a resigned I-know-she’s-impossible-I-had-t o-live-
wit h-her-for-years way, and let Mia lead me over t o a group of four young women, all
expensively at t ired and impeccably groomed.
Mia makes hast y int roduct ions. Three of t hem are sweet and kind, but Lily, I t hink her name is,
regards me sourly from beneat h her red mask.
“Of course we all t hought Christ ian was gay,” she says snidely, concealing her rancor wit h a
large, fake smile.
Mia pout s at her.
“Lily, behave yourself. It ’s obvious he has excellent t ast e in women. He was wait ing for t he right
one t o come along, and it wasn’t you!” Lily blushes t he same color as her mask, as do I. Could
t his be any more uncomfort able?“Ladies, if I could claim my dat e back, please?” Snaking his
arm around my waist , Christ ian pulls me t o his side. All four women flush, grin and fidget , his
dazzling smile doing what it always does. Mia glances at me and rolls her eyes, and I have t o
laugh.
“Lovely t o meet you,” I say as he drags me away.
“Thank you,” I mout h at Christ ian when we’re some dist ance away.
“I saw t hat Lily was wit h Mia. She is one nast y piece of work.”
“She likes you,” I mut t er dryly.
He shudders. “Well, t he feeling is not mut ual. Come, let me int roduce you t o some people.”
I spend t he next half hour in a whirlwind of int roduct ions. I meet t wo Hollywood act ors, t wo
more CEOs, and several eminent physicians. Holy shit . . . there is no way I am going to
remember everyone’s name.
Christ ian keeps me close at his side, and I’m grat eful. Frankly, t he wealt h, t he glamour, and t he
sheer lavish scale of t he event int imidat es me. I have never been t o anyt hing like t his in my life.
The whit e-suit ed servers move effort lessly t hrough t he growing crowd of guest s wit h bot t les
of champagne, t opping off my glass wit h worrying regularit y. I must not drink too much. I must
not drink too much, I repeat t o myself, but I’m beginning t o feel light -headed, and I don’t know if
it ’s t he champagne, t he charged at mosphere of myst ery and excit ement creat ed by t he
masks, or t he secret silver balls. The dull ache below my waist is becoming impossible t o ignore.
“So you work at SIP?” asks a balding gent leman in a half-bear—or is it a dog?—mask.
“Heard rumors of a host ile t akeover.”
I flush. There is a host ile t akeover from a man who has more money t han sense and is a
st alker par excellence.
“I’m just a lowly assist ant , Mr. Eccles. I wouldn’t know about t hese t hings.” Christ ian says
not hing and smiles blandly at Eccles.
“Ladies and gent lemen!” The mast er of ceremonies, wearing an impressive black and whit e
harlequin mask, int errupt s us. “Please t ake your seat s. Dinner is served.” Christ ian t akes my
hand, and we follow t he chat t ering crowd t o t he large marquee.
The int erior is st unning. Three enormous, shallow chandeliers t hrow rainbow-colored sparkles
over t he ivory silk lining of t he ceiling and walls. There must be at least t hirt y t ables, and t hey
remind me of t he privat e dining room at t he Heat hman—cryst al glasses, crisp whit e linen
covering t he t ables and chairs, and in t he cent er, an exquisit e display of pale pink peonies
gat hered around a silver candelabra. Wrapped in gossamer silk beside it is a basket of goodies.
Christ ian consult s t he seat ing plan and leads me t o a t able in t he cent er. Mia and Grace are
already in sit u, deep in conversat ion wit h a young man I don’t know. Grace is wearing a
shimmering mint green gown wit h a Venet ian mask t o mat ch. She looks radiant , not st ressed
at all, and she greet s me warmly.
“Ana, how delight ful t o see you again! And looking so beaut iful, t oo.”
“Mot her,” Christ ian greet s her st iffly and kisses her on bot h cheeks.
“Oh, Christ ian, so formal!” she scolds him t easingly.
Grace’s parent s, Mr. and Mrs. Trevelyan, join us at our t able. They seem exuberant and
yout hful, t hough it ’s difficult t o t ell beneat h t heir mat ching bronze masks. They are delight ed
t o see Christ ian.
“Grandmot her, Grandfat her, may I int roduce Anast asia St eele?” Mrs. Trevelyan is all over me
like a rash. “Oh, he’s finally found someone, how wonderful and so pret t y! Well I do hope you
make an honest man of him,” she gushes, shaking my hand.
Holy cow. I t hank t he heavens for my mask.
“Mot her, don’t embarrass Ana.” Grace comes t o my rescue.
“Ignore t he silly old coot , m’dear.” Mr. Trevelyan shakes my hand. “She t hinks because she’s so
old, she has a God-given right t o say what ever nonsense pops int o t hat woolly head of hers.”
“Ana, t his is my dat e, Sean.” Mia shyly int roduces her young man. He gives me a wicked grin,
and his brown eyes dance wit h amusement as we shake hands.
“Pleased t o meet you, Sean.”
Christ ian shakes Sean’s hand as he regards him shrewdly. Don’t t ell me t hat poor Mia suffers
from her overbearing brot her, t oo. I smile at Mia in sympat hy.
Lance and Janine, Grace’s friends, are t he last couple at our t able, but t here is st ill no sign of
Mr. Grey.
Abrupt ly, t here’s t he hiss of a microphone, and Mr. Grey’s voice booms over t he PA syst em,
causing t he babble of voices t o die down. Carrick st ands on a small st age at one end of t he
marquee, wearing an impressive, gold, Punchinello mask.
“Welcome, ladies and gent leman, t o our annual charit y ball. I hope t hat you enjoy what we have
laid out for you t onight and t hat you’ll dig deep int o your pocket s t o support t he fant ast ic work
t hat our t eam does wit h Coping Toget her. As you know, it ’s a cause t hat is very close t o my
wife’s heart , and mine.”
I peek nervously at Christ ian, who is st aring impassively, I t hink, at t he st age. He glances at me
and smirks.
“I’ll hand you over now t o our mast er of ceremonies. Please be seat ed, and enjoy,” Carrick
finishes.
Polit e applause follows, t hen t he babble in t he t ent st art s again. I am seat ed bet ween
Christ ian and his grandfat her. I admire t he small whit e place card wit h fine silver calligraphy
t hat bears my name as a wait er light s t he candelabra wit h a long t aper. Carrick joins us, kissing
me on bot h cheeks, surprising me.
“Good t o see you again, Ana,” he murmurs. He really looks very st riking in his ext raordinary gold
mask.
“Ladies and gent lemen, please nominat e a t able head,” t he MC calls out .
“Ooo—me, me!” says Mia immediat ely, bouncing ent husiast ically in her seat .
“In t he cent er of t he t able you will find an envelope,” t he MC cont inues. “Would everyone find,
beg, borrow, or st eal a bill of t he highest denominat ion you can manage, writ e your name on it ,
and place it inside t he envelope. Table heads, please guard t hese envelopes carefully. We will
need t hem lat er.”
Holy crap. I haven’t brought any money wit h me. How stupid—it’s a charity event!
Fishing out his wallet , Christ ian produces t wo hundred-dollar bills.
“Here,” he says.
What?
“I’ll pay you back,” I whisper.
His mout h t wist s slight ly, and I know he’s not happy, but he doesn’t comment . I sign my name
using his fount ain pen—it ’s black, wit h a whit e flower mot if on t he cap—and Mia passes t he
envelope round.
In front of me I find anot her card inscribed wit h silver calligraphy—our menu.
Well, t hat account s for t he number of cryst al glasses in every size t hat crowd my place set t ing.
Our wait er is back, offering wine and wat er. Behind me, t he sides of t he t ent t hrough which we
Our wait er is back, offering wine and wat er. Behind me, t he sides of t he t ent t hrough which we
ent ered are being closed, while at t he front , t wo servers pull back t he canvas, revealing t he
sunset over Seat t le and Meydenbauer Bay.
It ’s an absolut ely breat ht aking view, t he t winkling light s of Seat t le in t he dist ance and t he
orange, dusky calm of t he bay reflect ing t he opal sky. Wow. It ’s so calm and peaceful.
Ten servers, each holding a plat e, come t o st and bet ween us. On a silent cue, t hey serve us
our st art ers in complet e synchronizat ion, t hen vanish again. The salmon looks delicious, and I
realize I am famished.
“Hungry?” Christ ian murmurs so only I can hear. I know he’s not referring t o t he food, and t he
muscles deep in my belly respond.
“Very,” I whisper, boldly meet ing his gaze, and Christ ian’s lips part as he inhales.
Ha! See . . . two can play at this game.
Christ ian’s grandfat her engages me in conversat ion immediat ely. He’s a wonderful old man, so
proud of his daught er and t hree children.
It is weird t o t hink of Christ ian as a child. The memory of his burn scars come unbidden t o my
mind, but I quickly quash it . I don’t want t o t hink about t hat now, t hough ironically, it ’s t he
reason behind t his part y.
I wish Kat e was here wit h Elliot . She would fit in so well—t he sheer number of forks and knives
laid out before her wouldn’t daunt Kat e—she would command t he t able. I imagine her duking it
out wit h Mia over who should be t able head. The t hought makes me smile.
The conversat ion at t he t able ebbs and flows. Mia is ent ert aining, as usual, and quit e eclipses
poor Sean, who most ly st ays quiet like me. Christ ian’s grandmot her is t he most vocal. She, t oo,
has a bit ing sense of humor, usually at t he expense of her husband. I begin t o feel a lit t le sorry
for Mr. Trevelyan.
Christ ian and Lance t alk animat edly about a device Christ ian’s company is developing, inspired
by Schumacher’s principle Small is Beaut iful. It ’s hard t o keep up. Christ ian seems int ent on
empowering impoverished communit ies all over t he world wit h wind-up t echnology—devices
t hat need no elect ricit y or bat t eries and minimal maint enance.
Wat ching him in full flow is ast onishing. He’s passionat e and commit t ed t o improving t he lives
of t he less fort unat e. Through his t elecommunicat ions company, he’s int ent on being first t o
market wit h a wind-up mobile phone.
Whoa. I had no idea. I mean I knew about his passion about feeding t he world, but t his . . .
Lance seems unable t o comprehend Christ ian’s plan t o give t he t echnology away and not
pat ent it . I wonder vaguely how Christ ian made all his money if he’s so willing t o give it all away.
Throughout dinner a st eady st ream of men in smart ly t ailored dinner jacket s and dark masks
st op by t he t able, keen t o meet Christ ian, shake his hand, and exchange pleasant ries.
He int roduces me t o some but not ot hers. I’m int rigued t o know how and why he makes t he
dist inct ion.
During one such conversat ion, Mia leans across and smiles.
“Ana, will you help in t he auct ion?”
“Of course,” I respond only t oo willing.
By t he t ime dessert is served, night has fallen, and I’m really uncomfort able. I need t o get rid of
t he balls. Before I can excuse myself, t he mast er of ceremonies appears at our t able, and wit h
him—if I’m not mist aken—is Miss European Pigt ails.
What’s her name? Hansel, Gretel . . . Gretchen.
She’s masked of course, but I know it ’s her when her gaze doesn’t move beyond Christ ian. She
blushes, and selfishly I’m beyond pleased t hat Christ ian doesn’t acknowledge her at all.The MC
asks for our envelope and wit h a very pract iced and eloquent flourish, asks Grace t o pull out
t he winning bill. It ’s Sean’s, and t he silk-wrapped basket is awarded t o him.I applaud polit ely,
but I’m finding it impossible t o concent rat e on any more of t he proceedings.
“If you’ll excuse me,” I murmur t o Christ ian.
He looks at me int ent ly.
“Do you need t he powder room?”
I nod.
“I’ll show you,” he says darkly.
When I st and, all t he ot her men round t he t able st and wit h me. Oh, such manners.
“No, Christ ian! You’re not t aking Ana—I will.”
Mia is on her feet before Christ ian can prot est . His jaw t enses, I know he’s not pleased.
Quit e frankly, neit her am I. I have . . . needs. I shrug apologet ically at him, and he sit s down
quickly, resigned.
On our ret urn, I feel a lit t le bet t er, t hough t he relief of removing t he balls has not been as
inst ant aneous as I’d hoped. They’re now st ashed safely in my clut ch purse.
Why did I t hink I could last t he whole evening? I am st ill yearning—perhaps I can persuade
Christ ian t o t ake me t o t he boat house lat er. I flush at t he t hought and glance at him as I t ake
my seat . He st ares at me, t he ghost of a smile crossing his lips.
Phew . . . he’s no longer mad at a missed opportunity, though maybe I am. I feel frust rat ed—
irrit able even. Christ ian squeezes my hand, and we bot h list en at t ent ively t o Carrick, who is
back on st age t alking about Coping Toget her. Christ ian passes me anot her card—a list of t he
auct ion prizes. I scan t hem quickly.
Holy shit . I blink up at Christ ian.
“You own propert y in Aspen?” I hiss. The auct ion is underway, and I have t o keep my voice
down.
He nods, surprised at my out burst and irrit at ed, I t hink. He put s his finger t o his lips t o silence
me.
“Do you have propert y elsewhere?” I whisper.He nods again and inclines his head t o one side in
a warning.
The whole room erupt s wit h cheering and applause; one of t he prizes has gone for t welve
t housand dollars.
“I’ll t ell you lat er,” Christ ian says quiet ly. “I want ed t o come wit h you,” he adds rat her sulkily.
Well, you didn’t . I pout and I realize t hat I’m st ill querulous, and no doubt , it ’s t he frust rat ing
effect of t he balls. My mood darkens aft er seeing Mrs. Robinson on t he list of generous donors.
I glance around t he marquee t o see if I can spot her, but I can’t see her t ellt ale hair.
Surely Christ ian would have warned me if she was invit ed t onight . I sit and st ew, applauding
when necessary, as each lot is sold for ast onishing amount s of money.
The bidding moves t o Christ ian’s place in Aspen and reaches t went y t housand dollars.
“Going once, going t wice,” t he MC calls.
And I don’t know what possesses me, but I suddenly hear my own voice ringing out clearly over
t he t hrong.
“Twent y-four t housand dollars!”
Every mask at t he t able t urns t o me in shocked amazement , t he biggest react ion of all coming
from beside me. I hear his sharp int ake of breat h and feel his wrat h washing over me like a t idal
wave.
“Twent y-four t housand dollars, t o t he lovely lady in silver, going once, going t wice . . .
Sold!”
Holy shit , did I really just do t hat ? It must be t he alcohol. I’ve had champagne plus four glasses
of four different wines. I glance up at Christ ian who’s busy applauding.
Crap, he’s going t o be so angry, and we’ve been get t ing on so well. My subconscious has finally
decided t o make an appearance, and she’s wearing her Edvard Munch Scream face.Christ ian
leans over t o me, a large fake smile plast ered across his face. He kisses my cheek and t hen
moves closer t o whisper in my ear in a very cold, cont rolled voice.
“I don’t know whet her t o worship at your feet or spank t he living shit out of you.” Oh, I know
what I want right now. I gaze up at him, blinking t hrough my mask. I just wish I could read what ’s
in his eyes.
“I’ll t ake opt ion t wo, please,” I whisper frant ically as t he applause dies down. His lips part as he
inhales sharply. Oh that chiseled mouth—I want it on me, now. I ache for him. He gives me a
radiant sincere smile t hat leaves me breat hless.
“Suffering, are you? We’ll have t o see what we can do about t hat ,” he murmurs as he runs his
fingers along my jaw.
His t ouch resonat es deep, deep inside where t hat ache has spawned and grown. I want t o
jump him right here, right now, but we sit back t o wat ch t he auct ion of t he next lot .
I can barely sit st ill. Christ ian drapes an arm around my shoulders, his t humb rhyt hmically
st roking my back, sending delicious t ingles down my spine. His free hand clasps mine, bringing
it t o his lips, t hen let t ing it rest on his lap.
Slowly and surrept it iously, so I don’t realize his game unt il it ’s t oo lat e, he eases my hand up his
leg and against his erect ion. I gasp, and my eyes dart in panic around t he t able, but all eyes are
fixed on t he st age. Thank heavens for my mask.
Taking full advant age, I slowly caress him, let t ing my fingers explore. Christ ian keeps his hand
over mine, hiding my bold fingers, while his t humb skat es soft ly over t he nape of my neck. His
mout h opens as he gasps soft ly, and it ’s t he only react ion I can see t o my inexperienced t ouch.
But it means so much. He want s me. Everyt hing sout h of my navel cont ract s. This is becoming
unbearable.
A week by Lake Adriana in Mont ana is t he final lot for auct ion. Of course Mr. and Dr.
Grey have a house in Mont ana, and t he bidding escalat es rapidly, but I am barely aware of it . I
feel him growing beneat h my fingers, and it makes me feel so powerful.
“Sold, for one hundred t en t housand dollars!” t he MC declares vict oriously. The whole room
burst s int o applause, and reluct ant ly I follow as does Christ ian, ruining our fun.
He t urns t o me and his lips t wit ch. “Ready?” he mout hs over t he rapt urous cheering.
“Yes,” I mout h back
“Ana!” Mia calls. “It ’s t ime!”
What? No. Not again! “Time for what ?”
“The First Dance Auct ion. Come on!” She st ands and holds out her hand.
I glance at Christ ian who is, I t hink, scowling at Mia, and I don’t know whet her t o laugh or cry,
but it ’s laught er t hat wins. I succumb t o a cat hart ic bubble of schoolgirl giggles, as we are
t hwart ed once more by t he t all, pink powerhouse t hat is Mia Grey. Christ ian peers at me, and
aft er a beat , t here’s a ghost of a smile on his lips.
“The first dance will be wit h me, okay? And it won’t be on t he dance floor,” he murmurs
lasciviously int o my ear. My giggles subside as ant icipat ion fans t he flames of my need. Oh,
yes! My inner goddess performs a perfect t riple Salchow in her ice skat es.
“I look forward t o it .” I lean over and plant a soft , chast e kiss on his mout h. Glancing around, I
realize t hat our fellow guest s at t he t able are ast onished. Of course, t hey’ve never seen
Christ ian wit h a dat e before.
He smiles broadly at me. And he looks . . . happy. Wow.
“Come on, Ana,” Mia nags. Taking her out st ret ched hand, I follow her ont o t he st age where t en
more young women have assembled, and I not e wit h vague unease t hat Lily is one of t hem.
“Gent lemen, t he highlight of t he evening!” t he MC booms over t he babble of voices.
“The moment you’ve all been wait ing for! These t welve lovely ladies have all agreed t o auct ion
t heir first dance t o t he highest bidder!”
Oh no. I blush from head t o t oe. I hadn’t realized what t his meant . How humiliat ing!
“It ’s for a good cause,” Mia hisses at me, sensing my discomfort . “Besides, Christ ian will win.”
She rolls her eyes. “I can’t imagine him let t ing anyone out bid him. He hasn’t t aken his eyes off
you all evening.”
Yes, focus on t he good cause, and Christ ian is bound t o win. Let ’s face it , he’s not short of a
dime or t wo.
But it means spending more money on you! my subconscious snarls at me. But I don’t want t o
dance wit h anyone else—I can’t dance wit h anyone else—and it ’s not spending money on me,
he’s donat ing it t o t he charit y. Like the twenty-four thousand dollars he’s already spent? My
subconscious narrows her eyes.
Shit . I seem t o have got t en away wit h my impulsive bid. Why am I arguing wit h myself?“Now,
gent lemen, pray gat her round, and t ake a good look at what could be yours for t he first dance.
Twelve comely and compliant wenches.” Jeez! I feel like I’m in a meat market . I wat ch, horrified,
as at least t went y men make t heir way t o t he st age area, Christ ian included, moving wit h easy
grace bet ween t he t ables and pausing t o say a few hellos on t he way. Once t he bidders are
assembled, t he MC begins.
“Ladies and gent lemen, in t he t radit ion of t he masquerade we shall maint ain t he myst ery
behind t he masks and st ick t o first names only. First up we have t he lovely Jada.” Jada is
giggling like a schoolgirl, t oo. Maybe I won’t be so out of place. She’s dressed head t o foot in
navy t affet a wit h a mat ching mask. Two young men st ep forward expect ant ly. Lucky Jada.
“Jada speaks fluent Japanese, is a qualified fight er pilot , and an Olympic gymnast . . .
hmm.” The MC winks. “Gent leman, what am I bid?”
Jada gapes, ast ounded at t he MC; obviously, he’s t alking complet e garbage. She grins shyly
back at t he t wo cont enders.
“A t housand bucks!” one calls.
Very quickly t he bidding escalat es t o five t housand dollars.
“Going once . . . going t wice . . . sold!” t he MC declares loudly, “t o t he gent leman in t he mask!”
And of course all t he men are wearing masks so t here are hoot s of laught er, applause, and
cheering. Jada beams at her purchaser and quickly exit s t he st age.
“See? This is fun!” whispers Mia. “I hope Christ ian wins you, t hough . . . We don’t want a brawl,”
she adds.
“Brawl?” I answer horrified.
“Oh yes. He was very hot -headed when he was younger.” She shudders.
Christ ian brawling? Refined, sophist icat ed, likes-Tudor-choral-music Christ ian? I can’t see it .
The MC dist ract s me wit h his next int roduct ion—a young woman in red, wit h long jet -black
hair.
“Gent lemen, may I present t he wonderful Mariah. What are we going t o do about Mariah?
She’s an experienced mat ador, plays t he cello t o concert st andard, and she’s a champion pole-
vault er . . . how about t hat , gent lemen? What am I bid, please, for a dance wit h t he delight ful
Mariah?”
Mariah glares at t he MC and someone yells, very loudly, “Three t housand dollars!” It ’s a
masked man wit h blond hair and beard.
There is one count er-bid, but Mariah sells for four t housand dollars.
Christ ian is wat ching me like a hawk. Brawler Trevelyan-Grey—who would have known?
“How long ago?” I ask Mia.
She glances at me, nonplussed.
“How long ago was Christ ian brawling?”
“Early t eens. Drove my parent s crazy, coming home wit h cut lips and black eyes. He was
expelled from t wo schools. He inflict ed some serious damage on his opponent s.” I gape at her.
“Hasn’t he t old you?” She sighs. “He got quit e a bad rep among my friends. He was really
persona non grata for a few years. But it st opped when he was about fift een or sixt een.” She
shrugs.
Holy fuck. Anot her piece of t he jigsaw falls int o place.
“So, what am I bid for t he gorgeous Jill?”
“Four t housand dollars,” a deep voice calls from t he left side. Jill squeals in delight .
I st op paying at t ent ion t o t he auct ion. So Christ ian was in t hat kind of t rouble at school,
fight ing. I wonder why. I st are at him. Lily is wat ching us closely.
“And now, allow me t o int roduce t he beaut iful Ana.”
Oh shit, that’s me. I glance nervously at Mia, and she shoos me cent er st age. Fort unat ely, I
don’t fall over, but st and embarrassed as hell on display for everyone. When I look at Christ ian,
he’s smirking at me. The bast ard.
“Beaut iful Ana plays six musical inst rument s, speaks fluent Mandarin, and is keen on yoga . . .
well, gent lemen—” Before he can even finish his sent ence Christ ian int errupt s him, glaring at
t he MC t hrough his mask.
“Ten t housand dollars.” I hear Lily’s gasp of disbelief behind me.
Oh fuck.
“Fift een.”
What ? We all t urn as one t o a t all, impeccably dressed man st anding t o t he left of t he st age. I
blink at Fift y. Shit , what will he make of t his? But he’s scrat ching his chin and giving t he
st ranger an ironic smile. It ’s obvious Christ ian knows him. The st ranger nods polit ely at
Christ ian.
“Well, gent lemen! We have high rollers in t he house t his evening.” The MC’s excit ement
emanat es t hrough his harlequin mask as he t urns t o beam at Christ ian. This is a great show,
but it ’s at my expense. I want t o wail.
“Twent y,” count ers Christ ian quiet ly.
The babble of t he crowd has died. Everyone is st aring at me, Christ ian, and Mr. Myst erious by
t he st age.
“Twent y-five,” t he st ranger says.
Could t his be any more embarrassing?
Christ ian st ares at him impassively, but he’s amused. All eyes are on Christ ian. What ’s he going
t o do? My heart is in my mout h. I feel sick.
“One hundred t housand dollars,” he says his voice ringing clear and loud t hrough t he marquee.
“What t he fuck?” Lily hisses audibly behind me, and a general gasp of dismay and amusement
ripples t hrough t he crowd. The st ranger holds his hands up in defeat , laughing, and Christ ian
smirks at him. From t he corner of my eye, I can see Mia bouncing up and down wit h glee. My
subconscious is gazing at Christ ian, ut t erly gobsmacked.
“One-hundred t housand dollars for t he lovely Ana! Going once . . . going t wice . . .” The MC
st ares at t he st ranger who shakes his head wit h mock regret and bows chivalrously.
“Sold!” t he MC cries out t riumphant ly.
In a deafening round of applause and cheering, Christ ian st eps forward t o t ake my hand and
help me from t he st age. He gazes at me wit h an amused grin as I make my way down, kisses
t he back of my hand t hen t ucks it int o t he crook of his arm, and leads me t oward t he
marquee’s exit .
“Who was t hat ?” I ask.
He gazes down at me. “Someone you can meet lat er. Right now, I want t o show you
somet hing. We have about t hirt y minut es unt il t he First Dance Auct ion finishes. Then we have
t o be back on t he dance floor so t hat I can enjoy t hat dance I’ve paid for.”
“A very expensive dance,” I mut t er disapprovingly.
“I’m sure it ’ll be wort h every single cent .” He smiles down at me wickedly. Oh, he has a glorious
smile, and t he ache is back, blossoming in my body.
We’re out on t he lawn. I t hought we would be heading t o t he boat house, but disappoint -ingly
we seem t o be heading for t he dance floor where t he big band is now set t ing up. There are at
least t went y musicians, and a few guest s are milling about , furt ively smoking—but since most
of t he act ion is back in t he marquee, we don’t at t ract t oo much at t ent ion.
Christ ian leads me t o t he rear of t he house and opens a French window leading int o a large
comfort able sit t ing room t hat I’ve not seen before. He walks t hrough t he desert ed hall t oward
t he sweeping st aircase wit h it s elegant , polished wooden balust rade. Taking my hand from t he
crook of his arm, he leads me up t o t he second floor and up anot her flight of st airs t o t he t hird.
Opening a whit e door, he ushers me int o one of t he bedrooms.
“This was my room,” he says quiet ly, st anding by t he door and locking it behind him.
It ’s large, st ark, and sparsely furnished. The walls are whit e as is t he furnit ure; a spacious
double bed, a desk and chair, shelves crammed wit h books and lined wit h various t rophies for
kickboxing by t he look of t hem. The walls are hung wit h movie post ers: The Matrix, Fight Club,
The Truman Show, and t wo framed post ers feat uring kick boxers. One is named Guiseppe
DeNat ale—I’ve never heard of him.
But what cat ches my eye is t he whit e pin board above t he desk, st udded wit h a myriad of
phot ographs, Mariners pennant s, and t icket st ubs. It ’s a slice of young Christ ian. My eyes come
back t o t he magnificent , beaut iful man now st anding in t he cent er of t he room.
He looks at me darkly, brooding and sexy.
“I’ve never brought a girl in here,” he murmurs.
“Never?” I whisper.
He shakes his head.
I swallow convulsively, and t he ache t hat has been bot hering me for t he last couple of hours is
roaring now, raw and want ing. Seeing him st anding t here on t he royal blue carpet in t hat mask .
. . it ’s beyond erot ic. I want him. Now. Any way I can get him. I have t o resist launching myself at
him and ripping his clot hes off. He walt zes over t o me slowly.
“We don’t have long, Anast asia, and t he way I’m feeling right t his moment , we won’t need long.
Turn round. Let me get you out of t hat dress.” I t urn and st are at t he door, grat eful t hat he’s
locked it . Bending down he whispers soft ly in my ear, “Keep t he mask on.”
I groan as my body clenches in response. He’s not even t ouched me yet .
He grasps t he t op of my dress, his fingers sliding against my skin, and t he t ouch reverberat es
t hrough my body. In one swift move, he opens t he zipper. Holding my dress, he helps me t o
st ep out of it , t hen t urns and drapes it art fully over t he back of a chair. Removing his jacket , he
places it over my dress. He pauses, and st ares at me for a moment , drinking me in. I’m in t he
basque and mat ching pant ies, and I revel in his sensuous gaze.
“You know, Anast asia,” he says soft ly as he st alks t oward me, undoing his bow t ie so it hangs
from eit her side of his neck, t hen undoing t he t op t hree but t ons of his shirt . “I was so mad
when you bought my auct ion lot . All manner of ideas ran t hrough my head. I had t o remind
myself t hat punishment is off t he menu. But t hen you volunt eered.” He gazes down at me
t hrough his mask. “Why did you do t hat ?” he whispers.
“Volunt eer? I don’t know. Frust rat ion . . . t oo much alcohol . . . wort hy cause,” I mut t er meekly,
shrugging. Maybe t o get his at t ent ion?
I needed him t hen. I need him more now. The ache is worse, and I know he can soot he it , calm
t his roaring, salivat ing beast in me wit h t he beast in him. His mout h presses int o a line, and he
slowly licks his upper lip. I want t hat t ongue on me.
“I vowed t o myself I would not spank you again, even if you begged me.”
“Please,” I beg.
“But t hen I realized, you’re probably very uncomfort able at t he moment , and it ’s not somet hing
you’re used t o.” He smirks at me knowingly, arrogant bast ard, but I don’t care because he’s
absolut ely right .
“Yes,” I breat he.
“So, t here might be a cert ain . . . lat it ude. If I do t his, you must promise me one t hing.”
“Anyt hing.”
“You will safe word if you need t o, and I will just make love t o you, okay?”
“Yes.” I’m pant ing. I want his hands on me.
He swallows, t hen t akes my hand, and moves t oward t he bed. Throwing t he duvet aside, he
sit s down, grabs a pillow, and places it beside him. He gazes up at me st anding beside him and
suddenly t ugs hard on my hand so t hat I fall across his lap. He shift s slight ly so my body is
rest ing on t he bed, my chest on t he pillow, my face t o one side. Leaning over, he sweeps my
hair over my shoulder and runs his fingers t hrough t he plume of feat hers on my mask.
“Put your hands behind your back,” he murmurs.
Oh! He removes his bow t ie and uses it t o quickly bind my wrist s so t hat my hands are t ied
behind me, rest ing in t he small of my back.
“You really want t his, Anast asia?”
I close my eyes. This is t he first t ime since I met him t hat I really want t his. I need it .
“Yes,” I whisper.
“Why?” he asks soft ly as he caresses my behind wit h his palm.
I groan as soon as his hand makes cont act wit h my skin. I don’t know why . . . You tell me not to
overthink. After a day like today—arguing about the money, Leila, Mrs. Robinson, the dossier
on me, the roadmap, this lavish party, the masks, the alcohol, the silver balls, the auction . . . I
want this.
“Do I need a reason?”
“No, baby, you don’t ,” he says. “I’m just t rying t o underst and you.” His left hand curls round my
waist , holding me in place as his palm leaves my behind and lands hard, just above t he junct ion
of my t highs. The pain connect s direct ly wit h t he ache in my belly Oh man . . . I moan loudly. He
hit s me again, in exact ly t he same place. I groan again.
“Two,” he murmurs. “We’ll go wit h t welve.”
Oh my! This feels different t han t he last t ime—so carnal, so . . . necessary. He caresses my
behind wit h his long-fingered hands, and I’m helpless, t russed up and pressed int o t he
mat t ress, at his mercy, and of my own free will. He hit s me again, slight ly t o t he side, and again,
t o t he ot her side, t hen pauses as he slowly peels my pant ies down and pulls t hem off.
He gent ly t rails his palm across my behind again before cont inuing my spanking—each st inging
smack t aking t he edge off my need—or fueling it —I don’t know. I surrender myself t o t he
rhyt hm of blows, absorbing each one, savoring each one.
“Twelve,” he murmurs his voice low and harsh. He caresses my behind again and t rails his
fingers down t oward my sex and slowly sinks t wo fingers inside me, moving t hem in a circle,
round and round and round, t ort uring me.
I moan loudly as my body t akes over, and I come and come, convulsing around his fingers. It ’s
so int ense, unexpect ed, and quick.
“That ’s right , baby,” he murmurs appreciat ively. He unt ies my wrist s, keeping his fingers inside
me as I lie pant ing and spent over him.
“I’ve not finished wit h you yet , Anast asia,” he says and shift s wit hout removing his fingers. He
eases my knees on t o t he floor so t hat now I’m leaning over t he bed. He kneels on t he floor
behind me and undoes his zipper. He slides his fingers out of me, and I hear t he familiar t ear of
a foil packet . “Open your legs,” he growls and I comply. He st rokes my behind and eases int o
me.
“This is going t o be quick, baby,” he murmurs and grabbing my hips, he eases out t hen slams
int o me.
“Ah!” I cry out but t he fullness is heavenly. He’s hit t ing t he bellyache square on, again and
again, eradicat ing it wit h each sharp, sweet t hrust . The feeling is mind-blowing, just what I
need. I push back t o meet him, t hrust for t hrust .
“Ana, no,” he grunt s, t rying t o st ill me. But I want him t oo much, and I grind against him,
mat ching him t hrust for t hrust .
“Ana, shit ,” he hisses as he comes, and t he t ort ured sound set s me off again, spiraling int o a
healing orgasm t hat goes on and on and wrings me out and leaves me spent and breat hless.
Christ ian bends and kisses my shoulder t hen pulls out of me. Placing his arms around me, he
rest s his head in t he middle of my back, and we lie like t his, bot h kneeling at t he bedside, for
what ? Seconds? Minut es even as our breat hing calms. My bellyache has disappeared, and all I
feel is a soot hing, sat isfying serenit y.
Christ ian st irs and kisses my back. “I believe you owe me a dance, Miss St eele,” he murmurs.
“Hmm,” I respond, savoring t he absence of achiness and basking in t he aft erglow.
He sit s back on his heels and pulls me off t he bed ont o his lap. “We don’t have long.
Come on.” He kisses my hair and forces me t o st and.
I grumble but sit back down on t he bed and collect my pant ies from t he floor and scoop t hem
on. Lazily I walk t o t he chair t o ret rieve my dress. I not e wit h dispassionat e int erest t hat I did
not remove my shoes during our illicit t ryst . Christ ian is t ying his bow t ie, having finished
st raight ening himself and t he bed.
As I slip my dress back on, I check out t he phot ographs on t he pin board. Christ ian as a sullen
t een was gorgeous even t hen: wit h Elliot and Mia on t he ski slopes; on his own in Paris, t he Arc
de Triomphe serving as a giveaway background; in London; New York; t he Grand Canyon;
Sydney Opera House; even t he Great Wall of China. Mast er Grey was well t raveled at a young
age.
There are t icket st ubs t o various concert s: U2, Met allica, The Verve, Sheryl Crow, t he New
York Philharmonic performing Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet—what an eclect ic mix!
And in t he corner, t here’s a passport -size phot ograph of a young woman. It ’s in black and
whit e. She looks familiar, but for t he life of me, I can’t place her. Not Mrs. Robinson, t hank
heavens.
“Who’s t his?” I ask.
“No one of consequence,” he mut t ers as he slips on his jacket and st raight ens his bow t ie.
“Shall I zip you up?”
“Please. Then why is she on your pin board?”
“An oversight on my part . How’s my t ie?” He raises his chin like a small boy, and I grin and
st raight en it for him.
“Now it ’s perfect .”
“Like you,” he murmurs and grabs me, kissing me passionat ely. “Feeling bet t er?”
“Much, t hank you, Mr. Grey.”
“The pleasure was all mine, Miss St eele.”
The guest s are assembling on t he dance floor. Christ ian grins at me—we’ve made it just in
t ime—and he leads me ont o t he checkered floor.
“And now, ladies and gent lemen, it ’s t ime for t he first dance. Mr. and Dr. Grey, are you ready?”
Carrick nods in agreement , his arms around Grace.
“Ladies and gent lemen of t he First Dance Auct ion, are you ready?” We all nod in agreement .
Mia is wit h someone I don’t recognize. I wonder what happened t o Sean?
“Then we shall begin. Take it away, Sam!”
A young man st rolls ont o t he st age amid warm applause, t urns t o t he band behind him and
snaps his fingers. The familiar st rains of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” fill t he air.
Christ ian smiles down at me, t akes me in his arms, and st art s t o move. Oh, he dances so well,
making it easy t o follow. We grin at each ot her like idiot s as he whirls me around t he dance
floor.
“I love t his song,” Christ ian murmurs, gazing down at me. “Seems very fit t ing.” He’s no longer
grinning, but serious.
“You’re under my skin, t oo,” I respond. “Or you were in your bedroom.” He purses his lips but
he’s unable t o hide his amusement .
“Miss St eele,” he admonishes me t easingly, “I had no idea you could be so crude.”
“Mr. Grey, neit her did I. I t hink it ’s all my recent experiences. They’ve been an educat ion.”
“For bot h of us.” Christ ian is serious again, and it could just be t he t wo of us and t he band. We
are in our own privat e bubble.
As t he song finishes we bot h applaud. Sam t he singer bows graciously and int roduces his
band.
“May I cut in?”
I recognize t he man who bid on me at t he auct ion. Christ ian grudgingly let s me go, but he’s
amused, t oo.
“Be my guest . Anast asia, t his is John Flynn. John, Anast asia.” Shit!
Christ ian smirks at me and wanders off t o one side of t he dance floor.
“How do you do, Anast asia?” Dr. Flynn says smoot hly, and I realize he’s Brit ish.
“Hello,” I st ut t er.
The band st rikes up anot her song, and Dr. Flynn pulls me int o his arms. He’s much younger
t han I imagined, t hough I can’t see his face. He’s wearing a mask similar t o Christ ian’s. He’s t all,
but not as t all as Christ ian, and he doesn’t move wit h Christ ian’s easy grace.
What do I say t o him? Why is Christ ian so fucked-up? Why did he bid on me? It ’s t he only t hing
I want t o ask him, but somehow t hat seems rude.
“I’m glad t o finally meet you, Anast asia. Are you enjoying yourself?” he asks.
“I was,” I whisper.
“Oh. I hope I’m not responsible for your change of heart .” He gives me a brief, warm smile t hat
put s me a lit t le more at ease.
“Doct or Flynn, you’re t he shrink. You t ell me.”
He grins. “That ’s t he problem, isn’t it ? The shrink bit ?” I giggle. “I’m worried what I might reveal,
so I’m a lit t le self-conscious and int imidat ed. And really I only want t o ask you about Christ ian.”
He smiles. “First , t his is a part y so I’m not on dut y,” he whispers conspirat orially. “And second, I
really can’t t alk t o you about Christ ian. Besides,” he t eases, “we’d need unt il Christ mas.”
I gasp in shock.
“That ’s a doct or’s joke, Anast asia.”
I flush, embarrassed, and t hen feel slight ly resent ful. He’s making a joke at Christ ian’s expense.
“You’ve just confirmed what I’ve been saying t o Christ ian . . . t hat you’re an expensive
charlat an,” I admonish him.
Dr. Flynn snort s wit h laught er. “You could be ont o somet hing t here.”
“You’re Brit ish?”
“Yes. Originally from London.”
“How did you find yourself here?”
“Happy circumst ance.”
“You don’t give much away, do you?”
“There’s not much t o give away. I’m really a very dull person.”
“That ’s very self-deprecat ing.”
“It ’s a Brit ish t rait . Part of our nat ional charact er.”
“Oh.”
“And I could accuse you of t he same, Anast asia.”
“That I’m a dull person, t oo, Dr. Flynn?”
He snort s. “No, Anast asia, t hat you don’t give much away.”
“There’s not much t o give away.” I smile.
“I sincerely doubt t hat .” He unexpect edly frowns.
I flush, but t he music finishes and Christ ian is once more by my side. Dr. Flynn releases me. “It ’s
been a pleasure t o meet you, Anast asia.” He gives me his warm smile again, and I feel t hat I’ve
passed some kind of hidden t est .
“John.” Christ ian nods at him.
“Christ ian.” Dr. Flynn ret urns his nod, t urns on his heel, and disappears t hrough t he crowd.
Christ ian pulls me int o his arms for t he next dance.
“He’s much younger t han I expect ed,” I murmur t o him. “And t erribly indiscreet .” Christ ian cocks
his head t o one side. “Indiscreet ?”
“Oh yes, he t old me everyt hing,” I t ease.
Christ ian t enses. “Well, in t hat case, I’ll get your bag. I’m sure you want not hing more t o do wit h
me,” he says soft ly.
I st op. “He didn’t t ell me anyt hing!” My voice fills wit h panic.
Christ ian blinks before relief floods his face. He pulls me int o his arms again. “Then let ’s enjoy
t his dance.” He beams down, reassuring me, t hen spins me round.
Why would he t hink t hat I’d want t o leave? It makes no sense.
We dance for t wo more numbers, and I realize I need t he rest room.
“I won’t be long.”
As I make my way t o t he powder room, I remember I have left my purse on t he dinner t able, so I
head down t o t he marquee. When I ent er, it ’s st ill lit but quit e desert ed, except for a couple at
t he ot her end, who really ought t o get a room! I reach for my bag.
“Anast asia?”
A soft voice st art les me, and I t urn t o see a woman dressed in a long, t ight , black velvet gown.
Her mask is unique. It covers her face t o her nose but also covers her hair. It ’s st unning wit h
elaborat e gold filigree.
“I’m so glad you’re on your own,” she says soft ly. “I’ve been want ing t o t alk t o you all evening.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are.”
She pulls t he mask from her face and releases her hair.
Shit ! It ’s Mrs. Robinson.
“I’m sorry, I st art led you.”
I gape at her. Holy cow—what the fuck does this woman want?
I don’t know what t he social convent ions are for meet ing known molest ers of children.
She’s smiling sweet ly and gest uring for me t o sit at t he t able. And because I am lacking any
sphere of reference, I do as she asks out of st unned polit eness, grat eful t hat I am st ill wearing
my mask.
“I’ll be brief, Anast asia. I know what you t hink of me . . . Christ ian’s t old me.” I gaze at her
impassively, giving not hing away, but I’m pleased t hat she knows. It saves me t elling her, and
she’s cut t ing t o t he chase. Part of me is beyond int rigued as t o what she could have t o say.
She pauses, glancing over my shoulder. “Taylor’s wat ching us.” I peek around t o see him
scanning t he t ent by t he doorway. Sawyer is wit h him. They are looking anywhere but at us.
“Look, we don’t have long,” she says hurriedly. “It must be obvious t o you t hat Christ ian is in
love wit h you. I have never seen him like t his, ever.” She emphasizes t he last word.
What? Loves me? No. Why is she t elling me? To reassure me? I don’t underst and.
“He won’t t ell you because he probably doesn’t realize it himself, not wit hst anding what I’ve
said t o him, but t hat ’s Christ ian. He’s not very at t uned t o any posit ive feelings and emot ions he
may have. He dwells far t oo much on t he negat ive. But t hen you’ve probably worked t hat out
for yourself. He doesn’t t hink he’s wort hy.” I am reeling. Christian loves me? He hasn’t said it ,
and t his woman has t old him t hat ’s how he feels? How bizarre.
A hundred images dance t hrough my head: t he iPad, t he gliding, flying t o see me, all his act ions,
his possessiveness, one hundred t housand dollars for a dance. Is t his love?
And hearing it from t his woman, having her confirm it for me is, frankly, unwelcome.
I’d rat her hear it from him.
My heart const rict s. He feels unwort hy? Why?
“I’ve never seen him so happy, and it ’s obvious t hat you have feelings for him, t oo.” A brief smile
flit s across her lips. “That ’s great , and I wish you bot h t he best of everyt hing.
But what I want ed t o say is if you hurt him again, I will find you, lady, and it won’t be pleasant
when I do.”
She st ares at me, ice-cold blue eyes boring int o my skull, t rying t o get under my mask.
Her t hreat is so ast onishing, so off t he wall t hat an involunt ary, disbelieving giggle escapes me.
Of all t he t hings she could say t o me, t his is t he least expect ed.
“You t hink t his is funny, Anast asia?” she splut t ers in dismay. “You didn’t see him last
Sat urday.”
My face falls and darkens. The t hought of Christ ian unhappy is not a palat able one, and last
Sat urday I left him. He must have gone t o her. The idea makes me queasy. Why am I sit t ing
here list ening t o t his shit from her of all people? I slowly rise, gazing at her int ent ly.
“I’m laughing at your audacit y, Mrs. Lincoln. Christ ian and I have not hing t o do wit h you. And if I
do leave him and you come looking for me, I’ll be wait ing—don’t doubt it .
And maybe I’ll give you a t ast e of your own medicine on behalf of t he fift een-year-old child you
molest ed and probably fucked-up even more t han he already was.” Her mout h falls open.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have bet t er t hings t o do t han wast e my t ime wit h you.” I t urn on my
heel, adrenaline and anger coursing t hrough my body, and st alk t oward t he ent rance of t he
t ent where Taylor is st anding just as Christ ian arrives, looking flust ered and worried.
“There you are,” he mut t ers, t hen frowns when he sees Elena.
I st ride past him, saying not hing, giving him t he opport unit y t o choose—her or me. He makes
t he right choice.
“Ana,” he calls. I st op and face him as he cat ches up wit h me. “What ’s wrong?” He gazes down
at me, concern et ched on his face.
“Why don’t you ask your ex?” I hiss acidly.
His mout h t wist s and his eyes frost . “I’m asking you,” he says, his voice soft but wit h an
undert one of somet hing far more menacing.
We glare at each ot her.
Okay, I can see t his will end in a fight if I don’t t ell him. “She’s t hreat ening t o come aft er me if I
hurt you again—probably wit h a whip,” I snap at him.
Relief flashes across his face, his mout h soft ening wit h humor. “Surely t he irony of t hat isn’t
lost on you?” he says, and I can t ell he’s t rying hard t o st ifle his amusement .
“This isn’t funny, Christ ian!”
“No, you’re right . I’ll t alk t o her.” He adopt s his serious face, t hough he’s st ill suppressing his
amusement .
“You will do no such t hing.” I fold my arms, my anger spiking again.
He blinks at me, surprised by my out burst .
“Look, I know you’re t ied up wit h her financially, forgive t he pun, but —” I st op. What am I asking
him t o do? Give her up? St op seeing her? Can I do t hat ? “I need t he rest room.” I glare up at
him, my mout h set in a grim line.
He sighs and cocks his head t o one side. Could he look any hot t er? Is it t he mask or just him?
“Please don’t be mad. I didn’t know she was here. She said she wasn’t coming.” His t one is
placat ing as if he’s t alking t o a child. Reaching up he runs his t humb along my pout ing bot t om
lip. “Don’t let Elena ruin our evening, please, Anast asia. She’s really old news.” Old being the
operative word, I t hink uncharit ably, as he t ips my chin up and gent ly grazes his lips against
mine. I sigh in agreement , blinking up at him. He st raight ens and t akes my elbow.
“I’ll accompany you t o t he powder room so you don’t get int errupt ed again.” He leads me
across t he lawn t oward t he luxurious t emporary rest rooms. Mia said t hey had been delivered
for t he occasion, but I had no idea t hey came in deluxe versions.
“I’ll wait here for you, baby,” he murmurs.
When I come out , my mood has moderat ed. I have decided not t o let Mrs. Robinson blight my
evening because t hat ’s probably what she want s. Christ ian is on t he phone some dist ance
away and out of earshot of t he few people laughing and chat t ing nearby. As I get closer, I can
hear him. He’s very t erse.
“Why did you change your mind? I t hought we’d agreed. Well, leave her alone . . . This is t he
first regular relat ionship I’ve ever had, and I don’t want you jeopardizing it t hrough some
misplaced concern for me. Leave. Her. Alone. I mean it , Elena.” He pauses, list ening.
“No, of course not .” He frowns deeply as he says t his. Glancing up, he sees me regarding him. “I
have t o go. Goodnight .” He presses t he off but t on.
I cock my head t o one side and raise an eyebrow at him. Why is he phoning her?
“How’s t he old news?”
“Cranky,” he replies sardonically. “Do you want t o dance some more? Or would you like t o go?”
He glances at his wat ch. “The fireworks st art in five minut es.”
“I love fireworks.”
“We’ll st ay and wat ch t hem, t hen.” He put s his arms around me and pulls me close.
“Don’t let her come bet ween us, please.”
“She cares about you,” I mut t er.
“Yes, and I her . . . as a friend.”
“I t hink it ’s more t han a friendship t o her.”
His brow furrows. “Anast asia, Elena and I . . . it ’s complicat ed. We have a shared hist ory. But it is
just t hat , hist ory. As I’ve said t o you t ime and t ime again, she’s a good friend.
That ’s all. Please, forget about her.” He kisses my hair, and in t he int erest of not ruining our
evening, I let it go. I am just t rying t o underst and.
We wander hand in hand back t o t he dance floor. The band is st ill in full swing.
“Anast asia.”
I t urn t o find Carrick st anding behind us.
“I wondered if you’d do me t he honor of t he next dance.” Carrick holds his hand out t o me.
Christ ian shrugs and smiles, releasing my hand, and I let Carrick lead me ont o t he dance floor.
Sam t he bandleader launches int o “Come Fly wit h Me,” and Carrick put s his arm around my
waist and gent ly whirls me int o t he t hrong.
“I want ed t o t hank you for t he generous cont ribut ion t o our charit y, Anast asia.” From his t one, I
suspect t his is his roundabout way of asking whet her I can afford it .
“Mr. Grey—”
“Call me Carrick, please, Ana.”
“I’m delight ed t o be able t o cont ribut e. I unexpect edly came int o some money. I don’t need it .
And it ’s such a wort hy cause.”
He smiles down at me, and I seize t he opport unit y for some innocent inquiries. Carpe diem, my
subconscious hisses from behind her hand.
“Christ ian t old me a lit t le about his past , so I t hink it ’s appropriat e t o support your work,” I add,
hoping t hat t his might encourage Carrick t o give me a small insight int o t he myst ery t hat is his
son.
Carrick is surprised. “Did he? That ’s unusual. You cert ainly have had a very posit ive effect on
him, Anast asia. I don’t t hink I’ve ever seen him so, so . . . buoyant .” I flush.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean t o embarrass you.”
“Well, in my limit ed experience, he’s a very unusual man,” I murmur.
“He is,” Carrick agrees quiet ly.
“Christ ian’s early childhood sounds hideously t raumat ic, from what he’s t old me.” Carrick
frowns, and I worry if I’ve overst epped t he mark.
“My wife was t he doct or on dut y when t he police brought him in. He was skin and bones, and
badly dehydrat ed. He wouldn’t speak.” Carrick frowns again, lost in t he awful memory, despit e
t he up-t empo music surrounding us. “In fact , he didn’t speak for nearly t wo years. It was playing
t he piano t hat event ually brought him out of himself. Oh, and Mia’s arrival, of course.” He smiles
down at me fondly.
“He plays beaut ifully. And he’s accomplished so much, you must be very proud of him.” I sound
dist ract ed. Holy Shit. Didn’t speak for two years.
“Immensely so. He’s a very det ermined, very capable, very bright young man. But bet ween you
and me, Anast asia, it ’s seeing him like he is t his evening—carefree, act ing his age—t hat ’s t he
real t hrill for his mot her and me. We were bot h comment ing on it t oday. I believe we have you
t o t hank for t hat .”
I t hink I blush t o my root s. What am I supposed t o say t o t his?
“He’s always been such a loner. We never t hought we’d see him wit h anyone. What ever you’re
doing, please don’t st op. We’d like t o see him happy.” He st ops suddenly as if he’s overst epped
t he mark. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean t o make you uncomfort able.” I shake my head. “I’d like t o see
him happy, t oo,” I mut t er, unsure of what else t o say.
“Well, I’m very glad you came t his evening. It ’s been a real pleasure seeing t he t wo of you
t oget her.”
As t he final st rains of “Come Fly wit h Me” fade away, Carrick releases me and bows, and I
curt sey, mirroring his civilit y.
“That ’s enough dancing wit h old men.” Christ ian is at my side again. Carrick laughs.
“Less of t he ‘old,’ son. I’ve been known t o have my moment s.” Carrick winks at me playfully and
saunt ers int o t he crowd.
“I t hink my dad likes you,” Christ ian mut t ers as he wat ches his fat her mingle wit h t he crowd..
“What ’s not t o like?” I peek coquet t ishly up at him t hrough my lashes.
“Good point well made, Miss St eele.” He pulls me int o an embrace as t he band st art s t o play “It
Had t o Be You.”
“Dance wit h me,” he whispers seduct ively.
“Wit h pleasure, Mr. Grey.” I smile in response, and he sweeps me across t he dance floor once
more.
At midnight , we st roll down t oward t he shore bet ween t he marquee and t he boat house where
t he ot her part ygoers are gat hered t o wat ch t he fireworks. The MC, back in charge, has
permit t ed t he removal of masks, t he bet t er t o see t he display. Christ ian has his arm around me,
but I’m aware t hat Taylor and Sawyer are close by, probably because we’re in t he crowd now.
They are looking anywhere but at t he dockside where t wo pyrot echnicians dressed in black
are making t heir final preparat ions. Seeing Taylor reminds me of Leila.
Perhaps she’s here. Shi t. The t hought chills my blood, and I huddle closer t o Christ ian. He
gazes down at me as he pulls me closer.
“You okay, baby? Cold?”
“I’m fine.” I glance quickly behind us and see t he ot her t wo securit y guys, whose names I forget ,
st anding close by. Moving me in front of him, Christ ian put s bot h his arms around me over my
shoulders.
Suddenly, a st irring classical soundt rack booms over t he dock and t wo rocket s soar int o t he air,
exploding wit h a deafening bang over t he bay, light ing it all in a dazzling canopy of sparkling
orange and whit e t hat ’s reflect ed in a glit t ering shower over t he st ill calm wat er of t he bay. My
jaw drops as several more rocket s fire int o t he air and explode in a kaleido-scope of color.
I can’t recall ever seeing a display t his impressive, except perhaps on t elevision, and it never
looks t his good on TV. They’re all in t ime t o t he music. Volley aft er volley, bang aft er bang, and
light aft er light as t he crowd answers wit h gasps and ooohs and ahhs. It is out of t his world.
On t he pont oon in t he bay several silver fount ains of light shoot up t went y feet in t he air,
changing color t hrough blue, red, orange, and back t o silver—and yet more rocket s explode as
t he music reaches it s crescendo.
My face is beginning t o ache from t he ridiculous grin of wonder plast ered across it . I glance at
Fift y, and he’s t he same, marveling like a child at t he sensat ional show. For t he finale a volley of
six rocket s shoot int o t he dark and explode simult aneously, bat hing us in a glorious golden light
as t he crowd erupt s int o frant ic, ent husiast ic applause.
“Ladies and gent lemen,” t he MC calls out as t he cheers and whist les fade. “Just one not e t o
add at t he end of t his wonderful evening; your generosit y has raised a t ot al of one million, eight
hundred and fift y t hree t housand dollars!” Spont aneous applause erupt s again, and out on t he
pont oon, a message light s up in silver st reams of sparks forming t he words Thank You From
Coping Together, sparkling and shimmering over t he wat er.
“Oh, Christ ian . . . t hat was wonderful.” I grin up at him and he bends down t o kiss me.
“Time t o go,” he murmurs, a broad smile on his beaut iful face, and his words hold so much
promise.
Suddenly, I feel very t ired.
He glances up again, and Taylor is close, t he crowd dispersing around us. They don’t speak but
somet hing passes bet ween t hem.
“St ay wit h me a moment . Taylor want s us t o wait while t he crowd disperses.” Oh.
“I t hink t hat firework display probably aged him a hundred years,” he adds.
“Doesn’t he like fireworks?”
Christ ian gazes down at me fondly and shakes his head but doesn’t elaborat e.
“So, Aspen,” he says, and I know he’s t rying t o dist ract me from somet hing. It works.
“Oh . . . I haven’t paid for my bid,” I gasp.
“You can send a check. I have t he address.”
“You were really mad.”
“Yes, I was.”
I grin. “I blame you and your t oys.”
“You were quit e overcome, Miss St eele. A most sat isfact ory out come if I recall.” He smiles
salaciously. “Incident ally, where are t hey?”
“The silver balls? In my bag.”
“I’d like t hem back.” He smirks down at me. “They are far t oo pot ent a device t o be left in your
innocent hands.”
“Worried I might be quit e overcome again, maybe wit h somebody else?” His eyes glit t er
dangerously. “I hope t hat ’s not going t o happen,” he says, a cool edge t o his voice. “But no,
Ana. I want all your pleasure.” Whoa. “Don’t you t rust me?”
“Implicit ly. Now, can I have t hem back?”
“I’ll t hink about it .”
He narrows his eyes at me.
There’s music once more from t he dance floor but it ’s a DJ playing a t humping dance number,
t he bass pounding out a relent less beat .
“Do you want t o dance?”
“I’m really t ired, Christ ian. I’d like t o go, if t hat ’s okay.” Christ ian glances at Taylor, who nods,
and we set off t oward t he house, following a couple of drunken guest s. I’m grat eful when
Christ ian t akes my hand—my feet are aching from t he dizzying height and t ight confinement
of my shoes.
Mia comes bounding up t o us. “You’re not going, are you? The real music’s just beginning.
Come on, Ana.” She grabs my hand.
“Mia,” Christ ian admonishes her. “Anast asia’s t ired. We’re going home. Besides, we have a big
day t omorrow.”
We do?
Mia pout s but surprisingly doesn’t push Christ ian.
“You must come by somet ime next week. Maybe we can hit t he mall?”
“Sure, Mia.” I grin, t hough in t he back of my mind I’m wondering how since I have t o work for a
living.
She gives me a quick kiss t hen hugs Christ ian fiercely, t aking us bot h by surprise. More
ast oundingly st ill, she places her hands direct ly on t he lapels of his jacket , and he just gazes
down at her, indulgent ly.
“I like seeing you t his happy,” she says sweet ly and kisses him on t he cheek. “Bye. You guys
have fun.” She skips off t oward her wait ing friends—among t hem Lily, who looks even more
sour-faced wit hout her mask.
I wonder idly where Sean is.
“We’ll say goodnight t o my parent s before we leave. Come.” Christ ian leads me t hrough a
gaggle of guest s t o Grace and Carrick, who wish us fond and warm farewells.
“Please do come again, Anast asia, it ’s been lovely having you here,” says Grace kindly.
I am a lit t le overwhelmed by bot h her and Carrick’s react ion. Fort unat ely, Grace’s parent s have
ret ired for t he evening, so at least I am spared t heir ent husiasm.
Quiet ly, Christ ian and I walk hand in hand t o t he front of t he house where count less cars are
lined up and wait ing t o collect guest s. I glance up at Fift y. He looks happy and relaxed. It ’s a
real pleasure t o see him t his way, t hough I suspect it ’s unusual aft er such an ext raordinary day.
“Are you warm enough?” he asks.
“Yes, t hank you.” I clasp my sat in wrap.
“I really enjoyed t his evening, Anast asia. Thank you.”
“Me t oo, some part s more t han ot hers.” I grin.
He grins and nods, t hen his brow creases. “Don’t bit e your lip,” he warns in a way t hat makes
my blood sing.
“What did you mean about a big day t omorrow?” I ask t o dist ract myself.
“Dr. Greene is coming t o sort you out . Plus, I have a surprise for you.”
“Dr. Greene!” I halt .
“Yes.”
“Why?”
“Because I hat e condoms,” he says quiet ly. His eyes glint in t he soft light from t he paper
lant erns, gauging my react ion.
“It ’s my body,” I mut t er, annoyed t hat he hasn’t asked me.
“It ’s mine, t oo,” he whispers.
I gaze up at him as various guest s pass by, ignoring us. He looks so earnest . Yes, my body is
his . . . he knows it bet t er t han I do.
I reach up, and he flinches ever so slight ly but st ays st ill. Grasping t he corner of his bow t ie, I
pull so it unravels, revealing t he t op but t on of his shirt . Gent ly I undo it .
“You look hot like t his,” I whisper. Act ually he looks hot all t he t ime, but really hot like t his.
He smirks at me. “I need t o get you home. Come.”
At t he car, Sawyer hands Christ ian an envelope. He frowns at it and glances at me as Taylor
ushers me int o t he car. Taylor looks relieved for some reason. Christ ian climbs in and hands me
t he envelope, unopened, as Taylor and Sawyer t ake t heir seat s in t he front .
“It ’s addressed t o you. One of t he st aff gave it t o Sawyer. No doubt from yet anot her ensnared
heart .” Christ ian’s mout h t wist s. It ’s obvious t his is an unpleasant concept t o him.
I st are at t he not e. Who is t his from? Ripping it open, I read it quickly in t he dim light .
Holy shit , it ’s from her! Why won’t she leave me alone?
Fuck, she’s signed it Mrs. Robinson! He told her. The bastard.
“You t old her?”
“Told who, what ?”
“That I call her Mrs. Robinson,” I snap.
“It ’s from Elena?” Christ ian is shocked. “This is ridiculous,” he grumbles, running a hand t hrough
his hair, and I can t ell he’s irrit at ed. “I’ll deal wit h her t omorrow. Or Monday,” he mut t ers bit t erly.
And t hough I’m ashamed t o admit it , a very small part of me is pleased. My subconscious nods
sagely. Elena is pissing him off, and t his can only be good—surely. I decide t o say not hing for
now but st ash her not e in my bag, and in a gest ure guarant eed t o light en his mood, I hand him
back t he balls.
“Unt il next t ime,” I murmur.
He glances at me, and it ’s hard t o see his face in t he dark, but I t hink he’s smirking. He reaches
for my hand and squeezes it .
I gaze out of t he window int o t he darkness, reflect ing on t his long day. I’ve learned so much
about him, gleaned so many missing det ails—t he salons, t he road map, his childhood—but
t here’s st ill so much more t o discover. And what about Mrs. R? Yes, she cares for him, and
deeply, it would appear. I can see t hat , and he cares for her—but not in t he same way. I don’t
know what t o t hink anymore. All t his informat ion is making my head hurt .
Christ ian wakes me just as we pull up out side Escala. “Do I need t o carry you in?” he asks
gent ly.
I shake my head sleepily. No way.
As we st and in t he elevat or, I lean against him, put t ing my head against his shoulder.
Sawyer st ands in front of us, shift ing uncomfort ably.
“It ’s been a long day, eh, Anast asia?”
I nod.
“Tired?”
I nod.
“You’re not very t alkat ive.”
I nod and he grins.
“Come. I’ll put you t o bed.” He t akes my hand as we exit t he elevat or, but we st op in t he foyer
when Sawyer holds up his hand. In t hat split second, I am inst ant ly wide awake.
Sawyer t alks int o his sleeve. I had no idea t hat he was wearing a radio.
“Will do, T,” he says and t urns t o face us. “Mr. Grey, t he t ires on Ms. St eele’s Audi have been
slashed and paint t hrown all over it .”
Holy shit. My car! Who would do t hat ? And I know t he answer as soon as t he quest ion
mat erializes in my mind. Leila. I glance up at Christ ian, and he blanches.
“Taylor is concerned t hat t he perp may have ent ered t he apart ment and may st ill be t here. He
want s t o make sure.”
“I see,” Christ ian whispers. “What ’s Taylor’s plan?”
“He’s coming up in t he service elevat or wit h Ryan and Reynolds. They’ll do a sweep t hen give
us t he all clear. I’m t o wait wit h you, sir.”
“Thank you, Sawyer.” Christ ian t ight ens his arm around me. “This day just get s bet t er and
bet t er,” he sighs bit t erly, nuzzling my hair. “List en, I can’t st and here and wait . Sawyer, t ake
care of Miss St eele. Don’t let her in unt il you have t he all clear. I am sure Taylor is overreact ing.
She can’t get int o t he apart ment .”
What? “No, Christ ian—you have t o st ay wit h me,” I plead.
Christ ian releases me. “Do as you’re t old, Anast asia. Wait here.” No!
“Sawyer?” Christ ian says.
Sawyer opens t he foyer door t o let Christ ian ent er t he apart ment t hen shut s t he door behind
him and st ands in front of it , st aring impassively down at me.
Holy shit. Christian! All manner of horrific out comes run t hrough my mind, but all I can do is
st and and wait .
Sawyer t alks int o his sleeve again.
“Taylor, Mr. Grey has ent ered t he apart ment .” He flinches and grabs t he earpiece, pulling it out
of his ear, presumably receiving some powerful invect ive from Taylor.
Oh no—if Taylor is worried . . .
“Please let me go in,” I plead.
“Sorry, Miss St eele. This won’t t ake long.” Sawyer holds bot h hands up in a defensive gest ure.
“Taylor and t he guys are just coming int o t he apart ment now.” Oh. I feel so impot ent . St anding
st ock-st ill, I list en avidly for t he slight est sound, but all I hear is my aggravat ed breat hing. It ’s
loud and shallow, my scalp prickles, my mout h is dry, and I feel faint . Please, let Christian be
okay, I pray silent ly.
I have no idea how much t ime passes, and st ill we hear not hing. Surely no sound is good—
t here are no gunshot s. I begin pacing around t he t able in t he foyer and examine t he paint ings
on t he walls t o dist ract myself.
I’ve never really looked at t hem before: all figurat ive paint ings, all religious—t he Madonna and
child, all sixt een of t hem. How odd?
Christ ian isn’t religious, is he? All of t he paint ings in t he great room are abst ract s—
t hese are so different . They don’t dist ract me for long— Where is Christian?
I st are at Sawyer and he wat ches me impassively.
“What ’s happening?”
“No news, Miss St eele.”
Abrupt ly, t he doorknob moves. Sawyer spins like a t op and draws a gun from his shoulder
holst er.
I freeze. Christ ian appears at t he door.
“All clear,” he says, frowning at Sawyer, who put s his gun away immediat ely and st eps back t o
let me in.
“Taylor is overreact ing,” Christ ian grumbles as he holds out his hand t o me. I st and gaping at
him, unable t o move, drinking in every lit t le det ail: his unruly hair, t he t ight ness round his eyes,
t he t ense jaw, t he t op t wo but t ons of his shirt undone. I t hink I must have aged t en years.
Christ ian frowns at me in concern, his eyes dark.
“It ’s alright , baby.” He moves t oward me, enveloping me in his arms, and kisses my hair. “Come
on, you’re t ired. Bed.”
“I was so worried,” I murmur, rejoicing in his embrace and inhaling his sweet , sweet scent wit h
my head against his chest .
“I know. We’re all jumpy.”
Sawyer has disappeared, presumably int o t he apart ment .
“Honest ly, your exes are proving t o be very challenging, Mr. Grey,” I mut t er wryly.
Christ ian relaxes.
“Yes. They are.”
He releases me and t aking my hand, leads me across t he hallway and int o t he great room.
“Taylor and his crew are checking all t he closet s and cupboards. I don’t t hink she’s here.”
“Why would she be here?” It makes no sense.
“Exact ly.”
“Could she get in?”
“I don’t see how. But Taylor is overcaut ious somet imes.”
“Have you searched your playroom?” I whisper.
Christ ian glances quickly at me, his brow creasing. “Yes, it ’s locked—but Taylor and I checked.”
I t ake a deep, cleansing breat h.
“Do you want a drink or anyt hing?” Christ ian asks.
“No.” Fat igue sweeps t hrough me—I just want t o go t o bed.
“Come. Let me put you t o bed. You look exhaust ed.” Christ ian’s expression soft ens.
I frown. Isn’t he coming, t oo? Does he want t o sleep alone?
I’m relieved when he leads me int o his bedroom. I place my clut ch bag on t he chest of drawers
and open it t o empt y t he cont ent s. I spy Mrs. Robinson’s not e.
“Here.” I pass it t o Christ ian. “I don’t know if you want t o read t his. I want t o ignore it .” Christ ian
scans it briefly and his jaw t enses.
“I’m not sure what blanks she can fill in,” he says dismissively. “I need t o t alk t o Taylor.” He
gazes down at me. “Let me unzip your dress.”
“Are you going t o call t he police about t he car?” I ask as I t urn around.
He sweeps my hair out of t he way, his fingers soft ly grazing my naked back, and t ugs down my
zipper.
“No. I don’t want t he police involved. Leila needs help, not police int ervent ion, and I don’t want
t hem here. We just have t o double our effort s t o find her.” He leans down and plant s a gent le
kiss on my shoulder.
“Go t o bed,” he orders and t hen he’s gone.
I lie, st aring at t he ceiling, wait ing for him t o ret urn. So much has happened t oday, so much t o
process. Where t o st art ?
I wake wit h a jolt —disorient at ed. Have I been asleep? Blinking in t he dim glow t he hallway
cast s t hrough t he slight ly open bedroom door, I not ice t hat Christ ian is not wit h me. Where is
he? I glance up. St anding at t he end of t he bed is a shadow. A woman, maybe?
Dressed in black? It ’s difficult t o t ell.
In my befuddled st at e, I reach across and swit ch on t he bedside light , t hen t urn back t o look
but t here’s no one t here. I shake my head. Did I imagine it ? Dream it ?
I sit up and look around t he room, a vague, insidious unease gripping me—but I am quit e alone.
I rub my face. What t ime is it ? Where’s Christ ian? The alarm says it ’s t wo fift een in t he morning.
Climbing groggily out of bed, I set off t o hunt him down, disconcert ed by my overact ive
imaginat ion. I am seeing t hings now. It must be a react ion t o t he dramat ic event s of t he
evening.
The main room is empt y, t he only light emanat ing from t he t hree pendulum lamps above t he
breakfast bar. But his st udy door is ajar, and I hear him on t he phone.
“I don’t know why you’re calling at t his hour. I have not hing t o say t o you . . . well, you can t ell
me now. You don’t have t o leave a message.” I st and mot ionless by t he door, eavesdropping
guilt ily. Who is he t alking t o?
“No, you list en. I asked you, and now I am t elling you. Leave her alone. She’s not hing t o do wit h
you. Do you underst and?”
He sounds belligerent and angry. I hesit at e t o knock.
“I know you do. But I mean it , Elena. Leave her t he fuck alone. Do I need t o put it in t riplicat e for
you? Are you hearing me? . . . Good. Good night .” He slams t he phone down on t he desk.
Oh shit. I knock t ent at ively on t he door.
“What ?” he snarls, and I almost want t o run and hide.
He sit s at his desk wit h his head in his hands. He glances up, his expression ferocious, but his
face soft ens immediat ely when he sees me. His eyes are wide and caut ious. Suddenly, he
looks so t ired and my heart const rict s.
He blinks, and his eyes sweep down my legs and back again. I am wearing one of his T-shirt s.
“You should be in sat in or silk, Anast asia,” he breat hes. “But even in my T-shirt you look
beaut iful.”
Oh, an unexpect ed compliment . “I missed you. Come t o bed.” He rises slowly out of t he chair
st ill in his whit e shirt and black dress pant s. But now his eyes are shining and full of promise . . .
but t here’s a t race of sadness, t oo. He st ands in front of me, st aring int ent ly but not t ouching
me.
“Do you know what you mean t o me?” he murmurs. “If somet hing happened t o you, because of
me . . .” His voice t rails off, his brow creasing, and t he pain t hat flashes across his face is almost
palpable. He looks so vulnerable—his fear very much apparent .
“Not hing’s going t o happen t o me,” I reassure him, my voice soot hing. I reach up and st roke his
face, running my fingers t hrough t he st ubble on his cheek. It ’s unexpect edly soft . “Your beard
grows quickly,” I whisper, unable t o hide t he wonder in my voice at t his beaut iful, fucked-up
man who st ands before me.
I t race t he line of his bot t om lip t hen t rail my fingers down his t hroat , t o t he faint smudge of
lipst ick at t he base of his neck. He gazes down at me, st ill not t ouching me, his lips part ed. I run
my index finger along t he line, and he closes his eyes. His soft breat hing quickens. My fingers
reach t he edge of his shirt , and I run t hem down t o t he next fast ened but t on.
“I’m not going t o t ouch you. I just want t o undo your shirt ,” I whisper.
His eyes open wide, regarding me wit h alarm. But he doesn’t move, and he doesn’t st op me.
Very slowly I unfast en t he but t on, holding t he mat erial away from his skin, and move
t ent at ively down t o t he next but t on, repeat ing t he process—slowly, concent rat ing on what I
am doing.
I don’t want t o t ouch him. Well, I do . . . but I won’t. On t he fourt h but t on, t he red line reappears,
and I smile shyly up at him.
“Back on home t errit ory.” I t race t he line wit h my fingers before undoing t he final but t on. I pull
his shirt open and move t o his cuffs, removing his black polished st one cufflinks one at a t ime.
“Can I t ake your shirt off?” I ask, my voice low.
He nods, eyes st ill wide, as I reach up and pull his shirt over his shoulders. He frees his hands so
he’s st anding in front of me naked from t he waist up. Wit h his shirt off, he seems t o recover his
equilibrium. He smirks down at me.
“What about my pant s, Miss St eele?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.
“In t he bedroom. I want you in your bed.”
“Do you now? Miss St eele, you are insat iable.”
“I can’t t hink why.” I grab his hand, pull him from his st udy, and lead him t o his bedroom. The
room is chilly.
“You opened t he balcony door?” he asks, frowning down at me as we arrive in his room.
“No.” I don’t remember doing t hat . I recall scanning t he room when I woke. The door was
definit ely closed.
Oh shit . . . All t he blood rushes from my face, and I st are at Christ ian as my mout h falls open.
“What ?” he snaps, glaring at me.
“When I woke . . . t here was someone in here,” I whisper. “I t hought it was my imaginat ion.”
“What ?” He looks horrified and dashes t o t he balcony door, peers out , t hen st eps back int o t he
room and locks t he door behind him. “Are you sure? Who?” he asks his voice t ight .
“A woman, I t hink. It was dark. I’d only just woken up.”
“Get dressed,” he snarls at me on his way back in. “Now!”
“My clot hes are upst airs,” I whimper.
He pulls open one of t he drawers in his chest of drawers and fishes out a pair of sweat pant s.
“Put t hese on.” They are far t oo big, but he is not t o be argued wit h.
He swipes a T-shirt , t oo, and quickly pulls it over his head. Grabbing t he bedside phone, he
presses t wo but t ons.
“She’s st ill fucking here,” he hisses down t he phone.
Approximat ely t hree seconds lat er, Taylor and one of t he ot her securit y guys, burst int o
Christ ian’s bedroom. Christ ian gives t hem a précis of what has happened.
“How long ago?” Taylor demands, st aring at me all businesslike. He’s st ill wearing his jacket .
Does t his man ever sleep?
“About t en minut es,” I mut t er, for some reason feeling guilt y.
“She knows t he apart ment like t he back of her hand,” says Christ ian. “I am t aking Anast asia
away now. She’s hiding here somewhere. Find her. When is Gail back?
“Tomorrow evening, sir.”
“She’s not t o ret urn unt il t his place is secure. Underst and?” Christ ian snaps.
“Yes, sir. Will you be going t o Bellevue?”
“I’m not leading t his problem t o my parent s. Book me somewhere.”
“Yes. I’ll call you.”
“Aren’t we all overreact ing slight ly?” I ask.
Christ ian glowers at me. “She may have a gun,” he growls.
“Christ ian, she was st anding at t he end of t he bed. She could have shot me t hen, if t hat ’s what
she want ed t o do.”
Christ ian pauses for a moment t o rein in his t emper, I t hink. In a menacingly soft voice he says,
“I’m not prepared t o t ake t he risk. Taylor, Anast asia needs shoes.” Christ ian disappears int o his
closet while t he securit y guy wat ches me. I can’t remember his name, Ryan maybe. He looks
alt ernat ely down t he hall and t o t he balcony windows.
Christ ian emerges a couple of minut es lat er wit h a leat her messenger bag, wearing jeans and
his pinst riped blazer. He drapes a denim jacket around my shoulders.
“Come.” He clasps my hand t ight ly, and I have t o pract ically run t o keep up wit h his long st rides
int o t he great room.
“I can’t believe she could hide somewhere in here,” I mut t er, st aring out t he balcony doors.
“It ’s a big place. You haven’t seen it all yet .”
“Why don’t you just call her . . . t ell her you want t o t alk t o her?”
“Anast asia, she’s unst able, and she may be armed,” he says irrit ably.
“So we just run?”
“For now—yes.”
“Supposing she t ries t o shoot Taylor?”
“Taylor knows and underst ands guns,” he says wit h dist ast e. “He’ll be quicker wit h a gun t han
she is.”
“Ray was in t he army. He’s t aught me t o shoot .”
Christ ian raises his eyebrows and for a moment looks ut t erly bemused. “You, wit h a gun?” he
says incredulously.
“Yes.” I am affront ed. “I can shoot , Mr. Grey, so you’d bet t er beware. It ’s not just crazy ex-subs
you need t o worry about .”
“I’ll bear t hat in mind, Miss St eele,” he answers dryly, amused, and it feels good t o know t hat
even in t his ridiculously t ense sit uat ion, I can make him smile.
Taylor meet s us in t he foyer and hands me my small suit case and my black Converse.
I am st unned t hat he’s packed me some clot hes. I smile shyly at him wit h grat it ude, and his
ret urning smile is swift and reassuring. Before I can st op myself—I hug him, hard. He’s t aken by
surprise, and when I release him, he’s pink in bot h cheeks.
“Be careful,” I murmur.
“Yes, Miss St eele,” he mut t ers.
Christ ian frowns at me and t hen looks quest ioningly at Taylor, who smiles very slight ly and
adjust s his t ie.
“Let me know where I’m going.” Christ ian says.
Taylor reaches int o his jacket , pulls out his wallet , and hands Christ ian a credit card.
“You might want t o use t his when you get t here.”
Christ ian nods. “Good t hinking.”
Ryan joins us. “Sawyer and Reynolds found not hing,” he says t o Taylor.
“Accompany Mr. Grey and Miss St eele t o t he garage,” Taylor orders.
The garage is desert ed. Well, it is nearly t hree in t he morning. Christ ian ushers me int o t he
passenger seat of t he R8 and put s my case and his bag in t he t runk at t he front of t he car.
The Audi beside us is a complet e mess—every t ire slashed, whit e paint splat t ered all over it .
It ’s chilling and makes me grat eful t hat Christ ian is t aking me somewhere else.
“A replacement will arrive on Monday,” Christ ian says bleakly when he’s seat ed beside me.
“How could she have known it was my car?”
He glances anxiously at me and sighs. “She had an Audi A3. I buy one for all my submissives—
it ’s one of t he safest cars in it s class.”
Oh. “So, not so much a graduat ion present , t hen.”
“Anast asia, despit e what I hoped, you have never been my submissive, so t echnically it is a
graduat ion present .” He pulls out of t he parking space and speeds t o t he exit .
Despite what he hoped. Oh no . . . my subconscious shakes her head sadly. This is what we
come back t o all t he t ime.
“Are you st ill hoping?” I whisper.
The in-car phone buzzes. “Grey,” Christ ian snaps.
“Fairmont Olympic. In my name.”
“Thank you, Taylor. And, Taylor, be careful.”
Taylor pauses. “Yes, sir,” he says quiet ly, and Christ ian hangs up.
The st reet s of Seat t le are desert ed, and Christ ian roars up Fift h Avenue t oward t he I-5.
Once on t he int erst at e, he floors t he gas pedal, heading nort h. He accelerat es so quickly I’m
moment arily t hrown back in my seat .
I peek at him. He’s deep in t hought , radiat ing a deadly brooding silence. He hasn’t answered my
quest ion. He glances frequent ly at t he rearview mirror, and I realize he’s checking t hat we’re
not being followed. Perhaps t hat ’s why we’re on t he I-5. I t hought t he Fairmont was in Seat t le.
I gaze out of t he window, t rying t o rat ionalize my exhaust ed, overact ive mind. If she’d want ed
t o hurt me, she had ample opport unit y in t he bedroom.
“No. It ’s not what I hope for, not anymore. I t hought t hat was obvious.” Christ ian int errupt s my
int rospect ion, his voice soft .
I blink at him, pulling his denim jacket t ight er around me, and I don’t know if t he chill is
emanat ing from wit hin me or from out side.
“I worry t hat , you know . . . t hat I’m not enough.”
“You’re more t han enough. For t he love of God, Anast asia, what do I have t o do?” Tell me
about yourself. Tell me you love me.
“Why did you t hink I’d leave when I t old you Dr. Flynn had t old me all t here was t o know about
you?”
He sighs heavily, closing his eyes for a moment , and for t he longest t ime he doesn’t answer.
“You cannot begin t o underst and t he dept hs of my depravit y, Anast asia. And it ’s not
somet hing I want t o share wit h you.”
“And you really t hink I’d leave, if I knew?” My voice is high, incredulous. Doesn’t he underst and
t hat I love him? “Do you t hink so lit t le of me?”
“I know you’ll leave,” he says sadly.
“Christ ian . . . I t hink t hat ’s very unlikely. I can’t imagine being wit hout you.” Ever . . .
“You left me once—I don’t want t o go t here again.”
“Elena said she saw you last Sat urday,” I whisper quiet ly.
“She didn’t .” He frowns.
“You didn’t go t o see her, when I left ?”
“No,” he snaps, irrit at ed. “I just t old you I didn’t —and I don’t like t o be doubt ed,” he scolds. “I
didn’t go anywhere last weekend. I sat and made t he glider you gave me. Took me forever,” he
adds quiet ly.
My heart clenches again. Mrs. Robinson said she saw him.
Did she or didn’t she? She’s lying. Why?
“Cont rary t o what Elena t hinks, I don’t rush t o her wit h all my problems, Anast asia. I don’t rush
t o anybody. You may have not iced—I’m not much of a t alker.” He t ight ens his hold on t he
st eering wheel.
“Carrick t old me you didn’t t alk for t wo years.”
“Did he now?” Christ ian’s mout h presses int o a hard line.
“I kind of pumped him for informat ion.” Embarrassed, I st are at my fingers.
“So what else did Daddy say?”
“He said your mom was t he doct or who examined you when you were brought int o t he
hospit al. Aft er you were discovered in your apart ment .” Christ ian’s expression remains blank . . .
careful.
“He said learning t he piano helped. And Mia.”
His lips curl in a fond smile at t he ment ion of her name. Aft er a moment he says, “She was
about six mont hs old when she arrived. I was t hrilled, Elliot less so. He’d already had t o cont end
wit h my arrival. She was perfect .” The sweet , sad awe in his voice is affect ing.
“Less so now, of course,” he mut t ers, and I recall her successful at t empt s at t he ball t o t hwart
our lascivious int ent ions. It makes me giggle.
Christ ian gives me a sideways glance. “You find t hat amusing, Miss St eele?”
“She seemed det ermined t o keep us apart .”
He laughs mirt hlessly. “Yes, she’s quit e accomplished.” He reaches across and squeezes my
knee. “But we got t here in t he end.” He smiles t hen glances in t he rearview mirror once more. “I
don’t t hink we’ve been followed.” He t urns off t he I-5 and heads back t o cent ral Seat t le.
“Can I ask you somet hing about Elena?” We are st opped at some t raffic light s.
He gazes at me warily. “If you must ,” he mut t ers sullenly, but I don’t let his irrit abilit y det er me.
“You t old me ages ago t hat she loved you in a way you found accept able. What did t hat
mean?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he asks.
“Not t o me.”
“I was out of cont rol. I couldn’t bear t o be t ouched. I can’t bear it now. For a fourt een, fift een-
year-old adolescent boy wit h hormones raging, it was a difficult t ime. She showed me a way t o
let off st eam.”
Oh. “Mia said you were a brawler.”
“Christ , what is it wit h my loquacious family? Act ually—it ’s you.” We’ve st opped at more light s,
and he narrows his eyes at me. “You inveigle informat ion out of people.” He shakes his head in
mock disgust .
“Mia volunt eered t hat informat ion. In fact , she was very fort hcoming. She was worried you’d
st art a brawl in t he marquee if you didn’t win me at t he auct ion,” I mut t er indignant ly.
“Oh, baby, t here was no danger of t hat . There was no way I would let anyone else dance wit h
you.”
“You let Dr. Flynn.”
“He’s always t he except ion t o t he rule.”
Christ ian pulls int o t he impressive, leafy driveway of t he Fairmont Olympic Hot el and parks near
t he front door, beside a quaint st one fount ain.
“Come.” He climbs out of t he car and ret rieves our luggage. A valet rushes t oward us, looking
surprised—no doubt at our lat e arrival. Christ ian t osses him t he car keys.
“Name of Taylor,” he says. The valet nods and can’t cont ain his glee as he leaps int o t he R8
and drives off. Christ ian t akes my hand and st rides int o t he lobby.
As I st and beside him at t he recept ion desk, I feel ut t erly, ut t erly ridiculous. Here I am, in
Seat t le’s most prest igious hot el, dressed in an oversized denim jacket , oversized sweat pant s,
and an old T-shirt next t o t his elegant , beaut iful, Greek god. No wonder t he recept ionist is
looking from one t o t he ot her as if t he equat ion doesn’t add up. Of course, she’s over-awed by
Christ ian. I roll my eyes as she flushes crimson and st ut t ers. Jeez, even her hands are shaking.
“Do . . . you need a hand . . . wit h your bags, Mr. Taylor?” she asks, going scarlet again.
“No, Mrs. Taylor and I can manage.”
Mrs. Taylor! But I’m not wearing a ring. I put my hands behind my back.
“You’re in t he Cascade Suit e, Mr. Taylor, elevent h floor. Our bellboy will help wit h your bags.”
“We’re fine,” Christ ian says curt ly. “Where are t he elevat ors?” Miss Flushing Crimson explains,
and Christ ian grasps my hand once more. I glance briefly round t he impressive, sumpt uous
lobby full of overst uffed chairs, desert ed save for a dark-haired woman sit t ing on a cozy sofa,
feeding t idbit s t o her west ie. She glances up and smiles at us as we make our way t o t he
elevat ors. So t he hot el allows pet s? Odd for a place so grand!
The suit e has t wo bedrooms, a formal dining room, and comes complet e wit h grand piano. A
log fire blazes in t he massive main room. Jeez . . . This suit e is bigger t han my apart ment .
“Well, Mrs. Taylor, I don’t know about you, but I’d really like a drink,” Christ ian mut t ers, locking
t he front door securely.
In t he bedroom, he put s my case and his sat chel on t he ot t oman at t he foot of t he king-size
four-post er bed and leads me by t he hand int o t he main room where t he fire is burning bright ly.
It ’s a welcome sight . I st and and warm my hands while Christ ian fixes us bot h a drink.
“Armagnac?”
“Please.”
Aft er a moment , he joins me by t he fire and hands me a cryst al brandy glass.
“It ’s been quit e a day, huh?”
I nod and his gray eyes gaze at me searchingly, concerned.
“I’m okay,” I whisper reassuringly. “How about you?”
“Well, right now I’d like t o drink t his and t hen, if you’re not t oo t ired, t ake you t o bed and lose
myself in you.”
“I t hink t hat can be arranged, Mr. Taylor.” I smile shyly at him as he shuffles out of his shoes
and peels off his socks.
“Mrs. Taylor, st op bit ing your lip,” he whispers.
I blush int o my glass. The Armagnac is delicious, leaving a burning warmt h in it s wake as it
glides silkily down my t hroat . When I glance up at Christ ian, he’s sipping his brandy, wat ching
me, his eyes dark—hungry.
“You never cease t o amaze me, Anast asia. Aft er a day like t oday—or yest erday, rat her—
you’re not whining or running off int o t he hills screaming. I am in awe of you. You’re very
st rong.”
“You’re a very good reason t o st ay,” I murmur. “I t old you, Christ ian, I’m not going anywhere, no
mat t er what you’ve done. You know how I feel about you.” His mout h t wist s as if he doubt s my
words, and his brow creases as if what I’m saying is painful for him t o hear. Oh, Christ ian, what
do I have t o do t o make you realize how I feel? Let him beat you, my subconscious sneers at
me. I scowl inwardly at her.
“Where are you going t o hang José’s port rait s of me?” I t ry t o light en t he mood.
“That depends.” His lips t wit ch. This is obviously a much more palat able t opic of conversat ion
for him.
“On what ?”
“Circumst ances,” he says myst eriously. “His show’s not over yet , so I don’t have t o decide
st raight away.”
I cock my head t o one side and narrow my eyes.
“You can look as st ernly as you like, Mrs. Taylor. I’m saying not hing,” he t eases.
“I may t ort ure t he t rut h from you.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Really, Anast asia, I don’t t hink you should make promises you can’t
fulfill.”
Oh my, is t hat what he t hinks? I place my glass on t he mant elpiece, reach over, and much t o
Christ ian’s surprise, t ake his glass and place it beside mine.
“We’ll just have t o see about t hat ,” I murmur. Very bravely—emboldened by t he brandy, no
doubt —I t ake Christ ian’s hand and pull him t oward t he bedroom. At t he foot of t he bed I st op.
Christ ian is t rying t o hide his amusement .
“Now you have me in here, Anast asia, what are you going t o do wit h me?” he t eases, his voice
low.
“I’m going t o st art by undressing you. I want t o finish what I st art ed earlier.” I reach for t he
lapels on his jacket , careful not t o t ouch him, and he doesn’t flinch but he’s holding his breat h.
Gent ly, I push his jacket over his shoulders, and his eyes st ay on mine, all t races of humor gone,
as t hey grow larger, burning int o me, wary and needful? There are so many int erpret at ions of
his look. What is he thinking? I place his jacket on t he ot t oman.
“Now your T-shirt ,” I whisper and lift it by t he hem. He cooperat es, raising his arms and backing
away, making it easier for me t o pull it off. Once off, he gazes down at me, int ent ly, wearing just
his jeans t hat hang so provocat ively from his hips. The band of his boxer briefs is visible.
My eyes move hungrily up across his t aut st omach t o t he remains of t he lipst ick line, faded and
smudged, t hen up t o his chest . I want not hing more t han t o run my t ongue t hrough his chest
hair t o savor his t ast e.
“Now what ?” he whispers, eyes blazing.
“I want t o kiss you here.” I run my finger from hipbone t o hipbone across his belly.
His lips part as he inhales sharply. “I’m not st opping you,” he breat hes.
I t ake his hand. “You’d bet t er lie down t hen,” I murmur and lead him t o t he side of t he four-
post er bed. He seems bewildered, and it occurs t o me t hat perhaps no one has t aken t he lead
wit h him since . . . her. No, don’t go there.
Lift ing t he covers, he sit s on t he edge of t he bed, gazing up at me, wait ing, his expression wary
and serious. I st and before him and slip off his denim jacket and let it drop t o t he floor, t hen I
shuffle out of his sweat pant s.
He rubs his t humb over t he t ips of his fingers. He’s it ching t o t ouch me, I can t ell, but he
suppresses t he urge. Taking a deep breat h and beyond courageous, I reach for t he hem of my
T-shirt and lift it over my head so I am naked before him. His eyes don’t leave mine, but he
swallows and his lips part .
“You are Aphrodit e, Anast asia,” he murmurs.
I clasp his face in my hands, t ip his head up, and bend t o kiss him. He groans low in his t hroat .
As I place my mout h on his, he grabs my hips, and before I know it , I am pinned beneat h him, his
legs forcing mine apart so t hat he’s cradled against my body bet ween my legs. He’s kissing me,
ravaging my mout h, our t ongues ent wined. His hand t rails from my t high, over my hip, along my
belly t o my breast , squeezing, kneading, and pulling ent ic-ingly on my nipple.
I groan and t ilt my pelvis involunt arily against him, finding a delicious frict ion against t he seam
of his fly and his growing erect ion. He st ops kissing me and gazes down at me bemused and
breat hless. He flexes his hips so his erect ion pushes against me . . . . Yes. Right there.
I close my eyes and moan, and he does it again, but t his t ime I push back, relishing his
answering moan as he kisses me again. He cont inues t he slow delicious t ort ure—rubbing me,
rubbing him. And he’s right —get t ing lost in him—it ’s int oxicat ing t o t he exclusion of everyt hing
else. All my worries are oblit erat ed.
I am here in t his moment wit h him—my blood singing in my veins, t hrumming loudly t hrough my
ears, mixed wit h t he sound of our pant ing breat hs. I bury my hands in his hair, holding him t o my
mout h, consuming him, my t ongue as avaricious as his. I t rail my fingers down his arms, down
his lower back t o t he waist band of his jeans and push my int repid, greedy hands inside, urging
him on and on—forget t ing everyt hing, except us.
“You’re going t o unman me, Ana,” he whispers suddenly, breaking away from me and kneeling
up. He briskly pulls down his jeans and hands me a foil packet .
“You want me, baby, and I sure as hell want you. You know what t o do.” Wit h anxious,
dext erous fingers, I rip open t he foil and unroll t he condom over him. He grins down at me, his
mout h open, eyes mist y gray and full of carnal promise. Leaning over me, he rubs his nose
against mine, his eyes closed, and deliciously, slowly, he ent ers me.
I grasp his arms and t ilt my chin up, reveling in t he exquisit ely full feeling of his possession. He
runs his t eet h along my chin, eases back, and t hen slides int o me again—so slow, so sweet , so
t ender—his body pressing down on me, his elbows and his hands on eit her side of my face.
“You make me forget everyt hing. You are t he best t herapy,” he breat hes, moving at an
achingly leisurely pace, savoring every inch of me.
“Please, Christ ian—fast er,” I murmur, want ing more, now.
“Oh no, baby. I need t his slow.” He kisses me sweet ly, gent ly bit ing my lower lip and absorbing
my soft moans.
I move my hands int o his hair and surrender myself t o his rhyt hm as slowly and surely my body
climbs higher and higher and plat eaus, t hen falls hard and fast as I come around him.“Oh, Ana,”
he breat hes as he let s go, my name a benedict ion on his lips as he finds his release.
His head rest s on my belly, his arms wrapped around me. My fingers forage in his unruly hair,
and we lie like t his for I don’t know how long. It ’s so lat e and I am so t ired, but I just want t o
enjoy t he quiet serene aft er-glow of making love wit h Christ ian Grey, because t hat ’s what
we’ve done, gent le, sweet lovemaking.
He’s come a long way, as have I, in such a short t ime. It ’s almost t oo much t o absorb.
Wit h all t he fucked-up st uff, I am losing sight of his simple, honest journey wit h me.
“I will never get enough of you. Don’t leave me,” he murmurs and kisses my belly.
“I’m not going anywhere, Christ ian, and I seem t o remember t hat I want ed t o kiss your belly,” I
grumble sleepily.
He grins against my skin. “Not hing st opping you now baby.”
“I don’t t hink I can move I’m so t ired.”
Christ ian sighs and shift s reluct ant ly, coming t o lie beside me wit h his head on his elbow and
dragging t he covers over us. He gazes down at me, his eyes glowing, warm, loving.
“Sleep now, baby.” He kisses my hair and wraps his arm around me and I drift .
When I open my eyes, light is filling t he room, making me blink. My head is fuzzy from lack of
sleep. Where am I? Oh—the hotel . . .
“Hi,” Christ ian murmurs, smiling fondly at me. He’s lying beside me, fully dressed, on t op of t he
bed. How long has he been here? Has he been st udying me? Suddenly, I feel incredibly shy as
my face heat s under his st eady gaze.
“Hi,” I murmur, grat eful t hat I am lying on my front . “How long have you been wat ching me?”
“I could wat ch you sleep for hours, Anast asia. But I’ve only been here about five minut es.” He
leans over and kisses me gent ly. “Dr. Greene will be here short ly.”
“Oh.” I’d forgot t en about Christ ian’s inappropriat e int ervent ion.
“Did you sleep well?” he inquires mildly. “Cert ainly seemed like it t o me, wit h all t hat snoring.”
Oh, playful teasing Fifty.
“I do not snore!” I pout pet ulant ly.
“No. You don’t .” He grins at me. The faint line of red lipst ick is st ill visible around his neck.“Did
you shower?”
“No. Wait ing for you.”
“Oh . . . okay.”
“What t ime is it ?”
“Ten fift een. I didn’t have t he heart t o wake you earlier.”
“You t old me you didn’t have a heart at all.”
He smiles, sadly but doesn’t answer. “Breakfast is here—pancakes and bacon for you.
Come, get up, I’m get t ing lonely out here.” He swat s me sharply on my behind, making me jump,
and rises from t he bed.
Hmm . . . Christ ian’s version of warm affect ion.
As I st ret ch, I’m aware I ache all over . . . no doubt a result of all t he sex, dancing, and t eet ering
in expensive high-heeled shoes. I st agger out of bed and make my way int o t he sumpt uously
appoint ed bat hroom while going over t he event s of t he previous day in my mind. When I come
out , I don one of t he over-fluffy bat hrobes t hat hang on a brass peg in t he bat hroom.
Leila—t he girl who looks like me—t hat ’s t he most st art ling image my brain conjures for
conject ure, t hat and her eerie presence in Christ ian’s bedroom. What did she want ? Me?
Christ ian? To do what ? And why t he fuck has she wrecked my car?
Christ ian said I would have anot her Audi, like all his submissives. The t hought is unwelcome.
Since I was so generous wit h t he money he gave me, t here’s not a lot I can do.
I wander int o t he main room of t he suit e—no sign of Christ ian. I finally locat e him in t he dining
room. I t ake a seat , grat eful for t he impressive breakfast laid before me. Christ ian is reading t he
Sunday papers and drinking coffee, his breakfast finished. He smiles at me.
“Eat up. You’re going t o need your st rengt h t oday,” he t eases.
“And why is t hat ? You going t o lock me in t he bedroom?” My inner goddess jerks awake
suddenly, all disheveled wit h a just -fucked look.
“Appealing as t hat idea is, I t hought we’d go out t oday. Get some fresh air.”
“Is it safe?” I ask innocent ly, t rying and failing t o keep t he irony from my voice.
Christ ian’s face falls, and his mout h presses in a line. “Where we’re going, it is. And it ’s not a
joking mat t er,” he adds st ernly, narrowing his eyes.
I flush and st are down at my breakfast . I don’t feel like being scolded aft er all t he drama and
such a lat e night . I eat my breakfast in silence, feeling pet ulant .
My subconscious is shaking her head at me. Fift y doesn’t joke about my safet y—I should know
t his by now. I want t o roll my eyes at him, but I refrain.
Okay, I’m t ired and t est y. I had a long day yest erday and not enough sleep. Why, oh why does
he get t o look as fresh as a daisy? Life is not fair.
There’s a knock at t he door.
“That ’ll be t he good doct or,” Christ ian grumbles, obviously st ill smart ing from my irony. He
st alks from t he t able.
Can’t we just have a calm, normal morning? I sigh heavily, leaving half my breakfast , and get up
t o greet Doct or Depo-Provera.
We’re in t he bedroom, and Dr. Greene is st aring at me open-mout hed. She’s dressed more
casually t han last t ime in a pale pink cashmere t win set and black pant s, and her fine blond hair
is loose.
“And you just st opped t aking it ? Just like t hat ?”
I flush, feeling beyond foolish.
“Yes.” Could my voice be any smaller?
“You could be pregnant ,” she says mat t er-of-fact ly.
What! The world falls away at my feet . My subconscious collapses on t he floor ret ching, and I
t hink I’m going t o be sick, t oo. No!
“Here, go pee in t his.” She’s all business t oday—t aking no prisoners.
Meekly, I accept t he small plast ic cont ainer she’s offered and wander in a daze int o t he
bat hroom. No. No. No. No way . . . No way . . . Please no. No.
What will Fift y do? I go pale. He’ll freak.
No, please! I whisper a silent prayer.
I hand Dr. Greene my sample, and she carefully places a small whit e st ick in it .
“When did your period st art ?”
How am I supposed t o t hink about such minut iae when all I can do is st are anxiously at t he
whit e st ick?
“Er . . . Wednesday? Not t he one just gone, t he one before t hat . June first .”
“And when did you st op t aking t he pill?”
“Sunday. Last Sunday.”
She purses her lips.
“You should be okay,” she says sharply. “I can t ell by your expression t hat an un-planned
pregnancy would not be welcome news. So Medroxyprogest erone is a good idea if you can’t
remember t o t ake t he pill every day.” She gives me a st ern look, and I quail under her
aut horit at ive glare. Picking up t he whit e st ick, she peers at it .
“You’re in t he clear. You’ve not ovulat ed yet , so provided you’ve been t aking proper
precaut ions, you shouldn’t be pregnant . Now, let me counsel you about t his shot . We dis-
count ed it last t ime because of t he side effect s, but quit e frankly, t he side effect s of a child are
far-reaching and go on for years.” She smiles, pleased wit h herself and her lit t le joke, but I can’t
begin t o respond—I’m t oo st unned.
Dr. Greene launches int o full disclosure mode about side effect s, and I sit paralyzed wit h relief,
not list ening t o a word. I t hink I’d t olerat e any number of st range women st anding at t he end of
my bed rat her t han confess t o Christ ian t hat I might be pregnant .
“Ana!” Dr. Greene snaps. “Let ’s do t his t hing.” She pulls me out of my reverie, and I willingly roll
up my sleeve.
Christ ian closes t he door behind her and gazes at me warily. “Everyt hing okay?” he asks.
I nod mut ely, and he t ilt s his head t o one side, his face t ense wit h concern.
“Anast asia, what is it ? What did Dr. Greene say?”
I shake my head. “You’re good t o go in seven days,” I mut t er.
“Seven days?”
“Yes.”
“Ana, what ’s wrong?”
I swallow. “It ’s not hing t o worry about . Please, Christ ian, just leave it .” Christ ian looms in front of
me. He grasps my chin, t ipping my head back, and st ares emphat ically int o my eyes, t rying t o
decipher my panic.
“Tell me,” he snaps insist ent ly.
“There’s not hing t o t ell. I’d like t o get dressed.” I pull my chin out of his reach.
He sighs and runs a hand t hrough his hair, frowning at me. “Let ’s shower,” he says event ually.
“Of course,” I mut t er, dist ract ed, and his mout h t wist s.
“Come,” he says sulkily, clasping my hand firmly. He st alks t oward t he bat hroom as I t rail behind
him. I am not t he only one in a bad mood, it seems. Firing up t he shower, Christ ian quickly st rips
before t urning t o me.
“I don’t know what ’s upset you, or if you’re just bad-t empered t hrough lack of sleep,” he says
while unfast ening my robe. “But I want you t o t ell me. My imaginat ion is running away wit h me,
and I don’t like it .”
I roll my eyes at him, and he glares back at me, narrowing his eyes. Shit! Okay . . . here goes.
“Dr. Greene scolded me about missing t he pill. She said I could be pregnant .”
“What ?” He pales, and his hands freeze as he gazes at me, suddenly ashen.
“But I’m not . She did a t est . It was a shock, t hat ’s all. I can’t believe I was t hat st upid.” He visibly
relaxes. “You’re sure you’re not ?”
“Yes.”
He blows out a deep breat h. “Good. Yes, I can see t hat news like t hat would be very
upset t ing.”
I frown. . . . upsetting? “I was more worried about your react ion.” He furrows his brow at me,
puzzled. “My react ion? Well, nat urally I’m relieved . . . it would be t he height of carelessness and
bad manners t o knock you up.”
“Then maybe we should abst ain,” I snap.
He gazes at me for a moment , bewildered, as if I’m some kind of science experiment .
“You are in a bad t emper t his morning.”
“It was just a shock, t hat ’s all,” I repeat pet ulant ly.
Clasping t he lapels of my robe, he pulls me int o a warm embrace, kisses my hair, and presses
my head against his chest . I’m dist ract ed by his chest hair as it t ickles my cheek.
Oh, if I could just nuzzle him!
“Ana, I’m not used t o t his,” he murmurs. “My nat ural inclinat ion is t o beat it out of you, but I
seriously doubt you want t hat .”
Holy shit. “No, I don’t . This helps.” I hug Christ ian t ight er, and we st and for an age in a st range
embrace, Christ ian naked and me wrapped in a robe. I am once again floored by his honest y.
He knows not hing about relat ionships, and neit her do I, except what I’ve learned from him. Well,
he’s asked for fait h and pat ience; maybe I should do t he same.
“Come, let ’s shower,” Christ ian says event ually, releasing me.
St epping back, he peels me out of my robe, and I follow him int o t he cascading wat er, holding
my face up t o t he t orrent . There’s room for bot h of us under t he gargant uan show-erhead.
Christ ian reaches for t he shampoo and st art s washing his hair. He hands it t o me and I follow
suit .
Oh, this feels good. Closing my eyes, I succumb t o t he cleansing, warming wat er. As I rinse off
t he shampoo, I feel his hands on me, soaping my body: my shoulders, my arms, under my arms,
my breast s, my back. Gent ly he t urns me around and pulls me against him as he cont inues
down my body: my st omach, my belly, his skilled fingers bet ween my legs— hmm—my behind.
Oh, t hat feels good and so int imat e. He t urns me around t o face him again.
“Here,” he says quiet ly, handing me t he body wash. “I want you t o wash off t he remains of t he
lipst ick.”
My eyes open in a flurry and dart quickly t o his. He’s st aring at me int ent ly, soaking wet and
beaut iful, his glorious, bright gray eyes giving not hing away.
“Don’t st ray far from t he line, please,” he mut t ers t ight ly.
“Okay,” I murmur, t rying t o absorb t he enormit y of what he’s just asked me t o do—t o t ouch him
on t he edge of t he forbidden zone.
I squeeze a small amount of soap on my hand, rub my hands t oget her t o creat e a lat her, t hen
place t hem on his shoulders and gent ly wash away t he line of lipst ick on each side. He st ills
and closes his eyes, his face impassive, but he’s breat hing rapidly, and I know it ’s not lust but
fear. It cut s me t o t he quick.
Wit h t rembling fingers, I carefully follow t he line down t he side of his chest , soaping and rubbing
soft ly, and he swallows, his jaw t ense as if his t eet h are clenched. Oh! My heart const rict s and
my t hroat t ight ens. Oh no, I’m going to cry.
I st op t o add more soap t o my hand and feel him relax in front of me. I can’t look up at him. I
can’t bear t o see his pain—it ’s t oo much. I swallow.
“Ready?” I murmur and t he t ension is loud and clear in my voice.
“Yes,” he whispers, his voice husky, laced wit h fear.
Gent ly, I place my hands on eit her side of his chest , and he freezes again.
It ’s t oo much. I am overwhelmed by his t rust in me—overwhelmed by his fear, by t he damage
done t o t his beaut iful, fallen, flawed man.
Tears pool in my eyes and spill down my face, lost in t he wat er from t he shower. Oh, Christian!
Who did this to you?
His diaphragm moves rapidly wit h each shallow breat h, his body is rigid, t ension radiat ing off
him in waves as my hands move along t he line, erasing it . Oh, if I could just erase your pain, I
would—I’d do anyt hing—and I want not hing more t han t o kiss every single scar I see, t o kiss
away t hose hideous years of neglect . But I know I can’t , and my t ears fall unbidden down my
cheeks.
“No. Please, don’t cry,” he murmurs, his voice anguished as he wraps me t ight ly in his arms.
“Please don’t cry for me.” And I burst int o full-blown sobs, burying my face against his neck, as I
t hink of a lit t le boy lost in a sea of fear and pain, fright ened, neglect ed, abused—hurt beyond
all endurance.
Pulling away, he clasps my head wit h bot h hands, t ilt s it backward, and leans down t o kiss me.
“Don’t cry, Ana, please,” he murmurs against my mout h. “It was long ago. I am aching for you t o
t ouch me, but I just can’t bear it . It ’s t oo much. Please, please don’t cry.”
“I want t o t ouch you, t oo. More t han you’ll ever know. To see you like t his . . . so hurt and afraid,
Christ ian . . . it wounds me deeply. I love you so much.” He runs his t humb across my bot t om lip.
“I know. I know,” he whispers.
“You’re very easy t o love. Don’t you see t hat ?”
“No, baby, I don’t .”
“You are. And I do and so does your family. So do Elena and Leila—t hey have a st range way of
showing it —but t hey do. You are wort hy.”
“St op.” He put s his finger over my lips and shakes his head, an agonized expression on his
face. “I can’t hear t his. I’m not hing, Anast asia. I’m a husk of a man. I don’t have a heart .”
“Yes, you do. And I want it , all of it . You’re a good man, Christ ian, a really good man.
Don’t ever doubt t hat . Look at what you’ve done . . . what you’ve achieved,” I sob. “Look what
you’ve done for me . . . what you’ve t urned your back on, for me,” I whisper. “I know.
I know how you feel about me.”
He gazes down at me, his eyes wide and panicked, and all we can hear is t he st eady st ream of
wat er as it flows over us in t he shower.
“You love me,” I whisper.
His eyes widen furt her and his mout h opens. He t akes a huge breat h as if winded. He looks
t ort ured—vulnerable.
“Yes,” he whispers. “I do.”
I cannot cont ain my jubilat ion. My subconscious gapes at me open-mout hed—in st unned
silence—and I wear a face-split t ing grin as I gaze longingly up int o Christ ian’s wide, t ort ured
eyes.
His soft sweet confession calls t o me on some deep element al level as if he’s seeking
absolut ion; his t hree small words are my manna from heaven. Tears prick my eyes once more.
Yes, you do. I know you do.
It ’s such a liberat ing realizat ion as if a crushing millst one has been t ossed aside. This beaut iful,
fucked-up man, whom I once t hought of as my romant ic hero—st rong, solit ary, myst erious—
possesses all t hese t rait s, but he’s also fragile and alienat ed and full of self-loat hing. My heart
swells wit h joy but also pain for his suffering. And I know in t his moment t hat my heart is big
enough for bot h of us. I hope it ’s big enough for bot h of us.
I reach up t o clasp his dear, dear, handsome face and kiss him gent ly, pouring all t he love I feel
int o t his one sweet connect ion. I want t o devour him beneat h t he hot cascading wat er.
Christ ian groans and encircles me in his arms, holding me as if I am t he air he needs t o breat he.
“Oh, Ana,” he whispers hoarsely, “I want you, but not here.”
“Yes,” I murmur fervent ly int o his mout h.
He swit ches off t he shower and t akes my hand, leading me out and enfolding me in my
bat hrobe. Grabbing a t owel, he wraps it around his waist , t hen t akes a smaller one and begins
t o gent ly dry my hair. When he’s sat isfied, he swat hes t he t owel around my head so t hat in t he
large mirror over t he sink I look like I’m wearing a veil. He’s st anding behind me and our eyes
meet in t he mirror, smoldering gray t o bright blue, and it gives me an idea.
“Can I reciprocat e?” I ask.
He nods, t hough his brow creases. I reach for anot her t owel from t he plet hora of fluffy t owels
st acked beside t he vanit y, and st anding before him on t ipt oe, I st art t o dry his hair.
He bends forward, making t he process easier, and as I cat ch t he occasional glimpse of his face
beneat h t he t owel, I see he’s grinning at me like a small boy.
“It ’s a long t ime since anyone did t his t o me. A very long t ime,” he murmurs, but t hen frowns. “In
fact I don’t t hink anyone’s ever dried my hair.”
“Surely Grace did? Dried your hair when you were young?” He shakes his head, hampering my
progress.
“No. She respect ed my boundaries from day one, even t hough it was painful for her. I was very
self-sufficient as a child,” he says quiet ly.
I feel a swift kick in t he ribs as I t hink of a small copper-haired child looking aft er himself
because no one else cares. The t hought is sickeningly sad. But I don’t want my melancholy t o
hijack t his blossoming int imacy.
“Well, I’m honored,” I gent ly t ease him.
“That you are, Miss St eele. Or maybe it is I who am honored.”
“That goes wit hout saying, Mr. Grey,” I respond t art ly.
I finish wit h his hair, reach for anot her small t owel, and move round t o st and behind him. Our
eyes meet again in t he mirror, and his wat chful, quest ioning look prompt s me t o speak.
“Can I t ry somet hing?”
Aft er a moment , he nods. Warily, and very gent ly, I run t he soft clot h down his left arm, soaking
up t he wat er t hat has beaded on his skin. Glancing up, I check his expression in t he mirror. He
blinks at me, his eyes burning int o mine.
I lean forward and kiss his bicep, and his lips part infinit esimally. I dry his ot her arm in a similar
fashion, t railing kisses around his bicep, and a small smile plays on his lips.
Carefully, I wipe his back beneat h t he faint lipst ick line, which is st ill visible. I hadn’t got t en round
t o washing his back.
“Whole back,” he says quiet ly, “wit h t he t owel.” He t akes a sharp breat h and screws his eyes
closed as I briskly dry him, careful t o t ouch him only wit h t he t owel.
He has such an at t ract ive back—broad, sculpt ured shoulders, all t he small muscles clearly
defined. He really looks aft er himself. The beaut iful sight is marred only by his scars.
Wit h difficult y, I ignore t hem and suppress my overwhelming urge t o kiss each and every one.
When I finish he exhales, and I lean forward and reward him wit h a kiss on his shoulder. Put t ing
my arms around him, I dry his st omach. Our eyes meet once more in t he mirror, his expression
amused but wary, t oo.
“Hold t his.” I hand him a smaller face t owel, and he gives me a bemused frown. “Remember in
Georgia? You made me t ouch myself using your hands,” I add.
His face darkens, but I ignore his react ion and put my arms around him. Gazing at us bot h in
t he mirror—his beaut y, his nakedness, and me wit h my covered hair—we look almost Biblical,
as if from an Old Test ament baroque paint ing.
I reach for his hand, which he willingly ent rust s t o me, and guide it up t o his chest t o dry it ,
sweeping t he t owel slowly, awkwardly across his body. Once, t wice—t hen again.
He’s complet ely immobilized, rigid wit h t ension, except for his eyes, which follow my hand
clasped around his.
My subconscious looks on wit h approval, her normally pursed mout h smiling, and I am t he
supreme puppet mast er. His anxiet y ripples off his back in waves, but he maint ains eye
cont act , t hough his eyes are darker, more deadly. Showing t heir secret s maybe.
Is t his a place I want t o go? Do I want t o confront his demons?
“I t hink you’re dry now,” I whisper as I drop my hand, gazing int o t he gray dept hs of his eyes in
t he mirror. His breat hing is accelerat ed, lips part ed.
“I need you, Anast asia,” he whispers.
“I need you, t oo.” And as I say t he words, I am st ruck how t rue t hey are. I cannot imagine being
wit hout Christ ian, ever.
“Let me love you,” he says hoarsely.
“Yes,” I answer, and t urning, he hauls me int o his arms, his lips seeking mine, beseeching me,
worshipping me, cherishing me . . . loving me.
He t rails his fingers up and down my spine as we gaze at each ot her, basking in our post coit al
bliss, replet e. We lie t oget her, me on my front hugging my pillow, he on his side, and I am
t reasuring his t ender t ouch. I know t hat right now he needs t o t ouch me. I am a balm for him, a
source of solace, and how could I deny him t hat ? I feel exact ly t he same about him.
“So you can be gent le,” I murmur.
“Hmm . . . so it would seem, Miss St eele.”
I grin. “You weren’t part icularly t he first t ime we . . . um, did t his.”
“No?” He smirks. “When, I robbed you of your virt ue.”
“I don’t t hink you robbed me,” I mut t er haught ily— Jeez, I’m not a helpless maiden.
“I t hink my virt ue was offered up pret t y freely and willingly. I want ed you, t oo, and if I remember
correct ly, I rat her enjoyed myself.” I smile shyly at him, bit ing my lip.
“So did I if I recall, Miss St eele. We aim t o please,” he drawls and his face soft ens, serious. “And
it means you’re mine, complet ely.” All t race of humor has vanished as he gazes at me.
“Yes, I am,” I murmur back at him. “I want ed t o ask you somet hing.”
“Go ahead.”
“Your biological fat her . . . do you know who he was?” This t hought has been bugging me. His
brow creases, and t hen he shakes his head. “I have no idea. Wasn’t t he savage who was her
pimp, which is good.”
“How do you know?”
“Somet hing my dad . . . somet hing Carrick said t o me.” I gaze at my Fift y expect ant ly, wait ing.
He smirks at me.
“So hungry for informat ion, Anast asia,” he sighs, shaking his head. “The pimp discovered t he
crack whore’s body and phoned it in t o t he aut horit ies. Took him four days t o make t he
discovery t hough. He shut t he door when he left . . . left me wit h her . . . her body.” His eyes
cloud at t he memory.
I inhale sharply. Poor baby boy—t he horror is t oo grim t o cont emplat e.
“Police int erviewed him lat er. He denied flat out I was anyt hing t o do wit h him, and Carrick said
he looked not hing like me.”
“Do you remember what he did look like?”
“Anast asia, t his isn’t a part of my life I revisit very oft en. Yes, I remember what he looked like. I’ll
never forget him.” Christ ian’s face darkens and hardens, becoming more angular, his eyes
frost ing wit h anger. “Can we t alk about somet hing else?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean t o upset you.”
He shakes his head. “It ’s old news, Ana. Not somet hing I want t o t hink about .”
“So what ’s t his surprise, t hen?” I need t o change t he subject before he goes all Fift y on me. His
expression light ens immediat ely.
“Can you face going out for some fresh air? I want t o show you somet hing.”
“Of course.”
I marvel how quickly he t urns—mercurial as ever. He grins at me wit h his boyish, carefree, I’m-
only-t went y-seven smile, and my heart lurches int o my mout h. So it ’s somet hing close t o his
heart , I can t ell. He swat s me playfully on my behind.
“Get dressed. Jeans will be good. I hope Taylor’s packed some for you.” He rises and pulls on
his boxer briefs. Oh . . . I could sit here all day, wat ching him wander around t he room. My inner
goddess agrees, swooning as she ogles from her chaise longue.
“Up,” he scolds, bossy as ever. I gaze at him, grinning.
“Just admiring t he view.”
He rolls his eyes at me.
As we dress, I not ice t hat we move wit h t he synchronizat ion of t wo people who know each
ot her well, each wat chful and acut ely aware of t he ot her, exchanging t he occasional shy smile
and sweet t ouch. And it dawns on me t hat t his is just as new for him as it is for me. “Dry your
hair,” Christ ian orders once we’re dressed.
“Domineering as ever.” I smirk at him, and he leans down t o kiss my hair.
“That ’s never going t o change, baby. I don’t want you sick.” I roll my eyes at him, and his mout h
t wist s in amusement .
“My palms st ill t wit ch, you know, Miss St eele.”
“I am glad t o hear it , Mr. Grey. I was beginning t o t hink you were losing your edge,” I ret ort .
“I could easily demonst rat e t hat is not t he case, should you so wish.” Christ ian drags a large,
cream, cable-knit sweat er out of his bag and drapes it art fully over his shoulders.
Wit h his whit e T-shirt and jeans, his art fully rumpled hair, and now t his, he looks as if he’s
st epped out of t he pages of a high-end glossy magazine.
No one should look t his good. And I don’t know if it ’s t he moment ary dist ract ion of his sheer
perfect looks or t he knowledge t hat he loves me, but his t hreat no longer fills me wit h dread.
This is my Fift y Shades; t his is t he way he is.
As I reach for t he hairdryer, a t angible ray of hope blossoms. We will find a middle way. We just
have t o recognize each ot her’s needs and accommodat e t hem. I can do that, surely?
I gaze at myself in t he dresser mirror. I’m wearing t he pale blue shirt t hat Taylor bought and
had packed for me. My hair is a mess, my face flushed, my lips swollen—I t ouch t hem,
remembering Christ ian’s searing kisses, and I can’t help a small smile as I st are. Yes, I do, he
said.
“Where are we going exact ly?” I ask as we wait in t he lobby for t he parking valet .
Christ ian t aps t he side of his nose and winks at me conspirat orially, looking like he’s
desperat ely t rying t o cont ain his glee. Frankly, it ’s very un-Fift y.
He was like t his when we went gliding—perhaps t hat ’s what we’re doing. I beam back at him.
He st ares down his nose at me in t hat superior way he has wit h his lopsided grin.
Leaning down, he kisses me gent ly.
“Do you have any idea how happy you make me feel?” he murmurs.
“Yes . . . I know exact ly. Because you do t he same for me.” The valet zooms up in Christ ian’s
car, wearing a face-split t ing grin. Jeez, everyone is so happy t oday.
“Great car, sir,” he mumbles as he hands over t he keys. Christ ian winks and gives him an
obscenely large t ip.
I frown at him. Honest ly.
As we cruise t hrough t he t raffic, Christ ian is deep in t hought . A young woman’s voice comes
over t he loudspeakers; it has a beaut iful, rich, mellow t imbre, and I lose myself in her sad, soulful
voice.
“I need t o make a det our. It shouldn’t t ake long,” he says absent mindedly, dist ract ing me from
t he song.
Oh, why? I’m int rigued t o know t he surprise. My inner goddess is bouncing about like a five-
year-old.
“Sure,” I murmur. Somet hing is amiss. Suddenly, he looks grimly det ermined.
He pulls int o t he parking lot of large car dealership, st ops t he car, and t urns t o face me, his
expression wary.
“We need t o get you a new car,” he says. I gape at him.
Now? On a Sunday? What t he hell? And t his is a Saab dealership.
“Not an Audi?” is, st upidly, t he only t hing I can t hink of t o say, and bless him, he act ually
flushes.
Holy cow—Christ ian, embarrassed. This is a first .
“I t hought you might like somet hing else,” he mut t ers. He’s almost squirming.
Oh, please . . . This is t oo valuable an opport unit y not t o t ease him. I smirk. “A Saab?”
“Yeah. A 9-3. Come.”
“What is it wit h you and foreign cars?”
“The Germans and t he Swedes make t he safest cars in t he world, Anast asia.” Do they? “I
t hought you’d already ordered me anot her Audi A3?” He gives me a darkly amused look. “I can
cancel t hat . Come.” Climbing smoot hly out of t he car, he st rolls gracefully t o my side and opens
my door.
“I owe you a graduat ion present ,” he says soft ly and holds his hand out for me.
“Christ ian, you really don’t have t o do t his.”
“Yes, I do. Please. Come.” His t one says he’s not t o be t rifled wit h.
I resign myself t o my fat e. A Saab? Do I want a Saab? I quit e like t he Audi Submissive Special. It
was very nift y.
Of course, now it ’s under a t on of whit e paint . . . I shudder. And she’s st ill out t here.
I t ake Christ ian’s hand, and we wander int o t he showroom.
Troy Turniansky, t he salesman, is all over Fift y like a cheap suit . He can smell a sale.
Weirdly his accent sounds mid-At lant ic, maybe Brit ish? It ’s difficult t o t ell.
“A Saab, sir? Pre-owned?” He rubs his hands wit h glee.
“New.” Christ ian’s lips set int o a hard line.
New!
“Did you have a model in mind, sir?” And he’s smarmy, t oo.
“9-3 2.0T Sport Sedan.”
“An excellent choice, sir.”
“What color, Anast asia?” Christ ian inclines his head.
“Er . . . black?” I shrug. “You really don’t need t o do t his.” He frowns. “Black’s not easily seen at
night .”
Oh, for heaven’s sake. I resist t he t empt at ion t o roll my eyes. “You have a black car.” He scowls
at me.
“Bright canary yellow t hen.” I shrug.
Christ ian makes a face—canary yellow is obviously not his t hing.
“What color do you want me t o have?” I ask as if he’s a small child, which he is in many ways.
The t hought is unwelcome—sad and sobering at once.
“Silver or whit e.”
“Silver, t hen. You know I’ll t ake t he Audi,” I add, chast ened by my t hought s.
Troy pales, sensing he’s losing a sale. “Perhaps you’d like t he convert ible, ma’am?” he asks,
clapping his hands wit h ent husiasm.
My subconscious is cringing in disgust , mort ified by t he whole buying-a-car business, but my
inner goddess t ackles her t o t he floor. Convertible? Drool!
Christ ian frowns and peers at me. “Convert ible?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.
I flush. It ’s like he has a direct hot line t o my inner goddess, which of course, he has. It ’s most
inconvenient at t imes. I st are down at my hands.
Christ ian t urns t o Troy. “What are t he safet y st at s on t he convert ible?” Troy, sensing
Christ ian’s vulnerabilit y, heads in for t he kill, reeling off all manner of st at ist ics.
Of course, Christ ian want s me safe. It ’s a religion wit h him, and like t he zealot he is, he list ens
int ent ly t o Troy’s well-honed pat t er. Fift y really does care.
Yes. I do. I remember his whispered, choked words from t his morning, and a melt ing glow
spreads like warm honey t hrough my veins. This man—God’s gift t o women—loves me. I find
myself grinning goofily at him, and when he glances down at me, he’s amused yet puzzled by
my expression. I just want t o hug myself, I am so happy.
“What ever you’re high on, I’d like some, Miss St eele,” he murmurs as Troy heads off t o his
comput er.
“I’m high on you, Mr. Grey.”
“Really? Well you cert ainly look int oxicat ed.” He kisses me briefly. “And t hank you for accept ing
t he car. That was easier t han last t ime.”
“Well, it ’s not an Audi A3.”
He smirks. “That ’s not t he car for you.”
“I liked it .”
“Sir, t he 9-3? I’ve locat ed one at our Beverly Hills dealership. We can have it here for you in a
couple of days.” Troy glows wit h t riumph.
“Top of t he range?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Excellent .” Christ ian produces his credit card, or is it Taylor’s? The t hought is unnerving. I
wonder how Taylor is, and if he’s locat ed Leila in t he apart ment . I rub my forehead.
Yes, t here’s all of Christ ian’s baggage, t oo.
“If you’ll come t his way, Mr.”—Troy glances at t he name on t he card—“Grey.” Christ ian opens
my door, and I climb back int o t he passenger seat .
“Thank you,” I say when he’s seat ed beside me.
He smiles.
“You’re most welcome, Anast asia.”
The music st art s again as Christ ian st art s t he engine.
“Who’s t his?” I ask.
“Eva Cassidy.”
“She has a lovely voice.”
“She does, she did.”
“Oh.”
“She died young.”
“Oh.”
“Are you hungry? You didn’t finish all your breakfast .” He glances quickly at me, disapproval
out lined on his face.
Uh-oh. “Yes.”
“Lunch first , t hen.”
Christ ian drives t oward t he wat erfront t hen heads nort h along t he Alaskan Way. It ’s anot her
beaut iful day in Seat t le. It ’s been uncharact erist ically fine for t he last few weeks, I muse.
Christ ian looks happy and relaxed as we sit back list ening t o Eva Cassidy’s sweet , soulful voice
and cruise down t he highway. Have I ever felt t his comfort able in his company before? I don’t
know.
I am less nervous of his moods, confident t hat he won’t punish me, and he seems more
comfort able wit h me, t oo. He t urns left , following t he coast road, and event ually pulls up in a
parking lot opposit e a vast marina.
“We’ll eat here. I’ll open your door,” he says in such a way t hat I know it ’s not wise t o move, and
I wat ch him move around t he car. Will t his ever get old?
We st roll arm in arm t o t he wat erfront where t he marina st ret ches out in front of us.
“So many boat s,” I murmur in wonder. There are hundreds of t hem in all shapes and sizes,
bobbing up and down on t he calm, st ill wat ers of t he marina. Out on t he Sound t here are
dozens of sails in t he wind, weaving t o and fro, enjoying t he fine weat her. It ’s a wholesome,
out doorsy sight . The wind has picked up a lit t le, so I pull my jacket around me.
“Cold?” he asks and pulls me t ight ly against him.
“No, just admiring t he view.”
“I could st are at it all day. Come, t his way.”
Christ ian leads me int o a large seafront bar and makes his way t o t he count er. The dé-
cor is more New England t han West Coast —whit e-limed walls, pale blue furnishings, and
boat ing paraphernalia hanging everywhere. It ’s a bright , cheery place.
“Mr. Grey!” t he barman greet s Christ ian warmly. “What can I get you t his aft ernoon?”
“Dant e, good aft ernoon.” Christ ian grins as we bot h slip ont o bar st ools. “This lovely lady is
Anast asia St eele.”
“Welcome t o SP’s Place.” Dant e gives me a friendly smile. He’s black and beaut iful, his dark
eyes assessing me and not finding me want ing, it seems. One large diamond st ud winks at me
from his ear. I like him immediat ely.
“What would you like t o drink, Anast asia?”
I glance at Christ ian, who regards me expect ant ly. Oh, he’s going t o let me choose.
“Please, call me Ana, and I’ll have what ever Christ ian’s drinking.” I smile shyly at Dant e. Fift y’s
so much bet t er at wine t han I am.
“I’m going t o have a beer. This is t he only bar in Seat t le where you can get Adnam’s Explorer.”
“A beer?”
“Yes.” He grins at me. “Two Explorers, please, Dant e.” Dant e nods and set s up t he beers on
t he bar.
“They do a delicious seafood chowder here,” Christ ian says.
He’s asking me.
“Chowder and beer sounds great .” I smile at him.
“Two chowders?” Dant e asks.
“Please.” Christ ian grins at him.
We t alk t hrough our meal, as we never have before. Christ ian is relaxed and calm—he looks
young, happy, and animat ed despit e all t hat t ranspired yest erday. He recount s t he hist ory of
Grey Ent erprises Holdings, and t he more he reveals, t he more I sense his passion for fixing
problem companies, his hopes for t he t echnology he’s developing, and his dreams of making
land in t he t hird world more product ive. I list en enrapt ured. He’s funny, clever, philant hropic, and
beaut iful, and he loves me.
In t urn, he plagues me wit h quest ions about Ray and my mom, about growing up in t he lush
forest s of Mont esano, and my brief st int s in Texas and Vegas. He demands t o know my
favorit e books and films, and I’m surprised by how much we have in common.
As we t alk, it st rikes me t hat he’s t urned from Hardy’s Alec t o Angel, debasement t o high ideal
in such a short space of t ime.
It ’s aft er t wo when we finish our meal. Christ ian set t les t he t ab wit h Dant e, who wishes us a
fond farewell.
“This is a great place. Thank you for lunch,” I say as Christ ian t akes my hand and we leave t he
bar.
“We’ll come again,” he says, and we st roll along t he wat erfront . “I want ed t o show you
somet hing.”
“I know . . . and I can’t wait t o see it , what ever it is.” We wander hand in hand along t he marina.
It is such a pleasant aft ernoon. People are out enjoying t heir Sunday—walking dogs, admiring
t he boat s, wat ching t heir kids run along t he promenade.
As we head down t he marina, t he boat s are get t ing progressively larger. Christ ian leads me on
t o t he dock and st ops in front of a huge cat amaran.
“I t hought we’d go sailing t his aft ernoon. This is my boat .” Holy cow. It must be at least fort y,
maybe fift y feet . Two sleek whit e hulls, a deck, a roomy cabin, and t owering over t hem a very
t all mast . I know not hing about boat s, but I can t ell t his one is special.
“Wow . . . ,” I murmur in wonder.
“Built by my company,” he says proudly and my heart swells. “She’s been designed from t he
ground up by t he very best naval archit ect s in t he world and const ruct ed here in Seat t le at my
yard. She has hybrid elect ric drives, asymmet ric dagger boards, a square-t opped mainsail—”
“Okay . . . you’ve lost me, Christ ian.”
He grins. “She’s a great boat .”
“She looks might y fine, Mr. Grey.”
“That she does, Miss St eele.”
“What ’s her name?”
He pulls me t o t he side so I can see her name: The Grace. I’m surprised. “You named her aft er
your mom?”
“Yes.” He cocks his head t o one side, quizzical. “Why do you find t hat st range?” I shrug. I am
surprised—he always seems ambivalent in her presence.
“I adore my mom, Anast asia. Why wouldn’t I name a boat aft er her?” I flush. “No, it ’s not t hat . . .
it ’s just . . .” Shit , how can I put t his int o words?
“Anast asia, Grace Trevelyan saved my life. I owe her everyt hing.” I gaze at him, and let t he
reverence in his soft ly spoken admission wash over me. It ’s obvious t o me, for t he first t ime,
t hat he loves his mom. Why t hen his st range st rained ambivalence t oward her?
“Do you want t o come aboard?” he asks, his eyes bright , excit ed.
“Yes, please.” I smile.
He looks delight ed and delight ful in one yummy scrumpt ious package. Grasping my hand, he
st rides up t he small gangplank and leads me aboard so t hat we are st anding on deck beneat h
a rigid canopy.
To one side t here’s a t able and a U-shaped banquet t e covered in pale blue leat her, which
must seat at least eight people. I glance t hrough t he sliding doors t o t he int erior of t he cabin
and jump, st art led when I spy someone t here. The t all blond man opens t he sliding doors and
emerges—all t anned, curly-haired and brown-eyed—wearing a faded pink short -sleeved polo
shirt , short s, and deck shoes. He must be in his early t hirt ies.
“Mac.” Christ ian beams.
“Mr. Grey! Welcome back.” They shake hands.
“Anast asia, t his is Liam McConnell. Liam, my girlfriend, Anast asia St eele.” Girlfriend! My inner
goddess performs a quick arabesque. She’s st ill grinning over t he convert ible. I have t o get
used t o t his—it ’s not t he first t ime he’s said it , but hearing him say it is st ill a t hrill.
“How do you do?” Liam and I shake hands.
“Call me Mac,” he says warmly, and I can’t place his accent . “Welcome aboard, Miss St eele.”
“Ana, please,” I mut t er, flushing. He has deep brown eyes.
“How’s she shaping up, Mac?” Christ ian int erject s quickly, and for a moment , I t hink he’s t alking
about me.
“She’s ready t o rock and roll, sir,” Mac beams. Oh, the boat, The Grace . Silly me.
“Let ’s get underway, t hen.”
“You going t o t ake her out ?”
“Yep.” Christ ian flashes Mac a quick wicked grin. “Quick t our, Anast asia?”
“Yes, please.”
I follow him inside t he cabin. An L-shaped cream leat her sofa is direct ly in front of us, and above
it , a massive curved window offers a panoramic view of t he marina. To t he left is t he kit chen
area—very well appoint ed, all pale wood.
“This is t he main saloon. Galley beside,” Christ ian says, waving his hand in t he direct ion of t he
kit chen.
He t akes my hand and leads me t hrough t he main cabin. It ’s surprisingly spacious. The floor is
t he same pale wood. It looks modern and sleek and has a light , airy feel, but it ’s all very
funct ional, as if he doesn’t spend much t ime here.
“Bat hrooms on eit her side.” Christ ian point s t o t wo doors, t hen opens t he small, oddly shaped
door direct ly in front of us and st eps in. We’re in a plush bedroom. Oh . . .
It has a king-size cabin bed and is all pale blue linen and pale wood like his bedroom at Escala.
Christ ian obviously chooses a t heme and st icks t o it .
“This is t he mast er cabin.” He gazes down at me, gray eyes glowing. “You’re t he first girl in
here, apart from family,” he smirks. “They don’t count .” I flush under his heat ed st are, and my
pulse quickens. Really? Another first. He pulls me int o his arms, his fingers t angling in my hair,
and kisses me, long and hard. We’re bot h breat hless when he pulls away.
“Might have t o christ en t his bed,” he whispers against my mout h.
Oh, at sea!
“But not right now. Come, Mac will be cast ing off.” I ignore t he st ab of disappoint ment as he
t akes my hand and leads me back t hrough t he saloon. He indicat es anot her door.
“Office in t here, and at t he front here, t wo more cabins.”
“So how many can sleep on board?”
“It ’s a six-bert h cat . I’ve only ever had t he family on board, t hough. I like t o sail alone.
But not when you’re here. I need t o keep an eye on you.” He delves int o a chest and pulls out a
bright red lifejacket .
“Here.” Put t ing it over my head, he t ight ens all t he st raps, a faint smile playing on his lips.“You
love st rapping me in, don’t you?”
“In any form,” he says, a wicked grin playing on his lips.
“You are a pervert .”
“I know.” He raises his eyebrows and his grin broadens.
“My pervert ,” I whisper.
“Yes, yours.”
Once secured, he grabs t he sides of t he jacket and kisses me. “Always,” he breat hes, t hen
releases me before I have a chance t o respond.
Always! Holy shit.
“Come.” He grabs my hand and leads me out side, up some st eps, and ont o t he upper deck t o a
small cockpit t hat houses a big st eering wheel and a raised seat . At t he prow of t he boat , Mac
is doing somet hing wit h ropes.
“Is t his where you learned all your rope t ricks?” I ask Christ ian innocent ly.
“Clove hit ches have come in handy,” he says, looking at me appraisingly. “Miss St eele, you
sound curious. I like you curious, baby. I’d be more t han happy t o demonst rat e what I can do
wit h a rope.” He smirks at me, and I gaze back impassively as if he’s upset me. His face falls.
“Got cha.” I grin.
His mout h t wist s and he narrows his eyes. “I may have t o deal wit h you lat er, but right now, I’ve
got t o drive my boat .” He sit s at t he cont rols, presses a but t on, and t he engines roar int o life.
Mac comes scoot ing back down t he side of t he boat , grinning at me, and jumps down t o t he
deck below where he st art s t o unfast en a rope. Maybe he knows some rope t ricks, t oo. The
idea pops unwelcome int o my head and I flush.
My subconscious glares at me. Ment ally I shrug at her and glance at Christ ian—I blame Fift y.
He picks up t he receiver and radios t he coast guard as Mac calls up t hat we are set t o go.
Once more, I am dazzled by Christ ian’s expert ise. He’s so compet ent . Is t here not hing t hat t his
man can’t do? Then I remember his earnest at t empt t o chop and dice a pepper in my
apart ment on Friday. The t hought makes me smile.
Slowly, Christ ian eases The Grace out of her bert h and t oward t he marina ent rance. Behind us,
a small crowd has gat hered on t he dockside t o wat ch our depart ure. Small children are waving,
and I wave back.
Christ ian glances over his shoulder, t hen pulls me bet ween his legs and point s out various dials
and gadget s in t he cockpit . “Grab t he wheel,” he orders, bossy as ever, but I do as I’m t old.
“Aye, aye, capt ain!” I giggle.
Placing his hands snugly over mine, he cont inues t o st eer our course out of t he marina, and
wit hin a few minut es, we are out on t he open sea, slap int o t he cold blue wat ers of Puget
Sound. Away from t he shelt er of t he marina’s prot ect ive wall, t he wind is st ronger, and t he sea
pit ches and rolls beneat h us.
I can’t help but grin, feeling Christ ian’s excit ement —t his is such fun. We make a large curve
unt il we are heading west t oward t he Olympic Peninsula, t he wind behind us.
“Sail t ime,” Christ ian says, excit ed. “Here—you t ake her. Keep her on t his course.” What? He
grins, react ing t o t he horror in my face.
“Baby, it ’s really easy. Hold t he wheel and keep your eye on t he horizon over t he bow.
You’ll do great ; you always do. When t he sails go up, you’ll feel t he drag. Just hold her st eady. I’ll
signal like t his”—he makes a slashing mot ion across his t hroat —“and you can cut t he engines.
This but t on here.” He point s t o a large black but t on. “Underst and?”
“Yes.” I nod frant ically, feeling panicky . Jeez—I hadn’t expected to do anything!
He kisses me quickly, t hen he st eps off his capt ain’s chair and bounds up t o t he front of t he
boat t o join Mac where he st art s unfurling sails, unt ying ropes, and operat ing winches and
pulleys. They work well t oget her in a t eam, shout ing various naut ical t erms t o each ot her, and
it ’s warming t o see Fift y int eract ing wit h someone else in such a carefree manner. Perhaps
Mac is Fift y’s friend. He doesn’t seem t o have many, as far as I can t ell, but t hen, I don’t have
many eit her. Well, not here in Seat t le. The only friend I have is on vacat ion sunning herself in St .
James on t he west coast of Barbados.
I have a sudden pang for Kat e. I miss my roommat e more t han I t hought I would when she left . I
hope she changes her mind and comes home wit h her brot her Et han, rat her t han prolong her
st ay wit h Christ ian’s brot her Elliot .
Christ ian and Mac hoist t he mainsail. It fills and billows out as t he wind seizes it hungrily, and
t he boat lurches suddenly, zipping forward. I feel it t hrough t he wheel . Whoa!
They get t o work on t he headsail, and I wat ch fascinat ed as it flies up t he mast . The wind
cat ches it , st ret ching it t aut .
“Hold her st eady, baby, and cut t he engines!” Christ ian cries out t o me over t he wind,
mot ioning me t o swit ch off t he engines. I can only just hear his voice, but I nod ent husiast ically,
gazing at t he man I love, all windswept , exhilarat ed, and bracing himself against t he pit ch and
yaw of t he boat .
I press t he but t on, t he roar of t he engines ceases, and The Grace soars t oward t he Olympic
Peninsula, skimming across t he wat er as if she’s flying. I want t o yell and scream and cheer—
t his has t o be one of t he most exhilarat ing experiences of my life—except perhaps t he glider,
and maybe t he Red Room of Pain.
Holy cow, t his boat can move! I st and firm, grasping t he wheel, fight ing t he rudder, and
Christ ian is behind me once more, his hands on mine.
“What do you t hink?” he shout s above t he sound of t he wind and t he sea.
“Christ ian! This is fant ast ic.”
He beams, grinning from ear t o ear. “You wait unt il t he spinney’s up.” He point s wit h his chin
t oward Mac, who is unfurling t he spinnaker—a sail t hat ’s a dark, rich red. It reminds me of t he
walls in t he playroom.
“Int erest ing color,” I shout .
He gives me a wolfish grin and winks. Oh, it ’s deliberat e.
The spinney balloons out —a large, odd ellipt ical shape—put t ing The Grace in overdrive.
Finding her head, she speeds over t he Sound.
“Asymmet rical sail. For speed.” Christ ian answers my unasked quest ion.
“It ’s amazing.” I can t hink of not hing bet t er t o say. I have t he most ridiculous grin on my face as
we whip t hrough t he wat er, heading for t he majest y of t he Olympic Mount ains and Bainbridge
Island. Glancing back, I see Seat t le shrinking behind us, Mount Rainier in t he far dist ance.
I had not really appreciat ed how beaut iful and rugged Seat t le’s surrounding landscape is—
verdant , lush, and t emperat e, t all evergreens and cliff faces jut t ing out here and t here.
It has a wild but serene beaut y on t his glorious sunny aft ernoon t hat t akes my breat h away.
The st illness is st unning compared t o our speed as we whip across t he wat er.
“How fast are we going?”
“She’s doing 15 knot s.”
“I have no idea what t hat means.”
“It ’s about 17 miles an hour.”
“Is t hat all? It feels much fast er.”
He squeezes my hands, smiling. “You look lovely, Anast asia. It ’s good t o see some color in your
cheeks . . . and not from blushing. You look like you do in José’s phot os.” I t urn and kiss him.
“You know how t o show a girl a good t ime, Mr. Grey.”
“We aim t o please, Miss St eele.” He scoops my hair out of t he way and kisses t he back of my
neck, sending delicious t ingles down my spine. “I like seeing you happy,” he murmurs and
t ight ens his arms around me.
I gaze out over t he wide blue wat er, wondering what I could possibly have done in t he past t o
have fort une smile and deliver t his beaut iful man t o me.
Yes, you’re a lucky bitch, my subconscious snaps. But you have your work cut out with him.
He’s not going to want this vanilla crap forever . . . you’re going to have to compro-mise. I glare
ment ally at her snarky, insolent face and rest my head against Christ ian’s chest . But deep
down I know my subconscious is right , but I banish t he t hought s. I don’t want t o spoil my day.
An hour lat er, we are anchored in a small, secluded cove off Bainbridge Island. Mac has gone
ashore in t he inflat able—for what , I don’t know—but I have my suspicions because as soon as
Mac st art s t he out board engine, Christ ian grabs my hand and pract ically drags me int o his
cabin, a man wit h a mission.
Now he st ands before me, exuding his int oxicat ing sensualit y as his deft fingers make quick
work of t he st raps on my lifejacket . He t osses it t o one side and gazes int ent ly down at me,
eyes dark, dilat ed.
I’m already lost and he’s barely t ouched me. He raises his hand t o my face, and his fingers
move down my chin, t he column of my t hroat , my st ernum, searing me wit h his t ouch, t o t he
first but t on of my blue blouse.
“I want t o see you,” he breat hes and dext erously undoes t he but t on. Bending, he plant s a soft
kiss on my part ed lips. I am pant ing and eager, aroused by t he pot ent combinat ion of his
capt ivat ing beaut y, his raw sexualit y in t he confines of t his cabin, and t he gent le sway of t he
boat . He st ands back.
“St rip for me,” he whispers, eyes burning.
Oh my. I’m only t oo happy t o comply. Not t aking my eyes off his, I slowly undo each but t on,
savoring his scorching gaze. Oh, t his is heady st uff. I can see his desire—it ’s evident on his
face . . . and elsewhere.
I let my shirt fall t o t he floor and reach for t he but t on on my jeans.
“St op,” he orders. “Sit .”
I sit down on t he edge of t he bed, and in one fluid movement he’s on his knees in front of me,
undoing t he laces of first one and t hen t he ot her sneaker, pulling each off, followed by my
socks. He picks up my left foot and raising it , plant s a soft kiss on t he pad of my big t oe, t hen
grazes his t eet h against it .
“Ah!” I moan as I feel t he effect in my groin. He st ands in one smoot h move, holds his hand out
t o me, and pulls me up off t he bed.
“Cont inue,” he says and st ands back t o wat ch me.
I ease t he zipper of my jeans down and hook my t humbs in t he waist band as I sashay t hen
slide t he denim down my legs. A soft smile plays on his lips, but his eyes remain dark.
And I don’t know if it ’s because he made love t o me t his morning, and I mean really made love
t o me, gent ly, sweet ly, or if it was his impassioned declarat ion— yes . . . I do—
but I don’t feel embarrassed at all. I want t o be sexy for t his man. He deserves sexy—he makes
me feel sexy.
Okay, it ’s new t o me, but I’m learning under his expert t ut elage. And t hen again, so much is
new t o him, t oo. It balances t he seesaw bet ween us, a lit t le, I t hink.
I am wearing some of my new underwear—a whit e lacy t hong and mat ching bra—a designer
brand wit h a price t ag t o mat ch. I st ep out of my jeans and st and t here for him in t he lingerie
he’s paid for, but I no longer feel cheap. I feel his.
Reaching behind I unhook my bra, sliding t he st raps down my arms, and drop it on t op of my
blouse. Slowly, I slip my pant ies off, let t ing t hem fall t o my ankles, and st ep out of t hem,
surprised by my grace.
St anding before him, I am naked and unashamed, and I know it ’s because he loves me. I no
longer have t o hide. He says not hing, just gazes at me. All I see is his desire, his adorat ion even,
and somet hing else, t he dept h of his need—t he dept h of his love for me.
He reaches down, lift s t he hem of his cream-colored sweat er, and pulls it over his head,
followed by his T-shirt , revealing his chest , never t aking his bold gray eyes off mine. His shoes
and socks follow before he grasps t he but t on of his jeans.
Reaching over, I whisper, “Let me.”
His lips purse briefly int o an ooh shape, and he smiles. “Be my guest .” I st ep t oward him, slip my
fearless fingers inside t he waist band of his jeans, and t ug so he’s forced t o t ake a st ep closer
t o me. He gasps involunt arily at my unexpect ed audacit y t hen smiles down at me. I undo t he
but t on, but before I unzip him I let my fingers wander, t racing his erect ion t hrough t he soft
denim. He flexes his hips int o my palm and closes his eyes briefly, relishing my t ouch.
“You’re get t ing so bold, Ana, so brave,” he whispers and clasps my face wit h bot h hands,
bending t o kiss me deeply.
I put my hands on his hips—half on his cool skin and half on t he low-slung waist band of his
jeans. “So are you,” I murmur against his lips as my t humbs rub slow circles on his skin, and he
smiles.
“Get t ing t here.”
I move my hands t o t he front of his jeans and pull down t he zipper. My int repid fingers move
t hrough his pubic hair t o his erect ion, and I grasp him t ight ly.
He makes a low sound in his t hroat , his sweet breat h washing over me, and he kisses me
again, lovingly. As my hand moves over him, around him, st roking him, squeezing him t ight ly, he
put s his arms around me, his right hand flat against t he middle of my back and his fingers
spread. His left hand is in my hair, holding me t o his mout h.
“Oh, I want you so much, baby,” he breat hes, and st eps back suddenly t o remove his jeans and
boxers in one swift , agile move. He is a fine, fine sight in or out of clot hes, every single inch of
him.
He is perfect . His beaut y desecrat ed only by his scars, I t hink sadly. And t hey run so much
deeper t han his skin.
“What ’s wrong, Ana?” he murmurs and gent ly st rokes my cheek wit h his knuckles.
“Not hing. Love me, now.”
He pulls me int o his arms, kissing me, t wist ing his hands int o my hair. Our t ongues ent wined, he
walks me backward t o t he bed and gent ly lowers me ont o it , following me down so t hat he’s
lying by my side.
He runs his nose along my jawline as my hands move t o his hair.
“Do you have any idea how exquisit e your scent is, Ana? It ’s irresist ible.” His words do what
t hey always do—flame my blood, quicken my pulse—and he t rails his nose down my t hroat ,
across my breast s, kissing me reverent ially as he does.
“You are so beaut iful,” he murmurs, as he t akes one of my nipples in his mout h and soft ly
suckles.
I moan as my body bows off t he bed.
“Let me hear you, baby.”
His hand t rails down t o my waist , and I glory in t he feel of his t ouch, skin t o skin—his hungry
mout h at my breast s and his skilled long fingers caressing and st roking me, cherishing me.
Moving over my hips, over my behind, and down my leg t o my knee, and all t his t ime he’s kissing
and sucking my breast s— oh my.
Grasping my knee, he suddenly hit ches my leg up, curling it over his hips, making me gasp, and I
feel rat her t han see his responding grin against my skin. He rolls over so t hat I am ast ride him
and hands me a foil packet .
I shift back, t aking him in my hands, and I just can’t resist him in all his glory. I bend and kiss him,
t aking him in my mout h, swirling my t ongue around him, t hen sucking hard.
He groans and flexes his hips so t hat he’s deeper in my mout h.
Mmm . . . he tastes good. I want him inside me. I sit up and gaze at him; he’s breat hless, mout h
open, wat ching me int ent ly.
Hurriedly I t ear open t he condom and unroll it over him. He holds out his hands for me. I t ake
one and wit h my ot her hand, posit ion myself over him, t hen slowly claim him as mine.
He groans low in his t hroat , closing his eyes.
The feel of him in me . . . stretching . . . filling me—I moan soft ly— it’s divine. He places his
hands on my hips and moves me up, down, and pushes int o me. Oh . . . it’s so good.
“Oh, baby,” he whispers, and suddenly he sit s up so we’re nose t o nose, and t he sensat ion is
ext raordinary—so full. I gasp, grabbing his upper arms as he clasps my head in his hands and
gazes int o my eyes—his int ense and gray, burning wit h desire.
“Oh, Ana. What you make me feel,” he murmurs and kisses me passionat ely wit h fervent ardor.
I kiss him back, dizzy wit h t he delicious feeling of him buried deep inside me.
“Oh, I love you,” I murmur. He groans as if pained t o hear my whispered words and rolls over,
t aking me wit h him wit hout breaking our precious cont act , so t hat I’m lying beneat h him. I wrap
my legs around his waist .
He st ares down at me wit h adoring wonder, and I am sure I mirror his expression as I reach up
t o caress his beaut iful face. Very slowly, he st art s t o move, closing his eyes as he does and
moaning soft ly.
The gent le sway of t he boat and t he peace and quiet t ranquilit y of t he cabin are broken only
by our mingled breat hs as he moves slowly in and out of me, so cont rolled and so good—it ’s
heavenly. He put s his arm over my head, his hand on my hair, and he caresses my face wit h t he
ot her as he bends t o kiss me.
I’m cocooned by him, as he loves me, slowly moving in and out , savoring me. I t ouch him—
st icking t o t he boundaries—his arms, his hair, his lower back, his beaut iful behind—
and my breat hing accelerat es as his st eady rhyt hm pushes me higher and higher. He’s kissing
my mout h, my chin, my jaw, t hen nibbling my ear. I can hear his st accat o breat hs wit h each
gent le t hrust of his body.
My body st art s t o quiver. Oh . . . This feeling that I now know so well . . . I am close . . .
Oh . . .
“That ’s right , baby . . . give it up for me . . . Please . . . Ana,” he murmurs and his words are my
undoing.
“Christ ian,” I call out , and he groans as we bot h come t oget her.
“Mac will be back soon,” he murmurs.
“Hmm.” My eyes flicker open t o meet his soft gray gaze. Lord, his eyes are an amazing color—
especially here, out on t he sea—reflect ing t he light bouncing off t he wat er t hrough t he small
port holes int o t he cabin.
“As much as I’d like t o lie here wit h you all aft ernoon, he’ll need a hand wit h t he din-ghy.”
Leaning over, Christ ian kisses me t enderly. “Ana, you look so beaut iful right now, all mussed up
and sexy. Makes me want you more.” He smiles and rises from t he bed. I lay on my front
admiring t he view.
“You ain’t so bad yourself, capt ain.” I smack my lips in admirat ion and he grins.
I wat ch him move gracefully about t he cabin as he dresses. He really is divinely beaut iful, and
what ’s more, he’s just made such sweet love t o me again. I can hardly believe my good fort une.
I can’t quit e believe t hat t his man is mine. He sit s down beside me t o put on his shoes.
“Capt ain, eh?” he says dryly. “Well, I am mast er of t his vessel.” I cock my head t o one side. “You
are mast er of my heart , Mr. Grey.” And my body . . .
and my soul.
He shakes his head incredulously and bends t o kiss me. “I’ll be on deck. There’s a shower in t he
bat hroom if you want one. Do you need anyt hing? A drink?” he asks solici-t ously, and all I can
do is grin at him. Is t his t he same man? Is t his t he same Fift y?
“What ?” he says, react ing t o my st upid grin.
“You.”
“What about me?”
“Who are you and what have you done wit h Christ ian?” He lips t wit ch wit h a sad smile.
“He’s not very far away, baby,” he says soft ly, and t here’s a t ouch of melancholy in his voice
t hat makes me inst ant ly regret asking t he quest ion. But he shakes it off. “You’ll see him soon
enough”—he smirks at me—“especially if you don’t get up.” Reaching over, he smacks me hard
on my behind so I yelp and laugh at t he same t ime.
“You had me worried.”
“Did I, now?” Christ ian’s brow creases. “You do give off some mixed signals, Anast asia. How’s a
man supposed t o keep up?” He leans down and kisses me again. “Lat ers, baby,” he adds, and
wit h a dazzling smile, he get s up and leaves me t o my scat t ered t hought s.
When I surface on deck, Mac is back on board, but he disappears ont o t he upper deck as I
open t he saloon doors. Christ ian is on his Blackberry. Talking to whom? I wonder. He wanders
over and pulls me close, kissing my hair.
“Great news . . . good. Yeah . . . Really? The fire escape st airwell? . . . I see . . . Yes, t onight .”
He hit s t he end but t on, and t he sound of t he engines firing up st art les me. Mac must be in t he
cockpit above.
“Time t o head back,” Christ ian says, kissing me once more as he st raps me int o my lifejacket .
The sun is low in t he sky behind us as we make our way back t o t he marina, and I reflect on a
wonderful aft ernoon. Under Christ ian’s careful, pat ient t uit ion, I have now st owed a mainsail, a
headsail, and a spinnaker and learned t o t ie a reef knot , clove hit ch, and sheep-shank. His lips
were t wit ching t hroughout t he lesson.
“I may t ie you up one day,” I mut t er crabbily.
His mout h t wist s wit h humor. “You’ll have t o cat ch me first , Miss St eele.” His words bring t o
mind him chasing me round t he apart ment , t he t hrill, t hen t he hideous aft ermat h. I frown and
shudder. Aft er t hat , I left him.
Would I leave him again now t hat he’s admit t ed he loves me? I gaze up int o his clear gray eyes.
Could I ever leave him again—no mat t er what he did t o me? Could I bet ray him like t hat ? No. I
don’t t hink I could.
He’s given me a more t horough t our of t his beaut iful boat , explaining all t he innova-t ive designs
and t echniques, and t he high-qualit y mat erials used t o build it . I remember t he int erview when I
first met him. I picked up t hen on his passion for ships. I t hought his love was only for t he
ocean-going freight ers his company builds—not for super-sexy, sleek cat amarans, t oo.
And, of course, he’s made sweet , unhurried love t o me. I shake my head, remembering my body
bowed and want ing beneat h his expert hands. He is an except ional lover, I’m sure—t hough, of
course, I have no comparison. But Kat e would have raved more if it was always like t his; it ’s not
like her t o hold back on det ails.
But how long will t his be enough for him? I just don’t know, and t he t hought is unnerving.
Now he sit s, and I st and in t he safe circle of his arms for hours, it seems, in comfort able,
companionable silence as The Grace glides closer and closer t o Seat t le. I have t he wheel,
Christ ian advising on adjust ment s every so oft en.
“There is poet ry in sailing as old as t he world,”1 he murmurs in my ear.
“That sounds like a quot e.”
I sense his grin. “It is. Ant oine de Saint -Exupéry.”
“Oh . . . I adore The Little Prince.”
“Me, t oo.”
It is early evening as Christ ian, his hands st ill on mine, st eers us int o t he marina. There are
light s winking from t he boat s, reflect ing off t he dark wat er, but it is st ill light —a balmy, bright
evening, an overt ure for what is sure t o be a spect acular sunset .
A crowd gat hers on t he dockside as Christ ian slowly t urns t he boat around in a rela-t ively small
space. He does it wit h ease and reverses smoot hly int o t he same bert h we left earlier. Mac
jumps on t o t he dock and t ies The Grace securely t o a bollard.
“Back again,” Christ ian murmurs.
“Thank you,” I murmur shyly. “That was a perfect aft ernoon.” Christ ian grins. “I t hought so, t oo.
Perhaps we can enroll you in sailing school, so we can go out for a few days, just t he t wo of
us.”
“I’d love t hat . We can christ en t he bedroom again and again.” He leans forward and kisses me
under my ear. “Hmm . . . I look forward t o it , Anast asia,” he whispers, making every single hair
follicle on my body st and t o at t ent ion.
How does he do t hat ?
“Come, t he apart ment is clean. We can go back.”
“What about our t hings at t he hot el?”
“Taylor has collect ed t hem already.”
Oh! When?
“Earlier t oday, aft er he did a sweep of The Grace wit h his t eam.” Christ ian answers my
unspoken quest ion.
“Does t hat poor man ever sleep?”
1 de Saint -Exupéry, Ant oine. Night Flight. Translat ed by St uart Gilbert . New Jersey: Prent ice
Hall, June 1932. (First published in 1931 under t he original t it le of Vol de nuit. )
“He sleeps.” Christ ian quirks an eyebrow at me, puzzled. “He’s just doing his job, Anast asia,
which he’s very good at . Jason is a real find.”
“Jason?”
“Jason Taylor.”
I remember when I t hought Taylor was his first name. Jason. It suit s him—solid, reliable. For
some reason it makes me smile.
“You’re fond of Taylor,” Christ ian says, eyeing me wit h speculat ion.
“I suppose I am.” His quest ion derails me. He frowns. “I’m not at t ract ed t o him, if t hat ’s why
you’re frowning. St op.”
Christ ian is almost pout ing—sulky.
Jeez, he’s such a child sometimes. “I t hink Taylor looks aft er you very well. That ’s why I like
him. He seems kind, reliable and loyal. He has an avuncular appeal t o me.”
“Avuncular?”
“Yes.”
“Okay, avuncular.” Christ ian is t est ing t he word and meaning. I laugh.
“Oh, Christ ian, grow up, for heaven’s sake.”
His mout h drops open, surprised by my out burst , but t hen he frowns as if considering my
st at ement . “I’m t rying,” he says event ually.
“That you are. Very.” I answer soft ly but t hen roll my eyes at him.
“What memories you evoke when you roll your eyes at me, Anast asia.” He grins.
I smirk at him. “Well, if you behave yourself, maybe we can relive some of t hose memories.”
His mout h t wist s wit h humor. “Behave myself?” He raises his eyebrows. “Really, Miss St eele—
what makes you t hink I want t o relive t hem?”
“Probably t he way your eyes lit up like Christ mas when I said t hat .”
“You know me so well already,” he says dryly.
“I’d like t o know you bet t er.”
He smiles soft ly. “And I you, Anast asia.”
“Thanks, Mac.” Christ ian shakes McConnell’s hand and st eps on t he dock.
“Always a pleasure, Mr. Grey, and good-bye. Ana, great t o meet you.” I shake his hand shyly. He
must know what Christ ian and I were up t o on t he boat while he went ashore.
“Good day, Mac, and t hank you.”
He grins at me and winks, making me flush. Christ ian t akes my hand, and we walk up t he dock
t o t he marina’s promenade.
“Where’s Mac from?” I ask, curious about his accent .
“Ireland . . . Nort hern Ireland,” Christ ian correct s himself.
“Is he your friend?”
“Mac? He works for me. Helped build The Grace.”
“Do you have many friends?”
He frowns. “Not really. Doing what I do . . . I don’t cult ivat e friendships. There’s only—” He st ops,
his frown deepening, and I know he was going t o ment ion Mrs. Robinson.“Hungry?” he asks,
t rying t o change t he subject .
I nod. Act ually, I’m famished.
“We’ll eat where I left t he car. Come.”
Next t o SP’s is a small It alian bist ro called Bee’s. It reminds me of t he place in Port land—a few
t ables and boot hs, t he décor very crisp and modern wit h a large black and whit e phot ograph of
a t urn-of-t he-cent ury fiest a serving as a mural.
Christ ian and I are seat ed in a boot h, poring over t he menu and sipping a delicious light
Frascat i. When I glance up from t he menu, having made my choice, Christ ian is gazing at me
speculat ively.
“What ?” I ask.
“You look lovely, Anast asia. The out doors agrees wit h you.” I flush. “I feel rat her wind-burned t o
t ell t he t rut h. But I had a lovely aft ernoon. A perfect aft ernoon. Thank you.”
He smiles, his eyes warm. “My pleasure,” he murmurs.
“Can I ask you somet hing?” I decide on a fact -finding mission.
“Anyt hing, Anast asia. You know t hat .” He cocks his head t o one side, looking delicious.
“You don’t seem t o have many friends. Why is t hat ?”
He shrugs and frowns. “I t old you, I don’t really have t ime. I have business associ-at es—t hough
t hat ’s very different from friendships, I suppose. I have my family and t hat ’s it . Apart from
Elena.”
I ignore t he ment ion of t he bit ch-t roll. “No male friends your own age t hat you can go out wit h
and let off st eam?”
“You know how I like t o let off st eam, Anast asia.” Christ ian’s mout h t wist s. “And I’ve been
working, building up t he business.” He looks puzzled. “That ’s all I do—except sail and fly
occasionally.”
“Not even in college?”
“Not really.”
“Just Elena, t hen?”
He nods, his expression wary.
“Must be lonely.”
His lips curl in a small wist ful smile. “What would you like t o eat ?” he asks, changing t he subject
again.
“I’m going for t he risot t o.”
“Good choice.” Christ ian summons t he wait er, put t ing an end t o t hat conversat ion.
Aft er we’ve placed our order, I shift uncomfort ably in my seat , st aring at my knot t ed fingers. If
he’s in a t alking mood, I need t o t ake advant age.
I have t o t alk t o him about his expect at ions, about his, um . . . needs.
“Anast asia, what ’s wrong? Tell me.”
I glance up int o his concerned face.
“Tell me,” he says more forcefully, and his concern evolves int o what ? Fear? Anger?
I t ake a deep breat h. “I’m just worried t hat t his isn’t enough for you. You know, t o let off st eam.”
His jaw t enses and his eyes harden. “Have I given you any indicat ion t hat t his isn’t enough?”
“No.”
“Then why do you t hink t hat ?”
“I know what you’re like. What you . . . um . . . need,” I st ut t er.
He closes his eyes and rubs his forehead wit h long fingers.
“What do I have t o do?” His voice is ominously soft as if he’s angry, and my heart sinks.
“No, you misunderst and—you have been amazing, and I know it ’s just been a few days, but I
hope I’m not forcing you t o be someone you’re not .”
“I’m st ill me, Anast asia—in all my fift y shades of fuckedupness. Yes, I have t o fight t he urge t o
be cont rolling . . . but t hat ’s my nat ure, how I’ve dealt wit h my life. Yes, I expect you t o behave a
cert ain way, and when you don’t it ’s bot h challenging and refreshing. We st ill do what I like t o
do. You let me spank you aft er your out rageous bid yest erday.” He smiles fondly at t he
memory. “I enjoy punishing you. I don’t t hink t he urge will ever go . . .
but I’m t rying, and it ’s not as hard as I t hought it would be.” I squirm and flush, remembering our
illicit t ryst in his childhood bedroom. “I didn’t mind t hat ,” I whisper, smiling shyly.
“I know.” His lips curl in a reluct ant smile. “Neit her did I. But let me t ell you, Anast asia, t his is all
new t o me and t hese last few days have been t he best in my life. I don’t want t o change
anyt hing.”
Oh!
“They’ve been t he best in my life, t oo, wit hout except ion,” I murmur and his smile broadens. My
inner goddess nods frant ically in agreement —and nudges me hard. Okay, okay. “So you don’t
want t o t ake me int o your playroom?” He swallows and pales, all t race of humor gone. “No, I
don’t .”
“Why not ?” I whisper. This is not t he answer I expect ed.
And yes, t here it is, t hat lit t le pinch of disappoint ment . My inner goddess st omps off pout ing,
her arms crossed like an angry t oddler.
“The last t ime we were in t here you left me,” he says quiet ly. “I will shy away from anyt hing t hat
could make you leave me again. I was devast at ed when you left . I explained t hat . I never want
t o feel like t hat again. I’ve t old you how I feel about you.” His gray eyes are wide and int ense
wit h his sincerit y.
“But it hardly seems fair. It can’t be very relaxing for you—t o be const ant ly concerned about
how I feel. You’ve made all t hese changes for me, and I . . . I t hink I should reciprocat e in some
way. I don’t know—maybe . . . t ry . . . some role-playing games,” I st ut t er, my face as crimson as
t he walls of t he playroom.
Why is t his so hard t o t alk about ? I have done all manner of kinky fuckery wit h t his man, t hings I
hadn’t even heard of a few weeks ago, t hings t hat I would never have t hought possible, yet
t he hardest of all is t alking t o him.
“Ana, you do reciprocat e, more t han you know. Please, please don’t feel like t his.” Gone is
carefree Christ ian. His eyes are wider now wit h alarm, and it ’s gut -wrenching.
“Baby, it ’s only been one weekend,” he cont inues. “Give us some t ime. I t hought a great deal
about us last week when you left . We need t ime. You need t o t rust me, and I you.
Maybe in t ime we can indulge, but I like how you are now. I like seeing you t his happy, t his
relaxed and carefree, knowing t hat I had somet hing t o do wit h it . I have never—” He st ops and
runs his hand t hrough his hair. “We have t o walk before we can run.” Suddenly he smirks.
“What ’s so funny?”
“Flynn. He says t hat all t he t ime. I never t hought I’d be quot ing him.”
“A Flynnism.”
Christ ian laughs. “Exact ly.”
The wait er arrives wit h our st art ers and bruschet t a, and our conversat ion changes t ack as
Christ ian relaxes.
But when t he unfeasibly large plat es are placed before us, I can’t help t hink how I have t hought
of Christ ian t oday—relaxed, happy and carefree. At least he’s laughing now, at ease again.
I breat he an inward sigh of relief as he st art s quizzing me about places I’ve been. This is a
short discussion, since I have never been anywhere except t he cont inent al US. Christ ian, on
t he ot her hand, has t raveled t he world. We slip int o an easier, happier conversat ion, t alking
about all t he places he’s visit ed.
Aft er our t ast y and filling meal, Christ ian drives back t o Escala, Eva Cassidy’s gent le sweet
voice singing over t he speakers. It allows me a peaceful int erlude in which t o t hink. I have had a
mind-blowing day. Dr. Greene, our shower, Christ ian’s admission, making love at t he hot el and
on t he boat , buying t he car. Even Christ ian himself has been so different . It ’s as if he’s let t ing
go of somet hing or rediscovering somet hing—I don’t know.
Who knew he could be so sweet ? Did he?
When I glance at him, he, t oo, looks lost in t hought . It st rikes me t hen t hat he never really had
an adolescence—a normal one anyway. I shake my head.
My mind drift s back t o t he ball and dancing wit h Dr. Flynn and Christ ian’s fear t hat Flynn had
t old me all about him. Christ ian is st ill hiding somet hing from me. How can we move on if he
feels t hat way?
He t hinks I might leave if I know him. He t hinks t hat I might leave if he’s himself. Oh, this man is
so complicated.
As we get closer t o his home, he st art s radiat ing t ension unt il it becomes palpable. As we drive,
he scans t he sidewalks and side alleys, his eyes dart ing everywhere, and I know he’s looking for
Leila. I st art looking, t oo. Every young brunet t e is a suspect , but we don’t see her.
When he pulls int o t he garage, his mout h is set in a t ense, grim line. I wonder why we’ve come
back here if he’s going t o be so wary and upt ight . Sawyer is in t he garage, pat rolling. The
defiled Audi is gone. He comes t o open my door as Christ ian pulls in beside t he SUV.
“Hello, Sawyer,” I murmur my greet ing.
“Miss St eele.” He nods. “Mr. Grey.”
“No sign?” Christ ian asks.
“No, sir.”
Christ ian nods, grasps my hand, and heads for t he elevat or. I know his brain is working overt ime
—he’s dist ract ed. Once we’re inside he t urns t o me.
“You are not allowed out of here alone. You underst and?” he snaps.
“Okay.” Jeez—keep your hair on. But his at t it ude makes me smile. I want t o hug myself—now
t his man, all domineering and short wit h me I know. I marvel t hat I would have found it so
t hreat ening only a week or so ago when he spoke t o me t his way. But now, I underst and him
so much bet t er. This is his coping mechanism. He’s st ressed about Leila, he loves me, and he
want s t o prot ect me.
“What ’s so funny?” he murmurs, a hint of amusement in his expression.
“You are.”
“Me? Miss St eele? Why am I funny?” he pout s.
Christ ian pout ing is . . . hot .
“Don’t pout .”
“Why?” He’s even more amused.
“Because it has t he same effect on me as I have on you when I do t his.” I bit e my lip
deliberat ely.
He raises his eyebrows, surprised and pleased at t he same t ime. “Really?” He pout s again and
leans down t o give me a swift chast e kiss.
I raise my lips t o meet his, and in t he nanosecond when our lips t ouch, t he nat ure of t he kiss
changes—wildfire spreading t hrough my veins from t his int imat e point of cont act , driving me t o
him.
Suddenly, my fingers are curling in his hair as he grabs me and pushes me against t he elevat or
wall, his hands framing my face, holding me t o his lips as our t ongues t hrash against each
ot her. And I don’t know if it ’s t he confines of t he elevat or making everyt hing much more real,
but I feel his need, his anxiet y, his passion.
Holy shit. I want him, here, now.
The elevat or pings t o a halt , t he doors slide open, and Christ ian drags his face from mine, his
hips st ill pinning me t o t he wall, his erect ion digging int o me.
“Whoa,” he murmurs pant ing.
“Whoa,” I mirror him, dragging a welcome breat h int o my lungs.
He gazes at me, eyes blazing. “What you do t o me, Ana.” He t races my lower lip wit h his
t humb.
Out of t he corner of my eye, Taylor st eps backward so he’s no longer in my line of sight . I reach
up and kiss Christ ian at t he corner of his beaut ifully sculpt ured mout h.
“What you do t o me, Christ ian.”
He st eps back and t akes my hand, his eyes darker now, hooded. “Come,” he orders.
Taylor is st ill in t he foyer, wait ing discreet ly for us.
“Good evening, Taylor,” Christ ian says cordially.
“Mr. Grey, Miss St eele.”
“I was Mrs. Taylor yest erday.” I grin at Taylor, who flushes.
“That has a nice ring t o it , Miss St eele,” Taylor says mat t er-of-fact ly.
“I t hought so, t oo.”
Christ ian t ight ens his hold on my hand, scowling. “If you t wo have quit e finished, I’d like a
debrief.” He glares at Taylor, who now looks uncomfort able, and I cringe inwardly.
I have overst epped t he mark.
“Sorry,” I mout h at Taylor, who shrugs and smiles kindly before I t urn t o follow Christ ian.“I’ll be
wit h you short ly. I just want a word wit h Miss St eele,” Christ ian says t o Taylor, and I know I’m in
t rouble.
Christ ian leads me int o his bedroom and closes t he door.
“Don’t flirt wit h t he st aff, Anast asia,” he scolds.
I open my mout h t o defend myself—t hen close it again, t hen open it . “I wasn’t flirt ing.
I was being friendly—t here is a difference.”
“Don’t be friendly wit h t he st aff or flirt wit h t hem. I don’t like it .” Oh. Good-bye, carefree
Christian. “I’m sorry,” I mut t er and st are down at my fingers.
He hasn’t made me feel like a child all day. Reaching down he cups my chin, pulling my head up
t o meet his eyes.
“You know how jealous I am,” he whispers.
“You have no reason t o be jealous, Christ ian. You own me body and soul.” He blinks as if he’s
finding t his fact hard t o process. He leans down and kisses me quickly, but wit h none of t he
passion we experienced a moment ago in t he elevat or.
“I won’t be long. Make yourself at home,” he says sulkily and t urns, leaving me st anding in his
bedroom, dazed and confused.
Why on earth would he be jealous of Taylor? I shake my head in disbelief.
Glancing at t he alarm clock, I not ice it ’s just aft er eight . I decide t o get my clot hes ready for
work t omorrow. I head upst airs t o my room and open t he walk-in closet . It ’s empt y. All t he
clot hes have gone. Oh no! Christ ian has t aken me at my word and disposed of t he clot hes.
Shit.
My subconscious glares at me. Well, that will be you and your big mouth.
Why did he t ake me at my word? My mot her’s advice comes back t o haunt me, “Men are so
literal, darling.” I pout , st aring at t he empt y space. There were some lovely clot hes, t oo, like t he
silver dress I wore t o t he ball.
I wander disconsolat ely int o t he bedroom, Wait a moment—what is going on? The iPad is gone.
Where’s my Mac? Oh no. My first uncharit able t hought is t hat Leila may have st olen t hem.
I fly back downst airs and back int o Christ ian’s bedroom. On t he bedside t able are my Mac, my
iPad, and my sat chel. It ’s all here.
I open t he walk-in closet door. My clot hes are here—all of t hem—sharing space wit h Christ ian’s
clot hes. When did t his happen? Why does he never warn me before he does t hings like t his?
I t urn, and he’s st anding in t he doorway.
“Oh, t hey managed t he move,” he mut t ers, dist ract ed.
“What ’s wrong?” I ask. His face is grim.
“Taylor t hinks Leila was get t ing in t hrough t he emergency st airwell. She must have had a key.
All t he locks have been changed now. Taylor’s t eam has done a sweep of every room in t he
apart ment . She’s not here.” He st ops and runs a hand t hrough his hair. “I wish I knew where
she was. She’s evading all our at t empt s t o find her when she needs help.” He frowns, and my
earlier pique vanishes. I put my arms around him. Folding me int o his embrace, he kisses my
hair.
“What will you do when you find her?” I ask.
“Dr. Flynn has a place.”
“What about her husband?”
“He’s washed his hands of her.” Christ ian’s t one is bit t er. “Her family is in Connect i-cut . I t hink
she’s very much on her own out t here.”
“That ’s sad.”
“Are you okay wit h all your st uff being here? I want you t o share my room,” he murmurs. Whoa,
quick change of direction.
“Yes.”
“I want you sleeping wit h me. I don’t have night mares when you’re wit h me.”
“You have night mares?”
“Yes.”
I t ight en my hold around him. Holy cow. More baggage. My heart cont ract s for t his man.“I was
just get t ing my clot hes ready for work t omorrow,” I mut t er.
“Work!” Christ ian exclaims as if it ’s a dirt y word, and he releases me, glaring.
“Yes, work,” I reply, confused by his react ion.
He st ares at me wit h complet e incomprehension. “But Leila—she’s out t here,” he pauses. “I
don’t want you t o go t o work.”
What? “That ’s ridiculous, Christ ian. I have t o go t o work.”
“No, you don’t .”
“I have a new job, which I enjoy. Of course I have t o go t o work.” What does he mean?
“No, you don’t ,” he repeat s, emphat ically.
“Do you t hink I am going t o st ay here t widdling my t humbs while you’re off being Mast er of t he
Universe?”
“Frankly . . . yes.”
Oh, Fifty, Fifty, Fifty . . . give me strength.
“Christ ian, I need t o go t o work.”
“No, you don’t .”
“Yes. I. Do.” I say it slowly as if he’s a child.
He scowls at me. “It ’s not safe.”
“Christ ian . . . I need t o work for a living, and I’ll be fine.”
“No, you don’t need t o work for a living—and how do you know you’ll be fine?” He’s almost
shout ing.
What does he mean? He’s going t o support me? Oh, t his is beyond ridiculous—I’ve known him
for what —five weeks?
He’s angry now, his gray eyes st ormy and flashing, but I don’t give a shit .
“For heaven’s sake, Christ ian, Leila was st anding at t he end of your bed, and she didn’t harm
me, and yes, I do need t o work. I don’t want t o be beholden t o you. I have my st udent loans t o
pay.”
His mout h presses int o a grim line, as I place my hands on my hips. I am not budging on t his.
Who t he fuck does he t hink he is?
“I don’t want you going t o work.”
“It ’s not up t o you, Christ ian. This is not your decision t o make.” He runs his hand t hrough his
hair as he st ares at me. Seconds, minut es t ick by as we glare at each ot her.
“Sawyer will come wit h you.”
“Christ ian, t hat ’s not necessary. You’re being irrat ional.”
“Irrat ional?” he growls. “Eit her he comes wit h you, or I will be really irrat ional and keep you here.”
He wouldn’t, would he? “How, exact ly?”
“Oh, I’d find a way, Anast asia. Don’t push me.”
“Okay!” I concede, holding up bot h my hands, placat ing him. Holy fuck—Fifty is back with a
vengeance.
We st and, scowling at each ot her.
“Okay—Sawyer can come wit h me if it makes you feel bet t er.” I concede rolling my eyes.
Christ ian narrows his and t akes a menacing st ep in my direct ion. I immediat ely st ep back. He
st ops and t akes a deep breat h, closes his eyes, and runs bot h his hands t hrough his hair. Oh
no. Fift y is well and t ruly wound up.
“Shall I give you a t our?”
A tour? Are you kidding me? “Okay,” I mut t er warily. Anot her change of t ack—Mr.
Mercurial is back in t own. He holds out his hand and when I t ake it , he squeezes mine soft ly.
“I didn’t mean t o fright en you.”
“You didn’t . I was just get t ing ready t o run,” I quip.
“Run?” Christ ian eyes widen.
“I’m joking!” Oh jeez.
He leads me out of t he closet , and I t ake a moment t o calm down. Adrenaline is st ill coursing
t hrough my body. A fight wit h Fift y is not t o be undert aken light ly.
He gives me a t our of t he apart ment , showing me t he various rooms. Along wit h t he playroom
and t hree spare bedrooms upst airs, I’m int rigued t o find t hat Taylor and Mrs.
Jones have a wing t o t hemselves—a kit chen, spacious living area, and a bedroom each.
Mrs. Jones has not yet ret urned from visit ing her sist er who lives in Port land.
Downst airs, t he room t hat cat ches my eye is opposit e his st udy—a TV room wit h a t oo-large
plasma screen and assort ed games consoles. It ’s cozy.
“So you do have an Xbox?” I smirk.
“Yes, but I’m crap at it . Elliot always beat s me. That was funny, when you t hought I meant t his
room was my playroom.” He grins down at me his snit -fit forgot t en. Thank heavens he’s
recovered his good mood.
“I’m glad you find me amusing, Mr. Grey,” I respond haught ily.
“That you are, Miss St eele—when you’re not being exasperat ing, of course.”
“I’m usually exasperat ing when you’re being unreasonable.”
“Me? Unreasonable?”
“Yes, Mr. Grey. Unreasonable could be your middle name.”
“I don’t have a middle name.”
“Unreasonable would suit t hen.”
“I t hink t hat ’s a mat t er of opinion, Miss St eele.”
“I would be int erest ed in Dr. Flynn’s professional opinion.” Christ ian smirks.
“I t hought Trevelyan was your middle name.”
“No. Surname.”
“But you don’t use it .”
“It ’s t oo long. Come,” he commands. I follow him out of t he TV room t hrough t he great room t o
t he main corridor past t he ut ilit y room and an impressive wine cellar and int o Taylor’s own
large, well-equipped office. Taylor st ands when we ent er. There’s room in here for a meet ing
t able t hat seat s six. Above one desk is a bank of monit ors. I had no idea t he apart ment had
CCTV. It appears t o monit or t he balcony, st airwell, service elevat or, and foyer.
“Hi, Taylor. I’m just giving Anast asia a t our.”
Taylor nods but doesn’t smile. I wonder if he’s been t old off, t oo, and why is he st ill working?
When I smile at him, he nods polit ely. Christ ian grabs my hand once more and leads me t o t he
library.
“And, of course, you’ve been in here.” Christ ian opens t he door. I spy t he green baize of t he
billiard t able.
“Shall we play?” I ask. Christ ian smiles, surprised.
“Okay. Have you played before?”
“A few t imes,” I lie, and he narrows his eyes, cocking his head t o one side.
“You’re a hopeless liar, Anast asia. Eit her you’ve never played before or—” I lick my lips.
“Fright ened of a lit t le compet it ion?”
“Fright ened of a lit t le girl like you?” Christ ian scoffs good-nat uredly.
“A wager, Mr. Grey.”
“You’re t hat confident , Miss St eele?” He smirks, amused and incredulous at once.
“What would you like t o wager?”
“If I win, you’ll t ake me back int o t he playroom.”
He gazes at me as if he can’t quit e comprehend what I’ve said. “And if I win?” he asks aft er
several shell-shocked beat s.
“Then it ’s your choice.”
His mout h t wist s as he cont emplat es his answer. “Okay, deal.” He smirks. “Do you want t o play
pool, English snooker or carom billiards?”
“Pool, please. I don’t know t he ot hers.”
From a cupboard beneat h one of t he bookshelves, Christ ian t akes out a large leat her case.
Inside t he pool balls are nest ed in velvet . Quickly and efficient ly, he racks t he balls on t he baize.
I don’t t hink I’ve ever played pool on such a large t able before. Christ ian hands me a cue and
some chalk.
“Would you like t o break?” He feigns polit eness. He’s enjoying himself—he t hinks he’s going t o
win.
“Okay.” I chalk t he end of my cue, and blow t he excess chalk off—st aring up at Christ ian
t hrough my lashes. His eyes darken as I do.
I line up on t he whit e ball and wit h a swift clean st roke, hit t he cent er ball of t he t riangle square
on wit h such force t hat a st riped ball spins and plunges int o t he t op right pocket .
I’ve scat t ered t he rest of t he balls.
“I choose st ripes,” I say innocent ly, smiling coyly at Christ ian. His mout h t wist s in amusement .
“Be my guest ,” he says polit ely.
I proceed t o pocket t he next t hree balls in quick succession. Inside, I’m dancing. At t his
moment , I am so grat eful t o José for t eaching me t o play pool and play it well. Christ ian
wat ches impassively, giving not hing away, but his amusement seems t o ebb. I miss t he green
st ripe by a hairsbreadt h.
“You know, Anast asia, I could st and here and wat ch you leaning and st ret ching across t his
billiard t able all day,” he says appreciat ively.
I flush. Thank heavens I am wearing my jeans. He smirks. He’s t rying t o put me off my game,
t he bast ard. He pulls his cream sweat er over his head, t osses it ont o t he back of a chair, and
grins at me, as he saunt ers over t o t ake his first shot .
He bends low over t he t able. My mout h goes dry. Oh, I see what he means. Christ ian in t ight
jeans and whit e T-shirt , bending, like t hat . . . is somet hing t o behold. I quit e lose my t rain of
t hought . He sinks four solids rapidly, t hen fouls by sinking t he whit e.
“A very element ary mist ake, Mr. Grey,” I t ease.
He smirks. “Ah, Miss St eele, I am but a foolish mort al. Your go, I believe.” He waves at t he t able.
“You’re not t rying t o lose are you?”
“Oh no. For what I have in mind as t he prize, I want t o win, Anast asia.” He shrugs casually. “But
t hen, I always want t o win.”
I narrow my eyes at him. Right then . . . I’m so glad I’m wearing my blue blouse, which is
pleasingly low-cut . I st alk around t he t able, bending low at every available opport unit y—giving
Christ ian an eyeful of my behind and my cleavage whenever I can. Two can play at t hat game. I
glance at him.
“I know what you’re doing,” he whispers, his eyes dark.
I t ilt my head coquet t ishly t o one side, gent ly fondling my cue, running my hand up and down it
slowly. “Oh. I am just deciding where t o t ake my next shot ,” I murmur dist ract edly.
Leaning across, I hit t he orange st ripe int o a bet t er posit ion. I t hen st and direct ly in front of
Christ ian and t ake t he rest from underneat h t he t able. I line up my next shot , leaning right over
t he t able. I hear Christ ian’s sharp int ake of breat h, and of course, I miss. Shit.
He comes t o st and behind me while I am st ill bent over t he t able and places his hand on my
backside. Hmm . . .
“Are you waving t his around t o t aunt me, Miss St eele?” And he smacks me, hard.
I gasp. “Yes,” I mut t er, because it ’s t rue.
“Be careful what you wish for, baby.”
I rub my behind as he wanders t o t he ot her end of t he t able, leans over, and t akes his shot .
Jeez, I could look at him all day. He hit s t he red ball, and it shoot s int o t he left side pocket . He
aims for t he yellow, t op right , and it just misses. I grin.
“Red Room here we come,” I t aunt him.
He merely raises an eyebrow and direct s me t o cont inue. I make quick work of t he green st ripe
and by some fluke, manage t o knock in t he final orange st ripe.
“Name your pocket ,” Christ ian murmurs, and it ’s as if he’s t alking about somet hing else,
somet hing dark and rude.
“Top left -hand.” I t ake aim over t he black, hit it , but miss. It skirt s wide. Damn.
Christ ian smiles a wicked grin as he leans over t he t able and makes short work of t he t wo
remaining solids. I am pract ically pant ing, wat ching him, his lit he body st ret ching over t he t able.
He st ands and chalks his cue, his eyes burning int o me.
“If I win . . .”
Oh yes?
“I am going t o spank you, t hen fuck you over t his billiard t able.” Holy shit. Every single muscle
south of my navel clenches hard.
“Top right ,” he murmurs, point ing t o t he black, and bends t o t ake t he shot .
Wit h easy grace, Christ ian t aps t he whit e ball so t hat it glides across t he t able, kisses t he black
and oh-so-slowly t he black rolls, t eet ers on t he edge, and finally drops int o t he t op right pocket
of t he billiard t able.
Damn.
He st ands, and his mout h t wist s in a t riumphant I-so-own-you-St eele smile. Put t ing down his
cue, he saunt ers casually t oward me, all t ousled hair, jeans, and whit e T-shirt . He doesn’t look
like a CEO—he looks like a bad boy from t he wrong side of t own. Holy cow, he’s so fucking
sexy.
“You’re not going t o be a sore loser, are you?” he murmurs, barely cont aining his grin.
“Depends how hard you spank me,” I whisper, holding on t o my cue for support . He t akes my
cue and put s it t o one side, hooks his finger int o t he t op of my shirt , and pulls me t oward him.
“Well, let ’s count your misdemeanors, Miss St eele.” He count s on his long fingers.
“One, making me jealous of my own st aff. Two, arguing wit h me about working. And t hree,
waving your delect able derriere at me for t he last t went y minut es.” His eyes glow a soft gray
wit h excit ement , and leaning down, he rubs his nose against mine. “I want you t o t ake your
jeans and t his very fet ching shirt off. Now.” He plant s a feat her-soft kiss on my lips, wanders
nonchalant ly over t o t he door, and locks it .
Oh my.
When he t urns and gazes at me, his eyes are burning. I st and paralyzed like a complet e
zombie, my heart pounding, my blood pumping, not act ually able t o move a muscle. In my mind,
all I can t hink is— this is for him—t he t hought repeat ing like a mant ra over and over again.
“Clot hes, Anast asia. You appear t o st ill be wearing t hem. Take t hem off—or I will do it for you.”
“You do it .” I finally find my voice, and it sounds low and heat ed. Christ ian grins.
“Oh, Miss St eele. It ’s a dirt y job, but I t hink I can rise t o t he challenge.”
“You normally rise t o most challenges, Mr. Grey.” I raise an eyebrow at him, and he smirks.
“Why, Miss St eele, what ever do you mean?” On his way over t o me, he pauses at t he small
desk built int o one of t he bookshelves. Reaching over, he picks up a t welve-inch Perspex ruler.
He holds each end and flexes it , his eyes not leaving mine.
Holy shit—his weapon of choice. My mout h goes dry.
Suddenly, I’m hot and bot hered and damp in all t he right places. Only Christ ian could t urn me
on wit h just a look and t he flex of a ruler. He slips it int o t he back pocket of his jeans and
ambles t oward me, eyes dark and full of promise. Wit hout saying a word, he drops t o his knees
in front of me and st art s t o undo my laces, quickly and efficient ly, dragging bot h my Converse
and socks off. I lean on t he side of t he billiard t able so I don’t fall.
Gazing down at him as he undoes my laces, I marvel at t he dept h of feeling t hat I have for t his
beaut iful flawed man. I love him.
He grabs my hips, slips his fingers int o t he waist band of my jeans, and undoes t he but t on and
zipper. He peers up t hrough his long lashes, grinning his most salacious grin as he slowly peels
my jeans off. I st ep out of t hem, glad t hat I’m wearing t hese pret t y, pret t y pant ies, and he
grasps t he back of my legs and runs his nose along t he apex of my t highs.
I pract ically melt .
“I want t o be quit e rough wit h you, Ana. You’ll have t o t ell me t o st op if it ’s t oo much,” he
breat hes.
Oh my. He kisses me . . . t here. I moan soft ly.
“Safe word?” I murmur.
“No, no safe word, just t ell me t o st op, and I’ll st op. Underst and?” He kisses me again, nuzzling
me. Oh, that feels good. He st ands, his st are int ense. “Answer me,” he orders his voice velvet
soft .
“Yes, yes, I underst and.” I’m puzzled by his insist ence.
“You’ve been dropping hint s and giving me mixed signals all day, Anast asia,” he says.
“You said you were worried I’d lost my edge. I’m not sure what you meant by t hat , and I don’t
know how serious you were, but we are going t o find out . I don’t want t o go back int o t he
playroom yet , so we can t ry t his now, but if you don’t like it , you must promise t o t ell me.” A
burning int ensit y born of his anxiet y replaces his earlier cockiness.
Whoa, please don’t be anxious, Christian. “I’ll t ell you. No safe word,” I reit erat e t o reassure him.
“We’re lovers, Anast asia. Lovers don’t need safe words.” He frowns. “Do t hey?”
“I guess not ,” I murmur. Jeez—how do I know? “I promise.” He searches my face for any clue
t hat I might lack t he courage of my convict ions, and I’m nervous but excit ed, t oo. I’m much
happier t o do t his, knowing t hat he loves me. It ’s very simple t o me, and right now, I don’t want
t o overt hink it .
A slow smile st ret ches across his face, and he st art s t o unbut t on my shirt , his deft fingers
making short work of it , t hough he doesn’t t ake it off. He leans over and picks up t he cue. Oh
fuck, what’s he going to do with that? A frisson of fear runs t hrough me.
“You play well, Miss St eele. I must say I’m surprised. Why don’t you sink t he black?” My fear
forgot t en, I pout , wondering why t he hell he should be surprised—sexy, arrogant bast ard. My
inner goddess is limbering up in t he background, doing her floor exercises—a great fat smile on
her face.
I posit ion t he whit e ball. Christ ian st rolls back around t he t able and st ands right behind me as I
lean over t o t ake my shot . He places his hand on my right t high and runs his fingers up and
down my leg, up t o my behind and back again, light ly st roking me.
“I am going t o miss if you keep doing t hat ,” I whisper, closing my eyes and relishing t he feel of
his hands on me.
“I don’t care if you hit or miss, baby. I just want ed t o see you like t his—part ially dressed,
st ret ched out on my billiard t able. Do you have any idea how hot you look at t he moment ?”
I flush, and my inner goddess grabs a rose bet ween her t eet h and st art s t o t ango. Taking a
deep breat h, I t ry t o ignore him and line up my shot . It ’s impossible. He caresses my behind,
over and over again.
“Top left ,” I murmur, t hen hit t he whit e ball. He smacks me hard, squarely on my backside.
It ’s so unexpect ed, I yelp. The whit e hit s t he black, which bounces off t he cushion wide of t he
pocket . Christ ian caresses my behind again.
“Oh, I t hink you need t o t ry t hat again,” he whispers. “You should concent rat e, Anast asia.”
I am pant ing now, excit ed by t his game. He st rolls t o t he end of t he t able, set s up t he black ball
again, t hen runs t he whit e ball back down t o me. He looks so carnal, dark eyed wit h a lascivious
smile. How could I ever resist t his man? I cat ch t he ball and line it up, ready t o st rike again.
“Uh-uh,” he admonishes. “Just wait .” Oh, he just loves prolonging t he agony. He wanders back
and st ands behind me again. I close my eyes once more as he st rokes my left t high t his t ime
t hen fondles my backside again.
“Take aim,” he breat hes.
I can’t help my moan as desire t wist s and t urns inside me. And I t ry, really t ry, t o t hink about
where I should hit t he black wit h t he whit e. I shift slight ly t o my right , and he follows me. I bend
over t he t able once more. Using every last vest ige of inner st rengt h—which has diminished
considerably since I know what will happen once I st rike t he whit e ball—I t ake aim and hit t he
whit e again. Christ ian smacks me once more, hard.
Ow! I miss again. “Oh no! ” I groan.
“Once more, baby. And if you miss t his t ime, I’m really going t o let you have it .” What? Have
what?
He set s up t he black ball once more and walks, achingly slow, back t o me unt il he’s st anding
behind me, caressing my backside once more.
“You can do it ,” he coaxes.
Oh—not when you’re distracting me like this. I push my behind back against his hand, and he
smacks me light ly.
“Eager, Miss St eele?” he murmurs.
Yes. I want you.
“Well, let ’s get rid of t hese.” He gent ly slides my pant ies down my t highs and off. I can’t see
what he does wit h t hem, but he leaves me feeling exposed as he plant s a soft kiss on each
cheek.
“Take t he shot , baby.”
I want t o whimper, t his is so not going t o happen. I know I am going t o miss. I line up t he whit e,
hit it , and in my impat ience, miss t he black complet ely. I wait for t he blow—but it doesn’t come.
Inst ead he leans right over me, flat t ening me against t he t able, t akes t he cue out of my hand
and rolls it t o t he side cushion. I can feel him, hard, against my backside.
“You missed,” he says soft ly in my ear. My cheek is pressed against t he baize. “Put your hands
flat on t he t able.”
I do as he says.
“Good. I’m going t o spank you now and next t ime, maybe you won’t .” He shift s so he’s st anding
t o my left side, his erect ion against my hip.
I groan and my heart leaps int o my mout h. My breat h comes in short pant s and a hot , heavy
excit ement courses t hrough my veins. Gent ly, he caresses my behind and curls his ot her hand
around t he nape of my neck, his fingers fist ing in my hair, his elbow at my back, holding me
down. I am complet ely helpless.
“Open your legs,” he murmurs and for a moment , I hesit at e. And he smacks me hard—
wit h t he ruler! The noise is harsher t han t he st ing, and it t akes me by surprise. I gasp, and he
hit s me again.
“Legs,” he orders. I open my legs, pant ing. The ruler st rikes again. Ow—it st ings, but it s crack
across my skin sounds worse t han it feels.
I close my eyes and absorb t he pain. It ’s not t oo bad, and Christ ian’s breat hing becomes
harsher. He hit s me again and again, and I moan. I am not sure how many more st rokes I can
bear—but hearing him, knowing how t urned on he is, feeds my arousal and my willingness t o
cont inue. I am crossing t o t he dark side, a place in my psyche I don’t know well but have visit ed
before in t he playroom—wit h t he Tallis. The ruler st rikes once more, and I moan loudly, and
Christ ian groans in response. He hit s me again—and again . . . and once more . . . harder t his
t ime—and I wince.
“St op.” The word is out of my mout h before I’m even aware t hat I’ve said it . Christ ian drops t he
ruler immediat ely and releases me.
“Enough?” he whispers.
“Yes.”
“I want t o fuck you now,” he says, his voice st rained.
“Yes,” I murmur wit h longing. He undoes his fly, as I lie pant ing on t he t able, knowing t hat he’s
going t o be rough.
I marvel once more at how I have managed—and yes, enjoyed— what he’s done t o me up t o
t his point . It ’s so dark but so him.
He eases t wo fingers inside me and moves t hem in a circular mot ion. The feeling is exquisit e.
Closing my eyes, I revel in t he sensat ion. I hear t he t ellt ale rip of foil, t hen he’s st anding behind
me, bet ween my legs, pushing t hem wider.
Slowly he sinks int o me, filling me. I hear his groan of pure pleasure, and it st irs my soul. He
grasps my hips firmly, eases out of me again, and t his t ime slams back int o me, causing me t o
cry out . He st ills for a moment .
“Again?” he asks soft ly.
“Yes . . . I’m fine. Lose yourself . . . t ake me wit h you,” I murmur breat hlessly.
He moans low in his t hroat , eases out of me once more, t hen slams int o me, and repeat s t his
over and over slowly, deliberat ely—a punishing, brut al, heavenly rhyt hm.
Oh fucking my . . . My insides begin t o quicken. He feels it , t oo, and increases t he rhyt hm,
pushing me, higher, harder, fast er—and I surrender, exploding around him—a draining, soul-
grabbing orgasm t hat leaves me spent and exhaust ed.
I’m vaguely aware t hat Christ ian, t oo, is let t ing go, calling my name, his fingers digging int o my
hips, and t hen he st ills and collapses on me. We sink t o t he floor, and he cradles me in his arms.
“Thank you, baby,” he breat hes, covering my upt urned face in soft feat her-light kisses.
I open my eyes and gaze up at him, and he wraps his arms t ight er around me.
“Your cheek is pink from t he baize,” he murmurs, rubbing my face t enderly. “How was t hat ?”
His eyes are wide and caut ious.
“Teet h-clenchingly good,” I mut t er. “I like it rough, Christ ian, and I like it gent le, t oo.
I like t hat it ’s wit h you.”
He closes his eyes and hugs me even t ight er.
Jeez, I’m tired.
“You never fail, Ana. You are beaut iful, bright , challenging, fun, sexy, and I t hank divine
providence every day t hat it was you t hat came t o int erview me and not Kat herine Kavanagh.”
He kisses my hair. I smile and yawn against his chest . “I’m wearing you out ,” he cont inues.
“Come. Bat h, t hen bed.”
We are bot h in Christ ian’s bat h, facing each ot her chin-deep in foam, t he sweet scent of
jasmine enveloping us. Christ ian is massaging my feet , one at a t ime. It feels so good it should
be illegal.
“Can I ask you somet hing?” I murmur.
“Of course. Anyt hing, Ana, you know t hat .”
I t ake a deep breat h and sit up, flinching only slight ly.
“Tomorrow—when I go t o work—can Sawyer just deliver me t o t he front door of t he office t hen
pick me up at t he end of t he day? Please, Christ ian. Please,” I plead.
His hands st ill as his brow creases. “I t hought we agreed,” he grumbles.
“Please,” I beg.
“What about luncht ime?”
“I’ll make myself somet hing t o t ake from here so I don’t have t o go out , please.” He kisses my
inst ep. “I find it very difficult t o say no t o you,” he mut t ers as if he senses t his is a failing on his
part . “You won’t go out ?”
“No.”
“Okay.”
I beam at him. “Thank you.” I lean up ont o my knees, sloshing wat er everywhere, and kiss him.
“You’re most welcome, Miss St eele. How’s your behind?”
“Sore. But not t oo bad. The wat er is soot hing.”
“I’m glad you t old me t o st op,” he says, gazing at me.
“So is my behind.”
He grins.
I st ret ch out in bed, so t ired. It ’s only t en t hirt y, but it feels like t hree in t he morning. This has t o
be one of t he most exhaust ing weekends of my life.
“Didn’t Ms. Act on provide any night wear?” Christ ian asks, his voice laced wit h disapproval as
he st ares down at me.
“I have no idea. I like wearing your T-shirt s,” I mumble sleepily.
His face soft ens, and he leans over and kisses my forehead.
“I need t o work. But I don’t want t o leave you alone. Can I use your lapt op t o log in t o t he
office? Will I dist urb you if I work from here?”
“S’not my lapt op.” I drift .
The alarm clicks on, st art ling me awake wit h t he t raffic news. Christ ian is st ill asleep beside me.
Rubbing my eyes, I glance at t he clock. Six t hirt y—t oo early.
It ’s raining out side for t he first t ime in ages, and t he light is mut ed and mellow. I’m cozy and
comfort able in t his vast modern monolit h wit h Christ ian at my side. I st ret ch and t urn t o t he
delicious man beside me. His eyes spring open and he blinks sleepily.
“Good morning.” I smile and caress his face, leaning down t o kiss him.
“Good morning, baby. I usually wake before t he alarm goes off,” he murmurs in wonder. “It ’s set
so early.”
“That it is, Miss St eele.” Christ ian grins. “I have t o get up.” He kisses me, and t hen he’s up and
out of bed. I flop back against t he pillows. Wow, waking up on a school day next t o Christ ian
Grey. How did t his all happen? I close my eyes and doze.
“Come on, sleepyhead, get up.” Christ ian leans over me. He’s shaved, clean, fresh—
Hmm, he smells so good—in a crisp whit e shirt and black suit , no t ie—t he CEO is back.
Holy Moses, he looks good like t his, t oo.
“What ?” he asks.
“I wish you’d come back t o bed.”
His lips part , surprised by my come-on, and he smiles almost shyly. “You are insat iable, Miss
St eele. As much as t hat idea appeals, I have an eight t hirt y meet ing, so I have t o go short ly.”
Oh, I’ve slept for anot her hour or so . Shit. I leap out of bed, much t o Christ ian’s amusement .
I shower and dress quickly, wearing t he clot hes I set out yest erday: a fit t ed, gray pencil skirt ;
pale-gray silk shirt ; and high-heeled black pumps, all care of my new wardrobe. I brush my hair
and carefully put it up, t hen wander out t o t he great room, not really knowing what t o expect .
How am I going t o get t o work?
Christ ian is sipping coffee at t he breakfast bar. Mrs. Jones is in t he kit chen making pancakes
and bacon.
“You look lovely,” Christ ian murmurs. Wrapping an arm around me, he kisses me under my ear.
Out of t he corner of my eye, I cat ch Mrs. Jones’s smile. I flush.
“Good morning, Miss St eele,” she says as she places pancakes and bacon in front of me. “Oh,
t hank you. Good morning,” I mumble. Jeez—I could get used t o t his.
“Mr. Grey says you’d like t o t ake lunch wit h you t o work. What would you like t o eat ?” I glance
at Christ ian, who is t rying very hard not t o smirk. I narrow my eyes at him.
“A sandwich . . . salad. I really don’t mind.” I beam at Mrs. Jones.
“I’ll rust le up a packed lunch for you, ma’am.”
“Please, Mrs. Jones, call me Ana.”
“Ana.” She smiles and t urns t o make me t ea.
Wow . . . this is so cool.
I t urn and cock my head at Christ ian, challenging him—go on, accuse me of flirt ing wit h Mrs.
Jones.
“I have t o go, baby. Taylor will come back and drop you at work wit h Sawyer.”
“Only t o t he door.”
“Yes. Only t o t he door.” Christ ian rolls his eyes. “Be careful, t hough.” I glance around and spy
Taylor st anding in t he ent ranceway. Christ ian st ands and kisses me, grasping my chin.
“Lat ers, baby.”
“Have a good day at t he office, dear,” I call aft er him. He t urns and flashes me his beaut iful
smile t hen he’s gone. Mrs. Jones hands me a cup of t ea, and suddenly I feel awkward wit h just
t he t wo of us here.
“How long have you worked for Christ ian?” I ask, t hinking I ought t o make some kind of
conversat ion.
“Four years or so,” she says pleasant ly, as she set s about making my packed lunch.
“You know, I can do t hat ,” I mut t er, embarrassed t hat she should be doing t his for me.
“You eat your breakfast , Ana. This is what I do. I enjoy it . It ’s nice t o look aft er someone ot her
t han Mr. Taylor and Mr. Grey.” She smiles very sweet ly at me.
My cheeks pink wit h pleasure, and I want t o bombard t his woman wit h quest ions. She must
know so much about Fift y, and alt hough her manner is warm and friendly, it ’s also very
professional. I know I’ll only embarrass bot h of us if I st art quizzing her, so I finish my breakfast
in a reasonably comfort able silence, punct uat ed only by her quest ions on my food preferences
for lunch.
Twent y-five minut es lat er Sawyer appears at t he ent rance t o t he great room. I have brushed
my t eet h, and I’m wait ing t o go. Clut ching my brown paper lunch bag—I can’t even remember
my mom doing t his for me—Sawyer and I head t o t he first floor via t he elevat or. He’s very
t acit urn, t oo, giving not hing away. Taylor is wait ing in t he Audi, and I climb int o t he rear
passenger seat when Sawyer opens t he door.
“Good morning, Taylor,” I say bright ly.
“Miss St eele.” He smiles.
“Taylor, I’m sorry about yest erday and my inappropriat e remarks. I hope I didn’t get you int o
t rouble.”
Taylor frowns in bemusement at me from t he rearview mirror as he pulls out int o t he Seat t le
t raffic.
“Miss St eele, I’m rarely in t rouble,” he says reassuringly.
Oh good. Maybe Christian didn’t tell him off. Just me, then, I t hink sourly.
“I’m glad t o hear it , Taylor.” I smile.
Jack gazes at me, assessing my appearance, as I make my way t o my desk.
“Morning, Ana. Good weekend?”
“Yes, t hanks. You?”
“It was good. Get set t led in—I have work for you t o do.” I nod and sit down at my comput er. It
seems like years since I was at work. I swit ch on my comput er and fire up my e-mail program—
and of course t here’s an e-mail from Christ ian.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Boss
Dat e: June 13, 2011 08:24
To: Anast asia St eele
Good morning, Miss St eele
I just want ed t o say t hank you for a wonderful weekend in spit e of all t he drama.
I hope you never leave, ever.
And just t o remind you t hat t he news of SIP is embargoed for four weeks.
Delet e t his e-mail as soon as you’ve read it .
Yours
Christ ian Grey,
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc. & Your boss’s boss’s boss.
Hope I never leave? Does he want me t o move in? Holy Moses . . . I barely know t he man.
I press delet e.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Bossy
Dat e: June 13, 2011: 09:03
To: Christ ian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
Are you asking me t o move in wit h you? And of course, I remembered t hat t he evidence of your
epic st alking capabilit ies is embargoed for anot her four weeks. Do I make a check out t o
Coping Toget her and send t o your dad? Please don’t delet e t his e-mail. Please respond t o it .
ILY xxx
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
“Ana!” Jack makes me jump.
“Yes,” I flush, and Jack frowns at me.
“Everyt hing okay?”
“Sure.” I scramble up and t ake my not ebook int o his office.
“Good. As you probably remember, I’m going t o t hat Commissioning Fict ion Sympo-sium in New
York on Thursday. I have t icket s and reservat ions, but I’d like you t o come wit h me.”
“To New York?”
“Yes. We’ll need t o go Wednesday and st ay overnight . I t hink you’ll find it a very educat ional
experience.” His eyes darken as he says t his, but his smile is polit e. “Would you make t he
necessary t ravel arrangement s? And book an addit ional room at t he hot el where I am st aying?
I t hink Sabrina, my previous PA, left all t he det ails handy somewhere.”
“Okay.” I smile wanly at Jack.
Crap. I wander back t o my desk. This is not going t o go down well wit h Fift y—but t he fact is, I
want t o go. It sounds like a real opport unit y, and I’m sure I can keep Jack at arm’s lengt h if
t hat ’s his ult erior mot ive. Back at my desk t here’s a response from Christ ian.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Me, Bossy?
Dat e: June 13, 2011 09:07
To: Anast asia St eele
Yes. Please.
Christ ian Grey,
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
Jeez . . . he does want me t o move in. Oh, Christ ian—it ’s t oo soon. I put my head in my hands
t o t ry and recover my wit s. This is all I need aft er my ext raordinary weekend. I haven’t had a
moment t o myself t o t hink t hrough and underst and all t hat I have experienced and discovered
t hese last t wo days.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Flynnisms
Dat e: June 13, 2011: 09:20
To: Christ ian Grey
Christ ian
What happened t o walking before we run?
Can we t alk about t his t onight , please?
I’ve been asked t o go t o a conference in New York on Thursday.
It means an overnight st ay on Wednesday.
Just t hought you should know.
A x
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : WHAT?
Dat e: June 13, 2011 09:21
To: Anast asia St eele
Yes. Let ’s t alk t his evening.
Are you going on your own?
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : No Bold Shout y Capit als on a Monday Morning!
Dat e: June 13, 2011: 09:30
To: Christ ian Grey
Can we t alk about t his t onight ?
A x
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : You Haven’t Seen Shout y Yet .
Dat e: June 13, 2011 09:35
To: Anast asia St eele
Tell me.
If it ’s wit h t he sleazeball you work wit h, t hen t he answer is no, over my dead body.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
My heart sinks. Shit —it ’s like he’s my dad.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : No YOU haven’t seen shout y yet .
Dat e: June 13, 2011 09:46
To: Christ ian Grey
Yes. It is wit h Jack.
I want t o go. It ’s an excit ing opport unit y for me.
And I have never been t o New York.
Don’t get your knickers in a t wist .
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : No YOU haven’t seen shout y yet .
Dat e: June 13, 2011 09:50
To: Anast asia St eele
Anast asia
It ’s not my fucking knickers I am worried about .
The answer is NO.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
“No!” I shout at my comput er, causing t he ent ire office t o come t o a st andst ill and st are at me.
Jack peers out from his office.
“Everyt hing all right , Ana?”
“Yes. Sorry,” I mut t er. “I er . . . just didn’t save a document .” I am scarlet wit h embarrassment . He
smiles at me but wit h a puzzled expression. I t ake several deep breat hs and quickly t ype a
response. I am so mad.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Fift y Shades
Dat e: June 13, 2011 09:55
To: Christ ian Grey
Christ ian
You need t o get a grip.
I am NOT going t o sleep wit h Jack—not for all t he t ea in China.
I LOVE you. That ’s what happens when people love each ot her.
They TRUST each ot her.
I don’t t hink you are going t o SLEEP WITH, SPANK, FUCK, or WHIP anyone else. I have FAITH
and TRUST in you.
Please ext end t he same COURTESY t o me.
Ana
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
I sit wait ing for his response. Not hing arrives. I call t he airline and book a t icket for myself,
ensuring I am on t he same flight as Jack. I hear t he ping of new mail.
From: Lincoln, Elena
Subject : Lunch Dat e
Dat e: June 13, 2011 10:15
To: Anast asia St eele
Dear Anast asia
I would really like t o have lunch wit h you. I t hink we got off on t he wrong foot , and I’d like t o
make t hat right . Are you free somet ime t his week?
Elena Lincoln
Holy crap—not Mrs. Robinson! How t he hell did she find out my e-mail address? I put my head
in my hands. Can t his day get any worse?
My phone rings and wearily I lift my head from my hands and answer, glancing at t he clock. It is
only t en t went y, and already I wish I hadn’t left Christ ian’s bed.
“Jack Hyde’s office, Ana St eele speaking.”
An achingly familiar voice snarls at me, “Will you please delet e t he last e-mail you sent me and
t ry t o be a lit t le more circumspect in t he language you use in your work e-mail?
I t old you, t he syst em is monit ored. I shall endeavor t o do some damage limit at ion from here.”
He hangs up.
Holy fuck . . . I sit st aring at t he phone. Christ ian hung up on me. That man is st omping all over
my fledgling career, and he hangs up on me? I glare at t he receiver, and if it wasn’t complet ely
inanimat e, I know it would shrivel in horror under my wit hering st are.
I open my e-mails and delet e t he one I sent him. It ’s not t hat bad. I just ment ion spanking and
well, whipping. Jeez, if he’s so ashamed of it , he damn well shouldn’t do it . I pick up my
Blackberry and call his mobile.
“What ?” he snaps.
“I am going t o New York whet her you like it or not ,” I hiss.
“Don’t count —”
I hang up, cut t ing him off mid-sent ence. Adrenaline is coursing t hrough my body.
There—t hat t old him. I am so mad.
I t ake a deep breat h, t rying t o compose myself. Closing my eyes, I imagine t hat I am in my
happy place. Hmm . . . a boat cabin with Christian. I shake t he image off as I am t oo mad at
Fift y right now for him t o be anywhere near my happy place.
Opening my eyes, I calmly reach for my not ebook and carefully run t hrough my to do list . I t ake
a long, deep breat h, my equilibrium rest ored.
“Ana!” Jack shout s, st art ling me. “Don’t book t hat flight !”
“Oh, t oo lat e. I’ve done it ,” I reply as he st rides out of his office over t o me. He looks mad.“Look,
t here’s somet hing going on. For some reason, suddenly, all t ravel and hot el expenses for st aff
have t o be approved by senior management . This has come right from t he t op. I am going up
t o see old Roach. Apparent ly, a morat orium on all spending has just been implement ed. I don’t
underst and it .” Jack pinches t he bridge of his nose and closes his eyes.
Most of t he blood drains from my face and knot s form in my st omach . Fifty!
“Take my calls. I’ll go see what Roach has t o say.” He winks at me and st rides off t o see his
boss—not t he boss’s boss.
Damn it. Christian Grey . . . My blood st art s t o boil again.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : What have you done?
Dat e: June 13, 2011 10:43
To: Christ ian Grey
Please t ell me you won’t int erfere wit h my work.
I really want t o go t o t his conference.
I shouldn’t have t o ask you.
I have delet ed t he offending e-mail.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : What have you done?
Dat e: June 13, 2011 10:46
To: Anast asia St eele
I am just prot ect ing what is mine.
The e-mail t hat you so rashly sent is wiped from t he SIP server now, as are my e-mails t o you.
Incident ally, I t rust you implicit ly. It ’s him I don’t t rust .
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I check t o see if I st ill have his e-mails, and t hey have disappeared. This man’s influence knows
no bounds. How does he do t his? Who does he know t hat can st ealt hily delve int o t he dept hs
of SIP’s servers and remove e-mails? I am so out of my league here.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Grown Up
Dat e: June 13, 2011 10:43
To: Christ ian Grey
Christ ian
I don’t need prot ect ing from my own boss.
He may make a pass at me, but I shall say no.
You cannot int erfere. It ’s wrong and cont rolling on so many levels.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : The Answer is NO
Dat e: June 13, 2011 10.50
To: Anast asia St eele
Ana
I have seen how “effect ive” you are at fight ing off unwant ed at t ent ion. I remember t hat ’s
how I had t he pleasure of spending my first night wit h you. At least t he phot ographer has
feelings for you. The sleazeball, on t he ot her hand, does not . He is a serial philanderer, and he
will t ry t o seduce you. Ask him what happened t o his previous PA and t he one before t hat .
I don’t want t o fight about t his.
If you want t o go t o New York, I’ll t ake you. We can go t his weekend. I have an apart ment
t here.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
Oh, Christian! That ’s not t he point . He’s so damn frust rat ing. And of course he has an
apart ment t here. Where else does he own propert y? Trust him t o bring up José. Will I ever live
t hat down? I was drunk, for heaven’s sake. I wouldn’t get drunk wit h Jack.
I shake my head at t he screen, but figure I cannot cont inue t o argue wit h him over e-mail. I shall
have t o bide my t ime unt il t his evening. I check t he clock. Jack is st ill not back from his meet ing
wit h Jerry, and I need t o deal wit h Elena. I read her e-mail again and decide t hat t he best way
t o handle it is t o send it t o Christ ian. Let him concent rat e on her rat her t han me.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : FW Lunch dat e or Irrit at ing Baggage
Dat e: June 13, 2011 11:15
To: Christ ian Grey
Christ ian
While you have been busy int erfering in my career and saving your ass from my careless
missives, I received t he following e-mail from Mrs. Lincoln. I really don’t want t o meet wit h her—
even if I did, I am not allowed t o leave t his building. How she got hold of my e-mail address, I
don’t know. What would you suggest I do? Her e-mail is below: Dear Anast asia, I would really
like t o have lunch wit h you. I t hink we got off on t he wrong foot , and I’d like t o make t hat right .
Are you free somet ime t his week?
Elena Lincoln
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Irrit at ing Baggage
Dat e: June 13, 2011 11:23
To: Anast asia St eele
Don’t be mad at me. I have your best int erest s at heart .
If anyt hing happened t o you, I would never forgive myself.
I’ll deal wit h Mrs. Lincoln.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Lat ers
Dat e: June 13, 2011: 11:32
To: Christ ian Grey
Can we please discuss t his t onight ?
I am t rying t o work, and your cont inued int erference is very dist ract ing.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
Jack ret urns aft er midday and t ells me t hat New York is off for me t hough he is st ill going and
t here’s not hing he can do t o change senior management policy. He st rides int o his office,
slamming t he door, obviously furious. Why is he so angry?
Deep down, I know his int ent ions are less t han honorable, but I am sure I can deal wit h him, and
I wonder what Christ ian knows about Jack’s previous PAs. I park t hese t hought s and cont inue
wit h some work, but resolve t o t ry t o make Christ ian change his mind, t hough t he prospect s
are bleak.
At one o’clock, Jack pokes his head out of t he office door.
“Ana, please could you go and get me some lunch?”
“Sure. What would you like?”
“Past rami on rye, hold t he must ard. I’ll give you t he money when you’re back.”
“Anyt hing t o drink?”
“Coke, please. Thanks, Ana.” He heads back int o his office as I reach for my purse.
Crap. I promised Christ ian I wouldn’t go out . I sigh. He’ll never know, and I’ll be quick.
Claire from recept ion offers me her umbrella since it is st ill pouring wit h rain. As I head out of
t he front doors, I pull my jacket around me and t ake a furt ive glance in bot h direct ions from
beneat h t he overlarge golf umbrella. Not hing seems amiss. There’s no sign of Ghost Girl.
I march briskly, and I hope inconspicuously, down t he block t o t he deli. However, t he closer I get
t o t he deli, t he more I have a creepy sense t hat I am being wat ched, and I don’t know if it ’s my
height ened feeling of paranoia or a realit y. Shit . I hope it ’s not Leila wit h a gun.
It’s just your imagination, my subconscious snaps. Who the hell would want to shoot you?
Wit hin fift een minut es, I am back—safe, sound but relieved. I t hink Christ ian’s ext reme paranoia
and his overprot ect ive vigilance is beginning t o get t o me.
As I t ake Jack’s lunch in t o him, he glances up from t he phone.
“Ana, t hanks. Since you’re not coming wit h me, I’m going t o need you t o work lat e.
We need t o get t hese briefs ready. Hope you don’t have plans.” He smiles up at me warmly,
and I flush.
“No, t hat ’s fine,” I say wit h a bright smile and a sinking heart . This is not going t o go down well.
Christ ian will freak, I’m sure.
As I head back t o my desk I decide not t o t ell him immediat ely, ot herwise he might have t ime t o
int erfere in some way. I sit and eat t he chicken salad sandwich Mrs. Jones made for me. It ’s
delicious. She makes a mean sandwich.
Of course, if I moved in wit h Christ ian, she would make lunch for me every weekday.
The idea is unset t ling. I have never had dreams of obscene wealt h and all t he t rappings—
only love. To find someone who loves me and doesn’t t ry t o cont rol my every move. The phone
rings.
“Jack Hyde’s office—”
“You assured me you wouldn’t go out ,” Christ ian int errupt s me, his voice cold and hard.My
heart sinks for t he milliont h t ime t his day. Shit . How t he hell does he know?
“Jack sent me out for some lunch. I couldn’t say no. Are you having me wat ched?” My scalp
prickles at t he not ion. No wonder I felt so paranoid—someone was wat ching me. The t hought
makes me angry.
“This is why I didn’t want you going back t o work,” Christ ian snaps.
“Christ ian, please. You’re being”— So Fifty—“so suffocat ing.”
“Suffocat ing?” he whispers, surprised.
“Yes. You have t o st op t his. I’ll t alk t o you t his evening. Unfort unat ely, I have t o work lat e
because I can’t go t o New York.”
“Anast asia, I don’t want t o suffocat e you,” he says quiet ly, appalled.
“Well, you are. I have work t o do. I’ll t alk t o you lat er.” I hang up, feeling drained and vaguely
depressed.
Aft er our wonderful weekend, t he realit y is hit t ing home. I have never felt more like running.
Running t o some quiet ret reat so I can t hink about t his man, about how he is, and about how
t o deal wit h him. On one level, I know he’s broken—I can see t hat clearly now—and it ’s bot h
heart breaking and exhaust ing. From t he small pieces of precious informat ion t hat he’s given
me about his life, I underst and why. An unloved child; a hideously abusive environment ; a
mot her who couldn’t prot ect him, whom he couldn’t prot ect , and who died in front of him.
I shudder. My poor Fift y. I am his, but not t o be kept in some gilded cage. How am I going t o
make him see t his?
Wit h a heavy heart , I drag one of t he manuscript s Jack want s me t o summarize int o my lap and
cont inue t o read. I can t hink of no easy solut ion t o Christ ian’s fucked-up cont rol issues. I will
just have t o t alk t o him lat er, face t o face.
Half an hour lat er, Jack e-mails me a document t hat I need t o t idy up and polish, ready for
print ing t omorrow in t ime for his conference. It will t ake me not just t he rest of t he aft ernoon
but well int o t he evening, t oo. I set t o work.
When I look up, it ’s aft er seven and t he office is desert ed, t hough t he light in Jack’s office is st ill
on. I hadn’t not iced everyone leaving, but I am nearly finished. I e-mail t he document back t o
Jack for his approval and check my inbox. There’s not hing new from Christ ian, so I quickly
glance at my Blackberry, and it st art les me by buzzing—it ’s Christ ian.“Hi,” I murmur.
“Hi, when will you be finished?”
“By seven t hirt y, I t hink.”
“I’ll meet you out side.”
“Okay.”
He sounds quiet , nervous even. Why? Wary of my react ion?
“I’m st ill mad at you, but t hat ’s all,” I whisper. “We have a lot t o t alk about .”
“I know. See you at seven t hirt y.”
Jack comes out of his office.
“I have t o go. See you lat er.” I hang up.
I look up at Jack as he st rolls casually t oward me.
“I just need a couple of t weaks. I’ve e-mailed t he brief back t o you.” He leans over me while I
ret rieve t he document , rat her close—uncomfort ably close.
His arm brushes mine. Accident ally? I flinch, but he pret ends not t o not ice. His ot her arm rest s
on t he back of my chair, t ouching my back. I sit up so I’m not leaning against t he backrest .
“Pages sixt een and t went y-t hree, and t hat should be it ,” he murmurs, his mout h inches from
my ear.
My skin crawls at his proximit y, but I choose t o ignore it . Opening t he document , I shakily st art
on t he changes. He’s st ill leaning over me, and all my senses are hyperaware.
It ’s dist ract ing and awkward, and inside I am screaming, Back off!
“Once t his is done, it ’ll be good t o go t o print . You can organize t hat t omorrow. Thank you for
st aying lat e and doing t his, Ana.” His voice is smoot h, gent le, like he’s t alking t o a wounded
animal. My st omach t wist s.
“I t hink t he least I could do is reward you wit h a quick drink. You deserve one.” He t ucks a
st rand of my hair t hat ’s come loose from my hair t ie behind my ear and gent ly caresses t he
lobe.
I cringe grit t ing my t eet h, and I jerk my head away. Shit! Christ ian was right . Don’t touch me.
“Act ually, I can’t t his evening.” Or any other evening, Jack.
“Just a quick one?” he coaxes.
“No, I can’t . But t hank you.”
Jack sit s on t he end of my desk and frowns. Alarm bells sound loudly in my head. I am on my
own in t he office. I cannot leave. I glance nervously at t he clock. Anot her five minut es before
Christ ian is due.
“Ana, I t hink we make a great t eam. I’m sorry t hat I couldn’t pull off t his New York t rip. It won’t
be t he same wit hout you.”
I’m sure it won’t. I smile weakly up at him, because I can’t t hink of what t o say. And for t he first
t ime all day, I feel t he t iniest hint of relief t hat I am not going.
“So, did you have a good weekend?” he asks smoot hly.
“Yes, t hanks.” Where is he going wit h t his?
“See your boyfriend?”
“Yes.”
“What does he do?”
Owns your ass . . . “He’s in business.”
“That ’s int erest ing. What kind of business?”
“Oh, he has his fingers in all sort s of pies.”
Jack cocks his head t o one side as he leans in t oward me, invading my personal space—
again.
“You’re being very coy, Ana.”
“Well, he’s in t elecommunicat ions, manufact uring, and agricult ure.” Jack raises his eyebrows.
“So many t hings. Who does he work for?”
“He works for himself. If you’re happy wit h t he document , I’d like t o go, if t hat ’s okay?”
He leans back. My personal space is safe again.
“Of course. Sorry, I didn’t mean t o keep you,” he says disingenuously.
“What t ime does t he building close?”
“Securit y is here unt il eleven.”
“Good.” I smile, and my subconscious flops down in her armchair, relieved t o know t hat we are
not alone in t he building. Swit ching off my comput er, I grab my purse and st and up, ready t o
leave.
“You like him t hen? Your boyfriend?”
“I love him,” I answer, looking Jack squarely in t he eye.
“I see.” Jack frowns and he st ands up from my desk. “What ’s his surname?” I flush.
“Grey. Christ ian Grey,” I mumble.
Jack’s mout h drops open. “Seat t le’s richest bachelor? That Christ ian Grey?”
“Yes. The same.” Yes, t hat Christ ian Grey, your fut ure boss who will have you for breakfast if
you invade my personal space again.
“I t hought he looked familiar,” Jack says darkly and his brow creases again. “Well, he’s a lucky
man.”
I blink at him. What do I say t o t hat ?
“Have a good evening, Ana.” Jack smiles, but t he smile doesn’t t ouch his eyes, and he walks
st iffly back int o his office wit hout a backward glance.
I let out a long sigh of relief. Well, t hat problem might be solved. Fift y works his magic again.
Just his name is my t alisman, and it has t his man ret reat ing wit h his t ail bet ween his legs. I
allow myself a small vict orious smile. You see, Christian? Even your name protects me—you
didn’t have to go to all that trouble of clamping down on expenses. I t idy my desk and check my
wat ch. Christ ian should be out side.
The Audi is parked up against t he sidewalk, and Taylor leaps out t o open t he rear passenger
door. I have never been so pleased t o see him, and I scramble int o t he car out of t he rain.
Christ ian is in t he rear seat , gazing at me, his eyes wide and wary. He’s bracing himself for my
anger, his jaw t ight and t ense.
“Hi,” I murmur.
“Hi,” he replies caut iously. He reaches over and grasps my hand, squeezing it t ight ly, and my
heart t haws a lit t le. I’m so confused. I haven’t even worked out what I need t o say t o him.
“Are you st ill mad?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I murmur. He raises my hand and light ly grazes my knuckles wit h soft but t erfly
kisses.
“It ’s been a shit t y day,” he says.
“Yes, it has.” But for t he first t ime since he left for work t his morning, I begin t o relax.
Just being in his company is a soot hing balm, and all t he shit from Jack, and t he snarky e-mails
t o and fro, and t he nuisance t hat is Elena fade int o t he background. It ’s just me and my cont rol
freak in t he back of t he car.
“It ’s bet t er now t hat you’re here,” he murmurs. We sit in silence as Taylor weaves t hrough t he
evening t raffic, bot h of us brooding and cont emplat ive; but I feel Christ ian slowly unwind beside
me as he, t oo, relaxes, gent ly running his t humb across my knuckles in a soft , soot hing rhyt hm.
Taylor drops us out side t he apart ment building, and we bot h duck inside, out of t he rain.
Christ ian clasps my hand as we wait for t he elevat or, his eyes scanning t he front of t he
building.
“I t ake it you haven’t found Leila yet .”
“No. Welch is st ill looking for her,” he mut t ers despondent ly.
The elevat or arrives and in we st ep. Christ ian glances down at me, his gray eyes unreadable.
Oh, he just looks glorious—t ousled hair, whit e shirt , dark suit . And suddenly it ’s t here, from
nowhere, t hat feeling. Oh my—t he longing, t he lust , t he elect ricit y. If it were visible, it would be
an int ense blue aura around and bet ween us it ’s so st rong. His lips part as he gazes at me.
“Do you feel it ?” he breat hes.
“Yes.”
“Oh, Ana.” He groans and he grabs me, his arms snaking around me, one hand at t he nape of
my neck, t ipping my head back as his lips find mine. My fingers are in his hair and caressing his
cheek as he pushes me back against t he elevat or wall.
“I hat e arguing wit h you,” he breat hes against my mout h, and t here’s a desperat e, passionat e
qualit y t o his kiss t hat mirrors mine. Desire explodes in my body, all t he t ension of t he day
seeking an out let , st raining against him, seeking more. We’re all t ongues and breat hing and
hands and t ouch and sweet , sweet sensat ion. His hand is on my hip, and abrupt ly he’s pulling
up my skirt , his fingers st roking my t highs.
“Sweet Jesus, you’re wearing st ockings.” He moans in appreciat ive awe as his t humb caresses
t he flesh above my st ocking line. “I want t o see t his,” he breat hes, and he pulls my skirt right
up, exposing t he t ops of my t highs.
St epping back, he reaches over t o press t he st op but t on, and t he elevat or coast s smoot hly t o
a halt bet ween t he t went y-second and t went y-t hird floors. His eyes are dark, lips part ed, and
he’s breat hing as hard as am I. We gaze at each ot her, not t ouching. I am grat eful for t he wall
against my back, holding me up while I bask in t his beaut iful man’s sensual, carnal appraisal.
“Take your hair down,” he orders, his voice husky. I reach up and undo t he t ie, releasing my hair
so it t umbles in a t hick cloud around my shoulders t o my breast s. “Undo t he t op t wo but t ons of
your shirt ,” he whispers, his eyes wilder now.
He makes me feel so want on. My inner goddess is writ hing on her chaise longue, wait ing,
want ing, and pant ing. I reach up and undo each but t on, achingly, slowly, so t hat t he t ops of my
breast s are t ant alizingly revealed.
He swallows. “Do you have any idea how alluring you look right now?” Very deliberat ely, I bit e
my lip and shake my head. He closes his eyes briefly, and when he opens t hem again, t hey are
blazing. He st eps forward and places his hands on t he elevat or walls on eit her side of my face.
He’s as close as he can be wit hout t ouching me.
I t ip my face up t o meet his gaze, and he leans down and runs his nose against mine, so it ’s t he
only cont act bet ween us. I am so hot in t he confines of t his elevat or wit h him. I want him—now.
“I t hink you do, Miss St eele. I t hink you like t o drive me wild.”
“Do I drive you wild?” I whisper.
“In all t hings, Anast asia. You are a siren, a goddess.” And he reaches for me, grasping my leg
above my knee and hit ching it around his waist , so t hat I am st anding on one leg, leaning int o
him. I feel him against me, feel him hard and want ing above t he apex of my t highs as he runs
his lips down my t hroat . I moan and wrap my arms around his neck.
“I’m going t o t ake you now, Anast asia,” he breat hes and I arch my back in response, pressing
myself against him, eager for t he frict ion. He groans deep and low in t he back of his t hroat and
boost s me higher as he undoes his fly.
“Hold t ight , baby,” he murmurs, and magically produces a foil packet t hat he holds in front of my
mout h. I t ake it bet ween my t eet h, and he t ugs, so t hat bet ween us, we rip it open.“Good girl.”
He st eps back a fract ion as he slides on t he condom. “God, I can’t wait for t he next six days,”
he growls and gazes down at me t hrough hooded eyes. “I do hope you’re not overly fond of
t hese pant ies.” He t ears t hrough t hem wit h his adept fingers, and t hey disint egrat e in his
hands. My blood is pounding t hrough my veins. I am pant ing wit h need.
His words are int oxicat ing, all my angst from t he day forgot t en. It ’s just him and me, doing what
we do best . Wit hout t aking his eyes off mine, he sinks slowly int o me. My body bows and I t ilt
my head back, closing my eyes, relishing t he feel of him inside me. He pulls back and t hen
moves int o me again, so slow, so sweet . I groan.
“You’re mine, Anast asia,” he murmurs against my t hroat .
“Yes. Yours. When will you accept t hat ?” I pant . He groans and st art s t o move, really move.
And I surrender myself t o his relent less rhyt hm, savoring each push and pull, his ragged
breat hing, his need for me, reflect ing mine.
It makes me feel powerful, st rong, desired and loved—loved by t his capt ivat ing, complicat ed
man, whom I love in ret urn wit h all my heart . He pushes harder and harder, his breat hing
ragged, losing himself in me as I lose myself in him.
“Oh, baby,” Christ ian moans, his t eet h grazing my jaw, and I come hard around him.
He st ills, clut ches me, and follows suit , whispering my name.
Now t hat Christ ian is spent , calm and kissing me gent ly, his breat hing eases. He holds me
upright against t he elevat or wall, our foreheads pressed t oget her, and my body is like jelly,
weak but grat ifyingly sat ed from my climax.
“Oh, Ana,” he murmurs. “I need you so much.” He kisses my forehead.
“And I you, Christ ian.”
Releasing me, he st raight ens my skirt and does up t he t wo but t ons on my shirt , t hen punches
t he combinat ion int o t he keypad t hat st art s t he elevat or again. It rises wit h a jolt so t hat I
reach out and clasp his arms.
“Taylor will be wondering where we are,” he grins lasciviously at me.
Oh crap. I drag my fingers t hrough my hair in a vain at t empt t o combat t he just -fucked look,
t hen give up and t ie it in a ponyt ail.
“You’ll do.” Christ ian smirks as he does up his fly and put s t he condom in his pant s pocket .
Once more he looks t he embodiment of an American ent repreneur, and since his hair looks just
fucked most of t he t ime, t here’s very lit t le difference. Except now he’s smiling, relaxed, his eyes
crinkling wit h boyish charm. Are all men t his easily placat ed?
Taylor is wait ing when t he doors open.
“Problem wit h t he elevat or,” Christ ian murmurs as we bot h st ep out , and I cannot look eit her of
t hem in t he face. I scurry t hrough t he double doors t o Christ ian’s bedroom in search of some
fresh underwear.
When I ret urn, Christ ian has removed his jacket and is sit t ing at t he breakfast bar chat t ing wit h
Mrs. Jones. She smiles kindly at me as she put s out t wo plat es of hot food for us.
Mmm, it smells delicious— coq au vin, if I am not mist aken. I am famished.
“Enjoy, Mr. Grey, Ana,” she says and leaves us t o it .
Christ ian fet ches a bot t le of whit e wine from t he fridge, and as we sit and eat , he t ells me
about how much nearer he’s get t ing t o perfect ing a solar-powered mobile phone. He’s
animat ed and excit ed about t he whole project , and I know t hen t hat he hasn’t had an ent irely
shit t y day.
I ask him about his propert ies. He smirks, and it t urns out he only has t he apart ment in New
York and Aspen, and Escala. Not hing else. When we’re done, I collect his plat e and mine and
t ake t hem t o sink.
“Leave t hat . Gail will do it ,” he says. I t urn and gaze at him, and he’s wat ching me int ent ly. Will I
ever get used t o having someone clean up aft er me?
“Well, now t hat you are more docile, Miss St eele, shall we t alk about t oday?”
“I t hink you’re t he one who’s more docile. I t hink I’m doing a good job in t aming you.”
“Taming me?” he snort s, amused. When I nod, he frowns as if reflect ing on my words.
“Yes. Maybe you are, Anast asia.”
“You were right about Jack,” I murmur, serious now, and I lean across t he kit chen island
gauging his react ion. Christ ian’s face falls and his eyes harden.
“Has he t ried anyt hing?” he whispers, his voice deat hly cold.
I shake my head t o reassure him. “No, and he won’t , Christ ian. I t old him t oday t hat I’m your
girlfriend, and he backed right off.”
“You’re sure? I could fire t he fucker.” Christ ian scowls.
I sigh, emboldened by my glass of wine. “You really have t o let me fight my own bat t les. You
can’t const ant ly second-guess me and t ry t o prot ect me. It ’s st ifling, Christ ian.
I’ll never flourish wit h your incessant int erference. I need some freedom. I wouldn’t dream of
meddling in your affairs.”
He blinks at me. “I only want you safe, Anast asia. If anyt hing happened t o you, I—” He st ops.
“I know, and I underst and why you feel so driven t o prot ect me. And part of me loves it . I know
t hat if I need you, you’ll be t here, as I am for you. But if we are t o have any hope of a fut ure
t oget her, you have t o t rust me and t rust my judgment . Yes, I’ll get it wrong somet imes—I’ll
make mist akes, but I have t o learn.”
He st ares at me, his expression anxious, spurring me t o walk round t o him so t hat I am
st anding bet ween his legs while he sit s on t he barst ool. Grabbing his hands, I put t hem around
me and place my hands on his arms.
“You can’t int erfere in my job. It ’s wrong. I don’t need you charging in like a whit e knight t o save
t he day. I know you want t o cont rol everyt hing, and I underst and why, but you can’t . It ’s an
impossible goal . . . you have t o learn t o let go.” I reach up and st roke his face as he gazes at
me, his eyes wide. “And if you can do t hat —give me t hat —I’ll move in wit h you,” I add soft ly.
He inhales sharply, surprised. “You’d do t hat ?” he whispers.
“Yes.”
“But you don’t know me.” He frowns and sounds choked and panicky all of a sudden, very un-
Fift y.
“I know you well enough, Christ ian. Not hing you t ell me about yourself will fright en me away.” I
gent ly run my knuckles across his cheek. His expression t urns from anxious t o dubious. “But if
you could just ease up on me,” I plead.
“I’m t rying, Anast asia. I couldn’t just st and by and let you go t o New York wit h t hat . . .
sleazeball. He has an alarming reput at ion. None of his assist ant s have last ed more t han t hree
mont hs, and t hey’re never ret ained by t he company. I don’t want t hat for you, baby.” He sighs.
“I don’t want anyt hing t o happen t o you. You being hurt . . . t he t hought fills me wit h dread. I
can’t promise not t o int erfere, not if I t hink you’ll come t o harm.” He pauses and t akes a deep
breat h. “I love you, Anast asia. I will do everyt hing in my power t o prot ect you. I cannot imagine
my life wit hout you.”
Holy cow. My inner goddess, my subconscious, and I all gape at Fift y in shock.
Jeez, t hree lit t le words. My world st ands st ill, t ilt s, t hen spins on a new axis; and I savor t he
moment , gazing int o his sincere, beaut iful gray eyes.
“I love you, t oo, Christ ian.” I lean over and kiss him, and t he kiss deepens.
Ent ering unseen, Taylor clears his t hroat . Christ ian pulls back, gazing int ent ly at me.
He st ands, his arm around my waist .
“Yes?” he snaps at Taylor.
“Mrs. Lincoln is on her way up, sir.”
“What ?”
Taylor shrugs apologet ically. Christ ian sighs heavily and shakes his head.
“Well, t his should be int erest ing,” he mut t ers and gives me a crooked grin of resigna-t ion. Fuck!
Why can’t t hat damned woman leave us alone?
“Did you t alk t o her t oday?” I ask Christ ian as we wait for Mrs. Robinson’s arrival.
“Yes.”
“What did you say?”
“I said t hat you didn’t want t o see her, and t hat I underst ood your reasons why. I also t old her
t hat I didn’t appreciat e her going behind my back.” His gaze is impassive, giving not hing away.
Oh, good. “What did she say?”
“She brushed it off in a way t hat only Elena can.” His mout h flat t ens t o a crooked line.
“Why do you t hink she’s here?”
“I have no idea.” Christ ian shrugs.
Taylor ent ers t he great room again. “Mrs. Lincoln,” he announces.
And here she is . . . Why is she so damned at t ract ive? She’s dressed ent irely in black: t ight
jeans, a shirt t hat emphasizes her perfect figure, and a halo of bright , glossy hair.
Christ ian pulls me close. “Elena,” he says, his t one puzzled.
She gapes at me in shock, frozen t o t he spot . She blinks before finding her soft voice.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had company, Christ ian. It ’s Monday,” she says as if t his explains
why she’s here.
“Girlfriend,” he says by way of explanat ion and t ilt s his head t o one side and smirks.
She smiles, a slow, beaming smile direct ed ent irely at him. It ’s unnerving.
“Of course. Hello, Anast asia. I didn’t know you’d be here. I know you don’t want t o t alk t o me. I
accept t hat .”
“Do you?” I assert quiet ly, gazing at her and t aking all of us by surprise. Wit h a slight frown, she
moves fart her int o t he room.
“Yes, I get t he message. I’m not here t o see you. Like I said, Christ ian rarely has company
during t he week.” She pauses. “I have a problem, and I need t o t alk t o Christ ian about it .” “Oh?”
Christ ian st raight ens up. “Do you want a drink?”
“Yes, please,” she murmurs grat efully.
Christ ian fet ches a glass while Elena and I st and awkwardly gazing at each ot her. She fidget s
wit h a large silver ring on her middle finger, while I don’t know where t o look.
Finally, she gives me a small t ight smile and approaches t he kit chen island and sit s on t he bar
st ool at t he end. She obviously knows t he place well and feels comfort able moving around
here.
Do I st ay? Do I go? Oh, this is so difficult. My subconscious scowls at t he woman wit h her most
host ile harpy face.
There’s so much I want t o say t o t his woman, and none of it compliment ary. But she’s
Christ ian’s friend—his only friend—and for all my loat hing of t his woman, I am innat ely polit e.
Deciding t o st ay, I sit as gracefully as I can manage on t he st ool Christ ian’s vacat ed.
Christ ian pours wine int o each of our glasses and sit s bet ween us at t he breakfast bar. Can’t
he feel how weird t his is?
“What ’s up?” he asks her.
Elena looks nervously at me, and Christ ian reaches over and clasps my hand.
“Anast asia’s wit h me now,” he says t o her silent query and squeezes my hand. I flush, and my
subconscious beams at him, harpy face forgot t en.
Elena’s face soft ens as if she’s pleased for him. Really pleased for him. Oh, I don’t underst and
t his woman at all, and I’m uncomfort able and edgy in her presence.
She t akes a deep breat h and shift s, perching on t he edge of her bar st ool and looking agit at ed.
She glances nervously down at her hands and st art s manically t wist ing t he large silver ring
around and around on her middle finger.
Jeez, what ’s wrong wit h her? Is it my presence? Do I have t hat effect on her? Because I feel
t he same way—I don’t want her here. She raises her head and looks Christ ian squarely in t he
eye.
“I’m being blackmailed.”
Holy shit. Not what I expect ed out of her mout h. Christ ian st iffens. Has someone found out
about her penchant for beat ing and fucking underage boys? I suppress my revulsion, and a
fleet ing t hought about chickens coming home t o roost crosses my mind. My subconscious rubs
her hands t oget her wit h ill-disguised glee. Good.
“How?” Christ ian asks, his horror clear in his voice.
She reaches int o her oversized, pat ent -leat her, designer purse, pulls out a not e, and hands it
t o him.
“Put it down, lay it out .” Christ ian point s t o t he breakfast bar count er wit h his chin.
“You don’t want t o t ouch it ?’
“No. Fingerprint s.”
“Christ ian, you know I can’t go t o t he police wit h t his.” Why am I list ening t o t his? Is she fucking
some ot her poor boy?
She lays t he not e out for him, and he bends t o read it .
“They’re only asking for five t housand dollars,” he says almost absent mindedly. “Any idea who
it might be? Someone in t he communit y?”
“No,” she says in her soft sweet voice.
“Linc?”
Linc? Who’s that?
“What —aft er all t his t ime? I don’t t hink so,” she grumbles.
“Does Isaac know?”
“I haven’t t old him.”
Who’s Isaac?
“I t hink he needs t o know,” Christ ian says. She shakes her head, and now I feel I’m int ruding. I
want none of t his. I t ry t o ret rieve my hand from Christ ian’s grasp, but he just t ight ens his hold
and t urns t o gaze at me.
“What ?” he asks.
“I’m t ired. I t hink I’ll go t o bed.”
His eyes search mine, looking for what ? Censure? Accept ance? Host ilit y? I keep my
expression as bland as possible.
“Okay,” he says. “I won’t be long.”
He releases me and I st and. Elena wat ches me warily. I st ay t ight lipped and ret urn her gaze,
giving not hing away.
“Goodnight , Anast asia.” She gives me a small smile.
“Goodnight ,” I mut t er, my voice sounds cold. I t urn t o leave. The t ension is t oo much for me t o
bear. As I exit t he room t hey cont inue t heir conversat ion.
“I don’t t hink t here’s a great deal I can do, Elena,” Christ ian says t o her. “If it ’s a quest ion of
money.” His voice t rails off. “I could ask Welch t o invest igat e.”
“No, Christ ian, I just want ed t o share,” she says.
When I am out of t he room, I hear her say, “You look very happy.”
“I am,” Christ ian responds.
“You deserve t o be.”
“I wish t hat were t rue.”
“Christ ian,” she scolds.
I freeze, list ening int ent ly. I can’t help it .
“Does she know how negat ive you are about yourself? About all your issues.”
“She knows me bet t er t han anyone.”
“Ouch! That hurt s.”
“It ’s t he t rut h, Elena. I don’t have t o play games wit h her. And I mean it , leave her alone.”
“What is her problem?”
“You . . . What we were. What we did. She doesn’t underst and.”
“Make her underst and.”
“It ’s in t he past , Elena, and why would I want t o t aint her wit h our fucked-up relat ionship? She’s
good and sweet and innocent , and by some miracle she loves me.”
“It ’s no miracle, Christ ian,” Elena scoffs good-nat uredly. “Have a lit t le fait h in yourself. You really
are quit e a cat ch. I’ve t old you oft en enough. And she seems lovely, t oo.
St rong. Someone t o st and up t o you.”
I can’t hear Christ ian’s response. So I’m st rong, am I? I cert ainly don’t feel t hat way.
“Don’t you miss it ?” Elena cont inues.
“What ?”
“Your playroom.”
I st op breat hing.
“That really is none of your fucking business,” Christ ian snaps.
Oh.
“I’m sorry.” Elena snort s insincerely.
“I t hink you’d bet t er go. And please, call before you come again.”
“Christ ian, I am sorry,” she says, and from her t one, t his t ime she means it . “Since when are you
so sensit ive?” She’s scolding him again.
“Elena, we have a business relat ionship which has profit ed us bot h immensely. Let ’s keep it
t hat way. What was bet ween us is part of t he past . Anast asia is my fut ure, and I won’t
jeopardize it in any way, so cut t he fucking crap.” His future!
“I see.”
“Look, I’m sorry for your t rouble. Perhaps you should ride it out and call t heir bluff.” His t one is
soft er.
“I don’t want t o lose you, Christ ian.”
“I’m not yours t o lose, Elena,” he snaps again.
“That ’s not what I meant .”
“What did you mean?” He’s brusque, angry.
“Look, I don’t want t o argue wit h you. Your friendship means a lot t o me. I’ll back off from
Anast asia. But I’m here if you need me. I always will be.”
“Anast asia t hinks t hat you saw me last Sat urday. You called, t hat ’s all. Why did you t ell her
ot herwise?”
“I want ed her t o know how upset you were when she left . I don’t want her t o hurt you.”
“She knows. I’ve t old her. St op int erfering. Honest ly, you’re like a mot her hen.” Christ ian sounds
more resigned, and Elena laughs, but t here’s a sad t one t o her laugh.
“I know. I’m sorry. You know I care about you. I never t hought you’d end up falling in love,
Christ ian. It ’s very grat ifying t o see. But I couldn’t bear it if she hurt you.”
“I’ll t ake my chances,” he says dryly. “Now are you sure you don’t want Welch t o sniff around?”
She sighs heavily. “I suppose it wouldn’t do any harm.”
“Okay. I’ll call him in t he morning.”
I list en t o t hem bickering, t rying t o figure t his out . They do sound like old friends, as Christ ian
says. Just friends. And she cares about him—maybe t oo much. Well, who wouldn’t , if t hey knew
him?
“Thank you, Christ ian. And I am sorry. I didn’t mean t o int rude. I’ll go. Next t ime I’ll call.”“Good.”
She’s going! Shit! I scamper up t he hallway t o Christ ian’s bedroom and sit down on t he bed.
Christ ian ent ers a few moment s lat er.
“She’s gone,” he says warily, gauging my react ion.
I gaze up at him, t rying t o frame my quest ion. “Will you t ell me all about her? I am t rying t o
underst and why you t hink she helped you.” I pause, t hinking carefully about my next sent ence.
“I loat he her, Christ ian. I t hink she did you unt old damage. You have no friends.
Did she keep t hem away from you?”
He sighs and runs his hand t hrough his hair.
“Why t he fuck do you want t o know about her? We had a very long-st anding affair, she beat
t he shit out of me oft en, and I fucked her in all sort s of ways you can’t even imagine, end of
st ory.”
I pale. Shit , he’s angry—wit h me. I blink at him. “Why are you so angry?”
“Because all of t hat shit is over!” he shout s, glowering at me. He sighs in exasperat ion and
shakes his head.
I blanch. Shit. I look down at my hands, knot t ed in my lap. I just want t o underst and.
He sit s down beside me. “What do you want t o know?” he asks wearily.
“You don’t have t o t ell me. I don’t mean t o int rude.”
“Anast asia, it ’s not t hat . I don’t like t alking about t his shit . I’ve lived in a bubble for years wit h
not hing affect ing me and not having t o just ify myself t o anyone. She’s always been t here as a
confidant e. And now my past and my fut ure are colliding in a way I never t hought possible.”
I glance at him and he’s st aring at me, his eyes wide.
“I never t hought I had a fut ure wit h anyone, Anast asia. You give me hope and have me
t hinking about all sort s of possibilit ies.” He drift s off.
“I was list ening,” I whisper and st are back down at my hands.
“What ? To our conversat ion?”
“Yes.”
“Well?” He sounds resigned.
“She cares for you.”
“Yes, she does. And I for her in my own way, but it doesn’t come close t o how I feel about you.
If t hat ’s what t his is about .”
“I’m not jealous.” I’m wounded t hat he would t hink t hat —or am I? Shit . Maybe t hat ’s what t his
is. “You don’t love her,” I murmur.
He sighs again. He really is pissed. “A long t ime ago, I t hought I loved her,” he says t hrough
grit t ed t eet h.
Oh. “When we were in Georgia . . . you said you didn’t love her.”
“That ’s right .”
I frown.
“I loved you t hen, Anast asia,” he whispers. “You’re t he only person I’d fly t hree t housand miles
t o see.”
Oh my. I don’t underst and. He st ill want ed me as a sub t hen. My frown deepens.
“The feelings I have for you are very different from any I ever had for Elena,” he says by way of
explanat ion.
“When did you know?”
He shrugs. “Ironically, it was Elena who point ed it out t o me. She encouraged me t o go t o
Georgia.”
I knew it! I knew it in Savannah. I gaze at him, blankly.
What do I make of t his? Maybe she is on my side and just worried t hat I’ll hurt him.
The t hought is painful. I would never want t o hurt him. She’s right —he’s been hurt enough.
Perhaps she’s not so bad. I shake my head. I don’t want t o accept his relat ionship wit h her. I
disapprove. Yes, t hat ’s what t his is. She’s an unsavory charact er who preyed on a vulnerable
adolescent , robbing him of his t eenage years, no mat t er what he says.
“So you desired her? When you were younger.”
“Yes.”
Oh.
“She t aught me a great deal. She t aught me t o believe in myself.” Oh. “But she also beat t he
shit out of you.” He smiles fondly. “Yes, she did.”
“And you liked t hat ?”
“At t he t ime I did.”
“So much t hat you want ed t o do it t o ot hers?”
His eyes grow wide and serious. “Yes.”
“Did she help you wit h t hat ?”
“Yes.”
“Did she sub for you?”
“Yes.”
Holy fuck. “Do you expect me t o like her?” My voice sounds brit t le and bit t er.
“No. Though it would make my life a hell of a lot easier,” he says wearily. “I do underst and your
ret icence.”
“Ret icence! Jeez, Christ ian—if t hat were your son, how would you feel?” He blinks at me as
t hough he doesn’t comprehend t he quest ion. He frowns. “I didn’t have t o st ay wit h her. It was
my choice, t oo, Anast asia,” he murmurs.
This is get t ing me nowhere.
“Who’s Linc?”
“Her ex-husband.”
“Lincoln Timber?”
“The very same,” he smirks.
“And Isaac?”
“Her current submissive.”
Oh no.
“He’s in his mid-t went ies, Anast asia. You know—a consent ing adult ,” he adds quickly, correct ly
deciphering my look of disgust .
I flush. “Your age,” I mut t er.
“Look, Anast asia, as I said t o her, she’s part of my past . You are my fut ure. Don’t let her come
bet ween us, please. And quit e frankly, I’m really bored of t his subject . I’m going t o do some
work.” He st ands and gazes down at me. “Let it go. Please.” I st are mulishly up at him.
“Oh, I almost forgot ,” he adds. “Your car arrived a day early. It ’s in t he garage. Taylor has t he
key.”
Whoa . . . t he Saab? “Can I drive it t omorrow?”
“No.”
“Why not ?”
“You know why not . And t hat reminds me. If you are going t o leave your office, let me know.
Sawyer was t here, wat ching you. It seems I can’t t rust you t o look aft er yourself at all.” He
scowls down at me, making me feel like an errant child—again. And I would argue wit h him, but
he’s pret t y worked up over Elena, and I don’t want t o push him any furt her, but I can’t resist
one comment .
“Seems I can’t t rust you eit her,” I mut t er. “You could have t old me Sawyer was wat ching me.”
“Do you want t o fight about t hat , t oo?” he snaps.
“I wasn’t aware we were fight ing. I t hought we were communicat ing,” I mumble pet ulant ly.
He closes his eyes briefly as he st ruggles t o cont ain his t emper. I swallow and wat ch anxiously.
Jeez, t his could go eit her way.
“I have t o work,” he says quiet ly, and wit h t hat , he leaves t he room.
I exhale. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breat h. I flop back ont o t he bed, st aring at t he
ceiling.
Can we ever have a normal conversat ion wit hout it disint egrat ing int o an argument ?
It ’s exhaust ing.
We just don’t know each ot her t hat well. Do I really want t o move in wit h him? I don’t even
know if I should make him a cup of t ea or coffee while he’s working. Should I dist urb him at all? I
have no idea of his likes and dislikes.
Evident ly he’s bored wit h t he whole Elena t hing—he’s right , I need t o move on. Let it go. Well,
at least he’s not expect ing me t o be friends wit h her, and I hope t hat she’ll now st op hassling
me for a meet ing.
I get off t he bed and wander t o t he window. Unlocking t he balcony door, I open it and st roll over
t o t he glass railing. It s t ransparency is unnerving. The air’s chilly and fresh, as I’m up so high.
I gaze out over t he t winkling light s of Seat t le. He’s so far removed from everyt hing up here in
his fort ress. Answerable t o no one. He’d just told me he loves me, then all this crap comes up
because of that dreadful woman. I roll my eyes. His life is so complicat ed.
He’s so complicat ed.
Wit h a heavy sigh and a last glance at Seat t le spread like clot hs of gold at my feet , I decide t o
call Ray. I haven’t spoken t o him for a while. It ’s a brief conversat ion as per usual, but I ascert ain
he’s fine and t hat I’m int errupt ing an import ant soccer mat ch.
“Hope all is well wit h Christ ian,” he says casually, and I know he’s fishing for informat ion but
doesn’t really want t o know.
“Yeah. We’re cool.” Sort of, and I’m moving in wit h him. Though we haven’t discussed a
t imet able.
“Love you, Dad.”
“Love you, t oo, Annie.”
I hang up and check my wat ch. It ’s only t en. Because of our discussion, I am feeling st rangely
innervat ed and rest less.
I shower quickly, and back in t he bedroom, decide t o wear one of t he night dresses t hat
Caroline Act on procured for me from Neiman Marcus. Christ ian’s always moaning about my T-
shirt s. There are t hree. I choose t he pale pink and put it on over my head. The fabric skims
across my skin, caressing and clinging t o me as it falls around my body. It feels luxurious—t he
finest , t hinnest sat in. Holy crap. In t he mirror, I look like a 1930s movie st ar. It ’s long, elegant —
and very un-me.
I grab t he mat ching robe and decide t o hunt out a book in t he library. I could read on my iPad—
but right now, I want t he comfort and reassurance of a physical book. I’ll leave Christ ian alone.
Perhaps he’ll recover his good humor once he’s finished working.
There are so many books in Christ ian’s library. Scanning every t it le will t ake forever.
I glance occasionally at t he billiard t able and flush as I recall our previous evening. I smile when I
see t hat t he ruler is st ill on t he floor. Picking it up, I swat my palm. Ow! It st ings.
Why can’t I t ake a lit t le more pain for my man? Disconsolat ely, I place it on t he desk and
cont inue my hunt for a good read.
Most of t he books are first edit ions. How can he have amassed a collect ion like t his in such a
short t ime? Perhaps Taylor’s job descript ion includes book buying. I set t le on Rebecca by
Daphne Du Maurier. I haven’t read t his for a long t ime. I smile as I curl up in one of t he
overst uffed armchairs and read t he first line: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .
I am jost led awake as Christ ian lift s me in his arms.
“Hey,” he murmurs, “you fell asleep. I couldn’t find you.” He nuzzles my hair. Sleepily, I put my
arms around his neck and breat he in his scent —oh, he smells so good—as he carries me back
t o t he bedroom. He lays me down on t he bed and covers me.
“Sleep, baby,” he whispers and he presses his lips against my forehead.
I wake suddenly from a dist urbing dream and am moment arily disorient at ed. I find myself
anxiously checking t he end of t he bed, but t here’s no one t here. Drift ing from t he great room, I
hear t he faint st rains of a complex melody from t he piano.
What t ime is it ? I check t he alarm clock—t wo in t he morning. Has Christ ian come t o sleep at
all? I disent angle my legs from my robe, which I’m st ill wearing, and clamber out of bed.
In t he great room, I st and in t he shadows, list ening. Christ ian is lost t o t he music. He looks safe
and secure in his bubble of light . And t he t une he plays has a lilt ing melody, part s of which
sound familiar, but so elaborat e. Jeez, he’s good. Why does t his always t ake me by surprise?
The whole scene looks different somehow, and I realize t hat t he piano lid is down, giving me an
unhindered view. He glances up and our eyes lock, his gray and soft ly luminous in t he diffuse
glow of t he lamp. He cont inues t o play, not falt ering at all, as I make my way over t o him. His
eyes follow me, drinking me in, burning bright er. As I reach him, he st ops.
“Why did you st op? That was lovely.”
“Do you have any idea how desirable you look at t he moment ?” he says, his voice soft .
Oh. “Come t o bed,” I whisper and his eyes heat as he holds out his hand. When I t ake it , he
t ugs unexpect edly so I fall int o his lap. He wraps his arms around me and nuzzles my neck
behind my ear, sending shivers down my spine.
“Why do we fight ?” he whispers, as his t eet h graze my earlobe.
Holy cow. My heart skips a beat , t hen st art s pounding, coursing heat t hroughout my
body.“Because we’re get t ing t o know each ot her, and you’re st ubborn and cant ankerous and
moody and difficult ,” I murmur breat hlessly, shift ing my head t o give him bet t er access t o my
t hroat . He runs his nose down my neck, and I feel his smile.
“I’m all t hose t hings, Miss St eele. It ’s a wonder you put up wit h me.” He nips my earlobe and I
moan. “Is it always like t his?” he sighs.
“I have no idea.”
“Me neit her.” He yanks t he sash of my robe so it falls open, and his hand skims down my body,
over my breast . My nipples harden beneat h his gent le t ouch and st rain against t he sat in. He
cont inues down t o my waist , down t o my hip.
“You feel so fine under t his mat erial, and I can see everyt hing—even t his.” He t ugs gent ly on
my pubic hair t hrough t he fabric, making me gasp, while his ot her hand fist s in my hair at my
nape. Pulling my head back, he kisses me, his t ongue urgent , relent less, needy. I moan in
response and caress his dear, dear face. His hand gent ly pulls my night dress up, slowly,
t ant alizingly unt il he’s fondling my naked behind and t hen running his t humbnail down t he
inside of my t high.
Suddenly he rises, st art ling me, and he lift s me bodily ont o t he piano. My feet rest on t he keys,
sounding discordant , disjoint ed not es, and his hands skim up my legs and part my knees. He
grabs my hands.
“Lie back,” he orders, holding my hands while I sink back on t op of t he piano. The lid is hard and
uncompromising against my back. He let s go and pushes my legs open wider, my feet dancing
over t he keys, over t he lower and higher not es.
Oh boy. I know what he’s going t o do, and t he ant icipat ion . . . I groan loudly as he kisses t he
inside of my knee, t hen kisses and sucks and nips his way higher up my leg t o my t high. The
soft sat in of my night gown rises higher, skimming over my sensit ized skin, as he pushes t he
fabric. I flex my feet and t he chords sound again. Closing my eyes, I surrender myself t o him as
his mout h reaches t he apex of my t highs.
He kisses me . . . there . . . Oh boy . . . t hen gent ly blows before his t ongue circles my clit oris. He
pushes my legs wider. I feel so open—so exposed. He holds me in place, his hands just above
my knees as his t ongue t ort ures me, giving no quart er, no respit e . . . no reprieve. Tilt ing my hips
up, meet ing and mat ching his rhyt hm, I am consumed.
“Oh, Christ ian, please.” I moan.
“Oh no, baby, not yet ,” he t eases, but I feel myself quicken as does he, and he st ops.
“No,” I whimper.
“This is my revenge, Ana,” he growls soft ly. “Argue wit h me, and I am going t o t ake it out on
your body somehow.” He t rails kisses along my belly, his hands t raveling up my t highs, st roking,
kneading, t ant alizing. His t ongue circles my navel as his hands— and his thumbs . . . oh his
thumbs—reach t he summit of my t highs.
“Ah!” I cry out as he pushes one inside me. The ot her persecut es me, slowly, agonizingly,
circling round and round. My back arches off t he piano as I writ he beneat h his t ouch.
It ’s almost unbearable.
“Christ ian!” I cry, spiraling out of cont rol wit h need.
He t akes pit y on me and st ops. Lift ing my feet off t he keys, he pushes me; and suddenly, I’m
sliding effort lessly up t he piano, gliding on sat in, and he’s following me up t here, briefly kneeling
bet ween my legs t o roll on a condom. He hovers over me and I’m pant ing, gazing up at him wit h
raging need, and I realize he’s naked. When did he t ake off his clot hes?
He st ares down at me, and t here’s wonder in his eyes, wonder and love and passion, and it ’s
breat ht aking.
“I want you so badly,” he says and very slowly, exquisit ely, he sinks int o me.
I am sprawled on t op of him, wrung out , my limbs heavy and languid, as we lie on t op of his
grand piano. Oh my. He’s much more comfort able t o lie on t han t he piano. Careful not t o t ouch
his chest , I rest my cheek against him and keep perfect ly st ill. He doesn’t object , and I list en t o
his breat hing as it slows like mine. Gent ly he st rokes my hair.
“Do you drink t ea or coffee in t he evening?” I ask sleepily.
“What a st range quest ion,” he says dreamily.
“I t hought I could bring you t ea in your st udy, and t hen I realized I didn’t know what you would
like.”
“Oh, I see. Wat er or wine in t he evening, Ana. Though maybe I should t ry t ea.” His hand moves
rhyt hmically down my back, st roking me t enderly.
“We really know very lit t le about each ot her,” I murmur.
“I know,” he says, and his voice is mournful. I sit up t o gaze at him.
“What is it ?” I ask. He shakes his head as if t o rid himself of some unpleasant t hought , and
raising his hand, he caresses my cheek, his eyes bright and earnest .
“I love you, Ana St eele,” he says.
The alarm blast s on wit h t he six am t raffic news, and I am rudely awakened from my dist urbing
dream of over-blond and dark-haired women. I can’t grasp what it ’s about , and I’m immediat ely
dist ract ed because Christ ian Grey is wrapped around me like silk, his unruly-haired head on my
chest , his hand on my breast , his leg over me, holding me down. He’s st ill asleep, and I am t oo
warm. But I ignore my discomfort , t ent at ively reaching up t o run my fingers gent ly t hrough his
hair, and he st irs. Raising bright gray eyes, he grins sleepily.
Holy cow . . . he’s adorable.
“Good morning, beaut iful,” he says.
“Good morning, beaut iful yourself.” I smile back at him. He kisses me, disent angles himself, and
leans up on his elbow, st aring down at me.
“Sleep okay?” he asks.
“Yes, despit e t he int errupt ion t o my sleep last night .” His grin broadens. “Hmm. You can
int errupt me like t hat anyt ime.” He kisses me again.
“How about you? Did you sleep well?”
“I always sleep well wit h you, Anast asia.”
“No more night mares?”
“No.”
I frown and chance a quest ion. “What are your night mares about ?” His brow creases and his
grin fades. Shit—my stupid curiosity.
“They’re flashbacks of my early childhood, or so Dr. Flynn says. Some vivid, some less so.” His
voice drops and a dist ant , harrowed look crosses his face. Absent mindedly, he begins t o t race
my collarbone wit h his finger, dist ract ing me.
“Do you wake up crying and screaming?” I t ry in vain t o joke.
He looks at me, puzzled. “No, Anast asia. I’ve never cried. As far as I can remember.” He frowns,
as if reaching int o t he dept hs of his memories. Oh no—t hat ’s t oo dark a place t o go at t his
hour, surely.
“Do you have any happy memories of your childhood?” I ask quickly, mainly t o dist ract him. He
looks pensive for a moment , st ill running his finger along my skin.
“I recall t he crack whore baking. I remember t he smell. A birt hday cake I t hink. For me. And t hen
t here’s Mia’s arrival wit h my mom and dad. My mom was worried about my react ion, but I
adored baby Mia immediat ely. My first word was Mi a. I remember my first piano lesson. Miss
Kat hie, my t ut or, was awesome. She kept horses, t oo.” He smiles wist fully.
“You said your mom saved you. How?”
His reverie is broken, and he gazes at me as if I don’t underst and t he element ary mat h of t wo
plus t wo.
“She adopt ed me,” he says simply. “I t hought she was an angel when I first met her. She was
dressed in whit e and so gent le and calm as she examined me. I’ll never forget t hat . If she’d said
no or if Carrick had said no . . .” He shrugs and glances over his shoulder at t he alarm clock.
“This is all a lit t le deep for so early in t he morning,” he mut t ers.
“I have made a vow t o get t o know you bet t er.”
“Did you now, Miss St eele? I t hought you want ed t o know if I preferred coffee or t ea.” He
smirks. “Anyway, I can t hink of one way you can get t o know me.” He pushes his hips
suggest ively against me.
“I t hink I know you quit e well enough t hat way.” My voice is haught y and scolding, and it makes
him smile more broadly.
“I don’t t hink I’ll ever get t o know you well enough t hat way,” he murmurs. “There are definit e
advant ages t o waking up beside you.” His voice is soft and bone-melt ingly seduct ive.
“Don’t you have t o get up?” My voice is low and husky. Jeez, what he does to me . . .
“Not t his morning. Only one place I want t o be up right now, Miss St eele.” And his eyes sparkle
salaciously.
“Christ ian!” I gasp, shocked. He shift s suddenly so t hat he’s on t op of me, pressing me int o t he
bed. Grabbing my hands, he pulls t hem up above my head and begins t o kiss my t hroat .
“Oh, Miss St eele.” He smiles against my skin, sending delicious t ingles t hrough me, as his hand
t ravels down my body and st art s t o slowly hit ch up my sat in night dress. “Oh, what I’d like t o do
t o you,” he murmurs.
And I am lost , int errogat ion over.
Mrs. Jones set s down my breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and for Christ ian an omelet and
bacon. We sit side by side at t he bar in a comfort able silence.
“When am I going t o meet your t rainer, Claude, and put him t hrough his paces?” I ask.
Christ ian glances down at me, grinning.
“Depends if you want t o go t o New York t his weekend or not —unless you’d like t o see him
early one morning t his week. I’ll ask Andrea t o check on his schedule and come back t o you.”
“Andrea?”
“My PA.”
Oh yes. “One of your many blondes,” I t ease him.
“She’s not mine. She works for me. You’re mine.”
“I work for you,” I mut t er sourly.
He grins as if he’s forgot t en. “So you do.” His beaming smile is infect ious.
“Maybe Claude can t each me t o kickbox,” I warn.
“Oh yeah? Fancy your chances against me?” Christ ian raises an eyebrow, amused.
“Bring it on, Miss St eele.” He is so damned happy compared t o yest erday’s foul mood aft er
Elena left . It ’s t ot ally disarming. Maybe it ’s all t he sex . . . perhaps t hat ’s what ’s making him so
buoyant .
I glance behind me at t he piano, savoring t he memory of last night . “You put t he lid of t he piano
back up.”
“I closed it last night so as not t o dist urb you. Guess it didn’t work, but I’m glad it didn’t .”
Christ ian’s lips t wit ch int o a lascivious smile as he t akes a bit e of omelet . I go crimson and smirk
back at him.
Oh yes . . . fun times on the piano.
Mrs. Jones leans over and places a paper bag cont aining my lunch in front of me, making me
flush guilt ily.
“For lat er, Ana. Tuna okay?”
“Oh yes. Thank you, Mrs. Jones.” I give her a shy smile, which she reciprocat es warmly before
leaving t he great room. I suspect it ’s t o give us some privacy.
“Can I ask you somet hing?” I t urn back t o Christ ian.
His amused expression slips. “Of course.”
“And you won’t be angry?”
“Is it about Elena?”
“No.”
“Then I won’t be angry.”
“But I now have a supplement ary quest ion.”
“Oh?”
“Which is about her.”
He rolls his eyes. “What ?” he says, and now he’s exasperat ed.
“Why do you get so mad when I ask you about her?”
“Honest ly?”
I scowl at him. “I t hought you were always honest wit h me.”
“I endeavor t o be.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “That sounds like a very evasive answer.”
“I am always honest wit h you, Ana. I don’t want t o play games. Well, not t hose sort s of games,”
he qualifies, as his eyes heat .
“What sort of games do you want t o play?”
He inclines his head t o one side and smirks at me. “Miss St eele, you are so easily dist ract ed.”
I giggle. He’s right . “Mr. Grey, you are dist ract ing on so many levels.” I gaze at his dancing gray
eyes alight wit h humor.
“My favorit e sound in t he whole world is your giggle, Anast asia. Now—what was your original
quest ion?” he asks smoot hly, and I t hink he’s laughing at me. I t ry t o t wist my mout h t o show
my displeasure, but I like playful Fift y—he’s fun. I love some early morning bant er. I frown, t rying
t o recall my quest ion.
“Oh yes. You only saw your subs on t he weekends?”
“Yes, t hat ’s correct ,” he says regarding me nervously.
I grin at him. “So, no sex during t he week.”
He laughs. “Oh, t hat ’s where we’re going wit h t his.” He looks vaguely relieved. “Why do you
t hink I work out every weekday?” Now he really is laughing at me, but I don’t care.
I want t o hug myself wit h glee. Anot her first —well, several first s.
“You look very pleased wit h yourself, Miss St eele.”
“I am, Mr. Grey.”
“You should be.” He grins. “Now eat your breakfast .” Oh, bossy Fift y . . . he’s never far away.
We are in t he back of t he Audi. Taylor is driving wit h t he int ent ion of dropping me off at work,
t hen Christ ian. Sawyer is riding shot gun.
“Didn’t you say your roommat e’s brot her was arriving t oday?” Christ ian asks, almost casually,
his voice and expression giving not hing away.
“Oh, Et han,” I gasp. “I forgot . Oh Christ ian, t hank you for reminding me. I’ll have t o go back t o
t he apart ment .”
His face falls. “What t ime?”
“I’m not sure what t ime he’s arriving.”
“I don’t want you going anywhere on your own,” he says sharply.
“I know,” I mut t er and resist rolling my eyes at Mr. Over-React ion. “Will Sawyer be spying—um . .
. pat rolling t oday?” I glance slyly in Sawyer’s direct ion t o see t he backs of his ears t urn red.
“Yes,” Christ ian snaps, his eyes glacial.
“If I was driving t he Saab it would be easier,” I mut t er pet ulant ly.
“Sawyer will have a car, and he can drive you t o your apart ment , depending on what t ime.”
“Okay. I t hink Et han will probably cont act me during t he day. I’ll let you know what t he plans are
t hen.”
He gazes at me, saying not hing. Oh, what is he t hinking?
“Okay,” he acquiesces. “Nowhere on your own. Do you underst and?” He waves a long finger at
me.
“Yes, dear,” I mut t er.
There’s a t race of a smile on his face. “And maybe you should just use your Blackberry—I’ll e-
mail you on it . That should prevent my IT guy having a t horoughly int erest ing morning, okay?”
His voice is sardonic.
“Yes, Christ ian.” I can’t resist . I roll my eyes at him, and he smirks at me.
“Why Miss St eele, I do believe you’re making my palm t wit ch.”
“Ah, Mr. Grey, your perpet ually t wit ching palm. What are we going t o do wit h t hat ?” He laughs
and t hen is dist ract ed by his Blackberry, which must be on vibrat e because it doesn’t ring. He
frowns when he sees t he caller ID.
“What is it ?” he snaps int o t he phone, t hen list ens int ent ly. I use t he opport unit y t o st udy his
lovely feat ures—his st raight nose, his hair hanging scruffily over his forehead. I am dist ract ed
from my surrept it ious ogling by his expression, which t urns from incredulit y t o amusement . I pay
at t ent ion.
“You’re kidding . . . For a scene . . . When did he t ell you t his?” Christ ian chuckles, almost
reluct ant ly. “No, don’t worry. You don’t have t o apologize. I’m glad t here’s a logical explanat ion.
It did seem a ridiculously low amount of money . . . I have no doubt you’ve somet hing evil and
creat ive planned for your revenge. Poor Isaac.” He smiles. “Good . . .
Good-bye.” He snaps t he phone shut and glances at me. His eyes are suddenly wary, but
oddly, he looks relieved, t oo.
“Who was t hat ?” I ask.
“You really want t o know?” he asks quiet ly.
And, I know. I shake my head and st are out my window at t he gray Seat t le day, feeling forlorn.
Why can’t she leave him alone?
“Hey.” He reaches for my hand and kisses each of my knuckles in t urn, and suddenly he’s
sucking my lit t le finger, hard. Then bit ing it soft ly.
Whoa! He has a hot line t o my groin, I gasp and glance nervously at Taylor and Sawyer, t hen at
Christ ian, and his eyes are darker. He gives me a slow carnal smile.
“Don’t sweat it , Anast asia,” he murmurs. “She’s in t he past .” And he plant s a kiss in t he cent er
of my palm, sending t ingles everywhere, and my moment ary pique is forgot t en.
“Morning, Ana,” Jack mut t ers as I make my way t o my desk. “Nice dress.” I flush. The dress is
part of my new wardrobe, court esy of my incredibly rich boyfriend. It ’s a sleeveless shift dress of
pale blue linen, quit e fit t ed, and I’m wearing cream high-heeled sandals. Christ ian likes heels, I
t hink. I smile secret ly at t he t hought but quickly recover my bland professional smile for my
boss.
“Good morning, Jack.”
I set about ordering a messenger t o t ake his brochure t o t he print ers. He pops his head around
his office door.
“Could I have a coffee, please, Ana?”
“Sure.” I wander int o t he kit chen and bump int o Claire from recept ion, who is also fixing coffee.
“Hey, Ana,” she says cheerfully.
“Hi, Claire.”
We chat briefly about her ext ended-family gat hering over t he weekend, which she enjoyed
immensely, and I t ell her about sailing wit h Christ ian.
“Your boyfriend is so dreamy, Ana,” she says, her eyes glazing over.
I am t empt ed t o roll my eyes at her.
“He’s not bad-looking,” I smile and we bot h st art laughing.
“You t ook your t ime!” Jack snaps when I bring in his coffee.
Oh! “I’m sorry.” I flush t hen frown. I t ook t he usual amount of t ime. What ’s his problem? Perhaps
he’s nervous about somet hing.
He shakes his head. “Sorry, Ana. I didn’t mean t o bark at you, honey.” Honey?
“There’s somet hing going on at senior management level, and I don’t know what it is.
Keep your ear t o t he ground, okay? If you hear anyt hing—I know how you girls t alk.” He
grins at me, and I feel slight ly sick. He has no idea how we “girls” t alk. Besides, I know what ’s
happening.
“You’ll let me know, right ?”
“Sure,” I mut t er. “I’ve sent t he brochure t o t he print ers. It will be back by t wo o’clock.”
“Great . Here.” He hands me a pile of manuscript s. “All t hese need synopses of t he first chapt er,
t hen filing.”
“I’ll get on it .”
I am relieved t o st ep out of his office and sit down at my desk. Oh, it ’s hard being in t he know.
What will he do when he finds out ? My blood runs cold. Somet hing t ells me Jack will be
annoyed. I glance at my Blackberry and smile. There’s an e-mail from Christ ian.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Sunrise
Dat e: June 14, 2011 09:23
To: Anast asia St eele
I love waking up t o you in t he morning.
Christ ian Grey
Complet ely & Ut t erly Smit t en CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I t hink my face split s in t wo wit h my grin, and my inner goddess back-flips over her chaise
longue.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Sundown
Dat e: June 14, 2011 09:35
To: Christ ian Grey
Dear Complet ely & Ut t erly Smit t en
I love waking up t o you, t oo. But I love being in bed wit h you and in elevat ors and on pianos and
billiard t ables and boat s and desks and showers and bat ht ubs and st range wooden crosses
wit h shackles and four-post er beds wit h red sat in sheet s and boat hous-es and childhood
bedrooms.
Yours
Sex Mad and Insat iable xx
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Wet Hardware
Dat e: June 14, 2011 09:37
To: Anast asia St eele
Dear Sex Mad and Insat iable
I’ve just spat coffee all over my keyboard.
I don’t t hink t hat ’s ever happened t o me before.
I do admire a woman who concent rat es on geography.
Am I t o infer you just want me for my body?
Christ ian Grey
Complet ely & Ut t erly Shocked CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Giggling—and wet t oo
Dat e: June 14, 2011: 09:42
To: Christ ian Grey
Dear Complet ely & Ut t erly Shocked
Always.
I have work t o do.
St op bot hering me.
SM&I xx
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Do I have t o?
Dat e: June 14, 2011 09:50
To: Anast asia St eele
Dear SM&I
As ever, your wish is my command.
Love t hat you are giggling and wet .
Lat ers, baby.
x
Christ ian Grey,
Complet ely & Ut t erly Smit t en, Shocked and Spellbound CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I put t he Blackberry down and get on wit h my work.
At luncht ime, Jack asks me t o go down t o t he deli for his lunch. I call Christ ian as soon as I
leave Jack’s office.
“Anast asia.” He answers immediat ely, his voice warm and caressing. How is it t hat t his man
can make me melt over t he phone?
“Christ ian, Jack has asked me t o get his lunch.”
“Lazy bast ard,” Christ ian gripes.
I ignore him and cont inue. “So I’m going t o get it . It might be handy if you gave me Sawyer’s
number, so I don’t have t o bot her you.”
“It ’s no bot her, baby.”
“Are you on your own?”
“No. There are six people st aring at me at t he moment wondering who t he hell I’m t alking t o.”
Shit . . . “Really?” I gasp, panicked.
“Yes. Really. My girlfriend,” he announces away from t he phone.
Holy cow! “They probably all t hought you were gay, you know.” He laughs. “Yeah, probably.” I
hear his grin.
“Er—I’d bet t er go.” I am sure he can t ell how embarrassed I am t o be int errupt ing him.
“I’ll let Sawyer know.” He laughs again. “Have you heard from your friend?”
“Not yet . You’ll be t he first t o know, Mr. Grey.”
“Good. Lat ers, baby.”
“Bye, Christ ian.” I grin. Every t ime he says t hat , it makes me smile . . . so un-Fift y, but somehow
so him, t oo.
When I exit moment s lat er, Sawyer is wait ing on t he doorst ep of t he building.
“Miss St eele,” he greet s me formally.
“Sawyer.” I nod in response and t oget her we head down t o t he deli.
I don’t feel as comfort able wit h Sawyer as I do wit h Taylor. He cont inually scans t he st reet as
we make our way along t he block. It act ually makes me more nervous, and I find myself
mirroring his act ions.
Is Leila out t here? Or are we all infect ed by Christ ian’s paranoia? Is t his part of his fift y shades?
What I’d give for half an hour of candid discussion wit h Dr. Flynn, t o find out .
There’s not hing amiss, just luncht ime Seat t le—people rushing for lunch, shopping, meet ing
friends. I wat ch t wo young women hug as t hey meet up.
I miss Kat e. It ’s only been t wo weeks since she left for her vacat ion, but it feels like t he longest
t wo weeks of my life. So much has happened—she’ll never believe me when I t ell her. Well, t ell
her t he edit ed NDA-compliant version. I frown. I’ll have t o t alk t o Christ ian about t hat . What
would Kat e make of it ? I blanch at t he t hought . Perhaps she’ll be back wit h Et han. I feel a rush
of excit ement at t he t hought , but I t hink it ’s unlikely. She’d st ay on wit h Elliot surely.
“Where do you st and when you’re wait ing and wat ching out side?” I ask Sawyer as we get in
line for lunch. Sawyer is in front of me, facing t he door, cont inually monit oring t he st reet and
anyone who comes in. It ’s unnerving.
“I sit in t he coffee shop direct ly across t he st reet , Miss St eele.”
“Doesn’t it get very boring?”
“Not t o me, ma’am. It ’s what I do,” he says st iffly.
I flush. “Sorry, I didn’t mean t o imply . . .” My voice t rails off at his kind, underst anding expression.
“Please, Miss St eele. My job is t o prot ect you. And t hat ’s what I’ll do.”
“So, no sign of Leila?”
“No, ma’am.”
I frown. “How do you know what she looks like?”
“I’ve seen her phot ograph.”
“Oh, do you have it on you?”
“No, ma’am.” He t aps his skull. “Commit t ed t o memory.” Of course. I’d really like t o examine a
phot ograph of Leila t o see what she looked like before she became Ghost Girl. I wonder if
Christ ian would let me have a copy? Yes, he probably would—for my safet y. I hat ch a plan, and
my subconscious gloat s and nods approvingly.
The brochures arrive back at t he office, and I have t o say, t hey look great . I t ake one int o Jack’s
office. His eyes light up, and I don’t know if it ’s at me or t he brochure. I choose t o believe it ’s t he
lat t er.
“These look great , Ana.” Idly, he flicks t hrough it . “Yeah, good job. Are you seeing your
boyfriend t his evening?” His lip curls as he says boyfriend.
“Yes. We live t oget her.” It ’s sort of t he t rut h. Well, we do at t he moment . And I have officially
agreed t o move in, so it ’s not much of a whit e lie. I hope t hat it ’s enough t o t hrow him off t he
scent .
“Would he object t o you coming out for a quick drink t onight ? To celebrat e all your hard work?”
“I have a friend coming in from out of t own t onight , and we’re all going out for dinner.” And I’ll be
busy every night , Jack.
“I see.” He sighs, exasperat ed. “Maybe when I’m back from New York, huh?” He raises his
eyebrows in expect at ion, and his gaze darkens suggest ively.
Oh no. I smile, noncommit t al, st ifling a shudder.
“Would you like some coffee or t ea?” I ask.
“Coffee, please.” His voice is low and husky as if he’s asking for somet hing else. Fuck.
He’s not going t o back off. I can see t hat now. Oh . . . What to do?
I breat he a long sigh of relief when I am out of his office. He makes me t ense. Christ ian is right
about him, and part of me is pissed t hat Christ ian is right about him.
I sit down at my desk and my Blackberry rings—a number I don’t recognize.
“Ana St eele.”
“Hi, St eele!” Et han’s drawl cat ches me moment arily off guard.
“Et han! How are you?” I almost squeal wit h delight .
“Glad t o be back. I am seriously fed up wit h sunshine and rum punches, and my baby sist er
being hopelessly in love wit h t he big guy. It ’s been hell, Ana.”
“Yeah! Sea, sand, sun, and rum punches sounds like Dante’s Inferno.” I giggle. “Where are
you?”
“I’m at Sea-Tac, wait ing for my bag. What are you doing?”
“I’m at work. Yes, I am gainfully employed,” I respond t o his gasp. “Do you want t o come here
and collect t he keys? I can meet you lat er at t he apart ment .”
“Sounds great . I’ll see you in about 45 minut es, an hour maybe? What ’s t he address?” I give
him SIP’s address.
“See you soon, Et han.”
“Lat ers,” he says and hangs up. What ? Not Et han, t oo? And it dawns on me t hat he’s just
spent a week wit h Elliot . I quickly t ype an e-mail t o Christ ian.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Visit ors from Sunny Climes.
Dat e: June 14, 2011: 14:55
To: Christ ian Grey
Dearest Complet ely & Ut t erly SS&S
Et han is back, and he’s coming here t o collect keys t o t he apart ment .
I’d really like t o make sure he’s set t led in okay.
Why don’t you collect me aft er work? We can go t o t he apart ment t hen we can ALL go out for
a meal maybe?
My t reat ?
Your
Ana x
St ill SM&I
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Dinner Out
Dat e: June 14, 2011 15:05
To: Anast asia St eele
I approve of your plan. Except t he part about you paying!
My t reat .
I’ll collect you at 6:00.
x
PS: Why aren’t you using your Blackberry!!!
Christ ian Grey
Complet ely and Ut t erly Annoyed, CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Bossiness
Dat e: June 14, 2011: 15:11
To: Christ ian Grey
Oh, don’t be so crust y and cross.
It ’s all in code.
I’ll see you at 6:00.
Ana x
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Maddening Woman
Dat e: June 14, 2011 15:18
To: Anast asia St eele
Crust y and cross!
I’ll give you crust y and cross.
And look forward t o it .
Christ ian Grey
Complet ely and Ut t erly More Annoyed, but smiling for some unknown reason, CEO, Grey
Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Promises. Promises.
Dat e: June 14, 2011: 15:23
To: Christ ian Grey
Bring it on, Mr. Grey
I look forward t o it t oo. ;D
Ana x
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
He doesn’t reply, but t hen I don’t expect him t o. I imagine him moaning about mixed signals,
and t he t hought makes me smile. I daydream briefly about what he might do t o me but find
myself shift ing about in my chair. My subconscious gazes at me disapprovingly over her half-
moon specs—get on wit h your work.
A lit t le lat er, my phone buzzes. It ’s Claire at recept ion.
“There’s a real cut e guy in recept ion t o see you. We must go out for drinks somet ime, Ana. You
sure know some hunky guys,” she hisses conspirat orially t hrough t he phone.
Et han! Grabbing my keys from my purse, I hurry out t o t he foyer.
Holy shit —sun-bleached blond hair, a t an t o die for, and glowing hazel eyes gaze up at me
from t he green leat her couch. As soon as he sees me, his mout h drops open, and he’s on his
feet coming t oward me.
“Wow, Ana.” He frowns at me as he bends t o give me hug.
“You look well.” I grin up at him.
“You look . . . wow—different . Worldly, more sophist icat ed. What ’s happened? You changed
your hair? Clot hes? I don’t know, St eele, but you look hot !” I blush furiously. “Oh, Et han. I’m just
in my work clot hes,” I scold as Claire looks on wit h an arched eyebrow and a wry smile.
“How was Barbados?”
“Fun,” he says.
“When’s Kat e back?”
“She and Elliot are flying back Friday. They’re pret t y damn serious about each ot her.” Et han
rolls his eyes.
“I’ve missed her.”
“Yeah? How have you been doing wit h Mr. Mogul?”
“Mr. Mogul?” I snicker. “Well, it ’s been int erest ing. He’s t aking us out for dinner t his evening.”
“Cool.” Et han seems genuinely pleased. Phew!
“Here.” I hand him t he keys. “You have t he address?”
“Yeah. Lat ers.” He leans over and kisses my cheek.
“Elliot ’s expression?”
“Yeah, kind of grows on you.”
“It does. Lat ers.” I smile at him as he collect s his large shoulder bag from beside t he green
couch and exit s t he building.
When I t urn, Jack is wat ching me from t he far side of t he foyer, his expression unreadable. I
smile bright ly at him and head back t o my desk, feeling his eyes on me t he whole t ime. This is
beginning t o get on my nerves. What t o do? I have no idea. I’ll have t o wait unt il Kat e is back.
She’s bound t o come up wit h a plan. The t hought dispels my bleak mood, and I pick up t he
next manuscript .
At five t o six, my phone buzzes. It ’s Christ ian.
“Crust y and Cross here,” he says and I grin. He’s st ill playful Fift y. My inner goddess is clapping
her hands wit h glee like a small child.
“Well, t his is Sex Mad and Insat iable. I t ake it you’re out side?” I ask dryly.
“I am indeed, Miss St eele. Looking forward t o seeing you.” His voice is warm and seduct ive, and
my heart flut t ers wildly.
“Dit t o, Mr. Grey. I’ll be right out .” I hang up.
I swit ch off my comput er and gat her up my purse and cream cardigan.
“I’m off now, Jack,” I call t hrough.
“Okay, Ana. Thanks for t oday, honey! Have a great evening.”
“You, t oo.”
Why can’t he be like t hat all t he t ime? I don’t underst and him.
The Audi is parked at t he curb, and Christ ian climbs out as I approach. He’s t aken off his jacket ,
and he’s wearing his gray pant s, my favorit e ones t hat hang from his hips—in t hat way. How
can t his Greek god be meant for me? I find myself grinning like a loon in answer t o his own
idiot ic grin.
He’s spent t he whole day act ing like a boyfriend in love—in love wit h me. This adorable,
complex, flawed man is in love wit h me, and I wit h him. Joy burst s unexpect edly inside me, and I
savor t he moment as I feel briefly t hat I could conquer t he world.
“Miss St eele, you look as capt ivat ing as you did t his morning.” Christ ian pulls me int o his arms
and kisses me soundly.
“Mr. Grey, so do you.”
“Let ’s go get your friend.” He smiles down at me and opens t he car door.
As Taylor heads t o t he apart ment , Christ ian fills me in on his day—a much bet t er one t han
yest erday, it seems. I gaze at him adoringly as he at t empt s t o explain some break-t hrough t he
environment al science depart ment at WSU in Vancouver has made. His words mean very lit t le
t o me, but I’m capt ivat ed by his passion and int erest in t his subject . Maybe t his is what it will be
like, good days and bad days, and if t he good days are like t his, I won’t have much t o complain
about . He hands me a sheet of paper.
“These are t he t imes t hat Claude is free t his week,” he says.
Oh! The t rainer.
As we pull up t o my apart ment building, he fishes his Blackberry from his pocket .
“Grey,” he answers. “Ros, what is it ?” He list ens int ent ly, and I can t ell it ’s an involved
conversat ion.
“I’ll go and get Et han. I’ll be t wo minut es,” I mout h at Christ ian and hold up t wo fingers.He nods,
obviously dist ract ed by t he call. Taylor opens my door, smiling at me warmly.
I grin at him, even Taylor’s feeling it . I press t he ent ry phone and shout happily int o it .
“Hi, Et han, it ’s me. Let me in.”
The door buzzes, and I head upst airs t o t he apart ment . It occurs t o me t hat I have not been
here since Sat urday morning. That seems so long ago. Et han has kindly left t he front door
open. I st ep int o t he apart ment , and I don’t know why, but I freeze inst inct ively as soon as I
st ep inside. I t ake a moment t o realize it ’s because t he pale, wan figure st anding by t he kit chen
island, holding a small revolver is Leila, and she’s gazing impassively at me.
Holy fuck.
She’s here, gazing at me wit h an unnerving blank expression, holding a gun. My subconscious
swoons int o a dead faint , and I don’t t hink even smelling salt s will bring her back.
I blink repeat edly at Leila as my mind goes int o overdrive. How did she get in? Where’s Et han?
Holy shit ! Where is Et han?
A creeping cold fear grips my heart , and my scalp prickles as each and every follicle on my head
t ight ens wit h t error. What if she’s harmed him? I st art breat hing rapidly as adrenaline and
bone-numbing dread course t hrough my body. Keep calm, keep calm—I repeat t he mant ra
over and over in my head.
She t ilt s her head t o one side, regarding me as if I’m an exhibit in a freak show. Jeez, I’m not t he
freak here.
It feels like an eon has passed while I process all t his, t hough in realit y it is only a split second.
Leila’s expression remains blank, and her appearance is as scruffy and ill-kempt as ever. She’s
st ill wearing t hat grubby t rench coat , and she looks desperat ely in need of a wash. Her hair is
greasy and lank, plast ered against her head, and her eyes are a dull brown, cloudy, and vaguely
confused.
Despit e t he fact t hat my mout h has no moist ure in it what soever, I at t empt t o speak.
“Hi. Leila, isn’t it ?” I rasp. She smiles, but it ’s a dist urbing curl of her lip rat her t han a t rue smile.
“She speaks,” she whispers, and her voice is soft and hoarse at t he same t ime, an eerie sound.
“Yes, I speak,” I say gent ly as if t o a child. “Are you here alone?” Where is Et han? My heart
pounds at t he t hought t hat he might have come t o some harm.
Her face falls, so much so t hat I t hink she’s about t o burst int o t ears—she looks so forlorn.
“Alone,” she whispers. “Alone.” And t he dept h of sadness in t hat one word is heart wrenching.
What does she mean? I am alone? She’s alone? She’s alone because she’s harmed Et han?
Oh . . . no . . . I have t o fight t he choking fear clawing at my t hroat as t ears t hreat en.
“What are you doing here? Can I help you?” My words are a calm, gent le int errogat ion despit e
t he suffocat ing fear in my t hroat . Her brow furrows as if she’s complet ely befuddled by my
quest ions. But she makes no violent move against me. Her hand is st ill relaxed around her gun.
I t ake a different t ack, t rying t o ignore my t ight ening scalp.
“Would you like some t ea?” Why am I asking her if she want s t ea? It ’s Ray’s answer t o any
emot ional sit uat ion, resurfacing inappropriat ely. Jeez, he’d have a fit if he saw me right t his
minut e. His army t raining would have kicked in, and he’d have disarmed her by now. She’s not
act ually point ing t hat gun at me. Perhaps I can move. She shakes her head and t ilt s it from side
t o side as if st ret ching her neck.
I t ake a deep precious lungful of air, t rying t o calm my panicked breat hing, and move t oward
t he kit chen island. She frowns as if she can’t quit e underst and what I am doing and shift s a
lit t le so she is st ill facing me. I reach t he ket t le and wit h a shaking hand fill it from t he faucet . As
I move, my breat hing eases. Yes, if she want ed me dead, surely she would have shot me by
now. She wat ches me wit h an absent , bemused curiosit y. As I swit ch on t he ket t le, I’m plagued
by t he t hought of Et han. Is he hurt ? Tied up?
“Is t here anyone else in t he apart ment ?” I ask t ent at ively.
She inclines her head t he ot her way, and wit h her right hand—t he hand not holding t he
revolver—she grabs a st rand of her long greasy hair and st art s t wirling and fiddling wit h it ,
pulling and t wist ing. It ’s obviously a nervous habit , and while I am dist ract ed by t his, I am st ruck
once again by how much she resembles me. I hold my breat h, wait ing for her answer, t he
anxiet y building t o an almost unbearable pit ch.
“Alone. All alone,” she murmurs. I find t his comfort ing. Maybe Et han isn’t here. The relief is
empowering.
“Are you sure you don’t want t ea or coffee?”
“Not t hirst y,” she answers soft ly, and she t akes a caut ious st ep t oward me. My feeling of
empowerment evaporat es. Fuck! I st art pant ing wit h fear again, feeling it surge t hick and rough
t hrough my veins. In spit e of t his and feeling beyond brave, I t urn and fet ch a couple of cups
from t he cupboard.
“What do you have t hat I don’t ?” she asks, her voice assuming t he singsong int onat ion of a
child.
“What do you mean, Leila?” I ask as gent ly as I can.
“Mast er—Mr. Grey—he let s you call him by his given name.”
“I’m not his submissive, Leila. Er . . . Mast er underst ands t hat I am unable, inadequat e t o fulfill
t hat role.”
She t ilt s her head t o t he ot her side. It ’s wholly unnerving and unnat ural as a gest ure.
“In-ad-e-quat e.” She t est s t he word, sounding it out , seeing how it feels on her t ongue.
“But Mast er is happy. I have seen him. He laughs and smiles. These react ions are rare . . .
very rare for him.”
Oh.
“You look like me.” Leila changes t ack, surprising me, her eyes seeming t o focus on me properly
for t he first t ime. “Mast er likes obedient ones who look like you and me. The ot hers, all t he
same . . . all t he same . . . and yet you sleep in his bed. I saw you.” Shit ! She was in t he room. I
didn’t imagine it .
“You saw me in his bed?” I whisper.
“I never slept in Mast er’s bed,” she murmurs. She’s like a fallen et hereal wrait h. Half a person.
She looks so slight , and in spit e of t he fact t hat she’s holding a gun, I suddenly feel
overwhelmed wit h sympat hy for her. Her hands flex around t he weapon, and my eyes widen,
t hreat ening t o pop from my head.
“Why does Mast er like us like t his? It makes me t hink somet hing . . . somet hing . . .
Mast er is dark . . . Mast er is a dark man, but I love him.” No, no, he’s not. I brist le int ernally. He’s
not dark. He’s a good man, and he’s not in t he dark. He’s joined me in t he light . And now she’s
here, t rying t o drag him back wit h some warped idea t hat she loves him.
“Leila, do you want t o give me t he gun?” I ask soft ly. Her hand grips it t ight ly, and she hugs it t o
her chest .
“This is mine. It ’s all I have left .” She gent ly caresses t he gun. “So she can join her love.”
Holy shit! Which love—Christ ian? It ’s like she’s punched me in t he st omach. I know he will be
here moment arily t o find out what ’s keeping me. Does she mean t o shoot him?
The t hought is so horrific, I feel my t hroat swell and ache as a huge knot forms t here, almost
choking me, mat ching t he fear t hat ’s balled t ight ly in my st omach.
Right on cue t he door burst s open, and Christ ian is st anding in t he doorway, Taylor behind him.
Glancing at me briefly, Christ ian’s eyes sweep over me from head t o t oe, and I not ice t he small
spark of relief in his look. But his relief is fleet ing as his gaze dart s t o Leila and st ills, focusing on
her, not wavering in t he slight est . He glares at her wit h an int ensit y I have not seen before, his
eyes wild, wide, angry, and scared.
Oh no . . . oh no.
Leila’s eyes widen, and for a moment , it seems her reason ret urns. She blinks rapidly while her
hand t ight ens once more around t he gun.
My breat h cat ches in my t hroat , and my heart st art s t humping so loud t hat I hear t he blood
pounding in my ears. No, no, no!
My world t eet ers precariously in t he hands of t his poor, fucked-up woman. Will she shoot ? Bot h
of us? Christ ian? The t hought is crippling.
But aft er an et ernit y, as t ime hangs suspended around us, her head dips slight ly and she
gazes up at him, t hrough her long lashes, her expression cont rit e.
Christ ian holds up his hand, signaling t o Taylor t o st ay where he is. Taylor’s blanched face
bet rays his fury. I have never seen him like t his, but he st ands st ock-st ill as Christ ian and Leila
st are at each ot her.
I realize I’m holding my breat h. What will she do? What will he do? But t hey just cont inue t o
st are at each ot her. Christ ian’s expression is raw, full of some unnamed emot ion. It could be
pit y, fear, affect ion . . . or is it love? No, please, not love!
His eyes bore int o her, and agonizingly slowly, t he at mosphere in t he apart ment changes. The
t ension is building so t hat I can sense t heir connect ion, t he charge bet ween t hem .
No! Suddenly I feel I’m t he int erloper, int ruding on t hem as t hey st and gazing at each ot her. I’m
an out sider—a voyeur, spying on a forbidden, int imat e scene behind closed curt ains.
Christ ian’s int ense gaze burns bright er, and his bearing changes subt ly. He looks t aller, more
angular somehow, colder, and more dist ant . I recognize t his st ance. I’ve seen him like t his
before—in his playroom.
My scalp prickles anew. This is Dominant Christ ian, and how at ease he looks. Whet her he was
born t o or made for t his role, I just don’t know, but wit h a sinking heart and sickened st omach, I
wat ch as Leila responds, her lips part ing, her breat hing picking up as t he first flush of color
st ains her cheeks. No! It ’s such an unwelcome glimpse int o his past , agonizing t o wit ness.
Finally, he mout hs a word at her. I can’t make out what it is, but t he effect on Leila is immediat e.
She drops t o t he floor on her knees, her head bowed, and t he gun falls and skit -t ers uselessly
across t he wooden floor. Holy fuck.
Christ ian walks calmly over t o where t he gun has fallen and bends gracefully t o pick it up. He
regards it wit h ill-disguised disgust t hen slips it int o his jacket pocket . He gazes once more at
Leila as she kneels compliant ly beside t he kit chen island.
“Anast asia, go wit h Taylor,” he commands. Taylor crosses t he t hreshold and st ares at me.
“Et han,” I whisper.
“Downst airs.” He responds mat t er-of-fact ly, his eyes never leaving Leila.
Downst airs. Not here. Et han’s okay. Relief floods hard and fast t hrough my blood, and for a
moment I t hink I’m going t o faint .
“Anast asia,” Christ ian’s t one is clipped in warning.
I blink at him, and I’m suddenly unable t o move. I don’t want t o leave him—leave him wit h her.
He moves t o st and beside Leila as she kneels at his feet . He’s hovering over her, prot ect ively.
She’s so st ill, it ’s unnat ural. I can’t t ake my eyes off t he t wo of t hem—
t oget her . . .
“For t he love of God, Anast asia, will you do as you’re t old for once in your life and go!”
Christ ian’s eyes lock wit h mine as he glowers at me, his voice a blist ering cold shard of ice.
The anger beneat h t he quiet , deliberat e delivery of his words is palpable.
Angry at me? Surely not . Please—No! I feel like he’s slapped me hard. Why does he want t o
st ay wit h her?
“Taylor. Take Miss St eele downst airs. Now.”
Taylor nods at him as I st are at Christ ian.
“Why?” I whisper.
“Go. Back t o t he apart ment .” His eyes blaze frost ily at me. “I need t o be alone wit h Leila.” He
says it urgent ly.
I t hink he’s t rying t o convey some kind of message, but I’m so t hrown by all t hat ’s happened
t hat I’m not sure. I glance down at Leila and not ice a very small smile cross her lips, but
ot herwise she remains t ruly impassive. A complet e submissive. Fuck! My heart chills.
This is what he needs. This is what he likes. No! I want t o wail.
“Miss St eele. Ana.” Taylor holds his hand out t o me, imploring me t o come. I am immobilized by
t he horrific spect acle before me. It confirms my worst fears and plays on all my insecurit ies:
Christ ian and Leila t oget her—t he Dom and his sub.
“Taylor,” Christ ian urges, and Taylor leans down and scoops me int o his arms. The last t hing I
see as we leave is Christ ian gent ly st roking Leila’s head as he murmurs somet hing soft ly t o her.
No!
As Taylor carries me down t he st airs, I lie limply in his arms t rying t o grasp what ’s happened in
t he last t en minut es—was it longer? Or short er? The concept of t ime has desert ed me.
Christ ian and Leila, Leila and Christ ian . . . t oget her? What is he doing wit h her now?
“Jesus, Ana! What t he fuck is going on?”
I am relieved t o see Et han as he paces t he small lobby, st ill carrying his large shoulder bag. Oh,
thank heavens he’s okay! When Taylor set s me down, I pract ically t hrow myself at Et han,
wrapping my arms around his neck.
“Et han. Oh, t hank God!” I hug him, holding him close. I was so worried, and for a brief moment , I
enjoy some respit e from my rising panic at what is unfolding upst airs in my apart ment .
“What t he fuck is going on, Ana? Who’s t his guy?”
“Oh, sorry, Et han, t his is Taylor. He works wit h Christ ian. Taylor, t his is Et han, my roommat e’s
brot her.”
They nod at each ot her.
“Ana, upst airs, what ’s going on? I was fishing for t he apart ment keys when t hese guys jumped
out of nowhere and grabbed t hem. One of t hem was Christ ian . . .” Et han’s voice t rails off.
“You were lat e . . . Thank God.”
“Yeah. I met a friend from Pullman—we had a quick drink. Upst airs, what ’s going on?”“There’s a
girl, an ex of Christ ian’s. In our apart ment . She’s gone post al, and Christ ian is . . .” My voice
cracks, and t ears pool in my eyes.
“Hey,” Et han whispers and pulls me close once more. “Has anyone called t he cops?”
“No, it ’s not like t hat .” I sob int o his chest and now I’ve st art ed, I can’t st op crying, t he t ension of
t his lat est episode releasing t hrough my t ears. Et han t ight ens his arms around me, but I sense
his bemusement .
“Hey, Ana, let ’s go get a drink.” He pat s my back awkwardly. Abrupt ly, I feel awkward, t oo, and
embarrassed, and in all honest y, I want t o be on my own. But I nod, accept ing his offer. I want
t o be away from here, away from what ever’s going on upst airs.
I t urn t o Taylor.
“Was t he apart ment checked?” I ask him t earfully, wiping my nose wit h t he back of my hand.
“This aft ernoon.” Taylor shrugs apologet ically as he hands me a handkerchief. He looks
devast at ed. “I’m sorry, Ana,” he murmurs.
I frown. Jeez, he looks so guilt y. I don’t want t o make him feel worse.
“She does seem t o have an uncanny abilit y t o evade us,” he adds scowling again.
“Et han and I will go for a quick drink t hen head back t o Escala.” I dry my eyes.
Taylor shuffles from foot t o foot uncomfort ably. “Mr. Grey want ed you t o go back t o t he
apart ment ,” he says quiet ly.
“Well, we know where Leila is now.” I can’t keep t he bit t erness out of my voice. “So, no need for
all t he securit y. Tell Christ ian we’ll see him lat er.” Taylor opens his mout h t o speak and t hen
wisely closes it again.
“Do you want t o leave your bag wit h Taylor?” I ask Et han.
“No, I’ll keep it wit h me, t hanks.”
Et han nods at Taylor, t hen ushers me out of t he front door. Too lat e, I remember t hat I’ve left
my purse in t he back of Audi. I have not hing.
“My purse—”
“Don’t worry,” Et han murmurs, his face full of concern. “It ’s cool, it ’s on me.” We choose a bar
across t he st reet , set t ling ont o wooden bar st ools by t he window. I want t o see what ’s going
on—who’s coming, and more import ant ly who’s going. Et han hands me a bot t le of beer.
“Trouble wit h an ex?” he says gent ly.
“It ’s a bit more complicat ed t han t hat ,” I mut t er, abrupt ly guarded. I can’t t alk about t his—I have
signed an NDA. And for t he first t ime, I really resent t hat fact and t hat Christ ian’s said not hing
about rescinding it .
“I’ve got t ime,” Et han says kindly and t akes a long slug of his beer.
“She’s an ex, from years back. She left her husband for some guy. Then a couple of weeks or
so ago he was killed in a car crash, and now she’s come aft er Christ ian.” I shrug.
There, t hat didn’t give t oo much away.
“Come aft er him?”
“She had a gun.”
“What t he fuck!”
“She didn’t act ually t hreat en anyone wit h it . I t hink she meant t o harm herself. But t hat ’s why I
was so worried about you. I didn’t know if you were in t he apart ment .”
“I see. She sounds unst able.”
“Yes, she is.”
“And what ’s Christ ian doing wit h her now?”
The blood drains from my face and bile rises in my t hroat . “I don’t know,” I whisper.
Et han’s eyes widen—at last he’s got it .
This is t he crux of my problem. What t he fuck are t hey doing? Talking, I hope. Just t alking. Yet
all I can see in my mind’s eye is his hand, t enderly st roking her hair.
She’s disturbed and Christian cares about her, that’s all this is, I rat ionalize. But in t he back of
my mind, my subconscious is shaking her head sadly.
It ’s more t han t hat . Leila was able t o fulfill his needs in a way I cannot . The t hought is
depressing.
I t ry t o focus on all we’ve done in t he last few days—his declarat ion of love, his flirt y humor, his
playfulness. But Elena’s words keep coming back t o t aunt me. It ’s t rue what t hey say about
eavesdroppers.
Don’t you miss it . . . your playroom?
I finish my beer in record t ime, and Et han lines up anot her. I am not much of a companion, but
t o his credit he st ays wit h me, chat t ing, t rying t o lift my spirit s, t alking about Barbados, and
Kat e and Elliot ’s ant ics, which is wonderfully dist ract ing. But it ’s just t hat —
a dist ract ion.
My mind, my heart , my soul are all st ill in t hat apart ment wit h my Fift y Shades and t he woman
who used t o be his submissive. A woman who t hinks she st ill loves him. A woman who looks
like me.
During our t hird beer, a large cruiser wit h heavily-t int ed windows pulls up next t o t he Audi in
front of t he apart ment . I recognize Dr. Flynn as he climbs out , accompanied by a woman
dressed in what look like pale blue scrubs. I glimpse Taylor as he let s t hem in t hrough t he front
door.
“Who’s t hat ?” Et han asks.
“His name’s Dr. Flynn. Christ ian knows him.”
“What kind of doct or?”
“A shrink.”
“Oh.”
We bot h wat ch, and a few minut es lat er t hey are back. Christ ian is carrying Leila who is
wrapped in a blanket . What? I wat ch horrified as t hey all climb int o t he cruiser, and it speeds
away.
Et han glances at me sympat het ically, and I feel desolat e, complet ely desolat e.
“Can I have somet hing a bit st ronger?” I ask Et han, my voice small.
“Sure. What would you like?”
“A brandy. Please.”
Et han nods and ret reat s t o t he bar. I gaze t hrough t he window at t he front door. Moment s
lat er Taylor emerges, climbs int o t he Audi, and heads off t oward Escala . . . aft er Christ ian? I
don’t know.
Et han places a large brandy in front of me.
“Come on, St eele. Let ’s get drunk.”
Sounds like t he best offer I’ve had in a while. We clink glasses, and I t ake a gulp of t he burning
amber liquid, t he fiery heat a welcome dist ract ion from t he hideous blossoming pain in my
heart .
It ’s lat e, and I feel fuzzy. Et han and I are locked out of t he apart ment . He insist s on walking me
back t o Escala, but he won’t st ay. He’s called t he friend he met earlier for a drink and arranged
t o crash wit h him.
“So, t his is where t he Mogul lives.” Et han whist les t hrough his t eet h, impressed.
I nod.
“Sure you don’t want me t o come in wit h you?” he asks.
“No, I need t o face t his—or just go t o bed.”
“See you t omorrow?”
“Yes. Thanks, Et han.” I hug him.
“You’ll work it out , St eele,” he murmurs against my ear. He releases me and wat ches while I
head int o t he building.
“Lat ers,” he calls. I offer him a weak smile and a wave t hen press t he but t on t o call t he
elevat or.
The elevat or doors open, and I st ep int o Christ ian’s apart ment . Taylor is not wait ing, which is
unusual. Opening t he double doors, I head t oward t he great room. Christ ian is on t he phone,
pacing t he room near t he piano.
“She’s here,” he snaps. He t urns t o glare at me as he swit ches off his phone. “Where t he fuck
have you been?” he growls but doesn’t make a move t oward me.
Holy crap, he’s angry wit h me? He’s t he one t hat just spent God knows how long wit h his loony
ex-girlfriend, and he’s angry wit h me?
“Have you been drinking?” he asks, appalled.
“A bit .” I didn’t t hink it was t hat obvious.
He gasps and runs his hand t hrough his hair. “I t old you t o come back here.” His voice is
menacingly quiet . “It ’s now fift een aft er t en. I’ve been worried about you.”
“I went for a drink or t hree wit h Et han while you at t ended t o your ex,” I hiss at him. “I didn’t
know how long you were going t o be . . . wit h her.” He narrows his eyes and t akes a few paces
t oward me but st ops.
“Why do you say it t hat like t hat ?”
I shrug and st are down at my fingers.
“Ana, what ’s wrong?” And for t he first t ime, I hear somet hing ot her t han anger in his voice.
What ? Fear?
I swallow, t rying t o work out what I want t o say. “Where’s Leila?” I ask looking up at him.“In a
psychiat ric hospit al in Fremont ,” he says, and his face is scrut inizing mine. “Ana, what is it ?” He
moves t oward me unt il he’s st anding right in front of me. “What ’s wrong?” he breat hes.
I shake my head. “I’m no good for you.”
“What ?” he breat hes, his eyes widening in alarm. “Why do you t hink t hat ? How can you
possibly t hink t hat ?”
“I can’t be everyt hing you need.”
“You are everyt hing I need.
“Just seeing you wit h her . . .” My voice t rails off.
“Why do you do t his t o me? This is not about you, Ana. It ’s about her.” He t akes a sharp
breat h, running his hand t hrough his hair again. “At t he moment she’s a very sick girl.”
“But I felt it . . . what you had t oget her.”
“What ? No.” He reaches for me, and I st ep back inst inct ively. He drops his hand, blinking at me.
He looks as t hough he’s seized wit h panic.
“You’re running?” he whispers as his eyes widen wit h fear.
I say not hing as I t ry t o collect my scat t ered t hought s.
“You can’t ,” he pleads.
“Christ ian . . . I—” I st ruggle t o collect my t hought s. What am I t rying t o say? I need t ime, t ime t o
process t his. Give me t ime.
“No. No!” he says.
“I . . .”
He looks wildly around t he room. For inspirat ion? For divine int ervent ion? I don’t know.
“You can’t go. Ana, I love you!”
“I love you, t oo, Christ ian, it ’s just —”
“No . . . no!” he says in desperat ion and put s bot h hands on his head.
“Christ ian . . .”
“No,” he breat hes, his eyes wide wit h panic, and suddenly he drops t o his knees in front of me,
head bowed, long-fingered hands spread out on his t highs. He t akes a deep breat h and
doesn’t move.
What? “Christ ian, what are you doing?”
He cont inues t o st are down, not looking at me.
“Christ ian! What are you doing?” My voice is high-pit ched. He doesn’t move. “Christ ian, look at
me!” I command in panic.
His head sweeps up wit hout hesit at ion, and he regards me passively wit h his cool gray gaze—
he’s almost serene . . . expect ant .
Holy Fuck . . . Christ ian. The submissive.
Christ ian on his knees at my feet , holding me wit h his st eady gray gaze, is t he most chilling and
sobering sight I have ever seen—more so t han Leila and her gun. The vague alcoholic
fuzziness I’m suffering from evaporat es in an inst ant and is replaced by a prickling scalp and a
creeping sense of doom as t he blood drains from my face.
I inhale sharply wit h shock. No. No, this is wrong, so wrong and so disturbing.
“Christ ian, please, don’t do t his. I don’t want t his.” He cont inues t o regard me passively, not
moving, saying not hing.
Oh fuck. My poor Fifty. My heart squeezes and t wist s. What t he hell have I done t o him? Tears
prick my eyes.
“Why are you doing t his? Talk t o me,” I whisper.
He blinks once.
“What would you like me t o say?” he says soft ly, blandly, and for a moment I’m relieved t hat
he’s t alking, but not like t his—no. No.
Tears begin t o ooze down my cheeks, and suddenly it is t oo much t o see him in t he same
prost rat e posit ion as t he pat het ic creat ure t hat was Leila. The image of a powerful man who’s
really st ill a lit t le boy, who was horrifically abused and neglect ed, who feels unwort hy of love
from his perfect family and his much-less-t han perfect girlfriend . . . my lost boy . . . it ’s
heart breaking.
Compassion, loss, and despair all swell in my heart , and I feel a choking sense of desperat ion. I
am going t o have t o fight t o bring him back, t o bring back my Fift y.
The t hought of me dominat ing anyone is appalling. The t hought of dominat ing Christ ian is
nauseat ing. It would make me like her—t he woman who did t his t o him.
I shudder at t hat t hought , fight ing t he bile in my t hroat . No way can I do t hat . No way do I want
t hat .
As my t hought s clear, I can see only one way. Not t aking my eyes off his, I sink t o my knees in
front of him.
The wooden floor is hard against my shins, and I dash my t ears away roughly wit h t he back of
my hand.
Like t his, we are equals. We’re on a level. This is t he only way I’m going t o ret rieve him.His eyes
widen fract ionally as I st are up at him, but beyond t hat his expression and st ance don’t
change.
“Christ ian, you don’t have t o do t his,” I plead. “I’m not going t o run. I’ve t old you and t old you
and t old you, I won’t run.” All t hat ’s happened . . . it ’s overwhelming. I just need some t ime t o
t hink . . . some t ime t o myself. Why do you always assume t he worst ?” My heart clenches again
because I know; it ’s because he’s so doubt ing, so full of self-loat hing.
Elena’s words come back t o haunt me. “Does she know how negative you are about yourself?
About all your issues?”
Oh, Christian. Fear grips my heart once more and I st art babbling, “I was going t o suggest
going back t o my apart ment t his evening. You never give me any t ime . . . t ime t o just t hink
t hings t hrough,” I sob, and a ghost of a frown crosses his face. “Just t ime t o t hink. We barely
know each ot her, and all t his baggage t hat comes wit h you . . . I need . . . I need t ime t o t hink it
t hrough. And now t hat Leila is . . . well, what ever she is . . . she’s off t he st reet s and not a t hreat
. . . I t hought . . . I t hought . . .” My voice t rails off and I st are at him. He regards me int ent ly and I
t hink he’s list ening
“Seeing you wit h Leila . . .” I close my eyes as t he painful memory of his int eract ion wit h his ex-
sub gnaws at me anew. “It was such a shock. I had a glimpse int o how your life has been . . .
and . . .” I gaze down at my knot t ed fingers, t ears st ill t rickling down my cheeks. “This is about
me not being good enough for you. It was an insight int o your life, and I am so scared you’ll get
bored wit h me, and t hen you’ll go . . . and I’ll end up like Leila . . . a shadow. Because I love you,
Christ ian, and if you leave me, it will be like a world wit hout light . I’ll be in darkness. I don’t want
t o run. I’m just so fright ened you’ll leave me . . .”
I realize as I say t hese words t o him—in t he hope t hat he’s list ening—what my real problem is. I
just don’t get why he likes me. I have never underst ood why he likes me.
“I don’t underst and why you find me at t ract ive,” I murmur. “You’re, well, you’re you . . . and I’m . .
.” I shrug and gaze up at him. “I just don’t see it . You’re beaut iful and sexy and successful and
good and kind and caring—all t hose t hings—and I’m not . And I can’t do t he t hings you like t o
do. I can’t give you what you need. How could you be happy wit h me? How can I possibly hold
you?” My voice is a whisper as I express my darkest fears. “I have never underst ood what you
see in me. And seeing you wit h her, it brought all t hat home.” I sniff and wipe my nose wit h t he
back of my hand, gazing at his impassive expression.
Oh, he’s so exasperat ing. Talk to me, damn it!
“Are you going t o kneel here all night ? Because I’ll do it , t oo,” I snap at him.
I t hink his expression soft ens—maybe he looks vaguely amused. But it ’s so hard t o t ell.
I could reach across and t ouch him, but t his would be a gross abuse of t he posit ion he’s put me
in. I don’t want t hat , but I don’t know what he want s, or what he’s t rying t o say t o me. I just
don’t underst and.
“Christ ian, please, please . . . t alk t o me,” I beseech him, wringing my hands in my lap.
I am uncomfort able on my knees, but I cont inue t o kneel, st aring int o his serious, beaut iful, gray
eyes, and I wait .
And wait .
And wait .
“Please,” I beg once more.
His int ense gaze darkens suddenly and he blinks.
“I was so scared,” he whispers.
Oh, t hank t he Lord! Inside, my subconscious st aggers back int o her armchair, sagging wit h
relief, and t akes a large swig of gin.
He’s talking! Grat it ude overwhelms me, and I swallow, t rying t o cont ain my emot ion and t he
fresh bout of t ears t hat t hreat ens.
His voice is soft and low. “When I saw Et han arrive out side, I knew someone had let you int o
your apart ment . Bot h Taylor and I leapt out of t he car. We knew and t o see her t here like t hat
wit h you—and armed. I t hink I died a t housand deat hs, Ana. Someone t hreat ening you . . . all
my worst fears realized. I was so angry, wit h her, wit h you, wit h Taylor, wit h myself.”
He shakes his head revealing his agony. “I didn’t know how volat ile she would be. I didn’t know
what t o do. I didn’t know how she’d react .” He st ops and frowns. “And t hen she gave me a clue;
she looked so cont rit e. And I just knew what I had t o do.” He pauses, gazing at me, t rying t o
gauge my react ion.
“Go on,” I whisper.
He swallows. “Seeing her in t hat st at e, knowing t hat I might have somet hing t o do wit h her
ment al breakdown . . .” He closes his eyes once more. “She was always so mischievous and
lively.” He shudders and t akes a rasping breat h, almost like a sob. This is t ort ure t o list en t o,
but I kneel, at t ent ive, lapping up t his insight .
“She might have harmed you. And it would have been my fault .” His eyes drift off, filled wit h
uncomprehending horror, and he’s silent once more.
“But she didn’t ,” I whisper. “And you weren’t responsible for her being in t hat st at e, Christ ian.” I
blink up at him, encouraging him t o cont inue.
Then it dawns on me afresh t hat everyt hing he did was t o keep me safe, and perhaps Leila,
t oo, because he also cares for her. But how much does he care for her? The quest ion lingers in
my head, unwelcome. He says he loves me, but t hen he was so harsh, t hrowing me out of my
own apart ment .
“I just want ed you gone,” he murmurs, wit h his uncanny abilit y t o read my t hought s.
“I want ed you away from t he danger, and . . . You. Just . Wouldn’t . Go,” he hisses t hrough
clenched t eet h and shakes his head. His exasperat ion is palpable.
He gazes at me int ent ly. “Anast asia St eele, you are t he most st ubborn woman I know.” He
closes his eyes and shakes his head once more in disbelief.
Oh, he’s back. I breat he a long, cleansing sigh of relief.
He opens his eyes again, and his expression is forlorn—sincere. “You weren’t going t o run?” he
asks.
“No! ”
He closes his eyes again and his whole body relaxes. When he opens his eyes, I can see his
pain and anguish.
“I t hought —” He st ops. “This is me, Ana. All of me . . . and I’m all yours. What do I have t o do t o
make you realize t hat ? To make you see t hat I want you any way I can get you. That I love
you.”
“I love you, t oo, Christ ian, and t o see you like t his is . . .” I choke and my t ears st art afresh. “I
t hought I’d broken you.”
“Broken? Me? Oh no, Ana. Just t he opposit e.” He reaches out and t akes my hand.
“You’re my lifeline,” he whispers, and he kisses my knuckles before pressing my palm against
his.
Wit h his eyes wide and full of fear, he gent ly t ugs my hand and places it on his chest over his
heart —in t he forbidden zone. His breat hing quickens. His heart is beat ing a frant ic, pounding
t at t oo beneat h my fingers. He doesn’t t ake his eyes off mine; his jaw is t ense, his t eet h
clenched.
I gasp. Oh my Fifty! He’s let t ing me t ouch him. And it ’s like all t he air in my lungs has vaporized
—gone. The blood is pounding in my ears as t he rhyt hm of my heart rises t o mat ch his.
He releases my hand, leaving it in place over his heart . I flex my fingers slight ly, feeling t he
warmt h of his skin beneat h t he t hin fabric of his shirt . He’s holding his breat h. I can’t bear it . I
make t o move my hand.
“No,” he says quickly and places his hand once more over mine, pressing my fingers against
him. “Don’t .”
Emboldened by t hese t wo words, I shuffle closer so our knees are t ouching and t ent at ively
raise my ot her hand so t hat he knows exact ly what I int end t o do. His eyes grow wider but he
doesn’t st op me.
Gent ly I st art t o undo t he but t ons on his shirt . It ’s t ricky wit h one hand. I flex my fingers
beneat h his hand and he let s go, allowing me t o use bot h hands t o undo his shirt . My eyes
don’t leave his as I pull his shirt open, revealing his chest .
He swallows, and his lips part as his breat hing increases, and I sense his rising panic, but he
doesn’t pull away. Is he st ill in sub mode? I have no idea.
Should I do t his? I don’t want t o hurt him, physically or ment ally. The sight of him like t his,
offering himself t o me, has been a wake-up call.
I reach up, and my hand hovers over his chest , and I st are at him . . . asking his permission. Very
subt ly he t ilt s his head t o one side, st eeling himself in ant icipat ion of my t ouch, and t he t ension
radiat es from him, but t his t ime it ’s not in anger—it ’s in fear.
I hesit at e. Can I really do t his t o him?
“Yes,” he breat hes—again wit h t he weird abilit y t o answer my unspoken quest ions.
I ext end my fingert ips int o his chest hair and light ly brush t hem down his st ernum. He closes his
eyes, and his face creases as if he’s experiencing int olerable pain. It ’s unbearable t o wit ness, so
I lift my fingers immediat ely, but he quickly grabs my hand and replaces it firmly, flat on his bare
chest so t hat t he hair t ickles my palm.
“No,” he says, his voice st rained. “I need t o.”
His eyes are screwed up so t ight ly. This must be agony. It ’s t ruly t orment ing t o wat ch.
Carefully I let my fingers st roke across his chest t o his heart , marveling at t he feel of him,
t errified t hat t his is a st ep t oo far.
He opens his eyes, and t hey are gray fire, blazing at me.
Holy cow. His look is blist ering, feral, beyond int ense, and his breat hing is rapid. It st irs my blood.
I squirm under his gaze.
He hasn’t st opped me, so I run my fingert ips across his chest again, and his mout h goes slack.
He’s pant ing, and I don’t know if it ’s from fear, or somet hing else.
I’ve want ed t o kiss him t here for so long t hat I lean up on my knees and hold his gaze for a
moment , making my int ent ion perfect ly clear. Then I bend and gent ly plant a soft kiss above his
heart , feeling his warm, sweet -smelling skin beneat h my lips.
His st rangled groan moves me so much t hat I sit back on my heels, fearful of what I’ll see on his
face. His eyes are screwed t ight ly shut , but he hasn’t moved.
“Again,” he whispers, and I lean int o his chest once more, t his t ime t o kiss one of his scars. He
gasps, and I kiss anot her and anot her. He groans loudly, and suddenly his arms are around me,
and his hand is in my hair, pulling my head up painfully so t hat my lips meet his insist ent mout h.
And we’re kissing, my fingers knot t ing int o his hair.
“Oh, Ana,” he breat hes, and he t wist s and pulls me down on t o t he floor so t hat I am
underneat h him. I bring my hands up t o cup his beaut iful face, and in t hat moment , I feel his
t ears.
He’s crying . . . no. No!
“Christ ian, please, don’t cry. I meant it when I said I’d never leave you. I did. If I gave you any
ot her impression, I’m so sorry . . . please, please forgive me. I love you. I will always love you.”
He looms over me, gazing down int o my face, and his expression is so pained.
“What is it ?”
His eyes grow larger.
“What is t his secret t hat makes you t hink I’ll run for t he hills? That makes you so det ermined t o
believe I’ll go?” I plead, my voice t remulous. “Tell me, Christ ian, please . . . ” He sit s up, t hough
t his t ime he crosses his legs and I follow suit , my legs out st ret ched.
Vaguely I wonder if we can get off t he floor? But I don’t want t o int errupt his t rain of t hought .
He’s finally going t o confide in me.
He gazes down at me, and he looks ut t erly desolat e. Oh shit—it’s bad.
“Ana . . .” He pauses, searching for t he words, his expression pained . . . Oh? Where t he hell is
t his going?
He t akes a deep breat h and swallows. “I’m a sadist , Ana. I like t o whip lit t le brown-haired girls
like you because you all look like t he crack whore—my birt h mot her. I’m sure you can guess
why.” He says it in a rush as if he’s had t he sent ence in his head for days and days and is
desperat e t o be rid of it .
My world st ops. Oh no.
This is not what I expect ed. This is bad. Really bad. I gaze at him, t rying t o underst and t he
implicat ion of what he’s just said. It does explain why we all look t he same.
My immediat e t hought is t hat Leila was right —“Master is dark. ” I recall t he first conversat ion I
had wit h him about his t endencies when we were in t he Red Room of Pain.
“You said you weren’t a sadist ,” I whisper, desperat ely t rying t o underst and . . . make some
excuse for him.
“No, I said I was a Dominant . If I lied t o you, it was a lie of omission. I’m sorry.” He looks briefly
down at his manicured fingernails.
I t hink he’s mort ified. Mort ified about lying t o me? Or about what he is?
“When you asked me t hat quest ion, I had envisioned a very different relat ionship bet ween us,”
he murmurs. I can t ell by his gaze t hat he’s t errified.
Then it hit s me like a wrecking ball. If he’s a sadist , he really needs all t hat whipping and caning
shit . Oh fuck. I put my head in my hands.
“So it ’s t rue,” I whisper, glancing up at him. “I can’t give you what you need.” This is it —t his
really does mean we are incompat ible.
The world st art s falling away at my feet , collapsing around me as panic grips my t hroat . This is
it . We can’t do t his.
He frowns. “No, No, No. Ana. No. You can. You do give me what I need.” He clenches his fist s.
“Please believe me,” he murmurs, his words an impassioned plea.
“I don’t know what t o believe, Christ ian. This is so fucked-up,” I whisper, my t hroat hoarse and
aching as it closes in, choking me wit h unshed t ears.
His eyes are wide and luminous when he looks at me again.
“Ana, believe me. Aft er I punished you and you left me, my worldview changed. I wasn’t joking
when I said I would avoid ever feeling like t hat again.” He gazes at me wit h pained ent reat y.
“When you said you loved me, it was a revelat ion. No one’s ever said it t o me before, and it was
as if I’d laid somet hing t o rest —or maybe you’d laid it t o rest , I don’t know. Dr. Flynn and I are
st ill in deep discussion about it .” Oh. Hope flares briefly in my heart . Perhaps we’ll be okay. I
want us t o be okay. Don’t I? “What does t hat all mean?” I whisper.
“It means I don’t need it . Not now.”
What? “How do you know? How can you be so sure?”
“I just know. The t hought of hurt ing you . . . in any real way . . . it ’s abhorrent t o me.”
“I don’t underst and. What about rulers and spanking and all t hat kinky fuckery?” He runs a
hand t hrough his hair and almost smiles but inst ead sighs ruefully. “I’m t alking about t he heavy
shit , Anast asia. You should see what I can do wit h a cane or a cat .” My mout h drops open,
st unned. “I’d rat her not .”
“I know. If you want ed t o do t hat , t hen fine . . . but you don’t and I get it . I can’t do all t hat shit
wit h you if you don’t want t o. I t old you once before, you have all t he power. And now, since you
came back, I don’t feel t hat compulsion, at all.” I gape at him for a moment t rying t o t ake t his all
in. “When we met , t hat ’s what you want ed, t hough?”
“Yes, undoubt edly.”
“How can your compulsion just go, Christ ian? Like I’m some kind of panacea, and you’re—for
want of a bet t er word—cured? I don’t get it .” He sighs once more. “I wouldn’t say cured . . . You
don’t believe me?”
“I just find it —unbelievable. Which is different .”
“If you’d never left me, t hen I probably wouldn’t feel t his way. You walking out on me was t he
best t hing you ever did . . . for us. It made me realize how much I want you, just you, and I mean
it when I say I’ll t ake you any way I can have you.” I gaze at him. Can I believe t his? My head
hurt s just t rying t o t hink t his all t hrough, and deep down I feel . . . numb.
“You’re st ill here. I t hought you would be out of t he door by now,” he whispers.
“Why? Because I might t hink you’re a sicko for whipping and fucking women who look like your
mot her? What ever would give you t hat impression?” I hiss at him, lashing out .He blanches at
my harsh words.
“Well, I wouldn’t have put it quit e like t hat , but yes,” he says, his eyes wide and hurt .
His expression is sobering and I regret my out burst . I frown, feeling a pang of guilt .
Oh, what am I going t o do? I gaze at him and he looks cont rit e, sincere . . . he looks like my Fift y.
And unbidden I recall t he phot ograph in his childhood bedroom, and in t hat moment realize why
t he woman in it looked so familiar. She looked like him. She must have been his biological
mot her.
His easy dismissal of her comes t o mind: No one of consequence . . . She’s responsible for all
t his . . . and I look like her . . . Fuck!
He st ares at me, eyes raw, and I know he’s wait ing for my next move. He seems genuine. He’s
said he loves me, but I’m really confused.
This is all so fucked-up. He’s reassured me about Leila, but now I know wit h more cert aint y
t han ever how she was able t o give him his kicks. The t hought is wearying and unpalat able. I
am so t ired of all t his.
“Christ ian, I’m exhaust ed. Can we discuss t his t omorrow? I want t o go t o bed.” He blinks at me
in surprise. “You’re not going?”
“Do you want me t o go?”
“No! I t hought you would leave once you knew.”
All t he t imes he’s alluded t o me leaving once I knew his darkest secret s flash t hrough my mind .
. . and now I know. Shit . Mast er is dark.
Should I leave? I gaze at him, t his crazy man t hat I love, yes love.
Can I leave him? I left him once before, and it nearly broke me . . . and him. I love him.
I know t hat in spit e of t his revelat ion.
“Don’t leave me,” he whispers.
“Oh, for crying out loud— no! I am not going t o go!” I shout and it ’s cat hart ic. There, I’ve said it . I
am not leaving.
“Really?” His eyes widen.
“What can I do t o make you underst and I will not run? What can I say?” He gazes at me,
revealing his fear and anguish again. He swallows. “There is one t hing you can do.”
“What ?” I snap.
“Marry me,” he whispers.
What? Did he really just—
For t he second t ime in less t han half an hour my world st ops.
Holy fuck. I st are at t he deeply fucked-up man I love. I can’t believe what he’s just said.
Marriage? He’s proposing marriage? Is he kidding? I can’t help it —a small, nervous, disbelieving
giggle erupt s from deep inside. I bit e my lip t o st op it from t urning int o full-scale hyst erical
laught er and fail miserably. I lie back flat on t he floor and surrender myself t o t he laught er,
laughing as I’ve never laughed before, huge healing cat hart ic howls of laught er.
And for a moment I am on my own, looking down at t his absurd sit uat ion, a giggling,
overwhelmed girl beside a beaut iful fucked-up boy. I drape my arm across my eyes, as my
laught er t urns t o scalding t ears. No, no . . . this is too much.
As t he hyst eria subsides, Christ ian gent ly lift s my arm off my face. I t urn and gaze up at him.
He’s leaning over me. His mout h is t wist ed wit h wry amusement , but his eyes are a burning
gray, maybe wounded. Oh no.
He gent ly wipes away a st ray t ear wit h t he back of his knuckles. “You find my proposal
amusing, Miss St eele?”
Oh, Fifty! Reaching up, I caress his cheek t enderly, enjoying t he feel of t he st ubble beneat h my
fingers. Lord, I love t his man.
“Mr. Grey . . . Christ ian. Your sense of t iming is wit hout doubt . . .” I gaze up at him as words fail
me.
He smirks at me, but t he crinkling around his eyes shows me t hat he’s hurt . It ’s
sobering.“You’re cut t ing me t o t he quick here, Ana. Will you marry me?” I sit up and lean over
him, placing my hands on his knees. I st are int o his lovely face.
“Christ ian, I’ve met your psycho ex wit h a gun, been t hrown out of my apart ment , had you go
t hermonuclear Fift y on me—”
He opens his mout h t o speak, but I hold up my hand. He obedient ly shut s his mout h.
“You’ve just revealed some, quit e frankly, shocking informat ion about yourself, and now you’ve
asked me t o marry you.”
He moves his head from side t o side as if considering t he fact s. He’s amused. Thank heavens.
“Yes, I t hink t hat ’s a fair and accurat e summary of t he sit uat ion,” he says dryly.
I shake my head at him. “What ever happened t o delayed grat ificat ion?”
“I got over it , and I’m now a firm advocat e of inst ant grat ificat ion. Carpe diem, Ana,” he
whispers.
“Look Christ ian, I’ve known you for about t hree minut es, and t here’s so much more I need t o
know. I’ve had t oo much t o drink, I’m hungry, I’m t ired, and I want t o go t o bed.
I need t o consider your proposal just as I considered t hat cont ract you gave me. And”—I press
my lips t oget her t o show my displeasure but also t o light en t he mood bet ween us—
“t hat wasn’t t he most romant ic proposal.”
He t ilt s his head t o one side and his lips quirk up in a smile. “Fair point well made, as ever, Miss
St eele,” he breat hes, his voice laced wit h relief. “So t hat ’s not a no?” I sigh. “No, Mr. Grey, it ’s
not a no, but it ’s not a yes eit her. You’re only doing t his because you’re scared, and you don’t
t rust me.”
“No, I’m doing t his because I’ve finally met someone I want t o spend t he rest of my life wit h.”
Oh. My heart skips a beat and inside I melt . How is it t hat in t he middle of t he most fucked-up
sit uat ions he can say t he most romant ic t hings? My mout h pops open in shock.
“I never t hought t hat would happen t o me,” he cont inues, his expression radiat ing pure
undilut ed sincerit y.
I gape at him, searching for t he right words.
“Can I t hink about it . . . please? And t hink about everyt hing else t hat ’s happened t oday? What
you’ve just t old me? You asked for pat ience and fait h. Well, back at you, Grey.
I need t hose now.”
His eyes search mine and aft er a beat , he leans forward and t ucks my hair behind my ear. “I
can live wit h t hat .” He kisses me quickly on t he lips. “Not very romant ic, eh?” He raises his
eyebrows, and I give him an admonishing shake of my head. “Heart s and flowers?” he asks
soft ly.
I nod and he gives me a slight smile.
“You’re hungry?”
“Yes.”
“You didn’t eat .” His eyes frost and his jaw hardens.
“No, I didn’t eat .” I sit back on my heels and regard him passively. “Being t hrown out of my
apart ment aft er wit nessing my boyfriend int eract ing int imat ely wit h his ex-submissive
considerably suppressed my appet it e.” I glare at him and fist my hands on my hips.
Christ ian shakes his head and rises gracefully t o his feet . Oh, finally we can get off the floor. He
holds his hand out t o me.
“Let me fix you somet hing t o eat ,” he says.
“Can’t I just go t o bed?” I mut t er wearily as I place my hand in his.
He pulls me up. I am st iff. He gazes down at me, his expression soft .
“No, you need t o eat . Come.” Bossy Christ ian is back, and it ’s a relief.
He leads me t o t he kit chen area and ushers me t oward a bar st ool as he heads t o t he fridge. I
glance at my wat ch. Jeez, nearly eleven t hirt y and I have t o get up for work in t he morning.
“Christ ian, I’m really not hungry.”
He st udiously ignores me as he ferret s t hrough t he enormous fridge. “Cheese?” he asks.“Not
at t his hour.”
“Pret zels?”
“In t he fridge? No,” I snap.
He t urns and grins at me. “You don’t like pret zels?”
“Not at eleven t hirt y. Christ ian, I’m going t o bed. You can rummage around in your refrigerat or
for t he rest of t he night if you want . I’m t ired, and I’ve had far t oo int erest ing a day. A day I’d like
t o forget .” I slide off t he st ool and he scowls at me, but right now I don’t care. I want t o go t o
bed—I’m exhaust ed.
“Macaroni and cheese?” He holds up a whit e bowl lidded wit h foil. He looks so hopeful and
endearing.
“You like macaroni and cheese?” I ask.
He nods ent husiast ically, and my heart melt s. He looks so young all of a sudden. Who would
have t hought ? Christ ian Grey likes nursery food.
“You want some?” he asks, sounding hopeful. I can’t resist him and I’m hungry.
I nod and give him a weak smile. His answering grin is breat ht aking. He t akes t he foil off t he
bowl and pops it int o t he microwave. I perch back on t he st ool and wat ch t he beaut y t hat is Mr.
Christ ian Grey—t he man who want s t o marry me—move gracefully and wit h ease around his
kit chen.
“So you know how t o use t he microwave t hen?” I t ease soft ly.
“If it ’s in a packet , I can usually do somet hing wit h it . It ’s real food I have a problem wit h.”
I cannot believe t his is t he same man who was on his knees in front of me not half an hour
before. He’s his usual mercurial self. He set s out plat es, cut lery, and placemat s on t he
breakfast bar.
“It ’s very lat e,” I mut t er.
“Don’t go t o work t omorrow.”
“I have t o go t o work t omorrow. My boss is leaving for New York.” Christ ian frowns. “Do you
want t o go t here t his weekend?”
“I checked t he weat her forecast , and it looks like rain,” I say, shaking my head.
“Oh, so what do you want t o do?”
The microwave’s ping announces t hat our supper is warmed t hrough.
“I just want t o get t hrough one day at a t ime at t he moment . All t his excit ement is . . .
t iring.” I raise an eyebrow at him, which he judiciously ignores.
Christ ian places t he whit e bowl in bet ween our place set t ings and t akes his seat beside me.
He looks deep in t hought , dist ract ed. I dish t he macaroni ont o our plat es. It smells divine, and
my mout h wat ers in ant icipat ion. I am famished.
“Sorry about Leila,” he murmurs.
“Why are you sorry?” Mmm, t he macaroni t ast es as good as it smells. My st omach grumbles
grat efully.
“It must have been a t errible shock for you, finding her in your apart ment . Taylor swept it earlier
himself. He’s very upset .”
“I don’t blame Taylor.”
“Neit her do I. He’s been out looking for you.”
“Really? Why?”
“I didn’t know where you were. You left your purse, your phone. I couldn’t even t rack you.
Where did you go?” he asks. His voice is soft , but t here’s an ominous undercurrent t o his
words.
“Et han and I just went t o a bar across t he st reet . So I could wat ch what was happening.”
“I see.” The at mosphere bet ween us has changed subt ly. It ’s no longer light .
Okay, well . . . two can play that game. Let’s just bring this back to you, Fifty. Trying t o sound
nonchalant , want ing t o assuage my burning curiosit y but dreading t he answer, I ask,
“So what did you do wit h Leila in t he apart ment ?”
I glance up at him, and he freezes wit h his forkful of macaroni suspended in midair.
Oh no, that’s not good.
“You really want t o know?”
A knot t ight ens in my gut and my appet it e vanishes. “Yes,” I whisper. Do you? Do you really?
My subconscious has t hrown her empt y bot t le of gin on t he floor and is sit t ing up in her
armchair, glaring at me in horror.
Christ ian’s mout h flat t ens int o a line, and he hesit at es. “We t alked, and I gave her a bat h.” His
voice is hoarse, and he cont inues quickly when I make no response. “And I dressed her in some
of your clot hes. I hope you don’t mind. But she was filt hy.” Holy fuck. He bat hed her?
What an inappropriat e t hing t o do. I’m reeling, st aring down at my uneat en macaroni.
The sight of it now makes me nauseous.
Try t o rat ionalize t his, my subconscious coaches. That cool, int ellect ual part of my brain knows
t hat he just did t hat because she was dirt y, but it ’s t oo hard. My fragile jealous self can’t bear it .
Suddenly I want t o cry—not succumb t o ladylike t ears t hat t rickle decorously down my cheeks,
but howling at t he moon crying. I t ake a deep breat h t o suppress t he urge, but my t hroat is arid
and uncomfort able from my unshed t ears and sobs.
“It was all I could do, Ana,” he says soft ly.
“You st ill have feelings for her?”
“No!” he says, appalled, and closes his eyes, his expression one of anguish. I t urn away, st aring
once more at my nauseat ing food. I can’t bear t o look at him.
“To see her like t hat —so different , so broken. I care about her, one human being t o anot her.”
He shrugs as if t o shake off an unpleasant memory. Jeez, is he expect ing my sympat hy?
“Ana, look at me.”
I can’t . I know t hat if I do, I will burst int o t ears. This is just t oo much t o absorb. I’m like an
overflowing t ank of gasoline—full, beyond capacit y. There is no room for any more. I simply
cannot cope wit h any more crap. I will combust and explode, and it will be ugly if I t ry. Jeez!
Christ ian caring for his ex-sub in such an int imat e fashion—t he image flashes t hrough my
brain. Bat hing her, for fuck’s sake—naked. A harsh, painful shudder wracks my body.
“Ana.”
“What ?”
“Don’t . It doesn’t mean anyt hing. It was like caring for a child, a broken, shat t ered child,” he
mut t ers.
What t he hell would he know about caring for a child? This was a woman he had a very full-on,
deviant sexual relat ionship wit h.
Oh, this hurts. I t ake a deep, st eadying breat h. Or perhaps he’s referring t o himself.
He’s t he broken child. That makes more sense . . . or maybe it makes no sense at all. Oh, t his is
so fucked-up, and suddenly I’m bone crushingly t ired. I need sleep.
“Ana?”
I st and, t ake my plat e t o t he sink, and scrape t he cont ent s int o t he t rash.
“Ana, please.”
I whirl around and face him. “Just st op, Christ ian! Just st op wit h t he ‘Ana, please’!” I shout at
him, and my t ears st art t o t rickle down my face. “I’ve had enough of all t his shit t oday. I am
going t o bed. I am t ired and emot ional. Now let me be.” I t urn on my heel and pract ically run t o
t he bedroom, t aking wit h me t he memory of his wide-eyed, shocked st are. Nice t o know I can
shock him, t oo. I st rip out of my clot hes in double-quick t ime, and aft er rifling t hrough his chest
of drawers, drag on one of his T-shirt s and head for t he bat hroom.
I gaze at myself in t he mirror, hardly recognizing t he gaunt , pink-eyed, blot chy-cheeked
harridan st aring back at me, and it ’s t oo much. I sink t o t he floor and surrender t o t he
overwhelming emot ion I can no longer cont ain, sobbing huge chest -wrenching sobs, finally
let t ing my t ears flow unrest rained.
“Hey,” Christ ian’s says gent ly as he pulls me int o his arms, “please don’t cry, Ana, please,” he
begs. He’s on t he bat hroom floor, and I am in his lap. I put my arms around him and weep int o
his neck. Cooing soft ly int o my hair, he gent ly st rokes my back, my head.
“I’m sorry, baby,” he whispers, and t hat makes me cry harder and hug him t ight er.
We sit like t his forever. Event ually, when I’m all cried out , Christ ian st aggers t o his feet , holding
me, and carries me int o his room where he lays me down in t he bed. In a few moment s, he’s
beside me and t he light s are off. He pulls me int o his arms, hugging me t ight ly, and I finally drift
off int o a dark and t roubled sleep.
I awake wit h a jolt . My head is fuzzy and I’m t oo warm. Christ ian is wrapped around me like a
vine. He grumbles in his sleep as I slip out of his arms, but he doesn’t wake. Sit t ing up I glance
at t he alarm clock. It ’s t hree in t he morning. I need an Advil and a drink. I swing my legs out of
bed and make my way t o t he kit chen in t he great room.
In t he fridge, I find a cart on of orange juice and pour myself a glass. Hmm . . . it ’s delicious, and
my fuzzy head eases immediat ely. I hunt t hrough t he cupboards looking for some painkillers
and event ually come across a plast ic box full of meds. I sink t wo Advil and pour myself anot her
orange juice.
Wandering t o t he great wall of glass, I look out on a sleeping Seat t le. The light s t winkle and
wink beneat h Christ ian’s cast le in t he sky, or should I say fort ress? I press my forehead against
t he cool window—it ’s a relief. I have so much t o t hink about aft er all t he revelat ions of
yest erday. I place my back against t he glass and slide down ont o t he floor. The great room is
cavernous in t he dark, t he only light coming from t he t hree lamps above t he kit chen island.
Could I live here, married t o Christ ian? Aft er all t hat he’s done here? All t he hist ory t his place
holds for him?
Marriage. It ’s almost unbelievable and complet ely unexpect ed. But t hen everyt hing about
Christ ian is unexpect ed. My lips quirk up wit h irony. Christ ian Grey, expect t he unexpect ed—
Fift y Shades of Fucked-Up.
My smile fades. I look like his mot her. This wounds me, deeply, and t he air leaves my lungs in a
rush. We all look like his mom.
How t he hell do I move on from t he disclosure of t hat lit t le secret ? No wonder he didn’t want t o
t ell me. But surely he can’t remember much of his mot her. I wonder once more, if I should t alk t o
Dr. Flynn. Would Christ ian let me? Perhaps he could fill in t he gaps.
I shake my head. I feel world weary, but I’m enjoying t he calm serenit y of t he great room and it s
beaut iful works of art —cold and aust ere, but in t heir own way, st ill beaut iful in t he shadows
and surely wort h a fort une. Could I live here? For bet t er, for worse? In sick-ness and in healt h? I
close my eyes, lean my head back against t he glass, and t ake a deep, cleansing breat h.
The peaceful t ranquilit y is shat t ered by a visceral, primeval cry t hat makes every single hair on
my body st and t o at t ent ion. Christian! Holy fuck—what’s happened? I am on my feet , running
back t o t he bedroom before t he echoes of t hat horrible sound have died away, my heart
t humping wit h fear.
I flip one of t he light swit ches, and Christ ian’s bedside light comes t o life. He’s t ossing and
t urning, writ hing in agony. No! He cries out again, and t he eerie, devast at ing sound lances
t hrough me anew.
Shit —a night mare!
“Christ ian!” I lean over him, grab his shoulders, and shake him awake. He opens his eyes, and
t hey are wild and vacant , scanning quickly round t he empt y room before coming back t o rest
on me.
“You left , you left , you must have left ,” he mumbles—his wide-eyed st are becoming accusat ory
—and he looks so lost , it wrenches at my heart . Poor Fift y.
“I’m here.” I sit down on t he bed beside him. “I’m here,” I murmur soft ly in an effort t o reassure
him. I reach out t o place my palm on t he side of his face, t rying t o soot he him.
“You were gone,” he whispers rapidly. His eyes are st ill wild and fright ened, but he seems t o be
calming.
“I went t o get a drink. I was t hirst y.”
He closes his eyes and rubs his face. When he opens t hem again, he looks so desolat e.
“You’re here. Oh, t hank God.” He reaches for me, and grabbing me t ight ly, he pulls me down on
t he bed beside him.
“I just went for a drink,” I murmur.
Oh, the intensity of his fear . . . I can feel it. His T-shirt is drenched in sweat , and his heart beat is
pounding as he hugs me close. He’s gazing at me as if reassuring himself t hat I am really here. I
gent ly st roke his hair and t hen his cheek.
“Christ ian, please. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere,” I say soot hingly.
“Oh, Ana,” he breat hes. He grasps my chin t o hold me in place, and t hen his mout h is on mine.
Desire sweeps t hrough him, and unbidden my body responds—it ’s so t ied and at t uned t o him.
His lips are at my ear, my t hroat , t hen back at my mout h, his t eet h gent ly pulling at my lower lip,
his hand t raveling up my body from my hip t o my breast , dragging my T-shirt up. Caressing me,
feeling his way t hrough t he dips and shallows of my skin, he elicit s t he same familiar react ion,
his t ouch sending shivers t hrough me. I moan as his hand cups my breast and his fingers
t ight en over my nipple.
“I want you,” he murmurs.
“I’m here for you. Only you, Christ ian.”
He groans and kisses me once more, passionat ely, wit h a fervor and desperat ion I’ve not felt
from him before. Grabbing t he hem of his T-shirt , I t ug and he helps me pull it off over his head.
Kneeling bet ween my legs, he hast ily pulls me upright and drags my T-shirt off. His eyes are
serious, want ing, full of dark secret s—exposed. He folds his hands around my face and kisses
me, and we sink down int o t he bed once more, his t high bet ween bot h of mine so t hat he’s
half-lying on t op of me. His erect ion is rigid against my hip t hrough his boxer briefs. He want s
me, but his words from earlier choose t his moment t o come back and haunt me, what he said
about his mot her. And it ’s like a bucket of cold wat er on my libido. Fuck. I can’t do t his. Not now.
“Christ ian . . . St op. I can’t do t his,” I whisper urgent ly against his mout h, my hands pushing on
his upper arms.
“What ? What ’s wrong?” he murmurs and st art s kissing my neck, running t he t ip of his t ongue
light ly down my t hroat . Oh . . .
“No, please. I can’t do t his, not now. I need some t ime, please.”
“Oh, Ana, don’t overt hink t his,” he whispers as he nips my earlobe.
“Ah!” I gasp, feeling it in my groin, and my body bows, bet raying me. This is so confusing.
“I am just t he same, Ana. I love you and I need you. Touch me. Please.” He rubs his nose
against mine, and his quiet heart felt plea moves me and I melt .
Touch him. Touch him while we make love. Oh my.
He rears up over me, gazing down, and in t he half-light from t he dimmed bedside light , I can t ell
t hat he’s wait ing, wait ing for my decision, and he’s caught in my spell.
I reach up and t ent at ively place my hand on t he soft pat ch of hair over his st ernum. He gasps
and scrunches his eyes closed as if in pain, but I don’t t ake my hand away t his t ime.
I move it up t o his shoulders, feeling t he t remor run t hrough him. He groans, and I pull him down
t o me and place bot h my hands on his back, where I’ve never t ouched him before, on his
shoulder blades, holding him t o me. His st rangled moan arouses me like not hing else.
He buries his head in my neck, kissing and sucking and bit ing me, before t railing his nose up my
chin and kissing me, his t ongue possessing my mout h, his hands moving over my body once
more. His lips move down . . . down . . . down t o my breast s, worshipping as t hey go, and my
hands st ay on his shoulders and his back, enjoying t he flex and ripple of his finely honed
muscles, his skin st ill damp from his night mare. His lips close over my nipple, pulling and t ugging,
so t hat it rises t o greet his glorious skilled mout h.
I groan and run my fingernails across his back. And he gasps, a st rangled moan.
“Oh, fuck, Ana,” he chokes, and it ’s half cry, half groan. It t ears at my heart , but also deep inside
me, t ight ening all t he muscles below my waist . Oh, what I can do t o him! My inner goddess is
writ hing wit h want and I’m pant ing now, mat ching his t ort ured breat hs wit h my own.
His hand t ravels sout h, over my belly, down t o my sex—and his fingers are on me, t hen in me. I
groan as he moves his fingers around inside me, in t hat way, and I push my pelvis up t o
welcome his t ouch.
“Ana,” he breat hes. He suddenly releases me and sit s up; he removes his boxer briefs and
leans over t o t he bedside t able t o grab a foil packet . His eyes are a blazing gray as he passes
me t he condom. “You want t o do t his? You can st ill say no. You can always say no,” he
murmurs.
“Don’t give me a chance t o t hink, Christ ian. I want you, t oo.” I rip t he packet open wit h my t eet h
as he kneels bet ween my legs, and wit h t rembling fingers I slide it on t o him.
“St eady,” he says. “You are going t o unman me, Ana.” I marvel at what I can do t o t his man
wit h my t ouch. He st ret ches out over me, and for now my doubt s are pushed down and locked
away in t he dark, scary dept hs at t he back of my mind. I’m int oxicat ed wit h t his man, my man,
my Fift y Shades. He shift s suddenly, complet ely t aking me by surprise, so I am on t op. Whoa.
“You—t ake me,” he murmurs, his eyes glowing wit h a feral int ensit y.
Oh my, and slowly, oh-so-slowly, I sink down on t o him. He t ilt s his head back and closes his
eyes as he groans. I grab his hands and st art t o move, reveling in t he fullness of my
possession, reveling in his react ion, wat ching him unravel beneat h me. I feel like a goddess. I
lean down and kiss his chin, running my t eet h along his st ubbled jaw. He t ast es delicious. He
clasps my hips and st eadies my rhyt hm, slow and easy.
“Ana, t ouch me . . . please.”
Oh. I lean forward and st eady myself wit h my hands on his chest . And he calls out , his cry
almost a sob, and he t hrust s deep inside me.
“Ahh,” I whimper and run my fingernails gent ly over his chest , t hrough t he hair t here, and he
groans loudly and t wist s abrupt ly so I am once more beneat h him.
“Enough.” He moans. “No more, please.” And it ’s a heart felt plea.
Reaching up, I clasp his face in my hands, feeling t he dampness on his cheeks, and pull him
down t o my lips so t hat I can kiss him. I curl my hands around his back.
He groans deep and low in his t hroat as he moves inside me, pushing me onward and upward,
but I can’t find my release. My head is t oo cloudy, cloudy wit h issues. I am t oo wrapped up in
him.
“Let go, Ana,” he urges me.
“No.”
“Yes,” he snarls. He shift s slight ly and gyrat es his hips, again and again.
Jeez . . . argh!
“Come on baby, I need t his. Give it t o me.”
And I explode, my body a slave t o his, and wrap myself around him, clinging t o him like a vine as
he cries out my name, and climaxes wit h me, t hen collapses, his full weight pressing me int o
t he mat t ress.
I cradle Christ ian in my arms, his head on my chest , as we lie in t he aft erglow of our lovemaking.
I run my fingers t hrough his hair as I list en t o his breat hing ret urn t o normal.
“Don’t ever leave me,” he whispers, and I roll my eyes in t he full knowledge t hat he can’t see
me.
“I know you’re rolling your eyes at me,” he murmurs, and I hear t he t race of humor in his voice.
“You know me well,” I murmur.
“I’d like t o know you bet t er.”
“Back at you, Grey. What was your night mare about ?”
“The usual.”
“Tell me.”
He swallows and t enses before he sighs, a long drawn-out sigh. “I must be about t hree, and
t he crack whore’s pimp is mad as hell again. He smokes and smokes, one cigaret t e aft er
anot her, and he can’t find an asht ray.” He st ops, and I freeze as a creeping chill grips my heart .
“It hurt ,” he says, “It ’s t he pain I remember. That ’s what gives me night mares. That and t he fact
t hat she did not hing t o st op him.”
Oh no. This is unbearable. I t ight en my grip around him, my legs and arms holding him t o me,
and I t ry not t o let my despair choke me. How could anyone t reat a child like t hat ?
He raises his head and pins me wit h his int ense gray gaze.
“You’re not like her. Don’t ever t hink t hat . Please.” I blink back at him. It ’s very reassuring t o
hear. He put s his head on my chest again, and I t hink he’s finished, but he surprises me by
cont inuing.
“Somet imes in t he dreams she’s just lying on t he floor. And I t hink she’s asleep. But she doesn’t
move. She never moves. And I’m hungry. Really hungry.” Oh fuck.
“There’s a loud noise and he’s back, and he hit s me so hard, cursing t he crack whore.
His first react ion was always t o use his fist s or his belt .”
“Is t hat why you don’t like t o be t ouched?”
He closes his eyes and hugs me t ight er. “That ’s complicat ed,” he murmurs. He nuzzles me
bet ween my breast s, inhaling deeply, t rying t o dist ract me.
“Tell me,” I prompt .
He sighs. “She didn’t love me. I didn’t love me. The only t ouch I knew was . . . harsh.
It st emmed from t here. Flynn explains it bet t er t han I can.”
“Can I see Flynn?”
He raises his head t o look at me. “Fift y Shades rubbing off on you?”
“And t hen some. I like how it ’s rubbing off at t he moment .” I wriggle provocat ively underneat h
him and he smiles.
“Yes, Miss St eele, I like t hat , t oo.” He leans up and kisses me. He gazes at me for a moment .
“You are so precious t o me, Ana. I was serious about marrying you. We can get t o know each
ot her t hen. I can look aft er you. You can look aft er me. We can have kids if you want .
I will lay my world at your feet , Anast asia. I want you, body and soul, forever. Please t hink about
it .”
“I will t hink about it , Christ ian. I will,” I reassure him, reeling once more. Kids? Jeez.
“I’d really like t o t alk t o Dr. Flynn, t hough, if you don’t mind.”
“Anyt hing for you, baby. Anyt hing. When would you like t o see him?”
“Sooner rat her t han lat er.”
“Okay. I’ll make t he arrangement s in t he morning.” He glances at t he clock. “It ’s lat e.
We should sleep.” He shift s t o swit ch off his bedside light and pulls me against him.
I glance at t he alarm clock. Crap, it ’s t hree fort y-five.
He curls his arms around me, his front t o my back, and nuzzles my neck. “I love you, Ana St eele,
and I want you by my side, always,” he murmurs as he kisses my neck. “Now go t o sleep.”
I close my eyes.
Reluct ant ly, I open my heavy eyelids and bright light fills t he room. I groan. I feel cloudy,
disconnect ed from my leaden limbs, and Christ ian is wrapped around me like ivy.
I’m t oo warm as per usual. Surely it ’s just five in t he morning. The alarm has not gone off yet . I
st ret ch out t o free myself from his heat , t urning in his arms, and he mumbles somet hing
unint elligible in his sleep. I glance at t he clock. Eight fort y-five.
Shit , I’m going t o be lat e. Fuck. I scramble out of bed and dash t o t he bat hroom. I am showered
and out wit hin four minut es.
Christ ian sit s up in bed wat ching me wit h ill-concealed amusement coupled wit h wari-ness as I
cont inue t o dry myself while gat hering my clot hes. Perhaps he’s wait ing for me t o react t o
yest erday’s revelat ions. Right now, I just don’t have t ime.
I check my clot hes—black slacks, black shirt —all a bit Mrs. R, but I don’t have a second t o
change my mind. I hast ily don black bra and pant ies, conscious t hat he’s wat ching my every
move. It ’s . . . unnerving. The pant ies and bra will do.
“You look good,” Christ ian purrs from t he bed. “You can call in sick, you know.” He gives me his
devast at ing, lopsided, one hundred and fift y percent pant y-bust ing smile. Oh, he’s so t empt ing.
My inner goddess pout s provocat ively at me.
“No, Christ ian, I can’t . I am not a megalomaniac CEO wit h a beaut iful smile who can come and
go as he pleases.”
“I like t o come as I please.” He smirks and cranks his glorious smile up anot her not ch so it ’s in
full Hd imax.
“Christ ian!” I scold. I t hrow my t owel at him and he laughs.
“Beaut iful smile, huh?”
“Yes. You know t he effect you have on me.” I put on my wat ch.
“Do I?” he blinks innocent ly.
“Yes, you do. The same effect you have on all women. Get s really t iresome wat ching t hem all
swoon.”
“Does it ?” He cocks his eyebrow at me, more amused.
“Don’t play t he innocent , Mr. Grey, it really doesn’t suit you,” I mut t er dist ract edly as I scoop my
hair int o a ponyt ail and pull on my black high-heeled shoes. There, t hat will do.
When I bend t o kiss him good-bye, he grabs me and pulls me down ont o t he bed, leaning over
me and smiling from ear t o ear. Oh my. He’s so beaut iful—eyes bright wit h mischief, floppy just -
fucked-again hair, t hat dazzling smile. Now he’s playful.
I’m t ired, st ill reeling from all t he disclosures of yest erday, while he’s bright as a but t on and sexy
as fuck. Oh, exasperat ing Fift y.
“What can I do t o t empt you t o st ay?” he says soft ly, and my heart skips a beat and begins t o
pound. He is t empt at ion personified.
“You can’t ,” I grumble, st ruggling t o sit back up. “Let me go.” He pout s and I give up. Grinning, I
t race my fingers over his sculpt ured lips—my Fift y Shades. I love him so in all his monument al
fuckedupness. I haven’t even begun t o process yest erday’s event s and how I feel about t hem.
I lean up t o kiss him, t hankful t hat I have brushed my t eet h. He kisses me long and hard and
t hen swift ly set s me on my feet , leaving me dazed, breat hless, and slight ly wobbly.
“Taylor will t ake you. Quicker t han finding somewhere t o park. He’s wait ing out side t he
building,” Christ ian says kindly, and he seems relieved. Is he worried about my react ion t his
morning? Surely last night —er, t his morning—proved t hat I am not going t o run.
“Okay. Thank you,” I mut t er, disappoint ed t hat I am upright on my feet , confused by his
hesit ancy, and vaguely irrit at ed t hat once again I won’t be driving my Saab. But he’s right , of
course—it will be quicker wit h Taylor.
“Enjoy your lazy morning, Mr. Grey. I wish I could st ay, but t he man who owns t he company I
work for would not approve of his st aff dit ching just for hot sex.” I grab my purse.
“Personally, Miss St eele, I have no doubt t hat he would approve. In fact he might insist on it .”
“Why are you st aying in bed? It ’s not like you.”
He folds his hands behind his head and grins at me.
“Because I can, Miss St eele.”
I shake my head at him. “Lat ers, baby.” I blow him a kiss, and I am out of t he door.
Taylor is wait ing for me, and he seems t o underst and t hat I am lat e because he drives like a
bat out of hell t o get me t o work by nine fift een. I am grat eful when he pulls up at t he curb—
grat eful t o be alive–his driving was scary. And grat eful t hat I am not hideously lat e—only
fift een minut es.
“Thank you, Taylor,” I mut t er, ashen-faced. I remember Christ ian t elling me he drove t anks;
maybe he drives for nascar, t oo.
“Ana.” He nods a farewell, and I dash int o my office, realizing as I open t he door t o recept ion
t hat Taylor seems t o have overcome t he Miss St eele formalit y. It makes me smile.
Claire grins at me as I rush t hrough recept ion and make my way t o my desk.
“Ana!” Jack calls me. “Get in here.”
Oh shit.
“What t ime do you call t his?” he snaps.
“I’m sorry. I overslept .” I flush crimson.
“Don’t let it happen again. Fix me some coffee, and t hen I need you t o do some let t ers.
Jump t o it ,” he shout s, making me flinch.
Why’s he so mad? What ’s his problem? What have I done? I hurry t o t he kit chen t o fix his
coffee. Maybe I should have dit ched. I could be . . . well, doing somet hing hot wit h Christ ian, or
having breakfast wit h him, or just t alking—t hat would be novel.
Jack barely acknowledges my presence when I vent ure back int o his office t o deliver his coffee.
He t hrust s a sheet of paper at me—it ’s handwrit t en in a barely legible scrawl.
“Type t his up, have me sign, t hen copy and mail it t o all our aut hors.”
“Yes, Jack.”
He doesn’t look up as I leave. Boy, is he mad.
It is wit h some relief t hat I finally sit down at my desk. I t ake a sip of t ea as I wait for my
comput er t o boot up. I check my e-mails.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Missing you
Dat e: June 15, 2011 09:05
To: Anast asia St eele
Please use your Blackberry.
x
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : All Right for Some
Dat e: June 15, 2011 09:27
To: Christ ian Grey
My boss is mad.
I blame you for keeping me up lat e wit h your . . . shenanigans.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Shenaniwhat agans?
Dat e: June 15, 2011 09:32
To: Anast asia St eele
You don’t have t o work, Anast asia.
You have no idea how appalled I am at my shenanigans.
But I like keeping you up lat e ;)
Please use your Blackberry.
Oh, and marry me, please.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Living t o make
Dat e: June 15, 2011 09:35
To: Christ ian Grey
I know your nat ural inclinat ion is t oward nagging, but just st op.
I need t o t alk t o your shrink.
Only t hen will I give you my answer.
I am not opposed t o living in sin.
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : BLACKBERRY
Dat e: June 15, 2011 09:40
To: Anast asia St eele
Anast asia, if you are going t o st art discussing Dr. Flynn t hen USE YOUR BLACKBERRY.
This is not a request .
Christ ian Grey,
Now Pissed CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
Oh shit . Now he’s mad at me, t oo. Well, he can st ew for all I care. I t ake my Blackberry out of my
purse and eye it wit h skept icism. As I do, it st art s ringing. Can’t he leave me alone?
“Yes,” I snap.
“Ana, hi—”
“José! How are you?” Oh, it ’s good t o hear his voice.
“I’m fine, Ana. Look, are you st ill seeing t hat Grey guy?”
“Er—yes . . . Why?” Where is he going wit h t his?
“Well, he’s bought all your phot os, and I t hought I could deliver t hem up t o Seat t le.
The exhibit ion closes Thursday, so I could bring t hem up Friday evening and drop t hem off, you
know. And maybe we could cat ch a drink or somet hing. Act ually, I was hoping for a place t o
crash, t oo.”
“José, t hat ’s cool. Yeah, I’m sure we could work somet hing out . Let me t alk t o Christ ian and call
you back, okay?”
“Cool, I’ll wait t o hear from you. Bye, Ana.”
“Bye.” And he’s gone.
Holy cow. I haven’t seen or heard from José since his show. I didn’t even ask him how it went or
if he sold any more pict ures. Some friend I am.
So, I could spend t he evening wit h José on Friday. How will Christ ian like t hat ? I become aware
t hat I am bit ing my lip t ill it hurt s. Oh, t hat man has double st andards. He can—I shudder at t he
t hought —bat he his bat shit ex-lover, but I will probably get a t ruck-load of grief for want ing t o
have a drink wit h José. How am I going t o handle t his?
“Ana!” Jack pulls me abrupt ly out of my reverie. Is he st ill mad? “Where’s t hat let t er?”
“Er—coming.” Shit . What is eat ing him?
I t ype up his let t er in double-quick t ime, print it out , and nervously make my way int o his office.
“Here you go.” I place it on his desk and t urn t o leave. Jack quickly cast s his crit ical, piercing,
eyes over it .
“I don’t know what you’re doing out t here, but I pay you t o work,” he barks.
“I’m aware of t hat , Jack,” I mut t er apologet ically. I feel a slow flush creep up my skin.
“This is full of mist akes,” he snaps. “Do it again.” Fuck. He’s beginning t o sound like someone I
know, but rudeness from Christ ian I can t olerat e. Jack is beginning t o piss me off.
“And get me anot her coffee while you’re at it .”
“Sorry,” I whisper and scurry out of his office as quickly as I can.
Holy fuck. He’s being unbearable. I sit back down at my desk, hast ily redo his let t er, which had
t wo mist akes in it , and check it t horoughly before print ing. Now it ’s perfect . I fet ch him anot her
coffee, let t ing Claire know wit h a roll of my eyes t hat I am in deep doo-doo. Taking a deep
breat h, I approach his office again.
“Bet t er,” he mumbles reluct ant ly as he signs t he let t er. “Phot ocopy it , file t he original, and mail
out t o all aut hors. Underst and?”
“Yes.” I am not an idiot . “Jack, is t here somet hing wrong?” He glances up, his blue eyes
darkening as his gaze runs up and down my body. My blood chills.
“No.” His answer is concise, rude, and dismissive. I st and t here like t he idiot I professed not t o
be and t hen shuffle back out of his office. Perhaps he t oo suffers from a personalit y disorder.
Sheesh, I’m surrounded by t hem. I make my way t o t he phot ocopier—which of course is
suffering from a paper jam—and when I’ve fixed it , I find it ’s out of paper. This is not my day.
When I am finally back at my desk, st uffing envelopes, my Blackberry buzzes. I can see t hrough
t he glass wall t hat Jack is on t he phone. I answer—it ’s Et han.
“Hi, Ana. How’d it go last night ?”
Last night . A quick mont age of images flashes t hrough my mind—Christ ian kneeling, his
revelat ion, his proposal, macaroni and cheese, my weeping, his night mare, the sex, t ouching him
. . .
“Eh . . . fine,” I mut t er unconvincingly.
Et han pauses and decides t o collude in my denial. “Cool. Can I collect t he keys?”
“Sure.”
“I’ll be over in about half an hour. Will you have t ime t o grab a coffee?”
“Not t oday. I was lat e get t ing in, and my boss is like an angry bear wit h a sore head and poison
ivy up his ass.”
“Sounds nast y.”
“Nast y and ugly.” I giggle.
Et han laughs and my mood lift s a lit t le. “Okay. See you in t hirt y.” He hangs up.
I glance up at Jack and he’s st aring at me. Oh shit . I st udiously ignore him and cont inue t o st uff
envelopes.
Half an hour lat er my phone buzzes. It ’s Claire. “He’s here again, in recept ion. The blond god.”
Et han is a joy t o see aft er all t he angst of yest erday and t he bad t emper my boss is inflict ing
on me t oday, but all t oo soon, he’s saying his good-byes.
“Will I see you t his evening?”
“I’ll probably st ay wit h Christ ian.” I flush.
“You have got it bad,” Et han observes good-nat uredly.
I shrug. That ’s not t he half of it , and in t hat moment I realize, I have it more t han bad.
I have it for life. And amazingly, Christ ian seems t o feel t he same. Et han gives me a swift
hug.“Lat ers, Ana.”
I ret urn t o my desk, wrest ling wit h my realizat ion. Oh, what I would do for a day on my own, t o
just t hink all t his t hrough.
“Where have you been?” Jack is suddenly looming over me.
“I had some business t o at t end t o in recept ion.” He is really get t ing on my nerves.
“I want my lunch. The usual,” he says abrupt ly and st omps back int o his office.
Why didn’t I stay home with Christian? My inner goddess crosses her arms and purses her lips;
she want s t o know t he answer t o t hat one, t oo. Picking up my purse and my Blackberry, I head
for t he door. I check my messages.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Missing you
Dat e: June 15, 2011 09:06
To: Anast asia St eele
My bed is t oo big wit hout you.
Looks like I’ll have t o go t o work aft er all.
Even megalomaniac CEOs need somet hing t o do.
x
Christ ian Grey
Twiddling His Thumbs CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
And t here’s anot her from him, from earlier t his morning.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Discret ion
Dat e: June 15, 2011 09:50
To: Anast asia St eele
Is t he bet t er part of valor.
Please use discret ion . . . your work e-mails are monit ored.
HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU THIS?
Yes. Shout y capit als as you say. USE YOUR BLACKBERRY.
Dr. Flynn can see us t omorrow evening.
x
Christ ian Grey
St ill Pissed CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
And an even lat er one . . . Oh no.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Cricket s
Dat e: June 15, 2011 12:15
To: Anast asia St eele
I haven’t heard from you.
Please t ell me you are okay.
You know how I worry.
I will send Taylor t o check!
x
Christ ian Grey,
Over-Anxious CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I roll my eyes, and call him. I don’t want him t o worry.
“Christ ian Grey’s phone, Andrea Parker speaking.”
Oh. I am so disconcert ed t hat it ’s not Christ ian who answers t hat it halt s me in t he st reet , and
t he young man behind me mut t ers angrily as he swerves t o avoid bumping int o me. I st and
under t he green awning of t he deli.
“Hello? Can I help you?” Andrea fills t he void of awkward silence.
“Sorry . . . Er . . . I was hoping t o speak t o Christ ian—”
“Mr. Grey is in a meet ing at t he moment .” She brist les wit h efficiency. “Can I t ake a message?”
“Can you t ell him Ana called?”
“Ana? As in Anast asia St eele?”
“Er . . . Yes.” Her quest ion confuses me.
“Hold one second please, Miss St eele.”
I list en at t ent ively as she put s t he phone down, but I can’t t ell what ’s going on. A few seconds
lat er Christ ian is on t he line. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
I hear t he quick release of his held breat h. He’s relieved.
“Christ ian, why wouldn’t I be okay?” I whisper reassuringly.
“You’re normally so quick at responding t o my e-mails. Aft er what I t old you yest erday, I was
worried,” he says quiet ly, and t hen he’s t alking t o someone in his office.
“No, Andrea. Tell t hem t o wait ,” he says st ernly. Oh, I know t hat t one of voice.
I can’t hear Andrea’s response.
“No. I said wait ,” he snaps.
“Christ ian, you’re obviously busy. I only called t o let you know t hat I’m okay, and I mean t hat —
just very busy t oday. Jack has been cracking t he whip. Er . . . I mean . . .” I flush and fall silent .
Christ ian says not hing for a moment .
“Cracking t he whip, eh? Well, t here was a t ime when I would have called him a lucky man.” His
voice is full of dry humor. “Don’t let him get on t op of you, baby.”
“Christ ian!” I scold him and I know he’s grinning.
“Just wat ch him, t hat ’s all. Look, I’m glad you’re okay. What t ime shall I collect you?”
“I’ll e-mail you.”
“From your Blackberry,” he says st ernly.
“Yes, Sir,” I snap back.
“Lat ers, baby.”
“Bye . . .”
He’s st ill hanging on.
“Hang up,” I scold, smiling.
He sighs heavily down t he phone. “I wish you’d never gone t o work t his morning.”
“Me, t oo. But I am busy. Hang up.”
“You hang up.” I hear his smile. Oh, playful Christ ian. I love playful Christ ian.
Hmm . . . I love Christ ian, period.
“We’ve been here before.”
“You’re bit ing your lip.”
Shit , he’s right . How does he know?
“You see, you t hink I don’t know you, Anast asia. But I know you bet t er t han you t hink,” he
murmurs seduct ively in t hat way t hat makes me weak, and wet .
“Christ ian, I’ll t alk t o you lat er. Right now, I really wish I hadn’t left t his morning, t oo.”
“I’ll wait for your e-mail, Miss St eele.”
“Good day, Mr. Grey.”
Hanging up, I lean against t he cold, hard glass of t he deli st ore window. Oh my, even on t he
phone he owns me. Shaking my head t o clear it of all t hought s Grey, I head int o t he deli,
depressed by all t hought s Jack.
He is scowling when I get back.
“Is it okay if I t ake my lunch now?” I ask t ent at ively. He gazes up at me and his scowl deepens.
“If you must ,” he snaps. “Fort y-five minut es. Make up t he t ime you lost t his morning.”
“Jack, can I ask you somet hing?”
“What ?”
“You seem, kind of out of sort s t oday. Have I done somet hing t o offend you?” He blinks at me
moment arily. “I don’t t hink I’m in t he mood t o list your misdemeanors right now. I’m busy.” He
cont inues t o st are at his comput er screen, effect ively dismissing me. Whoa . . . What have I
done?
I t urn and leave his office, and for a moment I t hink I’m going t o cry. Why has he t aken such a
sudden and int ense dislike t o me? A very unwelcome idea pops int o my head, but I ignore it . I
don’t need his shit right now—I have enough of my own.
I head out of t he building t o t he nearby St arbucks, order a lat t e, and sit down in t he window.
Taking my iPod from my purse, I plug my headphones in. I choose a song haphazardly and
press repeat so it will play over and over again. I need music t o t hink by.
My mind drift s. Christ ian t he sadist . Christ ian t he submissive. Christ ian t he unt ouch-able.
Christ ian’s oedipal impulses. Christ ian bat hing Leila. I groan and close my eyes while t hat last
image haunt s me.
Can I really marry t his man? He’s so much t o t ake in. He’s complex and difficult , but deep down
I know I don’t want t o leave him despit e all his issues. I could never leave him.
I love him. It would be like cut t ing off my right arm.
Right now, I have never felt so alive, so vit al. I’ve encount ered all manner of perplex-ing,
profound feelings and new experiences since I met him. It ’s never a dull moment wit h Fift y.
Looking back on my life before Christ ian, it ’s as if everyt hing was in black and whit e like José’s
pict ures. Now my whole world is in rich, bright , sat urat ed color. I am soaring in a beam of
dazzling light , Christ ian’s dazzling light . I am st ill Icarus, flying t oo close t o his sun. I snort t o
myself. Flying wit h Christ ian—who can resist a man who can fly?
Can I give him up? Do I want t o give him up? It ’s as if he’s flipped a swit ch and lit me up from
wit hin. It ’s been an educat ion knowing him. I have discovered more about myself in t he last few
weeks t han ever before. I’ve learned about my body, my hard limit s, my soft limit s, my t olerance,
my pat ience, my compassion, and my capacit y for love.
And it st rikes me like a t hunderbolt —t hat ’s what he needs from me, what he’s ent it led t o—
uncondit ional love. He never received it from t he crack whore—it ’s what he needs.
Can I love him uncondit ionally? Can I accept him for who he is regardless of his revelat ions last
night ?
I know he’s damaged, but I don’t t hink he’s irredeemable. I sigh, recalling Taylor’s words. “ He’s a
good man, Miss Steele. ”
I’ve seen t he weight y evidence of his goodness—his charit y work, his business et hics, his
generosit y—and yet he doesn’t see it in himself. He doesn’t feel deserving of any love.
Given his hist ory and his predilect ions, I have an inkling of his self-loat hing—t hat ’s why he’s
never let anyone in. Can I get past this?
He said once t hat I couldn’t begin t o underst and t he dept hs of his depravit y. Well, he’s t old me
now, and given t he first few years of his life, it doesn’t surprise me. Though it was st ill a shock
t o hear it out loud. At least he’s t old me—and he seems happier now t hat he has. I know
everyt hing.
Does it devalue his love for me? No, I don’t t hink so. He’s never felt t his way before and neit her
have I. In t rut h we’ve bot h come so far.
Tears prick and pool in my eyes as I recall his final barriers crumbling last night when he let me
t ouch him. Jeez, it t ook Leila and all her crazy t o get us t o t here.
Perhaps I should be grat eful. The fact t hat he bat hed her is not quit e such a bit t er t ast e on my
t ongue now. I wonder which clot hes he gave her. I hope it wasn’t t he plum dress. I liked t hat .
So can I love t his man wit h all his issues uncondit ionally? Because he deserves not hing less.
He st ill needs t o learn boundaries and lit t le t hings like empat hy, and t o be less cont rolling. He
says he no longer feels t he compulsion t o hurt me; perhaps Dr. Flynn will be able t o cast some
light on t hat .
Fundament ally, t hat ’s what concerns me most —t hat he needs t hat and has always found like-
minded women who need it , t oo. I frown. Yes, t his is t he reassurance I need. I want t o be all
t hings t o t his man, his Alpha and his Omega and all t hings in bet ween because he is t o me.
I hope Flynn will have t he answers, and maybe t hen I can say yes. Christ ian and I can find our
own slice of heaven close t o t he sun.
I gaze out at bust ling, luncht ime Seat t le. Mrs. Christ ian Grey—who would have t hought ? I
glance at my wat ch. Shit! I leap up from my seat and dash t o t he door—a whole hour of just
sit t ing—where did t he t ime go? Jack is going t o go ballist ic!
I slink back t o my desk. Fort unat ely, he’s not in his office. It looks like I’ve got away wit h it . I gaze
int ent ly at my comput er screen, unseeing, t rying t o reassemble my t hought s int o work mode.
“Where were you?”
I jump. Jack is st anding, arms folded, behind me.
“I was in t he basement , phot ocopying,” I lie. Jack lips press int o a t hin, uncompromising line.
“I’m leaving for my plane at six t hirt y. I need you t o st ay unt il t hen.”
“Okay.” I smile as sweet ly as I can manage.
“I’d like my it inerary for New York print ed out and phot ocopied t en t imes. And get t he
brochures packaged up. And get me some coffee!” he snarls and st alks int o his office.
I breat he a sigh of relief and st ick my t ongue out at him as he closes t he door. Bast ard.
At four o’clock, Claire rings from recept ion.
“I have Mia Grey for you.”
Mia? I hope she doesn’t want t o hang at t he mall.
“Hi, Mia!”
“Ana, hi. How are you?” Her excit ement is st ifling.
“Good. Busy t oday. You?”
“I am so bored! I need t o find somet hing t o do, so I’m arranging a birt hday part y for Christ ian.”
Christ ian’s birt hday? Jeez, I had no idea. “When is it ?”
“I knew it . I knew he wouldn’t t ell you. It ’s on Sat urday. Mom and Dad want everyone over for a
meal t o celebrat e. I’m officially invit ing you.”
“Oh, t hat ’s lovely. Thank you, Mia.”
“I’ve already called Christ ian and t old him, and he gave me your number here.”
“Cool.” My mind is in a flat spin—what t he hell am I going t o get Christ ian for his birt hday?
What do you buy t he man who has everyt hing?
“And maybe next week, we can go out one luncht ime?”
“Sure. How about t omorrow? My boss is away in New York.”
“Oh, t hat would be cool, Ana. What t ime?”
“Say, t welve fort y-five?”
“I’ll be t here. Bye, Ana.”
“Bye.” I hang up.
Christ ian. Birt hday. What on eart h should I get him?
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Ant ediluvian
Dat e: June 15, 2011 16:11
To: Christ ian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
When, exact ly, were you going t o t ell me?
What shall I get my old man for his birt hday?
Perhaps some new bat t eries for his hearing aid?
A x
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Prehist oric
Dat e: June 15, 2011 16:20
To: Anast asia St eele
Don’t mock t he elderly.
Glad you are alive and kicking.
And t hat Mia has been in t ouch.
Bat t eries are always useful.
I don’t like celebrat ing my birt hday.
x
Christ ian Grey,
Deaf as a Post CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Hmmm.
Dat e: June 15, 2011 16:24
To: Christ ian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
I can imagine you pout ing as you wrot e t hat last sent ence.
That does t hings t o me.
A xox
Anast asia St eele
Assist ant t o Jack Hyde, Commissioning Edit or, SIP
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Rolling Eyes
Dat e: June 15, 2011 16:29
To: Anast asia St eele
Miss St eele
WILL YOU USE YOUR BLACKBERRY!!!
x
Christ ian Grey
Twit chy Palmed, CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I roll my eyes. Why is he so t ouchy about e-mails?
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Inspirat ion
Dat e: June 15, 2011 16:33
To: Christ ian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
Ah . . . your t wit chy palms can’t st ay st ill for long, can t hey?
I wonder what Dr. Flynn would say about t hat ?
But now I know what t o give you for your birt hday—and I hope it makes me sore . . .
;)
A x
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Angina
Dat e: June 15, 2011 16:38
To: Anast asia St eele
Miss St eele
I don’t t hink my heart could st and t he st rain of anot her e-mail like t hat , or my pant s for t hat
mat t er.
Behave.
x
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Trying
Dat e: June 15, 2011 16:42
To: Christ ian Grey
Christ ian
I am t rying t o work for my very t rying boss.
Please st op bot hering me and being t rying yourself.
Your last e-mail nearly made me combust .
xPS: Can you collect me at 6:30?
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : I’ll Be There
Dat e: June 15, 2011 16:38
To: Anast asia St eele
Not hing would give me great er pleasure.
Act ually, I can t hink of any of number of t hings t hat would give me great er pleasure, and t hey
all involve you.
x
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I flush reading his response and shake my head. E-mail bant er is all well and good, but we really
need t o t alk. Perhaps once we’ve seen Flynn. I put my Blackberry down and finish my pet t y
cash reconciliat ion.
By six fift een, t he office is desert ed. I have everyt hing ready for Jack. His cab t o t he airport is
booked, and I just have t o hand him his document s. I glance anxiously t hrough t he glass, but
he’s st ill deep in his t elephone call, and I don’t want t o int errupt him—not in t he mood he’s in
t oday.
As I wait for him t o finish, it occurs t o me t hat I have not eat en t oday. Oh shit , t hat ’s not going
t o go down well wit h Fift y. I quickly skip down t o t he kit chen t o see if t here are any cookies left .
As I’m opening t he communal cookie jar, Jack appears unexpect edly in t he kit chen doorway,
st art ling me.
Oh. What’s he doing here?
He st ares at me. “Well, Ana, I t hink t his might be a good t ime t o discuss your misdemeanors.”
He st eps in, closing t he door behind him, and my mout h inst ant ly dries as alarm bells ring loud
and piercing in my head.
Oh fuck.
His lips t wit ch int o a grot esque smile, and his eyes gleam a deep, dark cobalt . “At last , I have
you on your own,” he says, and he slowly licks his lower lip.
What?
“Now . . . are you going t o be a good girl and list en very carefully t o what I say?”
Jack’s eyes flash t he darkest blue, and he sneers as he cast s a leering look down my body.
Fear chokes me. What is t his? What does he want ? From somewhere deep inside and despit e
my dry mout h, I find t he resolve and courage t o squeeze out some words, my self-defense
class keep-t hem-t alking mant ra circling my brain like an et hereal sent inel.
“Jack, now might not be a good t ime for t his. Your cab is due in t en minut es, and I need t o give
you all your document s.” My voice is quiet but hoarse, bet raying me.
He smiles, and it ’s a despot ic fuck-you smile t hat finally t ouches his eyes. They glint in t he
harsh fluorescent glow of t he st rip light above us in t he drab windowless room. He t akes a st ep
t oward me, glaring at me, his eyes never leaving mine. His pupils are dilat ing as I wat ch—t he
black eclipsing t he blue. Oh no. My fear escalat es.
“You know I had t o fight wit h Elizabet h t o give you t his job . . .” His voice t rails off as he t akes
anot her st ep t oward me, and I st ep back against t he dingy wall cupboards. Keep-him-talking,
keep-him-talking, keep-him-talking.
“Jack, what exact ly is your problem? If you want t o air your grievances, t hen perhaps we should
ask HR t o get involved. We could do t his wit h Elizabet h in a more formal set t ing.”Where is
securit y? Are t hey in t he building yet ?
“We don’t need HR t o overmanage t his sit uat ion Ana,” he sneers. “When I hired you, I t hought
you would be a hard worker. I t hought you had pot ent ial. But now, I don’t know.
You’ve become dist ract ed and sloppy. And I wondered . . . is it your boyfriend who’s leading you
ast ray?” He says boyfriend wit h chilling cont empt .
“I decided t o check t hrough your e-mail account t o see if I could find any clues. And you know
what I found, Ana? What was out of place? The only personal e-mails in your account were t o
your hot -shot boyfriend.” He pauses, assessing my react ion. “And I got t o t hinking . . . where
are t he e-mails from him? There are none. Nada. Not hing. So what ’s going on, Ana? How come
his e-mails t o you aren’t on our syst em? Are you some company spy, plant ed in here by Grey’s
organizat ion? Is t hat what t his is?” Holy shit , t he e-mails. Oh no. What have I said?
“Jack, what are you t alking about ?” I t ry for bewildered, and I’m pret t y convincing.
This conversat ion is not going as I expect ed, but I don’t t rust him in t he slight est . Some
subliminal pheromone t hat Jack is exuding has me on high alert . This man is angry, volat ile, and
t ot ally unpredict able. I t ry t o reason wit h him.
“You just said t hat you had t o persuade Elizabet h t o hire me. So how could I be plant ed as a
spy? Make up your mind, Jack.”
“But Grey fucked t he New York t rip, didn’t he?”
Oh shit.
“How did he manage t hat , Ana? What did your rich, Ivy League boyfriend do?” What lit t le blood
remains in my face drains away, and I t hink I’m going t o faint . “I don’t know what you’re t alking
about , Jack,” I whisper. “Your cab will be here short ly.
Shall I fet ch your t hings?” Oh please, let me go. St op t his.
Jack cont inues, enjoying my discomfort . “And he t hinks I’d make a pass at you?” He smirks and
his eyes heat . “Well, I want you t o t hink about somet hing while I’m in New York. I gave you t his
job, and I expect you t o show me some grat it ude. In fact , I’m ent it led t o it . I had t o fight t o get
you. Elizabet h want ed someone bet t er qualified, but I—I saw somet hing in you. So, we need t o
work out a deal. A deal where you keep me happy. D’you underst and what I’m saying, Ana?”
Fuck!
“Look at it as refining your job descript ion, if you like. And if you keep me happy, I won’t dig any
furt her int o how your boyfriend is pulling st rings, milking his cont act s, or cashing in some favor
from one of his Ivy League frat -boy sycophant s.” My mout h drops open. He’s blackmailing me.
For sex! And what can I say? News of Christ ian’s t akeover is embargoed for anot her t hree
weeks. I can barely believe t his. Sex—
wit h me!
Jack moves closer unt il he’s st anding right in front of me, st aring down int o my eyes.
His cloying sweet cologne invades my nost rils—it ’s nauseat ing—and if I’m not mist aken, t he
bit t er st ench of alcohol is on his breat h. Fuck, he’s been drinking . . . when?
“You are such a t ight -assed, cock-blocking, prick t ease, you know, Ana,” he whispers t hrough
clenched t eet h.
What? Prick tease . . . Me?
“Jack, I have no idea what you’re t alking about ,” I whisper, as I feel t he adrenaline surge
t hrough my body. He’s closer now. I am wait ing t o make my move. Ray will be proud. Ray
t aught me what t o do. Ray knows his self-defense. If Jack t ouches me—if he even breat hes
t oo close t o me—I will t ake him down. My breat h is shallow. I must not faint, I must not faint.
“Look at you.” He gives me a leering look. “You’re so t urned on, I can t ell. You’ve really led me
on. Deep down you want it . I know.”
Holy fuck. The man is complet ely delusional. My fear rises t o defcon one, t hreat ening t o
overwhelm me. “No, Jack. I have never led you on.”
“You have, you prick-t easing bit ch. I can read t he signs.” Reaching up, he gent ly st rokes my
face wit h t he back of his knuckles, down t o my chin. His index finger st rokes my t hroat , and my
heart leaps int o my mout h as I fight my gag reflex. He reaches t he dip at t he base of my neck,
where t he t op but t on of my black shirt is open, and presses his hand against my chest .
“You want me. Admit it , Ana.”
Keeping my eyes firmly fixed on his and concent rat ing on what I have t o do—rat her t han my
mushrooming revulsion and dread—I place my hand gent ly over his in a caress.
He smiles in t riumph. I grab his lit t le finger, and t wist it back, pulling it sharply down backward t o
his hip.
“Arrgh!” he cries out in pain and surprise, and as he leans off balance, I bring my knee, swift and
hard, up int o his groin, and make perfect cont act wit h my goal. I dodge deft ly t o my left as his
knees buckle, and he collapses wit h a groan ont o t he kit chen floor, grasping himself bet ween
his legs.
“Don’t you ever t ouch me again,” I snarl at him. “Your it inerary and t he brochures are packaged
on my desk. I am going home now. Have a nice t rip. And in t he fut ure, get your own damn
coffee.”
“You fucking bit ch!” he half screams, half groans at me, but I am already out t he door.
I run full pelt t o my desk, grab my jacket and my purse, and dash t o front recept ion, ignoring t he
moans and curses emanat ing from t he bast ard st ill prost rat e on t he kit chen floor.
I burst out of t he building and st op for a moment as t he cool air hit s my face, t ake a deep
breat h, and compose myself. But I haven’t eat en all day, and as t he very unwelcome surge of
adrenaline recedes, my legs give out beneat h me and I sink t o t he ground.
I wat ch wit h mild det achment t he slow mot ion movie t hat plays out in front of me: Christ ian
and Taylor in dark suit s and whit e shirt s, leaping out of t he wait ing car and running t oward me.
Christ ian sinks t o his knees at my side, and on some unconscious level, all I can t hink is: He’s
here. My love is here.
“Ana, Ana! What ’s wrong?” He scoops me int o his lap, running his hands up and down my
arms, checking for any signs of injury. Grabbing my head bet ween his hands, he st ares wit h
wide, t errified, gray eyes int o mine. I sag against him, suddenly overwhelmed wit h relief and
fat igue. Oh, Christ ian’s arms. There is no place I’d rat her be.
“Ana.” He shakes me gent ly. “What ’s wrong? Are you sick?” I shake my head as I realize I need
t o st art communicat ing.
“Jack,” I whisper, and I sense rat her t han see Christ ian’s swift glance at Taylor, who abrupt ly
disappears int o t he building.
“Fuck!” Christ ian enfolds me in his arms. “What did t hat sleazeball do t o you?” And from
somewhere just t he right side of crazy, a giggle bubbles in my t hroat . I recall Jack’s ut t er shock
as I grabbed his finger.
“It ’s what I did t o him.” I st art giggling and I can’t st op.
“Ana!” Christ ian shakes me again, and my giggling fit ceases. “Did he t ouch you?”
“Only once.”
I feel Christ ian’s muscles bunch and t ense as rage sweeps t hrough him, and he st ands up
swift ly, powerfully—rock st eady—wit h me in his arms. He’s furious. No!
“Where is t hat fucker?”
From inside t he building we hear muffled shout ing. Christ ian set s me on my feet .
“Can you st and?”
I nod.
“Don’t go in. Don’t , Christ ian.” Suddenly my fear is back, fear of what Christ ian will do t o Jack.
“Get in t he car,” he barks at me.
“Christ ian, no.” I grab his arm.
“Get in t he goddamned car, Ana.” He shakes me off.
“No! Please!” I plead wit h him. “St ay. Don’t leave me on my own.” I deploy my ult imat e weapon.
Seet hing, Christ ian runs his hand t hrough his hair and glares down at me, clearly wracked wit h
indecision. The shout ing inside t he building escalat es, and t hen st ops suddenly.
Oh, no. What has Taylor done?
Christ ian fishes out his Blackberry.
“Christ ian, he has my e-mails.”
“What ?”
“My e-mails t o you. He want ed t o know where your e-mails t o me were. He was t rying t o
blackmail me.”
Christ ian’s look is murderous. Oh shit. “Fuck!” he splut t ers and narrows his eyes at me. He
punches a number int o his Blackberry.
Oh no. I’m in t rouble. Who’s he calling?
“Barney. Grey. I need you t o access t he SIP main server and wipe all Anast asia St eele’s e-mails
t o me. Then access t he personal dat a files of Jack Hyde and check t hey aren’t st ored t here. If
t hey are, wipe t hem . . . Yes, all of t hem. Now. Let me know when it ’s done.” He st abs t he off
but t on t hen dials anot her number.
“Roach. Grey. Hyde—I want him out . Now. This minut e. Call securit y. Get him t o clear his desk
immediat ely, or I will liquidat e t his company first t hing in t he morning. You already have all t he
just ificat ion you need t o give him his pink slip. Do you underst and?” He list ens for a moment
and hangs up seemingly sat isfied.
“Blackberry,” he hisses at me t hrough clenched t eet h.
“Please don’t be mad at me.” I blink up at him.
“I am so mad at you right now,” he snarls and once more sweeps his hand t hrough his hair.
“Get in t he car.”
“Christ ian, please—”
“Get in t he fucking car, Anast asia, or so help me I’ll put you in t here myself,” he t hreat ens, his
eyes blazing wit h fury.
Oh shit. “Don’t do anyt hing st upid, please,” I beg.
“STUPID! ” he explodes. “I t old you t o use your fucking Blackberry. Don’t t alk t o me about
st upid. Get in t he mot herfucking car, Anast asia— NOW! ” he snarls and a frisson of fear runs
t hrough me. This is Very Angry Christ ian. I’ve not seen him t his mad before. He’s barely holding
on t o his self-cont rol.
“Okay,” I mut t er, placat ing him. “But please, be careful.” Pressing his lips t oget her in a hard line,
he point s angrily t o t he car, glaring at me.
Jeez, okay, I get the message.
“Please be careful. I don’t want anyt hing t o happen t o you. It would kill me,” I murmur.
He blinks rapidly and st ills, lowering his arm while he t akes a deep breat h.
“I’ll be careful,” he says, his eyes soft ening. Oh, t hank t he Lord. His eyes burn int o me as I head
t o t he car, open t he front passenger door, and climb in. Once I’m safely in t he comfort of t he
Audi, he disappears int o t he building, and my heart leaps again int o my t hroat . What ’s he
planning t o do?
I sit and wait . And wait . And wait . Five et ernal minut es. Jack’s cab pulls up in front of t he Audi.
Ten minut es. Fift een. Jeez, what are t hey doing in t here, and how is Taylor? The wait is
agonizing.
Twent y-five minut es lat er, Jack emerges from t he building, clut ching a cardboard st or-age box.
Behind him is t he securit y guard. Where was he earlier? And aft er t hem, Christ ian and Taylor.
Jack looks sick. He heads st raight for t he cab, and I’m grat eful for t he Audi’s heavily t int ed
windows so he cannot see me. The cab drives off—presumably not t o Sea-Tac—as Christ ian
and Taylor reach t he car.
Opening t he driver’s door, Christ ian slides smoot hly int o t he seat , presumably because I am in
t he front , and Taylor get s in behind me. Neit her of t hem says a word as Christ ian st art s t he car
and pulls out int o t he t raffic. I risk a quick glance at Fift y. His mout h is set in a firm line, but he
seems dist ract ed. The in-car phone rings.
“Grey,” Christ ian snaps.
“Mr. Grey, Barney here.”
“Barney, I’m on speaker phone, and t here are ot hers in t he car,” Christ ian warns.
“Sir, it ’s all done. But I need t o t alk t o you about what else I found on Mr. Hyde’s comput er.”
“I’ll call you when I reach my dest inat ion. And t hanks, Barney.”
“No problem, Mr. Grey.”
Barney hangs up. He sounds much younger t han I expect ed.
What else is on Jack’s computer?
“Are you t alking t o me?” I ask quiet ly.
Christ ian glances at me, before fixing his eyes back on t he road ahead, and I can t ell he’s st ill
mad.
“No,” he mut t ers sullenly.
Oh, t here we go . . . how childish. I wrap my arms around myself and st are unseeing out t he
window. Perhaps I should just ask him t o drop me off at my apart ment , t hen he can
“not t alk” t o me from t he safet y of Escala and save us bot h t he inevit able quarrel. But even as I
“not t alk” t o me from t he safet y of Escala and save us bot h t he inevit able quarrel. But even as I
t hink it , I know I don’t want t o leave him t o brood, not aft er yest erday.
Event ually, we pull up in front of his apart ment building, and Christ ian climbs out of t he car.
Moving wit h easy grace around t o my side, he opens my door.
“Come,” he orders as Taylor clambers int o t he driver’s seat . I t ake his proffered hand and follow
him t hrough t he grand foyer t o t he elevat or. He doesn’t let go of me.
“Christ ian, why are you so mad at me?” I whisper as we wait .
“You know why,” he mut t ers as we st ep int o t he elevat or, and he punches in t he code t o his
floor. “God, if somet hing had happened t o you, he’d be dead by now.” Christ ian’s t one chills me
t o t he bone. The doors close.
“As it is, I’m going t o ruin his career so he can’t t ake advant age of young women anymore,
miserable excuse for a man t hat he is.” He shakes his head. “Jesus, Ana!” He grabs me
suddenly, imprisoning me in t he corner of t he elevat or.
His hands fist in my hair as he pulls my face up t o his, and his mout h is on mine, a passionat e
desperat ion in his kiss. I don’t know why t his t akes me by surprise, but it does.
I t ast e his relief, his longing, and his residual anger while his t ongue possesses my mout h.
He st ops, gazing down at me, rest ing his weight against me so I can’t move. He leaves me
breat hless, clinging t o him for support , st aring up int o t hat beaut iful face et ched wit h
det erminat ion and wit hout any t race of humor.
“If anyt hing had happened t o you . . . If he’d harmed you . . .” I feel t he shudder t hat runs
t hrough him. “Blackberry,” he commands quiet ly. “From now on. Underst and?” I nod, swallowing,
unable t o break eye cont act from his grim, mesmerizing look.
He st raight ens, releasing me as t he elevat or comes t o a st op. “He said you kicked him in t he
balls.” Christ ian’s t one is light er wit h a t race of admirat ion, and I t hink I’m forgiven.
“Yes,” I whisper, st ill reeling from t he int ensit y of his kiss and his impassioned command.
“Good.”
“Ray is ex-army. He t aught me well.”
“I’m very glad he did,” he breat hes and adds, arching a brow, “I’ll need t o remember t hat .”
Taking my hand, he leads me out of t he elevat or and I follow, relieved. I t hink t hat ’s as bad as
his mood is going t o get .
“I need t o call Barney. I won’t be long.” He disappears int o his st udy, leaving me st randed in t he
vast living room. Mrs. Jones is adding t he finishing t ouches t o our meal. I realize I am famished,
but I need somet hing t o do.
“Can I help?” I ask.
She laughs. “No, Ana. Can I fix you a drink or somet hing? You look beat .”
“I’d love a glass of wine.”
“Whit e?”
“Yes, please.”
I perch on one of t he bar st ools, and she hands me a glass of chilled wine. I don’t know what it
is, but it ’s delicious and slides down easily, soot hing my shat t ered nerves. What was I t hinking
about earlier t oday? How alive I have felt since I met Christ ian. How excit ing my life has
become. Jeez, could I just have a few boring days?
What if I’d never met Christ ian? I’d be holed up in my apart ment , t alking it t hrough wit h Et han,
complet ely freaked by my encount er wit h Jack, knowing I would have t o face t he sleazeball
again on Friday. As it is, t here’s every chance I’ll never set eyes on him again.
But who will I work for now? I frown. I hadn’t t hought of t hat . Shit , do I even have a job?
“Evening, Gail,” Christ ian says as he comes back int o t he great room, dragging me from my
t hought s. Heading st raight t o t he fridge, he pours himself a glass of wine.
“Good evening, Mr. Grey. Dinner in t en, sir?”
“Sounds good.”
Christ ian raises his glass.
“To ex-milit ary men who t rain t heir daught ers well,” he says and his eyes soft en.
“Cheers,” I mut t er, raising my glass.
“What ’s wrong?” Christ ian asks.
“I don’t know if I st ill have a job.”
He cocks his head t o t he side. “Do you st ill want one?”
“Of course.”
“Then you st ill have one.”
Simple. See? He is mast er of my universe. I roll my eyes at him and he smiles.
Mrs. Jones makes a mean chicken pot pie. She has left us t o enjoy t he fruit s of her labors, and I
feel much bet t er now I’ve had somet hing t o eat . We are sit t ing at t he breakfast bar, and
despit e my best cajoling, Christ ian won’t t ell me what Barney has found on Jack’s comput er. I
drop t he subject , and decide t o t ackle inst ead t he t horny issue of José’s impend-ing visit .
“José called,” I say nonchalant ly.
“Oh?” Christ ian t urns t o face me.
“He want s t o deliver your phot os on Friday.”
“A personal delivery. How accommodat ing of him,” Christ ian mut t ers.
“He want s t o go out . For a drink. Wit h me.”
“I see.”
“And Kat e and Elliot should be back,” I add quickly.
Christ ian put s his fork down, frowning at me.
“What exact ly are you asking?”
I brist le. “I’m not asking anyt hing. I’m informing you of my plans for Friday. Look, I want t o see
José, and he want s t o st ay over. Eit her he st ays here or he can st ay at my place, but if he does
I should be t here, t oo.”
Christ ian’s eyes widen. He looks dumbfounded.
“He made a pass at you.”
“Christ ian, t hat was weeks ago. He was drunk, I was drunk, you saved t he day—it won’t
happen again. He’s no Jack, for heaven’s sake.”
“Et han’s t here. He can keep him company.”
“He want s t o see me, not Et han.”
Christ ian scowls at me.
“He’s just a friend.” My voice is emphat ic.
“I don’t like it .”
So what? Jeez, he’s irrit at ing somet imes. I t ake a deep breat h. “He’s my friend, Christ ian. I
haven’t seen him since his show. And t hat was t oo brief. I know you don’t have any friends,
apart from t hat god-awful woman, but I don’t moan about you seeing her,” I snap.
Christ ian blinks, shocked. “I want t o see him. I’ve been a poor friend t o him.” My subconscious is
alarmed. Are you stamping your little foot? Steady now!
Gray eyes blaze at me. “Is t hat what you t hink?” he breat hes.
“Think about what ?”
“Elena. You’d rat her I didn’t see her?”
Holy cow. “Exact ly. I’d rat her you didn’t see her.”
“Why didn’t you say?”
“Because it ’s not my place t o say. You t hink she’s your only friend.” I shrug in exasperat ion. He
really doesn’t get it . How did t his t urn int o a conversat ion about her? I don’t even want t o t hink
about her. I t ry t o st eer us back t o José. “Just as it ’s not your place t o say if I can or can’t see
José. Don’t you see t hat ?”
Christ ian gazes at me, perplexed, I t hink. Oh, what is he thinking?
“He can st ay here, I suppose,” he mut t ers. “I can keep an eye on him.” He sounds pet ulant .
Hallelujah!
“Thank you! You know, if I am going t o live here, t oo . . .” I t rail off. Christ ian nods.
He knows what I’m t rying t o say. “It ’s not like you haven’t got t he space.” I smirk.
His lips quirk up slowly. “Are you smirking at me, Miss St eele?”
“Most definit ely, Mr. Grey.” I get up just in case his palms st art t wit ching, clear our plat es, and
t hen load t hem int o t he dishwasher.
“Gail will do t hat .”
“I’ve done it now.” I st and up and gaze at him. He’s wat ching me int ent ly.
“I have t o work for a while,” he says apologet ically.
“Cool. I’ll find somet hing t o do.”
“Come here,” he orders, but his voice is soft and seduct ive, his eyes heat ed. I don’t hesit at e t o
walk int o his arms, clasping him around his neck as he perches on his bar st ool.
He wraps his arms around me, crushes me t o him, and just holds me.
“Are you okay?” he whispers int o my hair.
“Okay?”
“Aft er what happened wit h t hat fucker? Aft er what happened yest erday?” he adds, his voice
quiet and earnest .
I gaze int o dark, serious, gray eyes. Am I okay? “Yes,” I whisper.
His arms t ight en around me, and I feel safe, cherished, and loved all at once. It ’s blissful. Closing
my eyes, I enjoy t he feel of being in his arms. I love t his man. I love his int oxicat ing scent , his
st rengt h, his mercurial ways—my Fift y.
“Let ’s not fight ,” he murmurs. He kisses my hair and inhales deeply. “You smell heavenly as
usual, Ana.”
“So do you,” I whisper and kiss his neck.
All t oo soon he releases me. “I should only be a couple of hours.” I wander list lessly t hrough t he
apart ment . Christ ian is st ill working. I have showered and dressed in some sweat s and a T-shirt
of my own, and I’m bored. I don’t want t o read. If I sit st ill, I’ll recall Jack and his fingers on me.
I check out my old bedroom, t he subs’ room. José can sleep here—he’ll like t he view.
It ’s about eight fift een, and t he sun is beginning t o sink int o t he west . The light s of t he cit y
t winkle below me. It ’s glorious. Yes, José will like it here. I wonder idly where Christ ian will hang
José’s pict ures of me. I’d rat her he didn’t . I am not keen on looking at myself.
Back down t he hallway I find myself out side t he playroom, and wit hout t hinking, I t ry t he door
handle. Christ ian normally keeps it locked, but t o my surprise, t he door opens.
How st range. Feeling like a child playing hooky and st raying int o t he forbidden forest , I walk in.
It ’s dark. I flick t he swit ch and t he light s under t he cornice light up wit h a soft glow. It ’s as I
remember it . A womb-like room.
Memories of t he last t ime I was in here flash t hrough my mind. The belt . . . I wince at t he
recollect ion. Now it hangs innocent ly, lined up wit h ot hers, on t he rack beside t he door.
Tent at ively I run my fingers over t he belt s, t he floggers, t he paddles, and t he whips.
Sheesh. This is what I need t o square wit h Dr. Flynn. Can someone in t his lifest yle just st op? It
seems so improbable. Wandering over t o t he bed, I sit on soft red sat in sheet s, gazing around
at all t he apparat us.
Beside me is t he bench, above t hat t he assort ment of canes. So many! Surely one is enough?
Well, t he less said about t hat t he bet t er. And t he large t able. We never t ried t hat , what ever he
does on it . My eyes fall on t he chest erfield, and I move over t o sit on it . It ’s just a couch, not hing
ext raordinary about it —not hing t o fast en anyt hing t o, not t hat I can see. Glancing behind me, I
spy t he museum chest . My curiosit y is piqued. What does he keep in t here?
As I pull open t he t op drawer I realize my blood is pounding t hrough my veins. Why am I so
nervous? This feels so illicit , as if I’m t respassing, which of course I am. But if he want s t o marry
me, well . . .
Holy fuck, what ’s all t his? An array of inst rument s and bizarre implement s—I don’t have a clue
what t hey are, or what t hey’re for—are carefully laid out in t he display drawer.
I pick one up. It ’s bullet -shaped wit h a sort of handle. Hmm . . . what the hell do you do with
that? My mind boggles, t hough I t hink I have an idea. Jeez, t here are four different sizes!
My scalp prickles and I glance up.
Christ ian is st anding in t he doorway, st aring at me, his face unreadable. How long has he been
t here? I feel like I’ve been caught wit h my hand in t he cookie jar.
“Hi.” I smile nervously at him, and I know my eyes are wide and t hat I’m deat hly pale.
“What are you doing?” he says soft ly, but t here’s an undercurrent in his t one.
Oh shit . Is he mad? I flush. “Er . . . I was bored and curious,” I mut t er, embarrassed t o be found
out . He said he’d be t wo hours.
“That ’s a very dangerous combinat ion.” He runs his long index finger across his lower lip in
quiet cont emplat ion, not t aking his eyes off me. I swallow and my mout h is dry.
Slowly, he ent ers t he room and closes t he door quiet ly behind him, his eyes liquid gray fire. Oh
my. He leans casually over t he chest of drawers, but I t hink his st ance is decept ive.
My inner goddess doesn’t know whet her it ’s fight or flight t ime.
“So, what exact ly are you curious about , Miss St eele? Perhaps I could enlight en you.”
“The door was open . . . I—” I gaze at Christ ian as I hold my breat h and blink, uncert ain as ever
of his react ion or what I should say. His eyes are dark. I t hink he’s amused, but it ’s difficult t o
t ell. He places his elbows on t he museum chest and rest s his chin on his clasped hands.
“I was in here earlier t oday wondering what t o do wit h it all. I must have forgot t en t o lock it .” He
scowls moment arily as if leaving t he door unlocked is a t errible lapse in judgment . I frown—it ’s
not like him t o be forget ful.
“Oh?”
“But now here you are, curious as ever.” His voice is soft , puzzled.
“You’re not mad?” I whisper, using my remaining breat h.
He cocks his head t o one side, and his lips t wit ch in amusement .
“Why would I be mad?”
“I feel like I’m t respassing . . . and you’re always mad at me.” My voice is quiet , t hough I’m
relieved. Christ ian’s brow creases once more.
“Yes, you’re t respassing, but I’m not mad. I hope t hat one day you’ll live wit h me here, and all
t his”—he gest ures vaguely round t he room wit h one hand—“will be yours, t oo.” My playroom . .
. eh? I gape at him—t hat ’s a lot t o t ake in.
“That ’s why I was in here t oday. Trying t o decide what t o do.” He t aps his lips wit h his index
finger. “Am I angry wit h you all t he t ime? I wasn’t t his morning.” Oh, t hat ’s t rue. I smile at t he
memory of Christ ian when we woke, and it dist ract s me from t he t hought of what will become
of t he playroom. He was such fun Fift y t his morning.
“You were playful. I like playful Christ ian.”
“Do you now?” He arches an eyebrow, and his beaut iful mout h curves up in a smile, a shy smile.
Wow!
“What ’s t his?” I hold up t he silver bullet t hing.
“Always hungry for informat ion, Miss St eele. That ’s a but t plug,” he says gent ly.
“Oh . . .”
“Bought for you.”
What? “For me?”
He nods slowly, his face now serious and wary.
I frown. “You buy new, er . . . t oys . . . for each submissive?”
“Some t hings. Yes.”
“But t plugs?”
“Yes.”
Okay . . . I swallow. But t plug. It ’s solid met al—surely t hat ’s uncomfort able? I remember our
discussion about sex t oys and hard limit s aft er I graduat ed. I t hink at t he t ime I said I would t ry.
Now, act ually seeing one, I don’t know if it ’s somet hing I want t o do. I examine it once more and
place it back in t he drawer.
“And t his?” I t ake out a long, black rubbery object , made of gradually diminishing spherical
bubbles joined t oget her, t he first one large and t he last much smaller. Eight bubbles in t ot al.
“Anal beads,” says Christ ian, wat ching me carefully.
Oh! I examine t hem wit h fascinat ed horror. All of t hese, inside me . . . there! I had no idea.
“They have quit e an effect if you pull t hem out mid-orgasm,” he adds mat t er-of-fact ly.
“This is for me?” I whisper.
“For you.” He nods slowly.
“This is t he but t drawer?”
He smirks. “If you like.”
I close it quickly, flushing like a st oplight .
“Don’t you like t he but t drawer?” he asks innocent ly, amused. I gaze at him and shrug, t rying t o
brazen out my shock.
“It ’s not t op of my Christ mas card list ,” I mut t er nonchalant ly. Tent at ively, I open t he second
drawer. He grins.
“Next drawer down holds a select ion of vibrat ors.”
I shut t he drawer quickly.
“And t he next ?” I whisper, ashen once more, but t his t ime wit h embarrassment .
“That ’s more int erest ing.”
Oh! Hesit ant ly I pull t he drawer open, not t aking my eyes off his beaut iful but rat her smug face.
Inside t here are an assort ment of met al it ems and some clot hespins. Clot hespins! I pick up a
large met al clip-like device.
“Genit al clamp,” Christ ian says. He st ands up and moves casually around so t hat he’s beside
me. I put it back immediat ely and choose somet hing more delicat e—t wo small clips on a chain.
“Some of t hese are for pain, but most are for pleasure,” he murmurs.
“What ’s t his?”
“Nipple clamps—t hat ’s for bot h.”
“Bot h? Nipples?”
Christ ian smirks at me. “Well, t here are t wo clamps, baby. Yes, bot h nipples, but t hat ’s not what
I meant . These are for bot h pleasure and pain.” Oh. He t akes it from me.
“Hold out your lit t le finger.”
I do as he asks, and he clamps one clip t o t he t ip of my finger. It ’s not t oo harsh.
“The sensat ion is very int ense, but it ’s when t aking t hem off t hat t hey are at t heir most painful
and pleasurable.” I remove t he clip. Hmm, t hat might be nice. I squirm at t he t hought .
“I like t he look of t hese,” I murmur and Christ ian smiles.
“Do you now, Miss St eele? I t hink I can t ell.”
I nod shyly, bit ing my lip. He reaches up and t ugs on my chin so I release my bot t om lip. “You
know what t hat does t o me,” he murmurs.
I put t he clips back in t he drawer, and Christ ian leans forward and pulls out t wo more.
“These are adjust able.” He holds t hem up for me t o inspect .
“Adjust able?”
“You can wear t hem very t ight . . . or not . Depending on your mood.” How does he make t hat
sound so erot ic? I swallow, and t o divert his at t ent ion, pull out a device t hat looks like a spiky
past ry cut t er.
“This?” I frown. No baking in t he playroom, surely.
“That ’s a Wart enberg pinwheel.”
“For?”
He reaches over and t akes it from me. “Give me your hand. Palm up.” I offer him my left hand
and he t akes it gent ly, skat ing his t humb over my knuckles. A shiver runs t hrough me. His skin
against mine, it never fails t o t hrill me. He runs t he wheel over my palm.
“Ah!” The prongs bit e int o my skin—t here’s more t han just pain. In fact , it t ickles slight ly.
“Imagine t hat over your breast s,” Christ ian murmurs lasciviously.
Oh! I flush and snat ch my hand back. My breat hing and heart rat e increase. Holy cow.
“There’s a fine line bet ween pleasure and pain, Anast asia,” he says soft ly as he leans down
and put s t he device back in t he drawer.
“Clot hespins?” I whisper.
“You can do a great deal wit h a clot hespins.” His gray eyes burn.
I lean against t he drawer so it closes.
“Is t hat all?” Christ ian looks amused.
“No . . .” I pull open t he fourt h drawer t o be confounded by a mass of leat her and st raps. I t ug at
one of t he st raps . . . it appears t o be at t ached t o a ball.
“Ball gag. To keep you quiet ,” says Christ ian, amused once more.
“Soft limit ,” I mut t er.
“I remember,” he says. “But you can st ill breat he. Your t eet h clamp over t he ball.” Taking it from
me, he replicat es a mout h clamping down on t he ball wit h his fingers.
“Have you worn one of t hese?” I ask.
He st ills and gazes down at me. “Yes.”
“To mask your screams?”
He closes his eyes, and I t hink it ’s in exasperat ion. “No, t hat ’s not what t hey’re about .” Oh?
“It ’s about cont rol, Anast asia. How helpless would you be if you were t ied up and couldn’t
speak? How t rust ing would you have t o be, knowing I had t hat much power over you? That I
had t o read your body and your react ion, rat her t han hear your words? It makes you more
dependent , put s me in ult imat e cont rol.”
I swallow.
“You sound like you miss it .”
“It ’s what I know,” he murmurs, gazing down at me. His gray eyes are wide and serious, and t he
at mosphere bet ween us has changed as if he’s in t he confessional.
“You have power over me. You know you do,” I whisper.
“Do I? You make me feel . . . helpless.”
“No!” Oh Fifty . . . “Why?”
“Because you’re t he only person I know who could really hurt me.” He reaches up and t ucks my
hair behind my ear.
“Oh, Christ ian . . . t hat works bot h ways. If you didn’t want me—” I shudder, glancing down at
my t wist ing fingers. Therein lays my ot her dark reservat ion about us. If he wasn’t so . . . broken,
would he want me? I shake my head. I must t ry not t o t hink like t hat .
“The last t hing I want t o do is hurt you. I love you,” I murmur, reaching up t o run my fingers
t hrough his sideburn and gent ly st roke his cheek. He leans his face int o my t ouch, drops t he
gag back in t he drawer, and reaches for me, his hands around my waist . He pulls me against
him.
“Have we finished show and t ell?” he asks, his voice soft and seduct ive. His hand moves up my
back t o t he nape of my neck.
“Why? What did you want t o do?”
He bends and kisses me gent ly, and I melt against him, grasping his arms.
“Ana, you were nearly at t acked t oday.” His voice is soft but ice-cold and wary.
“So?” I ask, enjoying t he feel of his hand at my back and his proximit y. He pulls his head back
and scowls down at me.
“What do you mean, ‘so?’ ” he rebukes.
I gaze up int o his lovely, grumpy face, and I’m dazzled.
“Christ ian, I’m fine.”
He wraps me in his arms, holding me close. “When I t hink what might have happened,” he
breat hes, burying his face in my hair.
“When will you learn t hat I’m st ronger t han I look?” I whisper reassuringly int o his neck, inhaling
his delicious scent . There is not hing bet t er on t he planet t han being in Christ ian’s arms.
“I know you’re st rong,” Christ ian muses quiet ly. He kisses my hair, t hen t o my great
disappoint ment , releases me. Oh?
Bending down I fish anot her it em out of t he open drawer. Several cuffs at t ached t o a bar. I hold
it up.
“That ,” says Christ ian, his eyes darkening, “is a spreader bar wit h ankle and wrist rest raint s.”
“How does it work?” I ask, genuinely int rigued. My inner goddess pops her head out of her
bunker.
“You want me t o show you?” he breat hes in surprise, closing his eyes briefly.
I blink at him. When he opens his eyes, t hey are blazing.
Oh my. “Yes, I want a demonst rat ion. I like being t ied up,” I whisper as my inner goddess pole
vault s from t he bunker ont o her chaise longue.
“Oh, Ana,” he murmurs. He looks pained all of a sudden.
“What ?”
“Not here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want you in my bed, not in here. Come.” He grabs t he bar and my hand, t hen leads me
prompt ly out of t he room.
Why are we leaving? I glance behind me as we exit . “Why not in t here?” Christ ian st ops on t he
st airs and gazes up at me, his expression grave.
“Ana, you may be ready t o go back in t here, but I’m not . Last t ime we were in t here, you left me.
I keep t elling you—when will you underst and?” He frowns, releasing me so t hat he can
gest iculat e wit h his free hand.
“My whole at t it ude has changed as a result . My whole out look on life has radically shift ed. I’ve
t old you t his. What I haven’t t old you is—” He st ops and runs his hand t hrough his hair,
searching for t he correct words. “I’m like a recovering alcoholic, okay? That ’s t he only
comparison I can draw. The compulsion has gone, but I don’t want t o put t empt at ion in my
way. I don’t want t o hurt you.”
He looks so remorseful, and in t hat moment , a sharp nagging pain lances t hrough me.
What have I done t o t his man? Have I improved his life? He was happy before he met me,
wasn’t he?
“I can’t bear t o hurt you because I love you,” he adds, gazing up at me, his expression one of
absolut e sincerit y like a small boy t elling a very simple t rut h.
He’s complet ely guileless, and he t akes my breat h away. I adore him more t han anyt hing or
anyone. I do love t his man uncondit ionally.
I launch myself at him so hard t hat he has t o drop what he’s carrying t o cat ch me as I push him
up against t he wall. Grabbing his face bet ween my hands, I pull his lips t o mine. I can t ast e his
surprise as I push my t ongue int o his mout h. I am st anding on t he st ep above him—we’re at
t he same level, and I feel euphorically empowered. Kissing him passionat ely, my fingers t wist ing
int o his hair, I want t o t ouch him, everywhere, but rest rain myself, knowing his fear. Regardless,
my desire unfurls, hot and heavy, blossoming deep inside me. He groans and grabs my
shoulders, pushing me away.
“Do you want me t o fuck you on t he st airs?” he mut t ers, his breat hing ragged. “Because right
now, I will.”
“Yes,” I murmur and I’m sure my dark gaze mat ches his.
He glares at me, his eyes hooded and heavy. “No. I want you in my bed.” He scoops me up
suddenly over his shoulder, making me squeal, loudly, and smacks me hard on my behind, so
t hat I squeal again. As he heads down t he st airs, he st oops t o pick up t he fallen spreader bar.
Mrs. Jones is coming out of t he ut ilit y room when we pass t hrough t he hall. She smiles at us,
and I give her an apologet ic upside-down wave. I don’t t hink Christ ian not ices her.
In t he bedroom, he set s me down on my feet and drops t he spreader on t o t he bed.
“I don’t t hink you’ll hurt me,” I breat he.
“I don’t t hink I’ll hurt you, eit her,” he says. He t akes my head in his hands and kisses me, long
and hard, ignit ing my already heat ed blood.
“I want you so much,” he whispers against my mout h, pant ing. “Are you sure about t his—aft er
t oday?’
“Yes. I want you, t oo. I want t o undress you.” I can’t wait t o get my hands on him—my fingers
are it ching t o t ouch him.
His eyes widen and for a moment , he hesit at es, perhaps t o consider my request .
“Okay,” he says caut iously.
I reach for t he second but t on on his shirt and hear him cat ch his breat h.
“I won’t t ouch you if you don’t want me t o,” I whisper.
“No,” he responds quickly. “Do. It ’s fine. I’m good,” he mut t ers.
I gent ly undo t he but t on and my fingers glide down his shirt t o t he next . His eyes are large and
luminous, his lips part ed as his breat hing shallows. He is so beaut iful, even in his fear . . .
because of his fear. I undo t he t hird but t on and not ice his soft hair poking t hrough t he large V
of t he shirt .
“I want t o kiss you t here,” I murmur.
He inhales sharply. “Kiss me?”
“Yes,” I murmur.
His gasps as I undo t he next but t on and very slowly lean forward, making my int ent ion clear.
He’s holding his breat h, but st ands st ock-st ill as I plant a gent le kiss among t he soft , exposed
curls. I undo t he final but t on and lift my face t o him. He’s gazing at me, and t here’s a look of
sat isfact ion, calm, and . . . wonder on his face.
“It ’s get t ing easier, isn’t it ?” I whisper.
He nods as I slowly push his shirt off his shoulders and let it fall t o t he floor.
“What have you done t o me, Ana?” he murmurs. “What ever it is, don’t st op.” And he gat hers
me in his arms, fist ing bot h his hands in my hair and pulling my head right back so t hat he can
have easy access t o my t hroat .
He runs his lips up t o my jaw, nipping soft ly. I groan. Oh, I want t his man. My fingers fumble at
his waist band, undoing t he but t on and pulling down t he zipper.
“Oh, baby,” he breat hes as he kisses me behind my ear. I feel his erect ion, firm and hard,
st raining against me. I want him—in my mout h. I st ep back abrupt ly and drop t o my knees.
“Whoa?” he gasps.
I t ug his pant s and boxers sharply, and he springs free. Before he can st op me, I t ake him int o
my mout h, sucking hard, enjoying his shocked ast onishment as his mout h drops open. He
gazes down at me, wat ching my every move, eyes so dark and filled wit h carnal bliss. Oh my. I
sheat h my t eet h and suck harder. He closes his eyes and surrenders t o t his blissful carnal
pleasure is so arousing. I know what I do t o him, and it ’s hedonist ic, liberat ing, and sexy as hell.
The feeling is heady, I’m not just powerful—I’m omniscient .
“Fuck,” he hisses and gent ly cradles my head, flexing his hips so he moves deeper inside my
mout h. Oh yes, I want t his and I swirl my t ongue around him, pulling hard . . .
over and over.
“Ana.” He t ries t o st ep back.
Oh no you don’t, Grey. I want you. I grab his hips firmly, doubling my effort s, and I can t ell he’s
close.
“Please,” he pant s. “I’m gonna come, Ana,” he groans.
Good. My inner goddess’s head is t hrown back in ecst asy, and he comes, loudly and wet ly, int o
my mout h.
He opens his bright gray eyes, gazing down at me, and I smile up at him, licking my lips. He grins
back at me, a wicked, salacious grin.
“Oh, so t his is t he game we’re playing, Miss St eele?” He bends, hooks his hands under my
arms, and pulls me t o my feet . Suddenly his mout h is on mine. He groans.
“I can t ast e myself. You t ast e bet t er,” he murmurs against my lips. He t ugs my T-shirt off and
t hrows it carelessly ont o t he floor, t hen picks me up and t osses me ont o t he bed.
Grabbing t he end of my sweat s, he t ugs abrupt ly so t hat t hey come off in one swift move.
I’m naked underneat h, sprawled across his bed. Wait ing. Want ing. His eyes drink me in, and
slowly he removes his remaining clot hes, not t aking his eyes off me.
“You are one beaut iful woman, Anast asia,” he murmurs appreciat ively.
Hmm . . . I t ilt my head coquet t ishly t o one side and beam at him.
“You are one beaut iful man, Christ ian, and you t ast e might y fine.” He gives me a wicked grin
and reaches for t he spreader bar. Grabbing my left ankle, he quickly cuffs it , st rapping t he
buckle t ight ly, but not t oo t ight . He t est s how much room I have by sliding his lit t le finger
bet ween t he cuff and my ankle. He doesn’t t ake his eyes off mine; he doesn’t need t o see
what he’s doing. Hmm . . . he’s done t his before.
“We’ll have t o see how you t ast e. If I recall, you’re a rare, exquisit e delicacy, Miss St eele.”
Oh.
Grasping my ot her ankle, he quickly and efficient ly cuffs t hat one as well, so t hat my feet are
about t wo feet apart .
“The good t hing about t his spreader is, it expands,” he murmurs. He clicks somet hing on t he
bar, t hen pushes, so my legs spread furt her. Whoa, t hree feet apart . My mout h drops open, and
I t ake a deep breat h. Fuck, t his is hot . I’m on fire, rest less and needy.
Christ ian licks his lower lip.
“Oh, we’re going t o have some fun wit h t his, Ana.” Reaching down he grasps t he bar and
t wist s it so I flip on t o my front . It t akes me by surprise.
“See what I can do t o you?” he says darkly and t wist s it again abrupt ly, so I am once more on
my back, gaping up at him, breat hless.
“These ot her cuffs are for your wrist s. I’ll t hink about t hat . Depends if you behave or
not .”“When do I not behave?”
“I can t hink of a few infract ions,” he says soft ly, running his fingers up t he soles of my feet . It
t ickles, but t he bar holds me in place, t hough I t ry t o writ he away from his fingers.
“Your Blackberry, for one.”
I gasp. “What are you going t o do?”
“Oh, I never disclose my plans.” He smirks, his eyes alight wit h pure devilment .
Holy cow. He’s so mind-bogglingly sexy, it t akes my breat h away.
He crawls up t he bed so t hat he’s kneeling bet ween my legs, gloriously naked, and I’m helpless.
“Hmm. You are so exposed, Miss St eele.” He runs t he fingers of bot h his hands up t he inside of
each of my legs, slowly, surely, making small circular pat t erns. Never breaking eye cont act wit h
me.
“It ’s all about ant icipat ion, Ana. What will I do t o you?” His soft ly spoken words pen-et rat e right
t o t he deepest , darkest , part of me. I wriggle on t he bed and moan. His fingers cont inue t heir
slow assault up my legs, past t he backs of my knees. Inst inct ively, I want t o close my legs but I
can’t .
“Remember, if you don’t like somet hing, just t ell me t o st op,” he murmurs. Bending over, he
kisses my belly, soft , sucky kisses while his hands cont inue t heir slow t ort uous journey nort h up
my inner t highs, t ouching and t easing.
“Oh please, Christ ian,” I plead.
“Oh, Miss St eele. I’ve discovered you can be merciless in your amorous assault s upon me. I
t hink I should ret urn t he favor.”
My fingers clut ch t he duvet as I surrender myself t o him, his mout h gent ly heading sout h, his
fingers nort h, t o t he vulnerable and exposed apex of my t highs. I groan as he eases his fingers
inside me and buck my pelvis up t o meet t hem. Christ ian moans in response.
“You never cease t o amaze me, Ana. You’re so wet ,” he murmurs against t he line where my
pubic hair joins my belly. My body bows as his mout h finds me.
Oh my.
He begins a slow and sensual assault , his t ongue swirling around and around while his fingers
move inside me. Because I can’t close my legs, or move, it ’s int ense, really int ense.
My back arches as I t ry t o absorb t he sensat ions.
“Oh, Christ ian,” I cry.
“I know, baby,” he whispers, and t o ease up on me, he blows soft ly on t he most sensit ive part
of my body.
“Arrgh! Please!” I beg.
“Say my name,” he commands.
“Christ ian,” I call, hardly recognizing my own voice—it ’s so high-pit ched and needy.
“Again,” he breat hes.
“Christ ian, Christ ian, Christ ian Grey,” I call out loudly.
“You are mine.” His voice is soft and deadly and wit h one last flick of his t ongue, I fall—
spect acularly—embracing my orgasm, and because my legs are so far apart , it goes on and on
and I am lost .
Vaguely, I’m aware t hat Christ ian has flipped me on t o my front .
“We’re going t o t ry t his, baby. If you don’t like it , or it ’s t oo uncomfort able, t ell me, and we’ll
st op.”
What ? I am t oo lost in t he aft erglow t o form any sent ient or coherent t hought s. I am sit t ing on
Christ ian’s lap. How did t hat happen?
“Lean down, baby,” he murmurs at my ear. “Head and chest on t he bed.” In a daze I do as I’m
t old. He pulls bot h my hands backward and cuffs t hem t o t he bar, next t o my ankles. Oh . . . My
knees are drawn up, my ass in t he air, ut t erly vulnerable, complet ely his.
“Ana, you look so beaut iful.” His voice is full of wonder, and I hear t he rip of foil. He runs his
fingers from t he base of my spine down t oward my sex and pauses a beat over my ass. “When
you’re ready, I want t his, t oo.” His finger is hovering over me. I gasp loudly as I feel myself t ense
under his gent le probing. “Not t oday, sweet Ana, but one day . . . I want you every way. I want
t o possess every inch of you. You’re mine.” I t hink about t he but t plug, and everyt hing t ight ens
deep inside me. His words make me groan, and his fingers move down and around t o more
familiar t errit ory.
Moment s lat er, he’s slamming int o me. “Aagh! Gent ly,” I cry, and he st ills.
“You okay?”
“Gent ly . . . let me get used t o t his.”
He eases slowly out of me t hen eases gent ly back, filling me, st ret ching me, t wice, t hrice, and I
He eases slowly out of me t hen eases gent ly back, filling me, st ret ching me, t wice, t hrice, and I
am helpless.
“Yes, good, I’ve got it now,” I murmur, relishing t he feeling.
He groans, and picks up his rhyt hm. Moving, moving . . . relent less . . . onward, inward, filling me . .
. and it ’s exquisit e. There’s joy in my helplessness, joy in my surrender t o him, and t o know t hat
he can lose himself in me t he way he want s t o. I can do t his. He t akes me t o t hese dark places,
places I didn’t know exist ed, and t oget her we fill t hem wit h blinding light . Oh yes . . . blazing,
blinding light .
And I let go, glorying in what he does t o me, finding my sweet , sweet release, as I come again,
loudly, screaming his name. And he st ills, pouring his heart and soul int o me.
“Ana, baby,” he cries and collapses beside me.
His fingers deft ly undo t he st raps, and he rubs my ankles t hen my wrist s. When he’s finished
and I’m finally free, he pulls me int o his arms and I drift , exhaust ed.
When I surface again, I am curled beside him and he’s gazing at me. I have no idea what t he
t ime is.
“I could wat ch you sleep forever, Ana,” he murmurs and he kisses my forehead.
I smile and shift languorously beside him.
“I never want t o let you go,” he says soft ly and wraps his arms around me.
Hmm. “I never want t o go. Never let me go,” I mut t er sleepily, my eyelids refusing t o open.“I
need you,” he whispers, but his voice is a dist ant , et hereal part of my dreams. He needs me . . .
needs me . . . and as I finally slip int o t he darkness, my last t hought s are of a small boy wit h
gray eyes and dirt y, messy, copper-colored hair smiling shyly at me.
Hmm.
Christ ian is nuzzling my neck as I slowly wake.
“Morning, baby,” he whispers and nips at my earlobe. My eyes flut t er open and close again
quickly. Bright early morning light floods t he room, and his hand is soft ly caressing my breast ,
gent ly t easing me. Moving down he grasps my hip as he lies behind me, holding me close.
I st ret ch out beside him, relishing his t ouch, and feel his erect ion against my behind .
Oh my. A Christ ian Grey wake-up call.
“You’re pleased t o see me,” I mumble sleepily, squirming suggest ively against him. I feel his grin
against my jaw.
“I’m very pleased t o see you,” he says as he skat es his hand over my st omach and down t o
cup my sex and explore wit h his fingers. “There are definit e advant ages t o waking up beside
you, Miss St eele,” he t eases and gent ly pulls me round so t hat I’m lying on my back.
“Sleep well?” he asks as his fingers cont inue t heir sensual t ort ure. He’s smiling down at me—
his dazzling, all-American-drop-dead-male-model-perfect -t eet h smile. He t akes my breat h
away.
My hips begin t o sway t o t he rhyt hm of t he dance his fingers have begun. He kisses me
chast ely on t he lips and t hen moves down my neck, nipping slowly, kissing, and sucking as he
goes. I moan. He’s gent le and his t ouch is light and heavenly. His int repid fingers move down,
and slowly he eases one inside me, hissing quiet ly in awe.
“Oh, Ana,” he murmurs reverent ially against my t hroat . “You’re always ready.” He moves his
finger in t ime wit h his kisses as his lips journey leisurely across my clavicle and t hen down t o my
breast . He t orment s first one, t hen t he ot her nipple wit h t eet h and lips, but oh-so-gent ly, and
t hey t ight en and lengt hen in sweet response.
I groan.
“Hmm,” he growls soft ly and raises his head t o give me a blazing gray-eyed look. “I want you
now.” He reaches over t o t he bedside t able. He shift s on t op of me, t aking his weight on his
elbows, and rubs his nose along mine while easing my legs apart wit h his. He kneels up and rips
open t he foil packet .
“I can’t wait unt il Sat urday,” he says, his eyes glowing wit h salacious delight .
“Your part y?” I pant .
“No. I can st op using t hese fuckers.”
“Apt ly named.” I giggle.
He smirks at me as he rolls on t he condom. “Are you giggling, Miss St eele?”
“No.” I t ry and fail t o st raight en my face.
“Now is not t he t ime for giggling.” He shakes his head in admonishment and his voice is low,
st ern, but his expression— holy cow—is glacial and volcanic at once.
My breat h cat ches in my t hroat . “I t hought you liked it when I giggle,” I whisper hoarsely, gazing
int o t he dark dept hs of his st ormy eyes.
“Not now. There’s a t ime and a place for giggling. This is neit her. I need t o st op you, and I t hink I
know how,” he says ominously, and his body covers mine.
“What would you like for breakfast , Ana?”
“I’ll just have some granola. Thank you, Mrs. Jones.” I flush as I t ake my place at t he breakfast
bar beside Christ ian. The last t ime I set eyes on t he very prim and proper Mrs. Jones, I was
being unceremoniously dragged int o t he bedroom over Christ ian’s shoulder.
“You look lovely,” Christ ian says soft ly. I’m wearing my gray pencil skirt and gray silk blouse
again.
“So do you.” I smile shyly at him. He’s wearing a pale blue shirt and jeans, and he looks cool and
fresh and perfect , as always.
“We should buy you some more skirt s,” he says mat t er-of-fact ly. “In fact —I’d love t o t ake you
shopping.”
Hmm—shopping. I hat e shopping. But wit h Christ ian, maybe it won’t be so bad. I decide on
dist ract ion as t he best form of defense.
“I wonder what will happen at work t oday?”
“They’ll have t o replace t he sleazeball.” Christ ian frowns, scowling as if he’s just st epped in
somet hing ext raordinarily unpleasant .
“I hope t hey t ake on a woman as my new boss.”
“Why?”
“Well, you’re less likely t o object t o me going away wit h her,” I t ease him.
His lips t wit ch and he st art s on his omelet .
“What ’s so funny?” I ask.
“You are. Eat your granola, all of it , if t hat ’s all you’re having.” Bossy as ever. I purse my lips at
him, but dig in.
“So, t he key goes here.” Christ ian point s out t he ignit ion beneat h t he gearshift .
“St range place,” I mut t er. But I’m delight ed wit h every lit t le det ail, pract ically bouncing like a
small child in t he comfort able leat her seat . Christ ian has finally let me drive my car. He regards
me coolly, t hough his eyes are alight wit h humor. “You’re quit e excit ed about t his, aren’t you?”
he murmurs, amused.
I nod, grinning like a fool. “Just smell t hat new car smell. This is even bet t er t han t he
Submissive Special . . . um, t he A3,” I add quickly, blushing.
Christ ian’s mout h t wist s. “Submissive Special, eh? You have such a way wit h words, Miss
St eele.” He leans back wit h a faux look of disapproval, but he can’t fool me. I know he’s
enjoying himself.
“Well, let ’s go.” He waves his long-fingered hand t oward t he ent rance of t he garage.
I clap my hands, st art t he car, and t he engine purrs t o life. Put t ing t he gearshift int o drive, I
ease my foot off t he brake and t he Saab moves smoot hly forward. Taylor st art s up t he Audi
behind us and once t he garage barrier lift s, follows us out of Escala ont o t he st reet .
“Can we have t he radio on?” I ask as we wait at t he first st op sign.
“I want you t o concent rat e,” he says sharply.
“Christ ian, please, I can drive wit h music on.” I roll my eyes. He scowls for a moment and t hen
reaches for t he radio.
“You can play your iPod and mp3 discs as well as CDs on t his,” he murmurs.
The t oo-loud dulcet t ones of The Police suddenly fill t he car. Christ ian t urns t he music down.
Hmm . . . “King of Pain.”
“Your ant hem,” I t ease him, t hen inst ant ly regret it when his mout h t ight ens in a t hin line. Oh
no. “I have t his album, somewhere.” I cont inue hast ily t o dist ract him. Hmm . . .
somewhere in t he apart ment I have spent very lit t le t ime in.
I wonder how Et han is. I should t ry t o call him t oday. I won’t have much t o do at work.
Anxiet y blooms in my st omach. What will happen when I get t o t he office? Will everyone know
about Jack? Will everyone know of Christ ian’s involvement ? Will I st ill have a job? Sheesh, if I
have no job, what will I do?
Marry the gazillionaire, Ana! My subconscious has her snarky face on. I ignore her—
rapacious bit ch.
“Hey, Miss Smart Mout h. Come back.” Christ ian drags me int o t he here and now as I pull up at
t he next st oplight .
“You’re very dist ract ed. Concent rat e, Ana,” he scolds. “Accident s happen when you don’t
concent rat e.”
Oh, for heaven’s sake—and suddenly I’m cat apult ed back in t ime t o when Ray was t eaching
me t o drive. I don’t need anot her fat her. A husband maybe, a kinky husband.
Hmm.
“I’m just t hinking about work.”
“Baby, you’ll be fine. Trust me.” Christ ian smiles.
“Please don’t int erfere—I want t o do t his on my own. Christ ian, please. It ’s import ant t o me,” I
say as gent ly as I can. I don’t want t o argue. His mout h set s once more int o a hard st ubborn
line, and I t hink he’s going t o berat e me again.
Oh no.
“Let ’s not argue, Christ ian. We’ve had such a wonderful morning. And last night was—” Words
fail me, last night was—“Heaven.”
He says not hing. I glance over at him and his eyes are closed.
“Yes. Heaven,” he says soft ly. “I meant what I said.”
“What ?”
“I don’t want t o let you go.”
“I don’t want t o go.”
He smiles and it ’s t his new, shy smile t hat dissolves everyt hing in it s pat h. Boy, it ’s powerful.
“Good,” he says simply, and he visibly relaxes.
I drive int o t he parking lot half a block from SIP.
“I’ll walk you t o work. Taylor will t ake me from t here,” Christ ian offers. I clamber out of t he car,
rest rict ed by my pencil skirt while Christ ian climbs out gracefully, at ease wit h his body or giving
t he impression of someone at ease wit h his body. Hmm . . . someone who can’t bear t o be
t ouched can’t be t hat at ease. I frown at my errant t hought .
“Don’t forget we’re seeing Flynn at seven t his evening,” he says as he holds his hand out t o
me. I press t he remot e door lock and t ake his hand.
“I won’t forget . I’ll compile a list of quest ions for him.”
“Quest ions? About me?”
I nod.
“I can answer any quest ions you have about me.” Christ ian looks affront ed.
I smile at him. “Yes, but I want t he unbiased, expensive charlat an’s opinion.” He frowns and
suddenly pulls me int o his embrace, holding bot h my hands t ight ly behind my back.
“Is t his a good idea?” he says, his voice low and husky. I lean back t o see t he anxiet y looming
large and wide in his eyes. It t ears at my soul.
“If you don’t want me t o, I won’t .” I st are at him, blinking, want ing t o caress t he concern out of
his face. I t ug on one of my hands and he frees it . I t ouch his cheek t enderly—
it ’s smoot h from shaving t his morning.
“What are you worried about ?” I ask, my voice soft and soot hing.
“That you’ll go.”
“Christ ian, how many t imes do I have t o t ell you—I’m not going anywhere. You’ve already t old
me t he worst . I’m not leaving you.”
“Then why haven’t you answered me?”
“Answered you?” I murmur disingenuously.
“You know what I’m t alking about , Ana.”
I sigh. “I want t o know t hat I’m enough for you, Christ ian. That ’s all.”
“And you won’t t ake my word for it ?” he says exasperat ed, releasing me.
“Christ ian, t his has all been so quick. And by your own admission, you’re fift y shades of fucked-
up. I can’t give you what you need,” I mut t er. “It ’s just not for me. But t hat makes me feel
inadequat e, especially seeing you wit h Leila. Who’s t o say t hat one day you won’t meet
someone who likes doing what you do? And who’s t o say you won’t , you know . . . fall for her?
Someone much bet t er suit ed t o your needs.” The t hought of Christ ian wit h anyone else
sickens me. I st are down at my knot t ed fingers.
“I knew several women who like doing what I like t o do. None of t hem appealed t o me t he way
you do. I’ve never had an emot ional connect ion wit h any of t hem. It ’s only ever been you, Ana.”
“Because you never gave t hem a chance. You’ve spent t oo long locked up in your fort ress,
Christ ian. Look, let ’s discuss t his lat er. I have t o go t o work. Maybe Dr. Flynn can offer us his
insight .” This is all far t oo heavy a discussion for a parking lot at eight fift y in t he morning, and
Christ ian, for once, seems t o agree. He nods but his eyes are wary.
“Come,” he orders, holding out his hand.
When I reach my desk, I find a not e asking me t o go st raight t o Elizabet h’s office. My heart
leaps int o my mout h. Oh, t his is it . I’m going t o get fired.
“Anast asia.” Elizabet h smiles kindly, waving me int o a chair before her desk. I sit and gaze at
her expect ant ly, hoping t hat she can’t hear my t humping heart . She smoot hes her t hick black
hair and regards wit h me wit h somber, clear blue eyes.
“I have some rat her sad news.”
Sad! Oh no.
“I’ve called you in t o inform you t hat Jack has left t he company rat her suddenly.” I flush. This
isn’t sad for me. Should I t ell her t hat I know?
“His rat her hast y depart ure has left a vacancy, and we’d like you t o fill it for now, unt il we find a
replacement .”
What ? I feel t he blood rush from my head. Me?
“But , I’ve only been here for a week or so.”
“Yes, Anast asia, I underst and but Jack was always a champion of your abilit ies. He had high
hopes for you.”
I st op breat hing. He had high hopes of get t ing me on my back, sure.
“Here’s a det ailed job descript ion. Have a good look t hrough it , and we can discuss it lat er
t oday.”
“But —”
“Please, I know t his is sudden, but you’ve already made cont act wit h Jack’s key aut hors. Your
chapt er not es haven’t gone unnot iced by t he ot her commissioning edit ors. You have a shrewd
mind, Anast asia. We all t hink you can do it .”
“Okay.” This is unreal.
“Look, t hink about it . In t he meant ime, you can t ake Jack’s office.” She st ands, effect ively
dismissing me, and holds out her hand. I shake it in a complet e daze.“I’m glad he’s gone,” she
whispers and a haunt ed look crosses her face. Holy shit.
What did he do t o her?
Back at my desk, I grab my Blackberry and call Christ ian.
He answers on t he second ring. “Anast asia. You okay?” he asks concerned.
“They’ve just given me Jack’s job t o mind, t emporarily,” I blurt out .
“You’re kidding,” he whispers, shocked.
“Did you have anyt hing t o do wit h t his?” My voice is sharper t han I mean it t o be.
“No—no, not at all. I mean, wit h all due respect , Anast asia, you’ve only been t here for a week or
so—and I don’t mean t hat unkindly.”
“I know.” I frown. “Apparent ly Jack really rat ed me.”
“Did he now?” Christ ian’s t one is frost y and t hen he sighs.
“Well, baby, if t hey t hink you can do it , I’m sure you can. Congrat ulat ions. Perhaps we should
celebrat e aft er we’ve seen Flynn.”
“Hmm. Are you sure you had not hing t o do wit h t his?” He is silent for a moment , and t hen he
says in a low menacing voice. “Do you doubt me? It angers me t hat you do.”
I swallow. Boy, he get s mad so easily. “I’m sorry,” I breat he, chast ened.
“If you need anyt hing, let me know. I’ll be here. And Anast asia?”
“What ?”
“Use your Blackberry,” he adds t ersely.
“Yes, Christ ian.”
He doesn’t hang up as I expect him t o but t akes a deep breat h.
“I mean it . If you need me, I’m here.” His words are much soft er, conciliat ory. Oh, he’s so
mercurial . . . his mood swings are like a met ronome set at prest o.
“Okay,” I murmur. “I’d bet t er go. I have t o move offices.”
“If you need me. I mean it ,” he murmurs.
“I know, t hank you, Christ ian. I love you.”
I sense his grin at t he ot her end of t he phone. I’ve won him back.
“I love you, t oo, baby.” Oh, will I ever t ire of him saying t hose words t o me?
“I’ll t alk t o you lat er.”
“Lat ers, baby.”
I hang up and glance at Jack’s office. My office. Holy cow—Anast asia St eele, Act ing
Commissioning Edit or. Who would have t hought ? I should ask for more money.
What would Jack t hink if he knew? I shudder at t he t hought and wonder idly how he’s spent
his morning, not in New York as he expect ed. I st roll int o his—my office—sit down at t he desk,
and st art reading t he job descript ion.
At t welve t hirt y, Elizabet h buzzes me.
“Ana, we need you in a meet ing at one o’clock in t he boardroom. Jerry Roach and Kay Best ie
will be t here—you know, t he company president and vice president ? All t he commissioning
edit ors will be at t ending.”
Shit !
“Do I need t o prepare anyt hing?”
“No, t his is just an informal gat hering we do once a mont h. Lunch will be provided.”
“I’ll be t here.” I hang up.
Holy shit! I check t hrough t he current rost er of Jack’s aut hors. Yes, I’ve pret t y much got t hose
nailed. I have t he five manuscript s he’s championing, plus t wo more, which should really be
considered for publicat ion. I t ake a deep breat h—I cannot believe it ’s luncht ime already. The
day has flown by, and I’m loving it . There has been so much t o absorb t his morning. A ping from
my calendar announces an appoint ment .
Oh no—Mia! In all t he excit ement I have forgot t en about our lunch. I fish out my Blackberry and
t ry frant ically t o find her phone number.
My phone buzzes.
“It ’s him, in recept ion.” Claire’s voice is hushed.
“Who?” For a moment , I t hink it might be Christ ian.
“The blond god.”
“Et han?”
Oh, what does he want ? I immediat ely feel guilt y for not having called him.
Et han, dressed in a checked blue shirt , whit e T-shirt , and jeans, beams at me when I appear.
“Wow! You look hot , St eele,” he says, nodding appreciat ively. He gives me a quick hug.“Is
everyt hing okay?” I ask.
He frowns. “Everyt hing’s fine, Ana. I just want ed t o see you. I’ve not heard from you in a while,
and I want ed t o check how Mr. Mogul was t reat ing you.” I flush and can’t help my smile.
“Okay!” Et han exclaims, holding up his hands. “I can t ell by t he secret smile. I don’t want t o
know any more. I came by on t he off chance you could do lunch. I’m enrolling at Seat t le for
psych courses in Sept ember. For my mast er’s.”
“Oh Et han. So much has happened. I have a t on t o t ell you, but right now, I can’t . I have a
meet ing.” An idea hit s me hard. “And I wonder if you can do me a really, really, really big favor?” I
clasp my hands t oget her in supplicat ion.
“Sure,” he says, bemused by my pleading.
“I’m supposed t o be having lunch wit h Christ ian and Elliot ’s sist er—but I can’t get hold of her,
and t his meet ing’s just been sprung on me. Please will you t ake her for lunch?
Please?”
“Aw, Ana! I don’t want t o babysit some brat .”
“Please, Et han.” I give him t he biggest -bluest -longest -eye-lashed look t hat I can manage. He
rolls his eyes and I know I’ve got him.
“You’ll cook me somet hing?” he mut t ers.
“Sure, what ever, whenever.”
“So where is she?”
“She’s due here now.” And as if on cue, I hear her voice.
“Ana!” she calls from t he front door.
We bot h t urn, and t here she is—all curvaceous and t all wit h her sleek black bob—
wearing a short mint -green minidress and mat ching high-heeled pumps wit h st raps around her
slim ankles. She looks st unning.
“The brat ?” he whispers, gaping at her.
“Yes. The brat t hat needs babysit t ing,” I whisper back. “Hi, Mia.” I give her a quick hug as she
st ares rat her blat ant ly at Et han.
“Mia—t his is Et han, Kat e’s brot her.”
He nods, his eyebrows raised in surprise. Mia blinks several t imes as she gives him her hand.
“Delight ed t o meet you,” Et han murmurs smoot hly and Mia blinks again—silent for once. She
blushes.
Holy cow. I don’t t hink I’ve ever seen her blush.
“I can’t make lunch,” I say lamely. “Et han has agreed t o t ake you, if t hat ’s okay? Can we have a
rain check?”
“Sure,” she says quiet ly. Mia quiet , t his is novel.
“Yeah, I’ll t ake it from here. Lat ers, Ana,” Et han says, offering Mia his arm. She accept s it wit h a
shy smile.
“Bye, Ana.” Mia t urns t o me and mout hs, “Oh. My. God!” giving me an exaggerat ed wink. Jeez .
. . she likes him! I wave at t hem as t hey leave t he building. I wonder what Christ ian’s at t it ude is
about his sist er dat ing? The t hought makes me uneasy. She’s my age, so he can’t object , can
he?
This is Christian we’re dealing with. My snarky subconscious is back, hat chet -mout hed,
cardigan and purse in t he crook of her arm. I shake off t he image. Mia is a grown woman and
Christ ian can be reasonable, can’t he? I dismiss t he t hought and head back t o Jack’s . . .
er . . . my office t o prep for t he meet ing.
It ’s t hree t hirt y when I ret urn. The meet ing went well. I have even secured approval t o progress
t he t wo manuscript s I was championing. It ’s a heady feeling.
On my desk is an enormous wicker basket crammed wit h st unning whit e and pale pink roses.
Wow—t he fragrance alone is heavenly. I smile as I pick up t he card. I know who sent t hem.
Congratulations, Miss Steele
And all on your own!
No help from your overfriendly, neighborhood, megalomaniac CEO
Love
Christian
I pick up my Blackberry t o e-mail him.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Megalomaniac . . .
Dat e: June 16, 2011 15:43
To: Christ ian Grey
. . . is my favorit e t ype of maniac. Thank you for t he beaut iful flowers. They’ve arrived in a huge
wicker basket t hat makes me t hink of picnics and blanket s.
x
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Fresh Air
Dat e: June 16, 2011 15:55
To: Anast asia St eele
Maniac, eh? Dr. Flynn may have somet hing t o say about t hat .
You want t o go on a picnic?
We could have fun in t he great out doors, Anast asia . . .
How is your day going, baby?
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
Oh my. I flush reading his response.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Hect ic
Dat e: June 16, 2011 16:00
To: Christ ian Grey
The day has flown by. I have hardly had a moment t o myself t o t hink about anyt hing ot her
t han work. I t hink I can do t his! I’ll t ell you more when I’m home.
Out doors sounds . . . int erest ing.
Love you.
A x
PS: Don’t worry about Dr. Flynn.
My phone buzzes. It ’s Claire from recept ion, desperat e t o know who sent t he flowers and what
happened t o Jack. Holed up in t he office all day, I have missed t he gossip. I t ell her quickly t hat
t he flowers are from my boyfriend and t hat I know very lit t le about Jack’s depart ure. My
Blackberry buzzes and I have anot her e-mail from Christ ian.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : I’ll t ry . . .
Dat e: June 16, 2011 16:09
To: Anast asia St eele
. . . not t o worry.
Lat ers, baby. x
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
At five t hirt y, I pack up my desk. I can’t believe how quickly t he day has gone. I have t o get back
t o Escala and prepare t o meet Dr. Flynn. I haven’t even had t ime t o t hink of quest ions.
Perhaps t oday we can have an init ial meet ing, and maybe Christ ian will let me see him again. I
shrug off t he t hought as I dash out of t he office, waving a quick good-bye t o Claire.
I’ve also got Christ ian’s birt hday t o t hink about . I know what I’m going t o give him.
I’d like him t o have it t onight before we meet Flynn, but how? Beside t he parking lot is a small
st ore selling t ourist y t rinket s. Inspirat ion hit s me and I duck inside.
Christ ian is on his Blackberry, st anding and st aring out t he glass wall as I ent er t he great room
half an hour lat er. Turning, he beams at me and wraps up his call.
“Ros, t hat ’s great . Tell Barney and we’ll go from t here . . . Good-bye.” He st rides over t o me as I
st and shyly in t he ent ryway. He’s changed now int o a whit e T-shirt and jeans, all bad boy and
smoldering. Whoa.
“Good evening, Miss St eele,” he murmurs and he bends t o kiss me. “Congrat ulat ions on your
promot ion.” He wraps his arms around me. He smells delicious.
“You’ve showered.”
“I’ve just had a work-out wit h Claude.”
“Oh.”
“Managed t o knock him on his ass t wice.” Christ ian beams, boyish and pleased wit h himself.
His grin is infect ious.
“That doesn’t happen oft en?”
“No. Very sat isfying when it does. Hungry?”
I shake my head.
“What ?” He frowns at me.
“I’m nervous. About Dr. Flynn.”
“Me, t oo. How was your day?” He releases me, and I him give a brief summary. He list ens
at t ent ively.
“Oh—t here’s one more t hing I should t ell you,” I add. “I was supposed t o have lunch wit h Mia.”
He raises his eyebrows, surprised. “You never ment ioned t hat .”
“I know, I forgot . I couldn’t make it because of t he meet ing, and Et han t ook her out t o lunch
inst ead.”
His face darkens. “I see. St op bit ing your lip.”
“I’m going t o freshen up,” I say changing t he subject and t urning t o leave before he can react
any furt her.
Dr. Flynn’s office is a short drive from Christ ian’s apart ment . Very handy, I muse, for emergency
sessions.
“I usually run here from home,” Christ ian says as he parks my Saab. “This is a great car.” He
smiles at me.
“I t hink so, t oo.” I smile back at him. “Christ ian . . . I—” I gaze anxiously at him.
“What is it , Ana?”
“Here.” I pull t he small black gift box from my purse. “This is for you for your birt hday. I want ed
t o give it t o you now—but only if you promise not t o open it unt il Sat urday, okay?”
He blinks at me in surprise and swallows. “Okay,” he murmurs caut iously.
Taking a deep breat h, I hand it t o him, ignoring his bemused expression. He shakes t he box,
and it produces a very sat isfact ory rat t le. He frowns. I know he’s desperat e t o see what it
cont ains. Then he grins, his eyes alight wit h yout hful, carefree excit ement . Oh boy . . . he looks
his age—and so beaut iful.
“You can’t open it unt il Sat urday,” I warn him.
“I get it ,” he says. “Why are you giving t his t o me now?” He pops t he box int o t he inside pocket
of his blue pinst riped jacket , close t o his heart .
How apt, I muse. I smirk at him.
“Because I can, Mr. Grey.”
His mout h t wist s wit h wry amusement .
“Why, Miss St eele, you st ole my line.”
We are ushered int o Dr. Flynn’s palat ial office by a brisk and friendly recept ionist . She greet s
Christ ian warmly, a lit t le t oo warmly for my t ast e—jeez, she’s old enough t o be his mot her—
and he knows her name.
The room is underst at ed: pale green wit h t wo dark green couches facing t wo leat her winged
chairs, and it has t he at mosphere of a gent lemen’s club. Dr. Flynn is seat ed at a desk at t he far
end of t he room.
As we ent er, he st ands and walks over t o join us in t he seat ing area. He wears black pant s and
a pale-blue open-necked shirt —no t ie. His bright blue eyes seem t o miss not hing.
“Christ ian.” He smiles amicably.
“John.” Christ ian shakes John’s hand. “You remember Anast asia?”
“How could I forget ? Anast asia, welcome.”
“Ana, please,” I mumble as he shakes my hand firmly. I do love his English accent .
“Ana,” he says kindly, ushering us t oward t he couches.
Christ ian gest ures t o one of t hem for me. I sit , t rying t o look relaxed, rest ing my hand on t he
couch rest , and he sprawls on t he ot her couch beside me so t hat we’re at right angles t o each
ot her. A small t able wit h a simple lamp is bet ween us. I not e wit h int erest a box of t issues
beside t he lamp.
This isn’t what I expect ed. I had in my mind’s eye a st ark whit e room wit h a black leat her chaise
longue; my inner goddess might have felt more at home t hen.
Looking relaxed and in cont rol, Dr. Flynn t akes a seat in one of t he winged chairs and picks up a
leat her not epad. Christ ian crosses his legs, his ankle rest ing on his knee, and st ret ches one
arm along t he back of t he couch. Reaching across wit h his ot her hand, he finds my hand on t he
couch rest and gives it a reassuring squeeze.
“Christ ian has request ed t hat you accompany him t o one of our sessions,” Dr. Flynn begins
gent ly. “Just so you know, we t reat t hese sessions wit h absolut e confident ialit y—” I raise my
eyebrow at Flynn, halt ing him mid-speech.
“Oh—um . . . I’ve signed an NDA,” I murmur, embarrassed t hat he’s st opped. Bot h Flynn and
Christ ian st are at me, and Christ ian releases my hand.
“A non-disclosure agreement ?” Dr. Flynn’s brow furrows, and he glances quizzically at
Christ ian.
Christ ian shrugs.
“You st art all your relat ionships wit h women wit h an NDA?” Dr. Flynn asks him.
“The cont ract ual ones, I do.”
Dr. Flynn’s lip t wit ches. “You’ve had ot her t ypes of relat ionships wit h women?” he asks, and he
looks amused.
“No,” Christ ian answers aft er a beat , and he looks amused, t oo.
“As I t hought .” Dr. Flynn t urns his at t ent ion back t o me. “Well, I guess we don’t have t o worry
about confident ialit y, but may I suggest t hat t he t wo of you discuss t his at some point ? As I
underst and, you’re no longer ent ering int o t hat kind of cont ract ual relat ionship.”
“Different kind of cont ract , hopefully,” says Christ ian soft ly, glancing at me. I flush and Dr. Flynn
narrows his eyes.
“Ana. You’ll have t o forgive me, but I probably know a lot more about you t han you t hink.
Christ ian has been very fort hcoming.”
I glance nervously at Christ ian. What has he said?
“An NDA?” he cont inues. “That must have shocked you.” I blink at him. “Oh, I t hink t he shock of
t hat has paled int o insignificance, given Christ ian’s most recent revelat ions,” I answer, my voice
soft and hesit ant . I sound so nervous.
“I’m sure.” Dr. Flynn smiles kindly at me. “So, Christ ian, what would you like t o discuss?”
Christ ian shrugs like a surly t een. “Anast asia want ed t o see you. Perhaps you should ask her.”
Dr. Flynn’s face regist ers his surprise once more, and he gazes shrewdly at me.
Holy shit. This is mort ifying. I gaze down at my fingers.
“Would you be more comfort able if Christ ian left us for a while?” My eyes dart t o Christ ian and
he’s gazing at me expect ant ly.
“Yes,” I whisper.
Christ ian frowns and opens his mout h but closes it again quickly and st ands in one swift
graceful movement .
“I’ll be in t he wait ing room,” he says, his mout h a flat , grumpy line.
Oh no.
“Thank you, Christ ian,” Dr. Flynn says impassively.
Christ ian gives me one long, searching look t hen st alks out of t he room—but he doesn’t slam
t he door. Phew. I immediat ely relax.
“He int imidat es you?”
“Yes. But not as much as he used t o.” I feel disloyal but it ’s t he t rut h.
“That doesn’t surprise me, Ana. What can I help you wit h?” I st are down at my knot t ed fingers.
What can I ask?
“Dr. Flynn, I’ve never been in a relat ionship before, and Christ ian is . . . well, he’s Christ ian. And
over t he last week or so, a great deal has happened. I haven’t had a chance t o t hink t hings
t hrough.”
“What do you need t o t hink t hrough?”
I glance up at him, and his head is cocked t o one side as he gazes at me wit h compassion, I
t hink.
“Well . . . Christ ian t ells me t hat he’s happy t o give up . . . er—” I st umble and pause.
This is so much more difficult t o discuss t han I’d imagined.
Dr. Flynn sighs. “Ana, in t he very limit ed t ime t hat you’ve known him, you’ve made more
progress wit h my pat ient t han I have in t he last t wo years. You have had a profound effect on
him. You must see t hat .”
“He’s had a profound effect on me, t oo. I just don’t know if I’m enough. To fulfill his needs,” I
whisper.
“Is t hat what you need from me? Reassurance?”
I nod.
“Needs change,” he says simply. “Christ ian has found himself in a sit uat ion where his met hods
of coping are no longer effect ive. Very simply, you’ve forced him t o confront some of his
demons and ret hink.”
I blink at him. This echoes what Christ ian has t old me.
“Yes, his demons,” I murmur.
“We don’t dwell on t hem—t hey’re in t he past . Christ ian knows what his demons are, as do I—
and now I’m sure you do, t oo. I’m much more concerned wit h t he fut ure and get t ing Christ ian t o
a place where he want s t o be.”
I frown and he raises an eyebrow.
“The t echnical t erm is SFBT—sorry.” He smiles. “That st ands for Solut ion-Focused Brief
Therapy. Essent ially, it ’s goal orient ed. We concent rat e on where Christ ian want s t o be and
how t o get him t here. It ’s a dialect ical approach. There’s no point in breast -beat ing about t he
past —all t hat ’s been picked over by every physician, psychologist , and psychia-t rist Christ ian’s
ever seen. We know why he’s t he way he is, but it ’s t he fut ure t hat ’s import ant . Where
Christ ian envisages himself, where he want s t o be. It t ook you walking out on him t o make him
t ake t his form of t herapy seriously. He realizes t hat his goal is a loving relat ionship wit h you. It ’s
t hat simple, and t hat ’s what we’re working on now. Of course t here are obst acles—his
haphephobia for one.”
Oh jeez . . . his what? I gasp.
“I’m sorry. I mean his fear of being t ouched,” Dr. Flynn says, shaking his head as if scolding
himself. “Which I’m sure you’re aware of.”
I flush and nod. Oh that!
“He has a morbid self-abhorrence. I’m sure t hat comes as no surprise t o you. And of course
t here’s t he parasomnia . . . um—night t errors, sorry, t o t he layperson.” I blink at him, t rying t o
absorb all t hese long words. I know about all of t his. But Flynn hasn’t ment ioned my cent ral
concern.
“But he’s a sadist . Surely, as such, he has needs which I can’t fulfill.” Dr. Flynn act ually rolls his
eyes, and his mout h presses int o a hard line. “That ’s no longer recognized as a psychiat ric
t erm. I don’t know how many t imes I have t old him t hat .
It ’s not even classified as a paraphilia any more, not since t he ninet ies.” Dr. Flynn has lost me
again. I blink at him. He smiles kindly at me.
“This is a pet peeve of mine.” He shakes his head. “Christ ian just t hinks t he worst of any given
sit uat ion. It ’s part of his self-abhorrence. Of course, t here’s such a t hing as sexual sadism, but
it ’s not a disease; it ’s a lifest yle choice. And if it ’s pract iced in a safe, sane relat ionship bet ween
consent ing adult s, t hen it ’s a nonissue. My underst anding is t hat Christ ian has conduct ed all of
his BDSM relat ionships in t his manner. You’re t he first lover who hasn’t consent ed, so he’s not
willing t o do it .” Lover!
“But surely it ’s not t hat simple.”
“Why not ?” Dr. Flynn shrugs good-nat uredly.
“Well . . . t he reasons he does it .”
“Ana, t hat ’s t he point . In t erms of solut ion-focused t herapy, it is t hat simple. Christ ian want s t o
be wit h you. In order t o do t hat , he needs t o forego t he more ext reme aspect s of t hat kind of
relat ionship. Aft er all, what you’re asking for is not unreasonable . . . is it ?” I flush. No, it ’s not
unreasonable, is it ?
“I don’t t hink so. But I worry t hat he does.”
“Christ ian recognizes t hat and has act ed accordingly. He’s not insane.” Dr. Flynn sighs.
“In a nut shell, he’s not a sadist , Ana. He’s an angry, fright ened, brilliant young man, who was
dealt a shit hand of cards when he was born. We can all beat our breast s about it , and analyze
t he who, t he how and t he why t o deat h—or Christ ian can move on and decide how he want s
t o live. He’d found somet hing t hat worked for him for a few years, more or less, but since he
met you, it no longer works. And as a consequence, he’s changing his modus operandi. You
and I have t o respect his choice and support him in it .” I gape at him. “That ’s my reassurance?”
“As good as it get s, Ana. There are no guarant ees in t his life.” He smiles. “And t hat is my
professional opinion.”
I smile, t oo, weakly. Doct or jokes . . . jeez.
“But he t hinks of himself as a recovering alcoholic.”
“Christ ian will always t hink t he worst of himself. As I said, it ’s part of his self-abhorrence. It ’s in
his makeup, no mat t er what . Nat urally he’s anxious about making t his change in his life. He’s
pot ent ially exposing himself t o a whole world of emot ional pain, which, incident ally, he had a
t ast e of when you left him. Nat urally he’s apprehensive.” Dr. Flynn pauses. “I don’t mean t o
st ress how import ant a role you have in his Damascene conver-sion—his road t o Damascus.
But you have. Christ ian would not be in t his place if he had not met you. Personally I don’t t hink
t hat an alcoholic is a very good analogy, but if it works for him for now, t hen I t hink we should
give him t he benefit of t he doubt .” Give Christ ian t he benefit of t he doubt . I frown at t he
t hought .
“Emot ionally, Christ ian is an adolescent , Ana. He bypassed t hat phase in his life t ot ally. He’s
channeled all his energies int o succeeding in t he business world, and he has beyond all
expect at ions. His emot ional world has t o play cat ch-up.”
“So how do I help?”
Dr. Flynn laughs. “Just keep doing what you’re doing,” he grins at me. “Christ ian is head over
heels. It ’s a delight t o see.”
I flush, and my inner goddess is hugging herself wit h glee, but somet hing bot hers me.
“Can I ask you one more t hing?”
“Of course.”
I t ake a deep breat h. “Part of me t hinks t hat if he wasn’t t his broken he wouldn’t . . .
want me.”
Dr. Flynn’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “That ’s a very negat ive t hing t o say about yourself,
Ana. And frankly it says more about you t han it does about Christ ian. It ’s not quit e up t here
wit h his self-loat hing, but I’m surprised by it .”
“Well, look at him . . . and t hen look at me.”
Dr. Flynn frowns. “I have. I see an at t ract ive young man, and I see an at t ract ive young woman.
Ana, why don’t you t hink of yourself as at t ract ive?” Oh no . . . I don’t want t his t o be about me. I
st are down at my fingers. There’s a sharp knock on t he door t hat makes me jump. Christ ian
comes back int o t he room, glaring at bot h of us. I flush and glance quickly at Flynn, who is
smiling benignly at Christ ian.
“Welcome back, Christ ian,” he says.
“I t hink t ime is up, John.”
“Nearly, Christ ian. Join us.”
Christ ian sit s down, beside me t his t ime, and places his hand possessively on my knee.
His act ion does not go unnot iced by Dr. Flynn.
“Did you have any ot her quest ions, Ana?” Dr. Flynn asks and his concern is obvious.
Shit . . . I should not have asked t hat quest ion. I shake my head.
“Christ ian?”
“Not t oday, John.”
Flynn nods.
“It may be beneficial if you bot h come again. I’m sure Ana will have more quest ions.” Christ ian
nods, reluct ant ly.
I flush. Shit . . . he want s t o delve. Christ ian clasps my hand and regards me int ent ly.
“Okay?” he asks soft ly.
I smile at him, nodding. Yes, we’re going for t he benefit of t he doubt , court esy of t he good
doct or from England.
Christ ian squeezes my hand and t urns t o Flynn.
“How is she?” he asks soft ly.
Me?
“She’ll get t here,” he says reassuringly.
“Good. Keep me updat ed of her progress.”
“I will.”
Holy fuck. They’re talking about Leila.
“Shall we go and celebrat e your promot ion?” Christ ian asks me point edly.
I nod shyly as Christ ian st ands.
We say our quick good-byes t o Dr. Flynn, and Christ ian ushers me out wit h unseemly hast e.
In t he st reet , he t urns t o me. “How was t hat ?” his voice is anxious.
“It was good.”
He regards me suspiciously. I cock my head t o one side.
“Mr. Grey, please don’t look at me t hat way. Under doct or’s orders I am going t o give you t he
benefit of t he doubt .”
“What does t hat mean?”
“You’ll see.”
His mout h t wist s and his eyes narrow. “Get in t he car,” he orders while opening t he passenger
door of t he Saab.
Oh, change of direct ion. My Blackberry buzzes. I haul it out of my purse.
Shit, José!
“Hi!”
“Ana, hi . . .”
I st are at Fift y, who is eyeing me suspiciously. “José,” I mout h at him. He st ares impassively at
me, but his eyes harden. Does he t hink I don’t not ice? I t urn my at t ent ion back t o José.“Sorry I
haven’t called you. Is it about t omorrow?” I ask José, but st are up at Christ ian.
“Yeah, list en—I spoke wit h some guy at Grey’s place, so I know where I’m delivering t he phot os,
and I should get t here bet ween five and six . . . aft er t hat , I’m free.” Oh.
“Well, I’m act ually st aying wit h Christ ian at t he moment , and if you want t o, he says you can
st ay at his place.”
Christ ian presses his mout h in a hard line. Hmm—some host he is.
José is silent for a moment , absorbing t his news. I cringe. I haven’t had a chance t o t alk t o him
about Christ ian.
“Okay,” he says event ually. “This t hing wit h Grey, it ’s serious?” I t urn away from t he car and
pace t o t he ot her side of t he sidewalk.
“Yes.”
“How serious?”
I roll my eyes and pause. Why does Christ ian have t o be list ening?
“Serious.”
“Is he wit h you now? That why you’re speaking in monosyllables?”
“Yes.”
“Okay. So are you allowed out t omorrow?”
“Of course I am.” I hope. I aut omat ically cross my fingers.
“So where shall I meet you?”
“You could collect me from work,” I offer.
“Okay.”
“I’ll t ext you t he address.”
“What t ime?”
“Say six?”
“Sure. I’ll see you t hen, Ana. Looking forward t o it . I miss you.” I grin. “Cool. I’ll see you t hen.” I
swit ch t he phone off and t urn.
Christ ian is leaning against t he car wat ching me carefully, his expression impossible t o read.
“How’s your friend?” he asks coolly.
“He’s well. He’ll pick me up from work, and I t hink we’ll go for a drink. Would you like t o join us?”
Christ ian hesit at es, his gray eyes cool. “You don’t t hink he’ll t ry anyt hing?”
“No!” My t one is exasperat ed—but I refrain from rolling my eyes.
“Okay,” Christ ian holds his hands up in defeat . “You hang out wit h your friend, and I’ll see you
lat er in t he evening.”
I was expect ing a fight , and his easy acquiescence t hrows me off balance.
“See? I can be reasonable.” He smirks.
My mout h t wist s. We’ll see about t hat .
“Can I drive?”
Christ ian blinks at me, surprised by my request .
“I’d rat her you didn’t .”
“Why, exact ly?”
“Because I don’t like t o be driven.”
“You managed t his morning, and you seem t o t olerat e Taylor driving you.”
“I t rust Taylor’s driving implicit ly.”
“And not mine?” I put my hands on my hips. “Honest ly—your cont rol freakery knows no
bounds. I’ve been driving since I was fift een.”
He shrugs in response, as if t his is of no consequence what soever. Oh—he’s so exasperat ing!
Benefit of t he doubt ? Well, screw t hat .
“Is t his my car?” I demand.
He frowns at me. “Of course it ’s your car.”
“Then give me t he keys, please. I’ve driven it t wice, and only t o and from work. Now you’re
having all t he fun.” I am in full-on pout mode. Christ ian’s lips t wit ch wit h a repressed smile.
“But you don’t know where we’re going.”
“I’m sure you can enlight en me, Mr. Grey. You’ve done a great job of it so far.” He gazes at me
st unned t hen smiles, his new shy smile t hat t ot ally disarms me and t akes my breat h away.
“Great job, eh?” he murmurs.
I blush. “Most ly, yes.”
“Well, in t hat case.” He hands me t he keys, walks round t o t he driver’s door, and opens it for
me.
“Left here,” Christ ian orders, and we head nort h t oward t he I-5. “Hell—gent ly, Ana.” He grabs
hold of t he dashboard.
Oh, for heaven’s sake. I roll my eyes, but don’t t urn t o look at him. Van Morrison croons in t he
background over t he car sound syst em.
“Slow down!”
“I am slowing down!”
Christ ian sighs. “What did Flynn say?” I hear his anxiet y leaching int o his voice.
“I t old you. He says I should give you t he benefit of t he doubt .” Damn—maybe I should have let
Christ ian drive. Then I could wat ch him. In fact . . . I signal t o pull over.
“What are you doing?” he snaps, alarmed.
“Let t ing you drive.”
“Why?”
“So I can look at you.”
He laughs. “No, no—you want ed t o drive. So, you drive, and I’ll look at you.” I scowl at him.
“Keep your eyes on t he road!” he shout s.
My blood boils. Right ! I pull over t o t he curb just before a st oplight and st orm out of t he car,
slamming t he door, and st and on t he sidewalk, arms folded, I glare at him. He climbs out of t he
car.
“What are you doing?” he asks angrily, st aring down at me.
“No. What are you doing?”
“You can’t park here.”
“I know t hat .”
“So why have you?”
“Because I’ve had it wit h you barking orders. Eit her you drive or you shut up about my driving!”
“Anast asia, get back in t he car before we get a t icket .”
“No.”
He blinks at me, at a t ot al loss, t hen runs his hands t hrough his hair, and his anger becomes
bewilderment . He looks so comical all of a sudden, and I can’t help but smile at him. He frowns.
“What ?” he snaps once more.
“You.”
“Oh, Anast asia! You are t he most frust rat ing female on t he planet .” He t hrows his hands in t he
air. “Fine—I’ll drive.” I grab t he edges of his jacket and pull him t o me.
“No—you are t he most frust rat ing man on t he planet , Mr. Grey.” He gazes down at me, his
eyes dark and int ense, he snakes his arms around my waist and embraces me, holding me
close.
“Maybe we’re meant for each ot her, t hen,” he says soft ly and inhales deeply, his nose in my
hair. I wrap my arms around him and close my eyes. For t he first t ime since t his morning, I feel
myself relax.
“Oh . . . Ana, Ana, Ana,” he breat hes, his lips pressed against my hair. I t ight en my arms around
him, and we st and, immobile, enjoying a moment of unexpect ed t ranquilit y, on t he st reet .
Releasing me, he opens t he passenger door. I climb in and sit quiet ly, wat ching him walk around
t he car.
Rest art ing t he car, Christ ian pulls out int o t he t raffic, absent mindedly humming along t o Van
Morrison.
Whoa. I’ve never heard him sing, not even in t he shower, ever. I frown. He has a lovely voice—of
course. Hmm . . . has he heard me sing?
He wouldn’t be asking you to marry him if he had! My subconscious has her arms crossed and
is wearing Burberry check . . . jeez. The song finishes and Christ ian smirks.
“You know, if we had got t en a t icket , t he t it le of t his car is in your name.”
“Well, good t hing I’ve been promot ed—I can afford t he fine,” I say smugly, st aring at his lovely
profile. His lips t wit ch. Anot her Van Morrison song st art s playing as he t akes t he on-ramp t o I-5,
heading nort h.
“Where are we going?”
“It ’s a surprise. What else did Flynn say?”
I sigh. “He t alked about FFFSTB or somet hing.”
“SFBT. The lat est t herapy opt ion,” he mut t ers.
“You’ve t ried ot hers?”
Christ ian snort s. “Baby, I’ve been subject ed t o t hem all. Cognit ivism, Freud, funct ionalism,
Gest alt , behaviorism . . . You name it , over t he years I’ve done it ,” he says and his t one bet rays
his bit t erness. The rancor in his voice is dist ressing.
“Do you t hink t his lat est approach will help?”
“What did Flynn say?”
“He said not t o dwell on your past . Focus on t he fut ure—on where you want t o be.” Christ ian
nods but shrugs at t he same t ime, his expression caut ious.
“What else?” he persist s.
“He t alked about your fear of being t ouched, alt hough he called it somet hing else. And about
your night mares and your self-abhorrence.” I glance at him, and in t he evening light , he’s
pensive, chewing on his t humbnail as he drives. He glances quickly at me.
“Eyes on t he road, Mr. Grey,” I admonish, my eyebrow cocked at him.
He looks amused, and slight ly exasperat ed. “You were t alking forever, Anast asia. What else did
he say?”
I swallow. “He doesn’t t hink you’re a sadist ,” I whisper.
“Really?” Christ ian says quiet ly and frowns. The at mosphere in t he car t akes a nose-dive.“He
says t hat t erm’s not recognized in psychiat ry. Not since t he ninet ies,” I mut t er, quickly t rying t o
rescue t he mood bet ween us.
Christ ian’s face darkens, and he exhales slowly.
“Flynn and I have differing opinions on t his,” he says quiet ly.
“He said you always t hink t he worst of yourself. I know t hat ’s t rue,” I murmur. “He also
ment ioned sexual sadism—but he said t hat was a lifest yle choice, not a psychiat ric condit ion.
Maybe t hat ’s what you’re t hinking about .” His gray eyes flash t oward me again, and his mout h
set s in a grim line.
“So—one t alk wit h t he good doct or and you’re an expert ,” he says acidly and t urns his eyes
front .
Oh dear . . . I sigh.
“Look—if you don’t want t o hear what he said, don’t ask me,” I mut t er soft ly.
I don’t want t o argue. Anyway he’s right —what t he hell do I know about all his shit ?
Do I even want t o know? I can list t he salient point s—his cont rol freakery, his possessiveness,
his jealousy, his overprot ect iveness—and I complet ely underst and where he’s coming from. I
can even underst and why he doesn’t like t o be t ouched—I’ve seen t he physical scars. I can
only imagine t he ment al ones, and I’ve only glimpsed his night mares once. And Dr. Flynn said—
“I want t o know what you discussed.” Christ ian int errupt s my t hought s as he heads off I-5 on
exit 172, heading west t oward t he slowly sinking sun.
“He called me your lover.”
“Did he now?” His t one is conciliat ory. “Well, he’s not hing if not fast idious about his t erms. I
t hink t hat ’s an accurat e descript ion. Don’t you?”
“Did you t hink of your subs as lovers?”
Christ ian’s brow creases once more, but t his t ime he’s t hinking. He t urns t he Saab smoot hly
nort h once again. Where are we going?
“No. They were sexual part ners,” he murmurs, his voice caut ious again. “You’re my only lover.
And I want you t o be more.”
Oh . . . t here’s t hat magical word again, brimming wit h possibilit y. It makes me smile, and inside I
hug myself, my inner goddess radiat ing joy.
“I know,” I whisper, t rying hard t o hide my excit ement . “I just need some t ime, Christ ian. To get
my head around t hese last few days.” He glances at me oddly, perplexed, his head inclined t o
one side.
Aft er a beat , t he st oplight we’re st at ioned at t urns green. He nods and t urns t he music up, and
our discussion is over.
Van Morrison is st ill singing—more opt imist ically now—about it being a marvelous night for
moondancing. I gaze out t he windows at t he pines and spruce dust ed gold by t he fading light
of t he sun, t heir long shadows st ret ching across t he road. Christ ian has t urned int o a more
resident ial st reet , and we’re heading west t oward t he Sound.
“Where are we going?” I ask again as we t urn int o a road. I cat ch a road sign—9t H ave nW. I
am baffled.
“Surprise,” he says and smiles myst eriously.
Christ ian cont inues t o drive past single-st ory, well-kept , clapboard houses where kids play
eit her clust ered around t heir basket ball hoops in t heir yards or cycling and running around in
t he st reet . It all looks affluent and wholesome wit h t he houses nest ling among t he t rees.
Perhaps we’re going t o visit someone? Who?
A few minut es lat er, Christ ian t urns sharply left , and we’re confront ed by t wo ornat e whit e
met al gat es set in a six-foot -high, sandst one wall. Christ ian presses a but t on on his door
handle and t he elect ric window hums quiet ly down int o t he doorframe. He punches a number
int o t he keypad and t he gat es swing open in welcome.
He glances at me, and his expression has changed. He looks uncert ain, nervous even.
“What is it ?” I ask, and I can’t mask t he concern in my voice.
“An idea,” he says quiet ly and eases t he Saab t hrough t he gat es.
We head up a t ree-lined lane just wide enough for t wo cars. On one side, t he t rees ring a
densely wooded area, and on t he ot her t here’s a vast area of grassland where a once-
cult ivat ed field has been left fallow. Grasses and wildflowers have reclaimed it , creat ing a rural
idyll—a meadow, where t he lat e evening breeze soft ly ripples t hrough t he grass and t he
evening sun gilds t he wildflowers. It ’s lovely—ut t erly t ranquil, and suddenly I imagine myself
lying in t he grass and gazing up at a clear blue summer sky. The t hought is t ant alizing yet
makes me feel homesick for some st range reason. How odd.
The lane curves around and opens int o a sweeping driveway in front of an impressive
Medit erranean-st yle house of soft pink sandst one. It ’s palat ial. All t he light s are on, each
window bright ly illuminat ed in t he dusk. There’s a smart , black BMW parked in front of t he four-
car garage, but Christ ian pulls up out side t he grand port ico.
Hmm . . . I wonder who lives here? Why are we visit ing?
Christ ian glances anxiously at me as he swit ches off t he car engine.
“Will you keep an open mind?” he asks.
I frown.
“Christ ian, I’ve needed an open mind since t he day I met you.” He smiles ironically and nods.
“Fair point well made, Miss St eele. Let ’s go.” The dark wood doors open, and a woman wit h
dark brown hair, a sincere smile, and a sharp lilac suit st ands wait ing. I’m grat eful I changed int o
my new navy shift dress t o impress Dr. Flynn. Okay, I’m not wearing killer heels like her—but
st ill, I’m not in jeans.
“Mr. Grey.” She smiles warmly and t hey shake hands.
“Miss Kelly,” he says polit ely.
She smiles at me and holds out her hand, which I shake. Her isn’t -he-dreamily-gorgeous-wish-
he-was-mine flush does not go unnot iced.
“Olga Kelly,” she announces breezily.
“Ana St eele,” I mut t er back at her. Who is t his woman? She st ands aside, welcoming us int o
t he house. It ’s a shock when I st ep in. The place is empt y—complet ely empt y. We find
ourselves in a large ent rance hall. The walls are a faded primrose yellow wit h scuff-marks
where pict ures must once have hung. All t hat remains are t he old-fashioned cryst al light
fixt ures. The floors are dull hardwood. There are closed doors t o eit her side of us, but Christ ian
gives me no t ime t o assimilat e what ’s happening.
“Come,” he says, and t aking my hand, he leads me t hrough t he archway in front of us int o a
larger inner vest ibule. It ’s dominat ed by a curved, sweeping st aircase wit h an int ricat e iron
balust rade but st ill he doesn’t st op. He t akes me t hrough t o t he main living area, which is
empt y, save for a large faded gold rug—t he biggest rug I have ever seen. Oh—and t here are
four cryst al chandeliers.
But Christ ian’s int ent ion is now clear as we head across t he room and out side t hrough open
French doors t o a large st one t errace. Below us t here’s half a foot ball field of manicured lawn,
but beyond t hat is t he view. Wow.
The panoramic, unint errupt ed vist a is breat ht aking—st aggering even: t wilight over t he Sound.
Oh my.
In t he dist ance lies Bainbridge Island, and furt her st ill on t his cryst al clear evening, t he set t ing
sun sinks slowly, glowing blood and flame orange, beyond Olympic Nat ional Park. Vermillion
hues bleed int o t he sky—opals, aquamarines, ceruleans—melding wit h t he darker purples of
t he scant wispy clouds and t he land beyond t he Sound. It is nat ure’s best , a visual symphony
orchest rat ed in t he sky and reflect ed in t he deep, st ill wat ers of t he Sound. I am lost t o t he
view—st aring, t rying t o absorb such beaut y.
I realize I’m holding my breat h in awe, and Christ ian is st ill holding my hand. As I reluct ant ly t urn
my eyes away from t he view, he’s gazing anxiously at me.
“You brought me here t o admire t he view?” I whisper. He nods, his expression serious.
“It ’s st aggering, Christ ian. Thank you,” I murmur, let t ing my eyes feast on it once more. He
releases my hand.
“How would you like t o look at it for t he rest of your life?” he breat hes.
What? I whip my face back t o his, st art led blue eyes t o pensive gray. I t hink my mout h drops
open, and I gape at him blankly.
“I’ve always want ed t o live on t he coast . I sail up and down t he Sound covet ing t hese houses.
This place hasn’t been on t he market long. I want t o buy it , demolish it , and build a new house
—for us,” he whispers, and his eyes glow, t ranslucent wit h his hopes and dreams.
Holy cow. Somehow I remain upright . I’m reeling. Live, here! In this beautiful haven!
For the rest of my life . . .
“It ’s just an idea,” he adds, caut iously.
I glance back t o assess t he int erior of t he house. How much is it wort h? It must be, what —five,
t en million dollars? I have no idea. Holy shit .
“Why do you want t o demolish it ?” I ask, looking back at him. His face falls slight ly.
Oh no.
“I’d like t o make a more sust ainable home, using t he lat est ecological t echniques. Elliot could
build it .”
I gaze back at t he room again. Miss Olga Kelly is on t he far side, hovering by t he ent rance.
She’s t he realt or, of course. I not ice t he room is huge and double height , a lit t le like t he great
room at Escala. There’s a balcony above—t hat must be t he landing on t he second floor.
There’s a huge fireplace and a whole line of French doors opening ont o t he t errace.
It has an old-world charm.
“Can we look around t he house?”
He blinks at me. “Sure,” he shrugs, puzzled.
Miss Kelly’s face light s up like Christ mas when we head back in. She’s delight ed t o t ake us on a
t our and gives us the spiel.
The house is enormous: t welve t housand square feet on six acres of land. As well as t his main
living room, t here’s t he eat -in—no, banquet -in—kit chen wit h family room at t ached— Family! —
a music room, a library, a st udy and, much t o my amazement , an indoor pool and exercise suit e
wit h sauna and st eam room at t ached. Downst airs in t he basement t here’s a cinema— Jeez—
and game room. Hmm . . . what sort of games could we play in here?Miss Kelly point s out all
sort s of feat ures, but basically t he house is beaut iful and was obviously at one t ime a happy
family home. It ’s a lit t le shabby now, but not hing t hat some TLC couldn’t cure.
As we follow Miss Kelly up t he magnificent main st airs t o t he second floor, I can hardly cont ain
my excit ement . . . t his house has everyt hing I could ever wish for in a home.
“Couldn’t you make t he exist ing house more ecological and self-sust aining?” Christ ian blinks at
me, nonplussed. “I’d have t o ask Elliot . He’s t he expert in all t his.” Miss Kelly leads us int o t he
mast er suit e where full height windows open ont o a balcony, and t he view is st ill spect acular. I
could sit in bed and gaze out all day, wat ching t he sailing boat s and t he changing weat her.
There are five addit ional bedrooms on t his floor. Jeez—kids. I push t he t hought hast ily t o one
side. I have t oo much t o process already. Miss Kelly is busily suggest ing t o Christ ian how t he
grounds could accommodat e riding st ables and a paddock. Horses! Terrifying images of my
few riding lessons flash t hrough my mind, but Christ ian doesn’t appear t o be list ening.
“The paddock would be where t he meadow is at t he moment ?” I ask.
“Yes,” Miss Kelly says bright ly.
To me t he meadow looks like somewhere t o lie in t he long grass and have picnics, not for some
four-legged fiend of Sat an t o roam.
Back in t he main room, Miss Kelly discreet ly disappears, and Christ ian leads me out once more
ont o t he t errace. The sun has set and light s from t he t owns on t he Olympic pen-insula are
t winkling on t he far side of t he Sound.
Christ ian pulls me int o his arms and t ips my chin up wit h his index finger, st aring int ent ly down
at me.
“Lot t o t ake in?” he asks, his expression unreadable.
I nod.
“I want ed t o check you liked it before I bought it .”
“The view?”
He nods.
“I love t he view, and I like t he house t hat ’s here.”
“You do?”
I smile shyly at him. “Christ ian, you had me at t he meadow.” His lips part as he inhales sharply,
t hen his face t ransforms wit h a grin, and his hands are suddenly fist ing int o my hair and his
mout h is on mine.
Back in t he car as we head for Seat t le, Christ ian’s mood has lift ed considerably.
“So you’re going t o buy it ?” I ask.
“Yes.”
“You’ll put Escala on t he market ?”
He frowns. “Why would I do t hat ?”
“To pay for . . .” My voice t rails off—of course. I flush.
He smirks at me. “Trust me, I can afford it .”
“Do you like being rich?”
“Yes. Show me someone who doesn’t ,” he says darkly.
Okay, get off t hat subject quickly.
“Anast asia, you’re going t o have t o learn t o be rich, t oo, if you say yes,” he says soft ly.
“Wealt h isn’t somet hing I’ve ever aspired t o, Christ ian.” I frown.
“I know. I love t hat about you. But t hen you’ve never been hungry,” he says simply.
His words are sobering.
“Where are we going?” I ask bright ly, changing t he subject .
“To celebrat e.” Christ ian relaxes.
Oh! “Celebrat e what , t he house?”
“Have you forgot t en already? Your act ing edit or role.”
“Oh yes.” I grin. Unbelievably, I had forgot t en.
“Where?”
“Up high at my club.”
“Your club?”
“Yes. One of t hem.”
The Mile High Club is on t he sevent y-sixt h floor of Columbia Tower, higher even t han
Christ ian’s apart ment . It ’s very now and has t he most head-spinning views over Seat t le.
“Crist al, ma’am?” Christ ian hands me a glass of chilled champagne as I sit perched on a
barst ool.
“Why t hank you, si r. ” I st ress t he last word flirt at iously, bat t ing my eyelashes at him
deliberat ely.
He gazes at me and his face darkens. “Are you flirt ing wit h me, Miss St eele?”
“Yes, Mr. Grey, I am. What are you going t o do about it ?”
“I’m sure I can t hink of somet hing,” he says, his voice low. “Come—our t able’s ready.” As we
approach t he t able, Christ ian st ops me, his hand on my elbow.
“Go and t ake your pant ies off,” he whispers.
Oh? A delicious t ingle runs down my spine.
“Go,” he commands quiet ly.
Whoa, what? I blink up at him. He’s not smiling—he’s dead serious. Every muscle below my
waist line t ight ens. I hand him my glass of champagne, t urn sharply on my heel, and head for
t he rest room.
Shit . What ’s he going t o do? Perhaps t his club is apt ly named.
The rest rooms are t he height of modern design—all dark wood, black granit e, and pools of light
from st rat egically placed halogens. In t he privacy of t he st all, I smirk as I divest myself of my
from st rat egically placed halogens. In t he privacy of t he st all, I smirk as I divest myself of my
underwear. Again I’m grat eful I changed int o t he navy blue shift dress.
I t hought it appropriat e at t ire t o meet t he good Dr. Flynn—I hadn’t expect ed t he evening t o
t ake t his unexpect ed course.
I am excit ed already. Why does he affect me so? I slight ly resent how easily I fall under his spell.
I know now t hat we won’t be spending t he evening t alking t hrough all our issues and recent
event s . . . but how can I resist him?
Checking my appearance in t he mirror, I am bright -eyed and flushed wit h excit ement .
Issues schmissues.
I t ake a deep breat h and head back out int o t he club. I mean, it ’s not as if I haven’t gone pant y
less before. My inner goddess is draped in a pink feat her boa and diamonds, st rut t ing her st uff
in fuck-me shoes.
Christ ian st ands polit ely when I ret urn t o t he t able, his expression unreadable. He looks his
usual perfect , cool, calm, and collect ed self. Of course, I now know different ly.
“Sit beside me,” he says. I slide int o t he seat and he sit s. “I’ve ordered for you. I hope you don’t
mind.” He hands me my half-finished glass of champagne, regarding me int ent ly and under his
scrut iny, my blood heat s anew. He rest s his hands on his t highs. I t ense and part my legs
slight ly.
The wait er arrives wit h a dish of oyst ers on crushed ice. Oysters. The memory of t he t wo of us
in t he privat e dining room at t he Heat hman fills my mind. We were discussing his cont ract . Oh
boy. We’ve come a long way since t hen.
“I t hink you liked oyst ers last t ime you t ried t hem.” His voice is low, seduct ive.
“Only t ime I’ve t ried t hem.” I’m all breat hy, my voice exposing me. His lips t wit ch wit h a smile.
“Oh, Miss St eele—when will you learn?” he muses.
He t akes an oyst er from t he dish and lift s his ot her hand from his t high. I flinch in ant icipat ion,
but he reaches for a slice of lemon.
“Learn what ?” I ask. Jeez, my pulse is racing. His long, skilled fingers gent ly squeeze t he lemon
over t he shellfish.
“Eat ,” he says, holding t he shell close t o my mout h. I part my lips, and he gent ly places t he shell
on my bot t om lip. “Tip your head back slowly,” he murmurs. I do as he asks and t he oyst er slips
down my t hroat . He doesn’t t ouch me, only t he shell.
Christ ian helps himself t o one, t hen feeds me anot her. We cont inue t his t ort uous rou-t ine unt il
all t welve are gone. His skin never connect s wit h mine. It ’s driving me crazy.
“St ill like oyst ers?” he asks as I swallow t he final one.
I nod, flushed, craving his t ouch.
“Good.”
I squirm in my seat . Why is t his so hot ?
He put s his hand casually on his own t high again, and I melt . Now. Please. Touch me.
My inner goddess is on her knees, naked except for her pant ies—begging. He runs his hand up
and down his t high, lift s it , t hen places it back where it was.
The wait er t ops up our champagne glasses and whisks away our plat es. Moment s lat er he’s
back wit h our ent rée, sea bass— I don’t believe it—served wit h asparagus, saut éed pot at oes,
and a hollandaise sauce.
“A favorit e of yours, Mr. Grey?”
“Most definit ely, Miss St eele. Though I believe it was cod at t he Heat hman.” His hand moves
up and down his t high. My breat hing spikes, but st ill he doesn’t t ouch me. It ’s so frust rat ing. I t ry
t o concent rat e on our conversat ion.
“I seem t o remember we were in a privat e dining room t hen, discussing cont ract s.”
“Happy days,” he says, smirking. “This t ime I hope t o get t o fuck you.” He moves his hand t o
pick up his knife.
Gah!
He t akes a bit e out of his sea bass. He’s doing t his on purpose.
“Don’t count on it ,” I mut t er wit h a pout and he glances at me, amused. “Speaking of
cont ract s,” I add. “The NDA.”
“Tear it up,” he says simply.
Whoa.
“What ? Really?”
“Yes.”
“You’re sure I’m not going t o run t o t he Seat t le Times wit h an exposé?” I t ease.
He laughs and it ’s a wonderful sound. He looks so young.
“No. I t rust you. I’m going t o give you t he benefit of t he doubt .” Oh. I grin shyly at him. “Dit t o,” I
breat he.
His eyes light up. “I’m very glad you’re wearing a dress,” he murmurs. And bam—desire courses
t hrough my already overheat ed blood.
“Why haven’t you t ouched me, t hen?” I hiss.
“Missing my t ouch?” he asks grinning. He’s amused . . . t he bast ard.
“Yes,” I seet he.
“Eat ,” he orders.
“You’re not going t o t ouch me, are you?”
“No.” He shakes his head.
What ? I gasp out loud.
“Just imagine how you’ll feel when we’re home,” he whispers. “I can’t wait t o get you home.”
“It will be your fault if I combust here on t he sevent y-sixt h floor,” I mut t er t hrough grit t ed t eet h.
“Oh, Anast asia. We’d find a way t o put t he fire out ,” he says, grinning salaciously at me.
Fuming, I dig int o my sea bass, and my inner goddess narrows her eyes in quiet , devi-ous
cont emplat ion. We can play t his game, t oo. I learned t he basics during our meal at t he
Heat hman. I t ake a bit e out of my sea bass. It is melt -in-t he-mout h delicious. I close my eyes,
savoring t he t ast e. When I open t hem, I begin my seduct ion of Christ ian Grey, very slowly
hit ching my skirt up, exposing more of my t highs.
Christ ian pauses moment arily, a forkful of fish suspended midair.
Touch me.
Aft er a beat , he resumes eat ing. I t ake anot her bit e of sea bass, ignoring him. Then, put t ing
down my knife, I run my fingers up t he inside of my lower t high, light ly t apping my skin wit h my
fingert ips. It ’s dist ract ing even t o me, especially as I am craving his t ouch.
Christ ian pauses once more.
“I know what you’re doing.” His voice is low and husky.
“I know t hat you know, Mr. Grey,” I reply soft ly. “That ’s t he point .” I pick up an asparagus st alk,
gaze sideways at him from beneat h my lashes, t hen dip t he asparagus int o t he hollandaise
sauce, swirling t he t ip round and round.
“You’re not t urning t he t ables on me, Miss St eele.” Smirking he reaches over and t akes t he
spear from me—amazingly and annoyingly managing not t o t ouch me again. No, t his isn’t right
—t his is not going according t o plan. Gah!
“Open your mout h,” he commands.
I am losing t his bat t le of wills. I glance up at him again, and his eyes blaze bright gray.
Part ing my lips a fract ion I run my t ongue across my lower lip. Christ ian smiles and his eyes
darken furt her.
“Wider,” he breat hes, his lips part ing so t hat I can see his t ongue. I groan inwardly and bit e my
bot t om lip, t hen do as he asks.
I hear his sharp int ake of breat h—he’s not so immune. Good, I am finally get t ing t o him. My
inner goddess fist -pumps t he air above her chaise longue.
Keeping my eyes locked on his, I t ake t he spear in my mout h, and suck, gent ly . . .
delicat ely . . . on t he end. The hollandaise sauce is mout hwat ering. I bit e down, moaning quiet ly
in appreciat ion.
Christ ian closes his eyes. Yes! When he opens t hem again, his pupils have dilat ed. The effect
on me is immediat e. I groan and reach out t o t ouch his t high. To my surprise, he uses his ot her
hand t o grab my wrist .
“Oh, no you don’t , Miss St eele,” he murmurs soft ly. Raising my hand t o his mout h, he gent ly
brushes my knuckles wit h his lips, and I squirm. Finally! More, please.
“Don’t t ouch,” he scolds me quiet ly, and places my hand back on my knee. It ’s so frust rat ing—
t his brief unsat isfact ory cont act .
“You don’t play fair.” I pout .
“I know.” He picks up his champagne glass t o propose a t oast , and I mirror his act ions.
“Congrat ulat ions on your promot ion, Miss St eele.” We clink glasses and I blush.
“Yes, kind of unexpect ed,” I mut t er. He frowns as if some unpleasant t hought has crossed his
mind.
“Eat ,” he orders. “I am not t aking you home unt il you’ve finished your meal, and t hen we can
really celebrat e.” His expression is so heat ed, so raw, so commanding. I am melt ing.
“I’m not hungry. Not for food.”
He shakes his head, t horoughly enjoying himself, but narrows his eyes at me just t he same.
“Eat , or I’ll put you across my knee, right here, and we’ll ent ert ain t he ot her diners.” His words
make me squirm. He wouldn’t dare! He and his t wit chy palm. I press my mout h int o a hard line
and st are at him. Picking up an asparagus st alk, he dips t he head int o t he hollandaise.
“Eat t his,” he murmurs, his voice low and seduct ive.
I willingly comply.
“You really don’t eat enough. You’ve lost weight since I’ve known you.” His t one is gent le.
I don’t want t o t hink about my weight ; t rut h is, I like being t his slim. I swallow t he asparagus.
“I just want t o go home and make love,” I mut t er disconsolat ely. Christ ian grins.
“So do I, and we will. Eat up.”
Reluct ant ly, I t urn back t o my food and st art t o eat . Honest ly, I’ve t aken my pant ies off and
everyt hing. I feel like a child who has been denied candy. He is such a t ease, a delicious, hot ,
naught y t ease, and all mine.
He quizzes me about Et han. As it t urns out , Christ ian does business wit h Kat e and Et han’s
fat her. Hmm . . . it ’s small world. I’m relieved he doesn’t ment ion Dr. Flynn or t he house as I’m
finding it difficult t o concent rat e on our conversat ion. I want t o go home.
The carnal ant icipat ion is unfurling bet ween us. He’s so good at t his. Making me wait .
Set t ing t he scene. Bet ween bit es, he places his hand on his t high, so close t o mine, but st ill
doesn’t t ouch me just t o t ease me furt her.
Bast ard! Finally I finish my food, and place my knife and fork on t he plat e.
“Good girl,” he murmurs, and t hose t wo words hold so much promise.
I frown at him. “What now?” I ask, desire clawing at my belly. Oh, I want t his man.
“Now? We leave. I believe you have cert ain expect at ions, Miss St eele. Which I int end t o fulfill t o
t he best of my abilit y.”
Whoa!
“The best . . . of your a . . . bil . . . it y?” I st ut t er. Holy shit.
He grins and st ands.
“Don’t we have t o pay?” I ask, breat hless.
He cocks his head t o one side. “I am a member here. They’ll bill me. Come, Anast asia, aft er
you.” He st eps aside, and I st and t o leave, conscious t hat I am not wearing my pant ies.
He gazes at me darkly, like he’s undressing me, and I glory in his carnal appraisal. It just makes
me feel so sexy—t his beaut iful man desires me. Will I always get a kick out of t his? Deliberat ely
st opping in front of him, I smoot h my dress over my hips.
Christ ian whispers in my ear, “I can’t wait t o get you home.” But he st ill doesn’t t ouch me. On
t he way out he murmurs somet hing about t he car t o t he maître d’, but I’m not list ening, my
inner goddess is incandescent wit h ant icipat ion. Jeez, she could light up Seat t le.
Wait ing by t he elevat ors, we are joined by t wo middle-aged couples. When t he doors open,
Christ ian t akes my elbow and st eers me t o t he back. I glance around, and we’re surrounded by
dark smoked-glass mirrors. As t he ot her couples ent er, one man in a rat her unflat t ering brown
suit greet s Christ ian.
“Grey,” he nods polit ely. Christ ian nods in ret urn but is silent .
The couples st and in front of us, facing t he elevat or doors. They are obviously friends—
t he women chat loudly, excit ed and animat ed aft er t heir meal. I t hink t hey’re all a lit t le t ipsy.As
t he doors close, Christ ian briefly st oops down beside me t o t ie his shoelace. Odd, his shoelaces
aren’t undone. Discreet ly he places his hand on my ankle, st art ling me, and as he st ands his
hand t ravels swift ly up my leg, skat ing deliciously over my skin—whoa—
right up. I have t o st ifle my gasp of surprise as his hand reaches my backside. Christ ian moves
behind me.
Oh my. I gape at t he people in front of us, st aring at t he backs of t heir heads. They have no
idea what we’re up t o. Wrapping his free arm around my waist , Christ ian pulls me t o him,
holding me in place as his fingers explore. Holy fucking shit . . . in here? The elevat or t ravels
smoot hly down, st opping at t he fift y-t hird floor t o let some more people on, but I am not paying
at t ent ion. I am focused on every lit t le move his fingers make. Circling around . . . now moving
forward, quest ing, as we shuffle back.
Again I st ifle a groan when his fingers find t heir goal.
“Always so ready, Miss St eele,” he whispers as he slips a long finger inside me. I squirm and
gasp. How can he do t his wit h all t hese people here?
“Keep st ill and quiet ,” he warns, murmuring in my ear.
I’m flushed, warm, want ing, t rapped in an elevat or wit h seven people, six of t hem oblivious t o
what ’s occurring in t he corner. His finger slides in and out of me, again and again. My breat hing.
Jeez, it ’s embarrassing. I want t o t ell him t o st op . . . and cont inue . . .
and st op. I sag against him, and he t ight ens his arm around me, his erect ion against my hip.
We halt again at t he fort y-fourt h floor. Oh . . . how long is this torture going to continue? In . . .
out . . . in . . . out . . . Subt ly I grind myself against his persist ent finger. Aft er all t his t ime of not
t ouching me, he chooses now! Here! And it makes me feel so—want on.
“Hush,” he breat hes, seemingly unaffect ed as yet t wo more people come aboard. The elevat or
is get t ing crowded. Christ ian moves us bot h fart her back so t hat we’re now pressed int o t he
corner, holding me in place and t ort uring me furt her. He nuzzles my hair. I’m sure we look like a
young couple in love, canoodling in t he corner, if anyone could be bot hered t o t urn round and
see what we’re doing . . . And he eases a second finger inside me.
Fuck! I groan, and I’m t hankful t hat t he gaggle of people in front of us are st ill chat t ing away,
t ot ally oblivious.
Oh, Christian, what you do to me. I lean my head against his chest , closing my eyes and
surrendering t o his unrelent ing fingers.
“Don’t come,” he whispers. “I want t hat lat er.” He splays his hand out on my belly, pressing
down slight ly, as he cont inues his sweet persecut ion. The feeling is exquisit e.
Finally t he elevat or reaches t he first floor. Wit h a loud ping t he doors open, and almost
inst ant ly t he passengers st art exit ing. Christ ian slowly slips his fingers out of me and kisses t he
back of my head. I glance round at him, and he smiles, t hen nods again at Mr. Badly-fit t ed-
brown-suit who ret urns his nod of acknowledgment as he shuffles out of t he elevat or wit h his
wife. I barely not ice, concent rat ing inst ead on st aying upright and t rying t o manage my pant ing.
Jeez, I feel aching and bereft . Christ ian releases me, leaving me t o st and on my own t wo feet
wit hout leaning on him.
Turning, I gaze up at him. He looks cool and unruffled, his usual composed self.
Hmm . . . This is so not fair.
“Ready?” he asks. His eyes gleam wickedly as he slips first his index, t hen his middle finger int o
his mout h and sucks on t hem. “Might y fine, Miss St eele,” he whispers. I nearly convulse on t he
spot .
“I can’t believe you just did t hat ,” I murmur, and I’m pract ically coming apart at t he seams.
“You’d be surprised what I can do, Miss St eele,” he says. Reaching out , he t ucks a lock of hair
behind my ear, a slight smile bet raying his amusement .
“I want t o get you home, but maybe we’ll only make it as far as t he car.” He grins down at me
as he t akes my hand and leads me out of t he elevat or.
What! Sex in the car? Can’t we just do it here on t he cool marble of t he lobby floor . . .
please?
“Come.”
“Yes, I want t o.”
“Miss St eele!” he admonishes me wit h mock-amused horror.
“I’ve never had sex in a car,” I mumble. Christ ian halt s and places t hose same fingers under my
chin, t ipping my head back and glaring down at me.
“I’m very pleased t o hear t hat . I have t o say I’d be very surprised, not t o say mad, if you had.”
I flush, blinking up at him. Of course, I’ve only had sex wit h him. I frown at him.
“That ’s not what I meant .”
“What did you mean?” His t one is unexpect edly harsh.
“Christ ian, it was just an expression.”
“The famous expression, ‘I’ve never had sex in a car.’ Yes, it just t rips off t he t ongue.” Jeez . . .
what’s his problem?
“Christ ian, I wasn’t t hinking. For heaven’s sake, you’ve just . . . um, done t hat t o me in an
elevat or full of people. My wit s are scat t ered.”
He raises his eyebrows. “What did I do t o you?” he challenges.
I scowl at him. He want s me t o say it .
“You t urned me on, big t ime. Now t ake me home and fuck me.” His mout h drops open t hen he
laughs, surprised. Now he looks young and carefree. Oh, t o hear him laugh. I love it because it ’s
so rare.
“You’re a born romant ic, Miss St eele.” He t akes my hand, and we head out of t he building t o
where t he valet st ands by my Saab.
“So you want sex in a car,” Christ ian murmurs as he swit ches on t he ignit ion.
“Quit e frankly, I would have been happy wit h t he lobby floor.”
“Trust me, Ana, so would I. But I don’t fancy being arrest ed at t his t ime of night , and I didn’t
want t o fuck you in a rest room. Well, not t oday.” What! “You mean t here was a possibilit y?”
“Oh yes.”
“Let ’s go back.”
He t urns t o gaze at me and laughs. His laught er is infect ious; soon we’re bot h laughing—
wonderful, cat hart ic, head-held-back laught er. Reaching over, he places his hand on my knee,
caressing it gent ly wit h long skilled fingers. I st op laughing.
“Pat ience, Anast asia,” he murmurs and pulls int o t he Seat t le t raffic.
He parks t he Saab in t he Escala garage and t urns off t he engine. Suddenly, in t he confines of
t he car, t he at mosphere bet ween us changes. Wit h want on ant icipat ion, I glance at him, t rying
t o cont ain my palpit at ing heart . He’s t urned t oward me, leaning against t he door, his elbow
propped on t he st eering wheel.
He pulls his lower lip wit h his t humb and index finger. His mout h is so dist ract ing.
I want it on me. He’s wat ching me int ent ly, his eyes dark gray. My mout h goes dry. He smiles a
slow sexy smile.
“We will fuck in t he car at a t ime and place of my choosing. Right now, I want t o t ake you on
every available surface of my apart ment .”
It ’s like he’s addressing me below t he waist . . . my inner goddess performs four arabesques and
a pas de Basque.
“Yes.” Jeez, I sound so breat hy, desperat e.
He leans forward a fract ion. I close my eyes, wait ing for his kiss, t hinking—finally. But not hing
happens. Aft er a moment , I open my eyes t o find him gazing at me. I can’t figure out what he’s
t hinking, but before I can say anyt hing, he dist ract s me once more.
“If I kiss you now we won’t make it int o t he apart ment . Come.” Gah! Could t his man be any
more frust rat ing? He climbs out of t he car.
Once again, we wait for t he elevat or, my body t hrumming wit h ant icipat ion. Christ ian holds my
hand, running his t humb rhyt hmically across my knuckles, each st roke echoing t hrough me. Oh,
I want his hands on all of me. He’s t ort ured me long enough.
“So, what happened t o inst ant grat ificat ion?” I murmur while we wait .
Christ ian smirks down at me.
“It ’s not appropriat e in every sit uat ion, Anast asia.”
“Since when?”
“Since t his evening.”
“Why are you t ort uring me so?”
“Tit for t at , Miss St eele.”
“How am I t ort uring you?”
“I t hink you know.”
I gaze up at him and his expression is difficult t o read. He wants my answer . . . that’s it.
“I’m int o delayed grat ificat ion, t oo,” I whisper, smiling shyly.
He t ugs my hand unexpect edly, and suddenly I am in his arms. He grabs t he hair at t he nape of
my neck, pulling gent ly so my head t ips back.
“What can I do t o make you say yes?” he asks fervent ly, t hrowing me off balance once more. I
blink at him—at his lovely, serious, desperat e expression.
“Give me some t ime? Please,” I murmur. He groans and finally he kisses me, long and hard.
Then we’re in t he elevat or, and we’re all hands and mout hs and t ongues and lips and fingers
and hair. Desire, t hick and st rong, lances t hrough my blood, clouding all my reason.
He pushes me against t he wall, pinning me wit h his hips, one hand in my hair, t he ot her at my
chin, holding me in place.
“You own me,” he whispers. “My fat e is in your hands, Ana.” His words are int oxicat ing, and in
my overheat ed st at e, I want t o rip off his clot hes.
I push off his jacket , and as t he elevat or arrives at t he apart ment , we t umble out int o t he foyer.
Christ ian pins me t o t he wall by t he elevat or, his jacket falling t o t he floor, and his hand t ravels
up my leg, his lips never leaving mine. He hoist s up my dress.
“First surface here,” he breat hes and abrupt ly he lift s me. “Wrap your legs around me.” I do as
I’m t old, and he t urns and lays me down on t he foyer t able, so he’s st anding bet ween my legs.
I’m aware t hat t he usual vase of flowers is missing. Huh? Reaching int o his jeans pocket , he
fishes out a foil packet and hands it t o me, undoing his fly.
“Do you know how much you t urn me on?”
“What ?” I pant . “No . . . I . . .”
“Well, you do,” he mut t ers, “all t he t ime.” He grabs t he foil packet from my hands. Oh, t his is so
quick, but aft er all his t ant alizing t easing, I want him badly—right now. He gazes down at me as
he rolls on t he condom, t hen put s his hands under my t highs, spreading my legs wider.
Posit ioning himself, he pauses. “Keep your eyes open. I want t o see you,” he whispers and
clasping bot h my hands wit h his, he sinks slowly int o me.
I t ry, I really do, but t he feeling is so exquisit e. What I’ve been wait ing for aft er all his t easing.
Oh, the fullness, this feeling . . . I groan and arch my back off t he t able.
“Open!” he growls, t ight ening his hands on mine and t hrust ing sharply int o me so t hat I cry out .
I blink my eyes open, and he st ares down at me wide-eyed. Slowly he wit hdraws t hen sinks int o
me once more, his mout h slackening and t hen forming an Ah . . . , but he says not hing. Seeing
his arousal, his react ion t o me—I light up inside, my blood scorching t hrough my veins. His gray
eyes burn int o mine. He picks up t he rhyt hm, and I revel in it , glory in it , wat ching him, wat ching
me—his passion, his love—as we come apart , t oget her.
I call out as I explode around him, and Christ ian follows.
“Yes, Ana!” he cries. He collapses on me, releasing my hands and rest ing his head on my chest .
My legs are st ill wrapped around him, and under t he pat ient , mat ernal eyes of t he Madonna
paint ings, I cradle his head against me and st ruggle t o cat ch my breat h.
He raises his head t o look at me. “I’m not finished wit h you yet ,” he murmurs and leaning up, he
kisses me.
I lie naked in Christ ian’s bed, sprawled over his chest , pant ing. Holy cow—does his energy ever
wane? Christ ian t rails his fingers up and down my back.
wane? Christ ian t rails his fingers up and down my back.
“Sat isfied, Miss St eele?”
I murmur my assent . I have no energy left for t alking. Raising my head, I t urn unfo-cused eyes
t o him and bask in his warm, fond gaze. Very deliberat ely, I angle my head down so he knows I
am going t o kiss his chest .
He t enses moment arily, and I plant a soft kiss in his chest hair, breat hing in his unique Christ ian
smell, mixed wit h sweat and sex. It ’s heady. He rolls ont o his side so I’m lying beside him and
gazes down at me.
“Is sex like t his for everyone? I’m surprised anyone ever goes out ,” I murmur, feeling suddenly
shy.
He grins. “I can’t speak for everyone, but it ’s pret t y damned special wit h you, Anast asia.” He
bends and kisses me.
“That ’s because you’re pret t y damned special, Mr. Grey,” I agree, smiling up at him and
caressing his face. He blinks down at me at a loss.
“It ’s lat e. Go t o sleep,” he says. He kisses me, t hen lies down and pulls me t o him so we’re
spooning in bed.
“You don’t like compliment s.”
“Go t o sleep, Anast asia.”
Hmm . . . But he is pret t y damned special. Jeez . . . why doesn’t he realize t his?
“I loved t he house,” I murmur.
He says not hing for a moment , but I sense his grin.
“I love you. Go t o sleep.” He nuzzles my hair, and I drift int o sleep, safe in his arms, dreaming of
sunset s and French doors and wide st aircases . . . and a small copper-haired boy running
t hrough a meadow, laughing and giggling as I chase him.
“Got t a go, baby.” Christ ian kisses me just below my ear.
I open my eyes and it ’s morning. I t urn t o face him, but he’s up and dressed and fresh and
delicious, leaning over me.
“What t ime is it ?” Oh no . . . I don’t want to be late.
“Don’t panic. I have a breakfast meet ing.” He rubs his nose against mine.
“You smell good,” I murmur, st ret ching out beneat h him, my limbs pleasurably t ight and creaky
from all our exploit s yest erday. I wrap my arms around his neck.
“Don’t go.”
He cocks his head t o one side and raises his eyebrow. “Miss St eele—are you t rying t o keep a
man from an honest day’s work?”
I nod sleepily at him, and he smiles his new shy smile.
“As t empt ing as you are, I have t o go.” He kisses me and st ands. He’s wearing a really sharp
dark navy suit , whit e shirt and navy t ie, and he looks every inch t he CEO . . . t he hot
CEO.“Lat ers, baby,” he murmurs and he’s off.
Glancing at t he clock I not e it ’s already seven—I must have slept t hrough t he alarm.
Well, t ime t o get up.
In t he shower, inspirat ion hit s me. I’ve t hought of anot her birt hday present for Christ ian.
It ’s so difficult t o buy somet hing for t he man who has everyt hing. I’ve already given him my
main present , and I st ill have t he ot her it em I bought at t he t ourist shop, but t his is one present
t hat will really be for me. I hug myself in ant icipat ion as I swit ch off t he shower. I just have t o
prepare it .
In t he walk-in closet , I put on a dark red fit t ed dress wit h a square neckline, cut quit e low. Yes,
t his will do for work.
Now for Christian’s present. I st art rummaging t hrough his drawers, looking for his t ies. In t he
bot t om drawer I find t hose faded, ripped jeans, t he ones he wears in t he playroom—t he ones
he looks so hot in. I st roke t hem gent ly, using my whole hand. Oh my, t he mat erial is so soft .
Beneat h t hem, I find a large, black, flat cardboard box. It piques my int erest immediat ely. What ’s
in here? I st are at it , feeling like I’m t respassing again. Taking it out , I shake it . It ’s heavy as if it
holds papers or manuscript s. I cannot resist , I open t he lid—and quickly shut it again. Holy fuck
—phot ographs from t he Red Room. The shock makes me sit back on my heels as I t ry t o wipe
t he image from my brain. Why did I open the box? Why has he kept them?
I shudder. My subconscious scowls at me—t his is before you. Forget t hem.
She’s right . St anding up I not ice his t ies are hanging at t he end of his clot hes rail. I find my
favorit e and exit quickly.
I t ry t o t ell myself t hose phot os are BA—Before Ana. My subconscious nods wit h approval, but
it ’s wit h a heavier heart t hat I head int o t he main room for breakfast . Mrs. Jones smiles at me
warmly and t hen frowns.
“Everyt hing all right , Ana?” she asks kindly.
“Yes,” I murmur, dist ract ed. “Do you have a key t o t he . . . um, playroom?” She pauses
moment arily, surprised.
“Yes, of course.” She unclips a small bunch of keys from her belt . “What would you like for
breakfast , dear?” she asks as she hands me t he keys.
“Just granola. I won’t be long.”
I feel more ambivalent about t his gift now but only since t he discovery of t hose phot ographs.
Nothing’s changed, my subconscious barks at me again, glaring at me over her half-moon
winged glasses. That pict ure was hot , my inner goddess chips in, and ment ally I scowl at her.
Yes it was—t oo hot for me.
What else does he have hidden away? Quickly I ferret t hrough t he museum chest , t ake what I
need, and lock t he playroom door behind me. Wouldn’t do for José t o discover t his!
I hand t he keys back t o Mrs. Jones and sit down t o devour my breakfast , feeling odd t hat
Christ ian is absent . The phot ograph image dances unwelcome around my mind. I wonder who
it was? Leila perhaps?
On my drive in t o work, I debat e whet her or not t o t ell Christ ian I found his phot ographs.
No, screams my subconscious, her Edvard Munch face on. I decide she’s probably right .
As I sit down at my desk, my Blackberry buzzes.
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Surfaces
Dat e: June 17, 2011 08:59
To: Anast asia St eele
I calculat e t hat t here are at least 30 surfaces t o go. I am looking forward t o each and every one
of t hem. Then t here’s t he floors, t he walls—and let ’s not forget t he balcony.
Aft er t hat t here’s my office . . .
Miss you. x
Christ ian Grey
Priapic CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
His e-mail makes me smile, and all my earlier reservat ions evaporat e. It ’s me he want s now, and
memories of last night ’s sexcapades flood my mind . . . the elevator, the foyer, the bed. Priapic is
right . I wonder idly what t he female equivalent might be?
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Romance?
Dat e: June 17, 2011 09:03
To: Christ ian Grey
Mr. GreyYou have a one-t rack mind.
I missed you at breakfast
But Mrs. Jones was very accommodat ing.
Ax
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Int rigued
Dat e: June 17, 2011 09:07
To: Anast asia St eele
What was Mrs. Jones accommodat ing about ?
What are you up t o Miss St eele?
Christ ian Grey
Curious CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
How does he know?
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Tapping Nose
Dat e: June 17, 2011 09:10
To: Christ ian Grey
Wait and see—it ’s a surprise.
I need t o work . . . let me be.
Love you.
A x
From: Christ ian Grey
Subject : Frust rat ed
Dat e: June 17, 2011 09:12
To: Anast asia St eele
I hat e it when you keep t hings from me.
Christ ian Grey
CEO, Grey Ent erprises Holdings Inc.
I st are at t he small screen of my Blackberry. The vehemence implicit in his e-mail t akes me by
surprise. Why does he feel like t his? It ’s not like I’m hiding erot ic phot ographs of my exes.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Indulging you
Dat e: June 17, 2011 09:14
To: Christ ian Grey
It ’s for your birt hday.
Anot her surprise.
Don’t be so pet ulant .
A x
He doesn’t reply immediat ely, and I’m called int o a meet ing so I can’t dwell on it for t oo long.
When I next glance at my Blackberry, t o my horror I realize it ’s four in t he aft ernoon.
Where has t he day gone? St ill no message from Christ ian. I decide t o e-mail him again.
From: Anast asia St eele
Subject : Hello
Dat e: June 17, 2011 16:03
To: Christ ian Grey
Are you not t alking t o me?
Don’t forget I am going for a drink wit h José, and t hat he’s st aying wit h us t onight .
Please ret hink about joining us.
A x
He doesn’t reply, and I feel a frisson of unease. I hope he’s okay. Calling his mobile, I get his
voicemail. The announcement simply says Grey, leave a message in his most clipped t one.“Hi .
. . um . . . it ’s me. Ana. Are you okay? Call me,” I st ut t er t hrough my message.
I’ve never had t o leave one for him before. I flush as I hang up. Of course he’ll know it’s you,
idiot! My subconscious rolls her eyes at me. I am t empt ed t o ring his PA Andrea but decide
t hat ’s a st ep t oo far. Reluct ant ly I cont inue my work.
My phone rings unexpect edly and my heart jumps. Christian! But no—it ’s Kat e, my best friend
finally!
“Ana!” she shout s from wherever she is.
“Kat e! Are you back? I’ve missed you.”
“Me, t oo. I have so much t o t ell you. We’re at Sea-Tac—me and my man.” She giggles in a most
un-Kat e-like way.
“Cool. I have so much t o t ell you, t oo.”
“See you back at t he apart ment ?”
“I’m having drinks wit h José. Join us.”
“José’s in t own? Sure! Text me where.”
“Okay.” I beam. My best friend is home. Aft er all t his t ime!
“You good, Ana?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“St ill wit h Christ ian?”
“Yes.”
“Good. Lat ers!”
Oh, not her as well. Elliot ’s influence knows no bounds.
“Yeah—lat ers, baby.” I grin and she hangs up.
Wow. Kat e is home. How am I going t o t ell her all t hat has happened? I should writ e it down so I
don’t forget anyt hing.
An hour lat er my office phone rings— Christian? No, it ’s Claire.
“You should see t he guy asking for you in recept ion. How come you know all t hese hot guys,
Ana?”
José must be here. I glance at t he clock—it ’s five fift y-five, and a small t hrill of excit ement
pulses t hrough me. I haven’t seen him in ages.
“Ana, wow! You look great . So grown up.” He grins at me.
Just because I’m wearing a smart dress . . . jeez!
He hugs me hard. “And t all,” he mut t ers in amazement .
“It ’s just t he shoes, José. You don’t look so bad yourself.” He’s wearing jeans, a black T-shirt ,
and a black and whit e check flannel shirt .
“I’ll grab my t hings and we can go.”
“Cool. I’ll wait here.”
I pick up t wo Rolling Rocks from t he crowded bar and head over t o t he t able where José is
seat ed.
“You found Christ ian’s place okay?”
“Yeah. I haven’t been inside. I just delivered t he phot os t o t he service elevat or. Some guy
named Taylor t ook t hem up. Looks like quit e a place.”
“It is. You should see inside.”
“Can’t wait . Salud, Ana. Seat t le agrees wit h you.”
I flush as we clink bot t les. It ’s Christ ian t hat agrees wit h me. “Salud. Tell me about your show
and how it went .”
He beams and launches int o t he st ory. He sold all but t hree of his phot os, which has t aken
care of his st udent loans and left him some cash t o spare.
“And I’ve been commissioned t o do some landscapes for t he Port land Tourist Aut horit y. Pret t y
cool, huh?” he finishes proudly.
“Oh José—t hat ’s wonderful. Not int erfering wit h your st udies t hough?” I frown at him.
“Nah. Now t hat you guys have gone and t hree of t he guys I used t o hang out wit h, I have more
t ime.”
“No hot babe t o keep you busy? Last t ime I saw you, you had half a dozen women hanging on
your every word.” I arch an eyebrow at him.
“Nah, Ana. None of t hem are woman enough for me.” He’s all bravado.
“Oh sure. José Rodriguez, lady killer.” I giggle.
“Hey—I have my moment s, St eele.” He looks vaguely hurt , and I am chast ened.
“Sure you do.” I mollify him.
“So, how’s Grey?” he asks, his t one changing, becoming cooler.
“He’s good. We’re good,” I murmur.
“Serious, you say?”
“Yes. Serious.”
“He’s not t oo old for you?”
“Oh José. You know what my mom says—I was born old.” José’s mout h t wist s wryly.
“How is your mom?” And like t hat , we are out of t he danger zone.
“Ana!”
I t urn and t here’s Kat e wit h Et han. She looks gorgeous: sun-kissed, bleached st rawber-ry-
blond hair, golden t an, and beaming whit e smile, and so shapely in her whit e cami and t ight
whit e jeans. All eyes are on Kat e. I leap up from my seat t o give her a hug. Oh how I’ve missed
t his woman!
She pushes me away from her and holds me at arm’s lengt h, examining me closely. I flush
under her int ense gaze.
“You’ve lost weight . A lot of weight . And you look different . Grown up. What ’s been going on?”
she says, all mot her hen, concerned and bossy. “I like your dress. Suit s you.”
“A lot ’s happened since you went away. I’ll t ell you lat er when we’re on our own.” I am not ready
for t he Kat herine Kavanagh Inquisit ion just yet . She regards me suspiciously.
“You’re okay?” she asks gent ly.
“Yes,” I smile, t hough I’d be happier knowing where Christ ian is.
“Cool.”
“Hi, Et han.” I grin at him, and he gives me a quick hug.
“Hi, Ana,” he whispers in my ear.
José frowns at him.
“How was lunch wit h Mia?” I ask Et han.
“Int erest ing,” he says crypt ically.
Oh?
“Et han—you know José?”
“We’ve met once,” José mut t ers, assessing Et han as t hey shake hands.
“Yeah, at Kat e’s place in Vancouver,” Et han says, smiling pleasant ly at José. “Right —
who’s for a drink?”
I make my way t o t he rest rooms. While t here I t ext Christ ian our locat ion; perhaps he’ll join us.
There are no missed calls from him and no e-mails. This is not like him.
“Whassup, Ana?” José asks as I come back t o t he t able.
“I can’t reach Christ ian. I hope he’s okay.”
“He’ll be fine. Like anot her beer?”
“Sure.”
Kat e leans across. “Et han says some mad st alker ex-girlfriend was in t he apart ment wit h a
gun?”
“Well . . . yeah.” I shrug apologet ically. Oh jeez—do we have t o do t his now?
“Ana—what t he hell’s been going on?” Kat e st ops abrupt ly and checks her phone.
“Hi, baby,” she says when she answers it . Baby! She frowns and looks at me. “Sure,” she says
and t urns t o me. “It ’s Elliot . . . he want s t o t alk t o you.”
“Ana.” Elliot ’s voice is clipped and quiet , and my scalp prickles ominously.
“What ’s wrong?”
“It ’s Christ ian. He’s not back from Port land.”
“What ? What do you mean?”
“His helicopt er has gone missing.”
“Charlie Tango?” I whisper as all t he breat h leaves my body. “No!”
I st are at t he flames, mesmerized. They dance and weave bright blazing orange wit h t ips of
cobalt blue in t he fireplace in Christ ian’s apart ment . And despit e t he heat pumping out of t he
fire and t he blanket draped around my shoulders, I’m cold. Bone-chillingly cold.
I’m aware of hushed voices, many hushed voices. But t hey’re in t he background, a dist ant
buzz. I don’t hear t he words. All I can hear, all I can focus on, is t he soft hiss of t he gas from t he
fire.
My t hought s t urn t o t he house we saw yest erday and t he huge fireplaces—real fireplaces for
burning wood. I’d like t o make love wit h Christ ian in front of a real fire. I’d like t o make love wit h
Christ ian in front of t his fire. Yes, t hat would be fun. No doubt , he’d t hink of some way t o make
it memorable like all t he t imes we’ve made love. I snort wryly t o myself, even t he t imes when we
were just fucking. Yes, t hose were pret t y memorable, t oo. Where is he?
The flames shimmy and flicker, holding me capt ive, keeping me numb. I focus solely on t heir
flaring, scorching beaut y. They are bewit ching.
Anastasia, you’ve bewitched me.
He said t hat t he first t ime he slept wit h me in my bed. Oh no . . .
I wrap my arms around myself, and t he world falls away from me and realit y bleeds int o my
consciousness. The creeping empt iness inside expands some more. Charlie Tango is missing.
“Ana. Here,” Mrs. Jones gent ly coaxes me, her voice bringing me back int o t he room, int o t he
now, int o t he anguish. She hands me a cup of t ea. I t ake t he cup and saucer grat efully, t he
rat t le bet raying my shaking hands.
“Thank you,” I whisper, my voice hoarse from unshed t ears and t he large lump in my t hroat .
Mia sit s across from me on t he larger-t han-large U-shaped couch, holding hands wit h Grace.
They gaze at me, pain and anxiet y et ched on t heir lovely faces. Grace looks older—
a mot her worried for her son. I blink dispassionat ely at t hem. I can’t offer a reassuring smile, a
t ear even—t here’s not hing, just blankness and t he growing empt iness. I gaze at Elliot , José,
and Et han, who st and around t he breakfast bar, all serious faces, t alking quiet ly.
Discussing somet hing in soft subdued voices. Behind t hem, Mrs. Jones busies herself in t he
kit chen.
Kat e is in t he TV room, monit oring t he local news. I hear t he faint squawk from t he big plasma
TV. I can’t bear t o see t he news it em again—cHrist ian grey missing—his beaut iful face on TV.
Idly, it occurs t o me t hat I’ve never seen so many people in t his room, yet t hey are st ill dwarfed
by it s sheer size. Lit t le islands of lost , anxious people in my Fift y’s home. What would he t hink
about t hem being here?
Somewhere, Taylor and Carrick are t alking t o t he aut horit ies who are drip-feeding us
informat ion, but it ’s all meaningless. The fact is—he’s missing. He’s been missing for eight
hours. No sign, no word from him. The search has been called off—t his much I do know.
It ’s just t oo dark. And we don’t know where he is. He could be hurt , hungry, or worse. No!
I offer anot her silent prayer t o God. Please let Christian be okay. Please let Christian be okay. I
repeat it over and over in my head—my mant ra, my lifeline, somet hing concret e t o cling t o in
my desperat ion. I refuse t o t hink t he worst . No, don’t go t here. There is hope.
“You’re my lifeline.”
Christ ian’s words come back t o haunt me. Yes, t here is always hope. I must not despair.
His words echo t hrough my mind.
“I’m now a firm advocate of instant gratification. Carpe diem, Ana.” Why didn’t I seize t he day?
“I’m doing this because I’ve finally met someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
I close my eyes in silent prayer, rocking gent ly. Please, let the rest of his life not be this short.
Please, please. We haven’t had enough t ime . . . we need more t ime. We’ve done so much in
t he last few weeks, come so far. It can’t end. All our t ender moment s: t he lipst ick, when he
made love t o me for t he first t ime at t he Olympic hot el, on his knees in front of me offering
himself t o me, finally t ouching him.
“I am just the same, Ana. I love you and I need you. Touch me. Please.” Oh, I love him so. I will
be not hing wit hout him, not hing but a shadow—all t he light eclipsed. No, no, no . . . my poor
Christian.
“This is me, Ana. All of me . . . and I’m all yours. What do I have to do to make you realize that?
To make you see that I want you any way I can get you. That I love you.” And I you, my Fift y
Shades.
I open my eyes and gaze unseeing int o t he fire once more, memories of our t ime t oget her
flit t ing t hrough my mind: his boyish joy when we were sailing and gliding; his suave,
sophist icat ed, hot -as-hell look at t he masked ball; dancing, oh yes, dancing here in t he
apart ment t o Sinat ra, whirling round t he room; his quiet , anxious hope yest erday at t he house
—t hat st unning view.
“I will lay my world at your feet, Anastasia. I want you, body and soul, forever.” Oh, please, let
him be okay. He cannot be gone. He is t he cent er of my universe.
An involunt ary sob escapes my t hroat , and I clut ch my hand t o my mout h. No. I must be st rong.
José is suddenly at my side, or has he been t here a while? I have no idea.
“Do you want t o call your mom or dad?” he asks gent ly.
No! I shake my head and clut ch José’s hand. I cannot speak, I know I will dissolve if I do, but t he
warmt h and gent le squeeze of his hand offers me no solace.
Oh, Mom. My lip t rembles at t he t hought of my mot her. Should I call her? No. I couldn’t deal wit h
her react ion. Maybe Ray, he wouldn’t get emot ional—he never get s emot ional, not even when
t he Mariners lose.
Grace rises t o join t he boys, dist ract ing me. That must be t he longest she’s sat st ill. Mia comes
t o sit beside me t oo and grabs my ot her hand.
“He will come back,” she says, her voice init ially det ermined but cracking on t he last word. Her
eyes are wide and red-rimmed, her face pale and pinched from lack of sleep.
I gaze up at Et han, who is wat ching Mia and Elliot , who has his arms around Grace. I glance at
t he clock. It ’s aft er eleven, heading t oward midnight . Damn time! Wit h each passing hour, t he
clawing empt iness expands, consuming me, choking me. I know deep down inside I am
preparing myself, preparing myself for t he worst . I close my eyes and offer up anot her silent
prayer, clasping bot h Mia and José’s hands.
Opening t hem again, I st are int o t he flames once more. I can see his shy smile—my favorit e of
all his expressions, a glimpse of t he real Christ ian, my real Christ ian. He is so many people:
cont rol freak, CEO, st alker, sex god, Dom—and at t he same t ime—such a boy wit h his t oys. I
smile. His car, his boat , his plane . . . Charlie Tango . . . no . . . no . . .
my lost boy, t ruly lost right now. My smile fades and pain lances t hrough me. I remember him in
t he shower, wiping away t he lipst ick marks.
“I’m nothing, Anastasia. I’m a husk of a man. I don’t have a heart.” The lump in my t hroat
expands. Oh, Christ ian, you do, you do have a heart , and it ’s mine. I want t o cherish it forever.
Even t hough he’s so complex and difficult , I love him. I will always love him. There will never be
anyone else. Ever.
I remember sit t ing in St arbucks weighing up my Christ ian pros and cons. All t hose cons, even
t hose phot ographs I found t his morning, melt int o insignificance now. There’s just him and
whet her he’ll come back. Oh please, Lord, bring him back, please let him be okay. I’ll go to
church . . . I’ll do anything. Oh, if I get him back, I shall seize t he day. His voice echoes around
my head once more: “Carpe diem, Ana.” I gaze deeper int o t he fire, t he flames st ill licking and
curling around each ot her, blazing bright ly. Then Grace shrieks, and everyt hing goes int o slow
mot ion.
“Christ ian!”
I t urn my head in t ime t o see Grace barreling across t he great room from where she had been
pacing somewhere behind me, and t here in t he ent rance st ands a dismayed Christ ian.
He’s dressed in just his shirt sleeves and suit pant s, and he’s holding his navy jacket , shoes, and
socks. He looks t ired, dirt y, and ut t erly beaut iful.
Holy fuck . . . Christian. He’s alive. I gaze numbly at him, t rying t o work out if I’m hallucinat ing or
if he’s really here.
His expression is one of ut t er bewilderment . He deposit s his jacket and shoes on t he floor in
t ime t o cat ch Grace, who t hrows her arms around his neck and kisses him hard on t he cheek.
“Mom?”
Christ ian gazes down at her, complet ely at a loss.
“I t hought I’d never see you again,” Grace whispers, voicing our collect ive fear.
“Mom, I’m here.” I hear t he const ernat ion in his voice.
“I died a t housand deat hs t oday,” she whispers, her voice barely audible, echoing my t hought s.
She gasps and sobs, no longer able t o hold back her t ears. Christ ian frowns, horrified or
mort ified—I don’t know which—t hen aft er a beat , envelops her in a huge hug, holding her close.
“Oh, Christ ian,” she chokes, wrapping her arms around him, weeping int o his neck—
all self-rest raint forgot t en—and Christ ian doesn’t balk. He just holds her, rocking t o and fro,
comfort ing her. Scalding t ears pool in my eyes. Carrick hollers from t he hallway.
“He’s alive! Shit —you’re here!” He appears from Taylor’s office, clut ching his cell phone, and
embraces bot h of t hem, his eyes closed in sweet relief.
“Dad?”
Mia squeals somet hing unint elligible from beside me, t hen she’s up, running, joining her parent s,
hugging all of t hem, t oo.
Finally t he t ears st art t o cascade down my cheeks. He’s here, he’s fine. But I cannot move.
Carrick is t he first t o pull away, wiping his eyes and clapping Christ ian on t he shoulder.
Mia releases t hem and Grace st eps back.
“Sorry,” she mumbles.
“Hey, Mom—it ’s okay,” Christ ian says, const ernat ion st ill evident on his face.
“Where were you? What happened?” Grace cries and put s her head in her hands.
“Mom,” Christ ian mut t ers. He draws her int o his arms again and kisses t he t op of her head. “I’m
here. I’m good. It ’s just t aken me a hell of a long t ime t o get back from Port land.
What ’s wit h t he welcoming commit t ee?” He looks up and scans t he room unt il his eyes lock
wit h mine.
He blinks and glances briefly at José, who let s go of my hand. Christ ian’s mout h t ight ens. I drink
in t he sight of him and relief courses t hrough me, leaving me spent , exhaust ed, and complet ely
elat ed. Yet my t ears don’t st op. Christ ian t urns his at t ent ion back t o his mot her.
“Mom, I’m good. What ’s wrong?” Christ ian says reassuringly. She places her hands on eit her
side of his face.
“Christ ian, you’ve been missing. Your flight plan—you never made it t o Seat t le. Why didn’t you
cont act us?”
Christ ian’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “I didn’t t hink it would t ake t his long.”
“Why didn’t you call?”
“No power in my cell.”
“You didn’t st op . . . call collect ?”
“Mom—it ’s a long st ory.”
“Oh, Christ ian! Don’t you ever do t hat t o me again! Do you underst and?” she half shout s at
“Oh, Christ ian! Don’t you ever do t hat t o me again! Do you underst and?” she half shout s at
him.
“Yes, Mom.” He wipes her t ears away wit h his t humb and hugs her once more. When she
composes herself, he releases her t o hug Mia, who slaps him hard on t he chest .
“You had us so worried!” she blurt s out , and she, t oo, is in t ears.
“I’m here now, for heaven’s sake,” Christ ian mut t ers.
As Elliot comes forward, Christ ian relinquishes Mia t o Carrick, who already has one arm around
his wife. He curls t he ot her around his daught er. Elliot hugs Christ ian briefly, much t o Christ ian’s
surprise, and slaps him hard on t he back.
“Great t o see you.” Elliot says loudly, if a lit t le gruffly, t rying t o hide his emot ion.
As t he t ears st ream down my face, I can see it all. The great room is bat hed in it —
uncondit ional love. He has it in spades; he’s just never accept ed it before, and even now he’s
at a t ot al loss.
Look, Christian, all these people love you! Perhaps now you’ll start believing it.
Kat e is st anding behind me—she must have left t he TV room—and she gent ly st rokes my hair.
“He’s really here, Ana,” she murmurs comfort ingly.
“I’m going t o say hi t o my girl now,” Christ ian t ells his parent s. Bot h nod, smile, and st ep aside.
He moves t oward me, gray eyes bright t hough weary and st ill bemused. From somewhere deep
inside, I find t he st rengt h t o st agger t o my feet and bolt int o his open arms.
“Christ ian!” I sob.
“Hush,” he says and holds me, burying his face in my hair and inhaling deeply. I raise my t ear-
st ained face t o his, and he kisses me far t oo briefly.
“Hi,” he murmurs.
“Hi,” I whisper back, t he lump in t he back of my t hroat burning.
“Miss me?”
“A bit .”
He grins. “I can t ell.” And wit h a gent le t ouch of his hand, he wipes away t he t ears t hat refuse
t o st op running down my cheeks.
“I t hought . . . I t hought —” I choke.
“I can see. Hush . . . I’m here. I’m sorry. Lat er,” he murmurs and kisses me chast ely again.
“Are you okay?” I ask, releasing him and t ouching his chest , his arms, his waist —oh, t he feel of
t his warm, vit al, sensual man beneat h my fingers—reassures me t hat he’s here, st anding in
front of me. He’s back. He doesn’t so much as flinch. He just regards me int ent ly.
“I’m okay. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Oh, t hank God,” I clasp him round his waist again, and he hugs me once more. “Are you
hungry? Do you need somet hing t o drink?”
“Yes.”
I st ep back t o fet ch him somet hing, but he doesn’t let me go. He t ucks me under his arm and
ext ends a hand t o José.
“Mr. Grey,” says José evenly.
Christ ian snort s. “Christ ian, please,” he says.
“Christ ian, welcome back. Glad you’re okay . . . and um—t hanks for let t ing me st ay.”
“No problem.” Christ ian narrows his eyes, but he’s dist ract ed by Mrs. Jones, who is suddenly at
his side. It only occurs t o me now t hat she’s not her usual smart self. I hadn’t not iced it before.
Her hair is loose, and she’s in soft gray leggings and a large gray sweat -shirt t hat dwarfs her
wit h WSU Cougars emblazoned on t he front . She looks years younger.
“Can I get you somet hing, Mr. Grey?” She wipes her eyes wit h a t issue.
Christ ian smiles fondly at her. “A beer, please, Gail—Budvar—and a bit e t o eat .”
“I’ll fet ch it ,” I murmur, want ing t o do somet hing for my man.
“No. Don’t go,” he says soft ly, t ight ening his arm around me.
The rest of his family close in, and Et han and Kat e join us. He shakes Et han’s hand and gives
Kat e a quick peck on t he cheek. Mrs. Jones ret urns wit h a bot t le of beer and a glass.
He t akes t he bot t le but shakes his head at t he glass. She smiles and ret urns t o t he kit chen.
“Surprised you don’t want somet hing st ronger,” mut t ers Elliot . “So what t he fuck happened t o
you? First I knew was when Dad called me t o say t he chopper was missing.”
“Elliot !” Grace scolds.
“Helicopt er,” Christ ian growls, correct ing Elliot , who grins, and I suspect t his is a family joke.
“Let ’s sit and I’ll t ell you.” Christ ian pulls me over t o t he couch, and everyone sit s down, all eyes
on Christ ian. He t akes a long draft of his beer. He spies Taylor hovering at t he ent rance and
nods. Taylor nods back.
“Your daught er?”
“She’s fine now. False alarm, sir.”
“Good.” Christ ian smiles.
Daught er? What happened t o Taylor’s daught er?
“Glad you’re back, sir. Will t hat be all?”
“We have a helicopt er t o collect .”
Taylor nods. “Now? Or will t he morning do?”
“Morning, I t hink, Taylor.”
“Very good, Mr. Grey. Anyt hing else, sir?”
Christ ian shakes his head and raises his bot t le t o him. Taylor gives him a rare smile—
rarer t han Christ ian’s, I t hink—and heads out presumably t o his office or up t o his room.
“Christ ian, what happened?” Carrick demands.
Christ ian launches int o his st ory. He was flying wit h Ros, his number t wo in Charlie Tango t o
deal wit h a funding issue at WSU in Vancouver. I can barely keep up I’m so dazed. I just hold
Christ ian’s hand and st are at his manicured fingernails, his long fingers, t he creases on his
knuckles, his wrist wat ch—an Omega wit h t hree small dials. I gaze up at his beaut iful profile as
he cont inues his t ale.
“Ros had never seen Mount St . Helens, so on t he way back as a celebrat ion, we t ook a quick
det our. I heard t he TFR was lift ed a while back and I want ed t o t ake a look. Well, it ’s fort unat e
t hat we did. We were flying low, about t wo hundred feet AGL, when t he inst rument panel lit up.
We had a fire in t he t ail—I had no choice but t o cut all t he elect ronics and land.” He shakes his
head. “I set her down by Silver Lake, got Ros out , and managed t o put t he fire out .”
“A fire? Bot h engines?” Carrick is horrified.
“Yep.”
“Shit ! But I t hought .”
“I know,” Christ ian int errupt s him. “It was sheer luck I was flying so low,” he murmurs. I shudder.
He releases my hand and put s his arm around me.
“Cold?” he asks me. I shake my head.
“How did you put out t he fire?” asks Kat e, her Carla Bernst ein inst inct s kicking in.
Jeez, she sounds t erse somet imes.
“Ext inguisher. We have t o carry t hem—by law.” Christ ian answers levelly.
His words from long ago circle my mind. “I thank divine providence every day that it was you that
came to interview me and not Katherine Kavanagh.”
“Why didn’t you call or use t he radio?” Grace asks.
Christ ian shakes his head. “Wit h t he elect ronics out , we had no radio. And I wasn’t going t o risk
t urning t hem on because of t he fire. GPS was st ill working on t he Blackberry, so I was able t o
navigat e t o t he nearest road. Took us four hours t o walk t here. Ros was in heels.” Christ ian’s
mout h presses int o a disapproving flat line.
“We had no cell recept ion. There’s no coverage at Gifford. Ros’s bat t ery died first .
Mine dried up on t he way.”
Holy hell. I t ense and Christ ian pulls me int o his lap.
“So how did you get back t o Seat t le?” Grace asks, blinking slight ly at t he sight of t he t wo of us,
no doubt . I flush.
“We hit ched and pooled our resources. Bet ween us, Ros and I had six hundred dollars, and we
t hought we’d have t o bribe someone t o drive us back, but a t ruck driver st opped and agreed t o
bring us home. He refused t he money and shared his lunch wit h us.” Christ ian shakes his head
in dismay at t he memory. “Took forever. He didn’t have a cell—weird, but t rue. I didn’t realize.”
He st ops, gazing at his family.
“That we’d worry?” Grace scoffs. “Oh, Christ ian!” she scolds him. “We’ve been going out of our
minds!”
“You’ve made t he news, bro.”
Christ ian rolls his eyes. “Yeah. I figured t hat much when I arrived t o t his recept ion and t he
handful of phot ographers out side. I’m sorry, Mom—I should have asked t he driver t o st op so I
could phone. But I was anxious t o be back.” He glances at José.
Oh, that’s why, because José is staying here. I frown at t he t hought . Jeez—all t hat worry.
Grace shakes her head. “I’m just glad you’re back in one piece, darling.” I st art t o relax, rest ing
my head against his chest . He smells out doorsy, slight ly sweat y, of body wash, and Christ ian,
t he most welcome scent in t he world. Tears st art t o t rickle down my face again, t ears of
grat it ude.
“Bot h engines?” Carrick says again, frowning in disbelief.
“Go figure.” Christ ian shrugs and runs his hand down my back.
“Hey,” he whispers. He put s his fingers under my chin and t ilt s my head back. “St op wit h t he
crying.”
I wipe my nose wit h t he back of my hand in a most unladylike way. “St op wit h t he
disappearing.” I sniff and his lips quirk up.
“Elect rical failure . . . t hat ’s odd, surely?” Carrick says again.
“Yes, crossed my mind, t oo, Dad. But right now, I’d just like t o go t o bed and t hink about all t hat
shit t omorrow.”
“So t he media know t hat the Christ ian Grey has been found safe and well?” Kat e says.
“Yes. Andrea and my PR people will deal wit h t he media. Ros called her aft er we dropped her
home.”
“Yes, Andrea called me t o let me know you were st ill alive.” Carrick grins.
“I must give t hat woman a raise. Sure is lat e,” says Christ ian.
“I t hink t hat ’s a hint , ladies and gent lemen, t hat my dear bro needs his beaut y sleep,” Elliot
scoffs suggest ively. Christ ian grimaces at him.
“Cary, my son is safe. You can t ake me home now.”
Cary? Grace looks adoringly at her husband.
“Yes. I t hink we could use t he sleep,” Carrick replies smiling down at her.
“St ay,” Christ ian offers.
“No, sweet heart , I want t o get home. Now t hat I know you’re safe.” Christ ian reluct ant ly eases
me ont o t he couch and st ands. Grace hugs him once more, presses her head against his chest
and closes her eyes, cont ent . He wraps his arms around her. “I was so worried, darling,” she
whispers.
“I’m okay, Mom.”
She leans back and st udies him int ent ly while he holds her. “Yes. I t hink you are,” she says
slowly, glances at me, and smiles. I flush.
We follow Carrick and Grace as t hey make t heir way t o t he foyer. Behind me, I’m aware t hat
Mia and Et han are having a heat ed whispered conversat ion, but I can’t hear it .
Mia is smiling shyly at Et han, and he’s gaping at her and shaking his head. Suddenly, she folds
her arms and t urns on her heel. He rubs his forehead wit h one hand, obviously frust rat ed.
“Mom, Dad—wait for me,” Mia calls sullenly. Perhaps she’s as mercurial as her brot her. Kat e
hugs me hard. “I can t ell some serious shit ’s been going down while I’ve been blissfully ignorant
in Barbados. It ’s kind of obvious you t wo are nut s about each ot her. I’m glad he’s safe. Not just
for him, Ana—for you, t oo.”
“Thank you, Kat e,” I whisper.
“Yeah. Who knew we’d find love at t he same t ime?” She grins. Wow. She’s admit t ed it .
“Wit h brot hers!” I giggle.
“We could end up sist ers-in-law,” she quips.
I t ense, t hen ment ally kick myself as Kat e st ands back t o gaze at me wit h her what -aren’t -
you-t elling-me-St eele look. I flush. Damn, should I t ell her he’s asked me?
“Come on, baby,” Elliot summons her from t he elevat or.
“Let ’s t alk t omorrow, Ana. You must be exhaust ed.”
I am reprieved. “Sure. You, t oo, Kat e—you’ve t raveled long dist ance t oday.” We hug once more,
t hen she and Elliot follow t he Greys int o t he elevat or. Et han shakes Christ ian’s hand and gives
me a quick hug. He looks dist ract ed, but he follows t hem int o t he elevat or and t he doors close.
José is hovering in t he hallway as we come out of t he foyer.
“Look. I’ll t urn in . . . leave you guys,” he says.
I blush. Jeez, why is t his awkward?
“Do you know where t o go?” Christ ian asks.
José nods.
“Yeah, t he housekeeper—”
“Mrs. Jones,” I prompt .
“Yeah, Mrs. Jones, she showed me earlier. Quit e a place you have here, Christ ian.”
“Thank you,” Christ ian says polit ely as he comes t o st and beside me, placing his arm around
my shoulders. Leaning over, he kisses my hair.
“I’m going t o eat what ever Mrs. Jones has put out for me. Goodnight , José.” Christ ian wanders
back int o t he great room, leaving José and me at t he ent rance.
Wow! Left alone wit h José.
“Well, goodnight .” José looks uncomfort able all of a sudden.
“Goodnight , José, and t hank you for st aying.”
“Sure, Ana. Any t ime your rich, hot shot boyfriend goes missing—I’ll be t here.”
“José!” I admonish him.
“Only kidding. Don’t get mad. I’ll be leaving early in t he morning—I’ll see you somet ime, yeah?
I’ve missed you.”
“Sure, José. Soon I hope. Sorry t onight was so . . . shit t y.” I smirk apologet ically.
“Yeah.” He grins. “Shit t y.” He hugs me. “Seriously, Ana, I’m glad you’re happy, but I’m here if you
need me.”
I gaze up at him. “Thank you.”
He flashes me a sad, bit t ersweet smile, and t hen he goes upst airs.
I t urn back t o t he great room. Christ ian st ands beside t he couch, wat ching me wit h an
unreadable expression on his face. We’re finally alone and we gaze at each ot her.
“He’s st ill got it bad, you know,” he murmurs.
“And how would you know t hat , Mr. Grey?”
“I recognize t he sympt oms, Miss St eele. I believe I have t he same afflict ion.”
“I t hought I’d never see you again,” I whisper. There—t he words are out . All my worst fears
packaged neat ly in one short sent ence now exorcised.
“It wasn’t as bad as it sounds.”
I pick up his suit jacket and shoes from where t hey lie on t he floor and move t oward him.“I’ll
t ake t hat ,” he whispers, reaching for his jacket .
Christ ian gazes down at me as if I’m his reason for living and mirrors my look, I’m sure. He is
here, really here. He pulls me int o his arms and wraps himself around me.
“Christ ian,” I gasp, and my t ears st art anew.
“Hush,” he soot hes, kissing my hair. “You know . . . in t he few seconds of sheer t error before I
landed, all my t hought s were of you. You’re my t alisman, Ana.”
“I t hought I’d lost you,” I breat he. We st and, holding each ot her, reconnect ing and reassuring
each ot her. As I t ight en my arms around him, I realize I’m st ill holding his shoes. I drop t hem
noisily t o t he floor.
“Come and shower wit h me,” he murmurs.
“Okay.” I glance up at him. I don’t want t o let go. Reaching down he t ilt s my chin up wit h his
fingers.
“You know even t ear-st ained, you are beaut iful, Ana St eele.” He leans down and kisses me
gent ly. “And your lips are so soft .” He kisses me again, deepening it .
Oh my . . . and to think, I could have lost . . . no . . . I st op t hinking and surrender myself.
“I need t o put my jacket down,” he murmurs.
“Drop it ,” I murmur against his lips.
“I can’t .”
I lean back t o gaze up at him, puzzled.
He smirks at me. “This is why.” From t he inside breast pocket he pulls out t he small box I gave
him, cont aining my present . He slings t he jacket over t he back of t he couch and places t he box
on t op.
Seize the day, Ana, my subconscious prods me. Well, it ’s aft er midnight , so t echnically it ’s his
birt hday.
“Open it ,” I whisper, and my heart st art s pounding.
“I was hoping you’d say t hat ,” he murmurs. “This has been driving me crazy.” I grin impishly at
him. Jeez, I feel giddy. He gives me his shy smile, and I melt despit e my t humping heart ,
delight ing in his amused yet int rigued expression. Wit h deft long fingers, he unwraps and opens
t he box. His brow creases as he fishes out a small, rect angular, plast ic keychain bearing a
pict ure made up of t iny pixels t hat flash on and off like an LED
screen. It depict s t he Seat t le skyline, focusing on t he Space Needle, wit h t he word SE-ATTLE
writ t en boldly across t he landscape, flashing on and off.
He st ares at it for a moment and t hen gazes at me bemused, a frown marring his lovely
brow.“Turn it over,” I whisper, holding my breat h.
He does, and his eyes shoot t o mine, wide and gray, alive wit h wonder and joy. His lips part in
disbelief.
The word yes flashes on and off on t he key ring.
“Happy birt hday,” I whisper.
“You’ll marry me?” he whispers, incredulous.
I nod nervously, flushing and anxious and not quit e believing his react ion—t his man whom I
t hought I’d lost . How could he not underst and how much I love him?
“Say it ,” he orders soft ly, his gaze int ense and hot .
“Yes, I’ll marry you.”
He inhales sharply and moves suddenly, grabbing me and swinging me round in a most un-
Fift ylike manner. He’s laughing, young and carefree, radiat ing joyful elat ion. I grab his arms t o
hold on, feeling his muscles ripple beneat h my fingers, and his infect ious laught er sweeps me
up—dizzy, addled, a girl t ot ally and ut t erly smit t en wit h her beaut iful man. He put s me down
and kisses me. Hard. His hands are on eit her side of my face, his t ongue insist ent , persuasive . .
. arousing.
“Oh, Ana,” he breat hes against my lips, and it ’s an exult at ion t hat leaves me reeling.
He loves me, of t hat I have no doubt , and I savor t he t ast e of t his delicious man, t his man I
t hought I might never see again. His joy is evident —his eyes shining, his yout hful smile—
and his relief is almost palpable.
“I t hought I’d lost you,” I murmur, st ill dazzled and breat hless from his kiss.
“Baby, it will t ake more t han a malfunct ioning 135 t o keep me away from you.”
“135?”
“Charlie Tango. She’s a Eurocopt er 135, t he safest in it s class.” Some unnamed but dark
emot ion crosses his face briefly, dist ract ing me. What isn’t he saying? Before I can ask him, he
st ills and looks down at me, frowning, and for a moment I t hink he’s going t o t ell me. I blink up
int o his speculat ive gray eyes.
“Wait a minut e. You gave t his t o me before we saw Flynn,” he says, holding up t he keychain.
He looks almost horrified.
Oh dear, where’s he going wit h t his? I nod, keeping a st raight face.
His mout h drops open.
I shrug apologet ically. “I want ed you t o know t hat what ever Flynn said, it wouldn’t make a
difference t o me.”
Christ ian blinks at me in disbelief. “So all yest erday evening, when I was begging you for an
answer, I had it already?” He’s dismayed. I nod again, t rying desperat ely t o gauge his react ion.
He gazes at me in st upefied wonder, but t hen narrows his eyes and his mout h t wist s wit h
amused irony.
“All t hat worry,” he whispers ominously. I grin at him and shrug once more. “Oh, don’t t ry and
get cut e wit h me, Miss St eele. Right now, I want . . .” He runs his hand t hrough his hair, t hen
shakes his head and changes t ack.
“I can’t believe you left me hanging.” His whisper is laced wit h disbelief. His expression alt ers
subt ly, his eyes gleaming wickedly, his mout h t wit ching int o a carnal smile.
Holy hell. A t hrill runs t hrough me. What ’s he t hinking?
“I believe some ret ribut ion is in order, Miss St eele,” he says soft ly.
Retribution? Oh shit! I know he’s playing—but I t ake a caut ious st ep back from him anyway.
He grins. “Is t hat t he game?” he whispers. “Because I will cat ch you.” And his eyes burn wit h a
bright playful int ensit y. “And you’re bit ing your lip,” he says t hreat eningly.
All of my insides t ight en at once. Oh my. My fut ure husband want s t o play. I t ake anot her st ep
back, t hen t urn t o run—but in vain. Christ ian grabs me, and in one easy swoop while I squeal
wit h delight , surprise, and shock. He hoist s me over his shoulder and heads down t he hall.
“Christ ian!” I hiss, mindful t hat José is upst airs, t hough whet her he could hear us is doubt ful. I
st eady myself by clasping his lower back, t hen on a brave impulse, I swat his behind. He swat s
me right back.
“Ow!” I yelp.
“Shower t ime,” he declares t riumphant ly.
“Put me down!” I t ry and fail t o sound disapproving. My st ruggle is fut ile—his arm is firmly
clamped over my t highs—and for some reason I cannot st op giggling.
clamped over my t highs—and for some reason I cannot st op giggling.
“Fond of t hese shoes?” he asks amused as he opens t he door t o his bat hroom.
“I prefer t hem t o be t ouching t he floor.” I at t empt t o snarl at him, but it ’s not very effect ive as I
can’t keep t he laught er out of my voice.
“Your wish is my command, Miss St eele.” Wit hout put t ing me down, he slips off bot h of my
shoes and let s t hem clat t er t o t he t ile floor. Pausing by t he vanit y, he empt ies his pocket s—
dead Blackberry, keys, wallet , t he keychain. I can only imagine what I look like in t he mirror from
t his angle. When he’s finished, he marches direct ly int o his overlarge shower.
“Christ ian!” I scold loudly—his int ent is now clear.
He swit ches t he wat er on at max. Jeez! Arct ic wat er spurt s over my backside, and I squeal—
t hen st op, mindful once more t hat José is above us. It ’s cold and I’m fully clot hed.
The chilling wat er soaks int o my dress, my pant ies, and my bra. I’m drenched and I cannot st op
giggling.
“No!” I squeal. “Put me down!” I swat him again, harder t his t ime, and Christ ian releases me,
let t ing me slide down his now soaked body. His whit e shirt is st uck t o his chest and his suit
pant s are sodden. I am soaked, t oo, flushed, giddy and breat hless, and he’s grinning down at
me, looking so . . . so unbelievably hot .
He sobers, his eyes shining, and cups my face again, drawing my lips t o his. His kiss is gent le,
cherishing, and t ot ally dist ract ing. I no longer care t hat I am fully clot hed and soaking wet in
Christ ian’s shower. It ’s just t he t wo of us beneat h t he cascading wat er. He’s back, he’s safe,
he’s mine.
My hands move involunt arily t o his shirt as it clings t o every line and sinew of his chest ,
revealing t he hair scrunched beneat h t he whit e wet ness. I yank t he shirt hem out of his pant s,
and he groans against my mout h, but his lips do not leave mine. As I unbut t on his shirt , he
reaches for my zipper, slowly sliding t he clasp down my dress. His lips become more insist ent ,
more provocat ive, his t ongue invading my mout h—and my body explodes wit h desire. I t ug his
shirt hard, ripping it open. The but t ons fly everywhere, ricochet ing off t he t iles and disappearing
ont o t he shower floor. As I st rip t he wet mat erial off his shoulders and down his arms, I press
him int o t he wall, hampering his at t empt s t o undress me. “Cufflinks,” he murmurs, holding up his
wrist s where his shirt hangs sodden and limp.
Wit h scrambling fingers, I release first one and t hen t he ot her cuff, let t ing his gold cufflinks fall
carelessly t o t he t iled floor and his shirt follows. His eyes search mine t hrough t he cascading
wat er, his gaze burning, carnal, heat ed like t he wat er. I reach for t he waist band of his pant s,
but he shakes his head and grabs my shoulders, spinning me round so I am facing away from
him. He finishes t he long journey sout h wit h my zipper, smoot hes my wet hair away from my
neck, and runs his t ongue up my neck t o my hairline and back again, kissing and sucking as he
goes.
I moan and slowly he peels my dress off my shoulders and down past my breast s, kissing my
neck beneat h my ear. He unclasps my bra and pushes it off my shoulders, freeing my breast s.
His hands reach around and cup each one as he murmurs his appreciat ion in my ear.
“So beaut iful,” he whispers.
My arms are t rapped by my bra and dress, which hang unfast ened below my breast s, my arms
st ill in t he sleeves but my hands are free. I roll my head, giving Christ ian bet t er access t o my
neck and push my breast s int o his magical hands. I reach round behind me and welcome his
sharp int ake of breat h as my inquisit ive fingers make cont act wit h his erect ion. He pushes his
groin int o my welcoming hands. Dammit , why didn’t he let me t ake his pant s off?
He t ugs on my nipples, and as t hey harden and st ret ch under his expert t ouch, all t hought s of
his pant s disappear and pleasure spikes sharp and libidinous in my belly. I lean my head back
against him and groan.
“Yes,” he breat hes and t urns me once more, capt uring my mout h wit h his. He peels my bra,
dress and pant ies down so t hey join his shirt in a soggy heap on t he shower floor.
I grab t he body wash beside us. Christ ian st ills as he realizes what I am about t o do.
St aring him st raight in t he eye, I squirt some of t he sweet -smelling gel int o my palm and hold
my hand up in front of his chest , wait ing for an answer t o my unspoken quest ion. His eyes
widen, t hen he gives me an almost impercept ible nod.
Gent ly I place my hand on his st ernum and st art t o rub t he soap int o his skin. His chest rises as
he inhales sharply, but he st ands st ock-st ill. Aft er a beat , his hands clasp my hips, but he
doesn’t push me away. He wat ches me warily, his look int ense more t han scared, but his lips
are part ed as his breat hing increases.
“Is t his okay?” I whisper.
“Yes.” His short , breat hy reply is almost a gasp. I am reminded of t he many showers we’ve had
t oget her, but t he one at t he Olympic is a bit t ersweet memory. Well, now I can t ouch him. I wash
him using gent le circles, cleaning my man, moving t o his underarms, over his ribs, down his flat
firm belly, t oward his happy t rail, and t he waist band of his pant s.
“My t urn,” he whispers and reaches for t he shampoo, shift ing us out of range of t he st ream of
wat er and squirt ing some on t o t he t op of my head.
I t hink t his is my cue t o st op washing him, so I hook my fingers int o his waist band. He works t he
shampoo int o my hair, his firm, long fingers massaging my scalp. Groaning in appreciat ion, I
close my eyes and give myself over t o t he heavenly sensat ion. Aft er all t he st ress of t he
evening, t his is just what I need.
He chuckles and I open one eye t o find him smiling down at me. “You like?”
“Hmm . . .”
He grins. “Me, t oo,” he says and leans over t o kiss my forehead, his fingers cont inuing t heir
sweet , firm kneading of my scalp.
“Turn round,” he says aut horit at ively. I do as I’m t old, and his fingers slowly work over my head,
cleansing, relaxing, loving me as t hey go. Oh, t his is bliss. He reaches for more shampoo and
gent ly washes t he long t resses down my back. When he’s finished, he pulls me back under t he
shower.
“Lean your head back,” he orders quiet ly.
I willingly comply, and he carefully rinses out t he suds. When he’s done, I face him once more
and make a beeline for his pant s.
“I want t o wash all of you,”
I whisper. He smiles t hat lopsided smile and lift s his hands in a gest ure t hat says “I’m all yours,
baby.” I grin; it feels like Christ mas. I make short work of his zipper, and soon his pant s and
boxers join t he rest of our clot hing. I st and and reach for t he body wash and t he freshwat er
sponge.
“Looks like you’re pleased t o see me,” I murmur dryly.
“I’m always pleased t o see you, Miss St eele.” He smirks at me.
I soap t he sponge, t hen ret race my journey over his chest . He’s more relaxed—maybe because
I’m not act ually t ouching him. I head sout h wit h t he sponge, across his belly, along t he happy
t rail, t hrough his pubic hair, and over and up his erect ion.
I peek up at him, and he regards me wit h hooded eyes and sensual longing. Hmm . . . I like this
look. I drop t he sponge and use my hands, grasping him firmly. He closes his eyes, t ips his head
back, and groans, t hrust ing his hips int o my hands.
Oh yes! It ’s so arousing. My inner goddess has resurfaced aft er her evening of rocking and
weeping in t he corner, and she’s wearing harlot -red lipst ick.
His burning eyes suddenly lock wit h mine. He’s remembered somet hing.
“It ’s Sat urday,” he exclaims, eyes alight wit h salacious wonder, and he grasps my waist , pulling
me t o him and ki