Iscowlwithfrustrationatmyselfinthemirror.Damnmyhair–itjus    ournalist.She‘sarticulate,strong,persuasive,argumentative,two...
arkwoodtableandatleasttwentymatchingchairsaroundit.Beyo      Heturns,seesme,andsmiles,hisdarkeyescrinklingatthecornerndtha...
isingtheordinarytoextraordinary,‖Imurmur,distractedbothby     dfixesmewithhisgraystare.―Mybeliefistoachievesuccessinanhima...
binghobbies.‖IglancequicklyatKate‘squestions,wantingtoget      hasenoughmaterialnow?Iglanceatthenextquestion.―Youwereoffth...
―Iwanttoknowaboutyou.Ithinkthat‘sonlyfair.‖Hisgrayeyesare     ntothefoyer.I‘msurprisedwhenhefollowsmeout.AndreaandOlialigh...
lishedsomuchatsuchayoungage.Hedoesn‘tsufferfoolsgladly,      sratherintimidating,youknow.‖Ishrug.―He‘sveryfocused,intebutw...
ustwantedtoshowmearoundsoIcouldseethathewaslordofallhe       hrowmyselfintomystudiesandmyjobatClayton‘s.Kateisbusytosurvey...
ourfathershavebecomefirmfriendstoo.Joséisstudyingengine      .I‘mengrossedinthetask,checkingcataloguenumbersagainstteringa...
teryou,‖hemurmurs,gesturingwithhislong-fingered,beautiful    reagain,zappingthroughmelikeI‘vetouchedanexposedwire.Iglymani...
―Um.‖Ifeelthecolorinmycheeksrisingagain.Imustbethecoloro      edovermyshoulder.Ishufflefromfoottofoot,embarrassed.It‘sgfth...
isshoulder,leavingmeaquiver-ingmassofragingfemalehormo                                                irty.I‘llseeyoutomor...
gI‘veeatensinceFriday.Iamsurvivingonanewfoundtolerancef       nGreyHiChristianThankyoufortheflowers;theyarelovely.Yes,orla...
slooseronmethanitwas,butIpretendnottonotice.Finally,it‘sfi    voicesofter.―Pastaallavongole,lastFriday,‖Iwhisper.Heclosvet...
umb,andallmymusclesclenchtightly,deliciously,deepinsidem       en.‖―I‘lltakeyou—wecaneatthere.‖What?―Christian,webrokee.Ho...
nfrowns.Ishakemyhead,equallypuzzled.Heshrugs,distracted―Ilikethemverymuch,Anastasia.‖HisgazedarkensandIthinkhe       .―Wha...
mthePortlandPrintzapproachesChristian.―CanIhaveapicture,     off.Heglaresdownatme,caughtoffguardbymyaudacity,Ithink,sir?‖―...
youngwomen.IstalkofftowardhimandawayfromFifty.Justbeca       ends,handsonhiskneesasifhe‘srunamarathon.―Fortheloveofusehebr...
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  1. 1. Iscowlwithfrustrationatmyselfinthemirror.Damnmyhair–itjus ournalist.She‘sarticulate,strong,persuasive,argumentative,twon‘tbehave,anddamnKatherineKavanaghforbeingillandsub beautiful–andshe‘smydearest,dearestfriend.Theroadsareclejectingmetothisordeal.Ishouldbestudyingformyfinalexams,w arasIsetofffromVancouver,WAtowardPortlandandtheI-5.It‘sehicharenextweek,yethereIamtryingtobrushmyhairintosubmis arly,andIdon‘thavetobeinSeattleuntiltwothisafternoon.Fortusion.Imustnotsleepwithitwet.Imustnotsleepwithitwet.Recitin nately,Kate‘slentmehersportyMercedesCLK.I‘mnotsureWandgthismantraseveraltimes,Iattempt,oncemore,tobringitunder a,myoldVWBeetle,wouldmakethejourneyintime.Oh,theMerciscontrolwiththebrush.Irollmyeyesinexasperationandgazeatth afundrive,andthemilesslipawayasIfloorthepedaltothemetal.epale,brown-hairedgirlwithblueeyestoobigforherfacestaring MydestinationistheheadquartersofMr.Grey‘sglobalenterprisbackatme,andgiveup.Myonlyoptionistorestrainmywaywardha e.It‘sahugetwenty-storyofficebuilding,allcurvedglassandsteirinaponytailandhopethatIlooksemipresentable.Kateismyroo el,anarchitect‘sutilitarianfantasy,withGreyHousewrittendismmate,andshehaschosentodayofalldaystosuccumbtotheflu.T creetlyinsteelovertheglassfrontdoors.It‘saquartertotwowheherefore,shecannotattendtheinterviewshe‘darrangedtodo,wi nIarrive,greatlyrelievedthatI‘mnotlateasIwalkintotheenormothsomemega-industri-alisttycoonI‘veneverheardof,forthestu us–andfranklyintimi-dating–glass,steel,andwhitesandstoneldentnewspaper.SoIhavebeenvolunteered.Ihavefinalexamsto obby.Behindthesolidsandstonedesk,averyattractive,groomecramfor,oneessaytofinish,andI‘msupposedtobeworkingthisa d,blondeyoungwomansmilespleasantlyatme.She‘swearingthf-ternoon,butno–todayIhavetodriveahundredandsixty-fivemi esharpestcharcoalsuitjacketandwhiteshirtIhaveeverseen.ShlestodowntownSeattleinordertomeettheenigmaticCEOofGrey elooksimmaculate.―I‘mheretoseeMr.Grey.AnastasiaSteelefoEnterprisesHoldingsInc.Asanexceptionalentrepreneurandma rKatherineKavanagh.‖―Excusemeonemoment,MissSteele.‖ShjorbenefactorofourUniversity,histimeisextraordinarilypreci earcheshereyebrowslightlyasIstandself-consciouslybeforehous–muchmorepreciousthanmine–buthehasgrantedKateanint er.IambeginningtowishI‘dborrowedoneofKate‘sformalblazererview.Arealcoup,shetellsme.Damnherextra-curricularactivi sratherthanwearmynavybluejacket.Ihavemadeaneffortandwoties.Kateishuddledonthecouchinthelivingroom rnmyoneandonlyskirt,mysensiblebrownknee-lengthbootsand abluesweater.Forme,thisissmart.Ituckoneoftheescapedtend―Ana,I‘msorry.Ittookmeninemonthstogetthisinterview.Itwillt rilsofmyhairbehindmyearasIpretendshedoesn‘tintimidateme.akeanothersixtoreschedule,andwe‘llbothhavegraduatedbyth ―MissKavanaghisexpected.Pleasesigninhere,MissSteele.Yoen.Astheeditor,Ican‘tblowthisoff.Please,‖Katebegsmeinherr u‘llwantthelastelevatorontheright,pressforthetwentiethfloorasping,sorethroatvoice.Howdoesshedoit?Evenillshelooksga .‖Shesmileskindlyatme,amusednodoubt,asIsignin.Shehandsmineandgorgeous,strawberryblondehairinplaceandgreeneye measecuritypassthathasVISITORveryfirmlystampedonthefrosbright,althoughnowred-rimmedandrunny.Iignoremypangofu nt.Ican‘thelpmysmirk.Surelyit‘sobviousthatI‘mjustvisiting.Inwelcomesympathy.―OfcourseI‘llgoKate.Youshouldgetbackt don‘tfitinhereatall.Nothingchanges,Iinwardlysigh.Thankingobed.WouldyoulikesomeNyquilorTylenol?‖―Nyquil,please.He her,Iwalkovertothebankofelevatorspastrearethequestionsandmymini-discrecorder.Justpressrecordhere.Makenotes,I‘lltranscribeitall.‖―Iknownothingabouthim, thetwosecuritymenwhoarebothfarmoresmartlydressedthanIa‖Imurmur,tryingandfailingtosuppressmyrisingpanic.―Theque mintheirwell-cutblacksuits.Theelevatorwhisksmewithterminstionswillseeyouthrough.Go.It‘salongdrive.Idon‘twantyouto alvelocitytothetwentiethfloor.Thedoorsslideopen,andI‘minabelate.‖―Okay,I‘mgoing.Getbacktobed.Imadeyousomesoupto notherlargelobby–againallglass,steel,andwhitesandstone.I‘heatuplater.‖Istareatherfondly.Onlyforyou,Kate,wouldIdothi mconfrontedbyanotherdeskofsandstoneandanotheryoungblos.―Iwill.Goodluck.AndthanksAna–asusual,you‘remylifesaver ndewomandressedimpec-cablyinblackandwhitewhorisestogr.‖Gatheringmysatchel,Ismilewrylyather,thenheadoutthedoor eetme.―MissSteele,couldyouwaithere,please?‖Shepointstoatothecar.Ican-notbelieveIhaveletKatetalkmeintothis.Butthe seatedareaofwhiteleatherchairs.BehindtheleatherchairsisanKatecantalkanyoneintoanything.She‘llmakeanexceptionalj spaciousglass-walledmeetingroomwithanequallyspa-ciousd
  2. 2. arkwoodtableandatleasttwentymatchingchairsaroundit.Beyo Heturns,seesme,andsmiles,hisdarkeyescrinklingatthecornerndthat,thereisafloor-to-ceilingwindowwithaviewoftheSeattl s.Oliviahasjumpedupandcalledtheelevator.SheseemstoexceleskylinethatlooksoutthroughthecitytowardtheSound.It‘sastu atjumpingfromherseat.She‘smorenervousthanme!―Goodafternningvista,andI‘mmomentarilyparalyzedbytheview.Wow.Isit noonladies,‖hesaysashedepartsthroughtheslidingdoor.―Mr.down,fishthequestionsfrommysatchel,andgothroughthem,in Greywillseeyounow,MissSteele.Dogothrough,‖BlondeNumbewardlycurs-ingKatefornotprovidingmewithabriefbiography.I rTwosays.Istandrathershakilytryingtosuppressmynerves.GaknownothingaboutthismanI‘mabouttointerview.Hecouldbenin theringupmysatchel,Iabandonmyglassofwaterandmakemywaetyorhecouldbethirty.Theuncertaintyisgalling,andmynervesr ytothepartiallyopendoor.―Youdon‘tneedtoknock–justgoin.‖Sesurface,makingmefidget.I‘veneverbeencomfortablewithone hesmileskindly.Ipushopenthedoorandstumblethrough,trippin-on-oneinterviews,preferringtheanonymityofagroupdiscussi govermyownfeet,andfallingheadfirstintotheoffice.DoublecraonwhereIcansitinconspicuouslyatthebackoftheroom.Tobeho p–meandmytwoleftfeet!Iamonmyhandsandkneesinthedoorwanest,Iprefermyowncompany,readingaclassicBritishnovel,cur ytoMr.Grey‘soffice,andgentlehandsarearoundmehelpingmetledupinachairinthecampuslibrary.Notsittingtwitchingnervou ostand.Iamsoem-barrassed,damnmyclumsiness.Ihavetosteelslyinacolos-salglassandstoneedifice.Irollmyeyesatmyself.G myselftoglanceup.Holycow–he‘ssoyoung.―MissKavanagh.‖Hetagrip,Steele.Judgingfromthebuilding,whichistooclinicalan eextendsalong-fingeredhandtomeonceI‘mupright.―I‘mChristidmodern,IguessGreyisinhisforties:fit,tanned,andfair-haired anGrey.Areyouallright?Wouldyouliketosit?‖Soyoung–andatttomatchtherestofthepersonnel.Anotherelegant,flawlesslydr ractive,veryattractive.He‘stall,dressedinafinegraysuit,whitessedblondecomesoutofalargedoortotheright.Whatisitwithal eshirt,andblacktiewithunrulydarkcoppercoloredhairandintenltheimmaculateblondes?It‘slikeStepfordhere.Takingadeepbr se,brightgrayeyesthatregardmeshrewdly.Ittakesamomentforeath,Istandup.―MissSteele?‖thelatestblondeasks.―Yes,‖Icro metofindmyvoice.―Um.Actually–‖Imutter.Ifthisguyisoverthirtak,andclearmythroat.―Yes.‖There,thatsoundedmoreconfiden ythenI‘mamonkey‘suncle.Inadaze,Iplacemyhandinhisandwest.―Mr.Greywillseeyouinamoment.MayItakeyourjacket?‖―Ohpl hake.Asourfingerstouch,Ifeelanoddexhilaratingshiverrunthrease.‖Istruggleoutofthejacket.―Haveyoubeenofferedanyrefr oughme.Iwithdrawmyhandhastily,embarrassed.Mustbestaticeshment?‖―Um–no.‖Ohdear,isBlondeNumberOneintrouble?Bl .Iblinkrapidly,myeyelidsmatchingmyheartrate.―MissKavanagondeNumberTwofrownsandeyestheyoungwomanatthedesk.―W hisindisposed,soshesentme.Ihopeyoudon‘tmind,Mr.Grey.‖―Aouldyouliketea,coffee,water?‖sheasks,turningherattentionb ndyouare?‖Hisvoiceiswarm,possiblyamused,butit‘sdifficulttacktome.―Aglassofwater.Thankyou,‖Imurmur.―Olivia,pleasef otellfromhisimpassiveexpression.Helooksmildlyinterested,betchMissSteeleaglassofwater.‖Hervoiceisstern.Oliviascoots utaboveall,polite.―AnastasiaSteele.I‘mstudyingEnglishLiterupimmediatelyandscurriestoadoorontheothersideofthefoyer. aturewithKate,um…Katherine…um…MissKavanaghatWashing―Myapologies,MissSteele,Oliviaisournewintern.Pleasebese tonState.‖―Isee,‖hesayssimply.IthinkIseetheghostofasmileiated.Mr.Greywillbeanotherfiveminutes.‖Oliviareturnswithag nhisexpression,butI‘mnotsure.―Wouldyouliketosit?‖Hewaveslassoficedwater.―Hereyougo,MissSteele.‖―Thankyou.‖Blond metowardawhiteleatherbuttonedL-shapedcouch.HisofficeisweNumberTwomarchesovertothelargedesk,herheelsclickingan aytoobigforjustoneman.Infrontofthefloor-to-ceilingwindows,dechoingonthesandstonefloor.Shesitsdown,andtheybothcon there‘sahugemoderndark-wooddeskthatsixpeoplecouldcomfotinuetheirwork rtablyeataround.Itmatchesthecoffeetablebythecouch.Everyt hingelseiswhite–ceiling,floors,andwallsexcept,onthewallbytPerhapsMr.Greyinsistsonallhisemployeesbeingblonde.I‘mwo hedoor,whereamosaicofsmallpaintingshang,thirty-sixofthemnderingidlyifthat‘slegal,whentheofficedooropensandatall,el arrangedinasquare.Theyareexquisite–aseriesofmundane,foregantlydressed,attractiveAfrican-Americanmanwithshortdre gottenobjectspaintedinsuchprecisedetailtheylooklikephotogadsexits.Ihavedefinitelywornthewrongclothes.Heturnsandsa raphs.Displayedtogether,theyarebreathtaking.―Alocalartist.ysthroughthedoor.―Golf,thisweek,Grey.‖Idon‘thearthereply. Trouton,‖saysGreywhenhecatchesmygaze.―They‘relovely.Ra
  3. 3. isingtheordinarytoextraordinary,‖Imurmur,distractedbothby dfixesmewithhisgraystare.―Mybeliefistoachievesuccessinanhimandthepaintings.Hecockshisheadtoonesideandregardsm yschemeonehastomakeoneselfmasterofthatscheme,knowitineintently. sideandout,knoweverydetail.Iworkhard,veryhardtodothat.Im akedecisionsbasedonlogicandfacts.Ihaveanaturalgutinstinc―Icouldn‘tagreemore,MissSteele,‖hereplies,hisvoicesoftand tthatcanspotandnurtureagoodsolidideaandgoodpeople.Thebforsomeinexpli-cablereasonIfindmyselfblushing.Apartfromt ottomlineis,it‘salwaysdowntogoodpeople.‖―Maybeyou‘rejusthepaintings,therestoftheofficeiscold,clean,andclinical.Iwo lucky.‖Thisisn‘tonKate‘slist–buthe‘ssoarrogant.HiseyesflarnderifitreflectsthepersonalityoftheAdoniswhosinksgracefull emomentarilyinsurprise.―Idon‘tsubscribetoluckorchance,Miyintooneofthewhiteleatherchairsoppositeme.Ishakemyhead, ssSteele.TheharderIworkthemoreluckIseemtohave.Itreallyisdisturbedatthedirectionofmythoughts,andretrieveKate‘sque allabouthavingtherightpeopleonyourteamanddirectingtheir nstionsfrommysatchel.Next,Isetupthemini-discrecorderanda ergiesaccordingly.IthinkitwasHarveyFirestonewhosaid‗thegmallfingersandthumbs,droppingittwiceonthecoffeetableinfro rowthanddevelop-mentofpeopleisthehighestcallingofleadersntofme.Mr.Greysaysnothing,waitingpatiently–Ihope–asIbec hip.‘‖―Yousoundlikeacontrolfreak.‖Thewordsareoutofmymouomeincreasinglyembarrassedandflustered.WhenIpluckupthe thbeforeIcanstopthem.―Oh,Iexercisecontrolinallthings,Misscouragetolookathim,he‘swatchingme,onehandrelaxedinhisla Steele,‖hesayswithoutatraceofhumorinhissmile.Ilookathim,pandtheothercuppinghischinandtrailinghislongindexfingera andheholdsmygazesteadily,impassive.Myheartbeatquickenscrosshislips.Ithinkhe‘stryingtosuppressasmile.―Sorry,‖Istut ,andmyfaceflushesagain.Whydoeshehavesuchanunnervingefter.―I‘mnotusedtothis.‖―Takeallthetimeyouneed,MissSteele, fectonme?Hisoverwhelminggood-looksmaybe?Thewayhiseye‖hesays.―DoyoumindifIrecordyouranswers?‖―Afteryou‘vetak sblazeatme?Thewayhestrokeshisindexfingeragainsthislowerensomuchtroubletosetuptherecorder–youaskmenow?‖Iflush. lip?Iwishhe‘dstopdoingthat.―Besides,immensepowerisacquirHe‘steasingme?Ihope.Iblinkathim,unsurewhattosay,andIthin edbyassuringyourselfinyoursecretreveriesthatyouwereborntkhetakespityonmebecauseherelents.―No,Idon‘tmind.‖―DidKa ocontrolthings,‖hecontinues,hisvoicesoft.―Doyoufeelthatyote,Imean,MissKavanagh,explainwhattheinterviewwasfor?‖―Y uhaveimmensepower?‖ControlFreak.―Iemployoverfortythouses.ToappearinthegraduationissueofthestudentnewspaperasI andpeople,MissSteele.Thatgivesmeacertainsenseofresponsishallbeconfer-ringthedegreesatthisyear‘sgraduationceremo bility–power,ifyouwill.IfIweretodecideIwasnolongerinterestny.‖Oh!Thisisnewstome,andI‘mtemporarilypre-occupiedbyth edinthetelecommunicationsbusinessandsellup,twentythousaethoughtthatsome-onenotmucholderthanme–okay,maybesixy ndpeoplewouldstruggletomaketheirmortgagepaymentsafteraearsorso,andokay,megasuccessful,butstill–isgoingtopresen monthorso.‖Mymouthdropsopen.Iamstaggeredbyhislackofhutmewithmydegree.Ifrown,draggingmywaywardattentionbackt mility.―Don‘tyouhaveaboardtoanswerto?‖Iask,disgusted.―Ioothetaskathand.―Good,‖Iswallownervously.―Ihavesomequest wnmycompany.Idon‘thavetoanswertoaboard.‖Heraisesaneyeions,Mr.Grey.‖Ismoothastraylockofhairbehindmyear.―Ithoug browatme.Iflush.Ofcourse,IwouldknowthisifIhaddonesomerehtyoumight,‖hesays,deadpan.He‘slaughingatme.Mycheeksh search.Butholycrap,he‘ssoarrogant.Ichangetack.―Anddoyoueatattherealization,andIsitupandsquaremyshouldersinanatt haveanyinterestsoutsideyourwork?‖―Ihavevariedinterests,Mempttolooktallerandmorein-timidating.Pressingthestartbutt issSteele.‖Aghostofasmiletoucheshislips.―Veryvar-ied.‖Andonontherecorder,Itrytolookprofessional.―You‘reveryyoungto forsomereason,I‘mconfoundedandheatedbyhissteadygaze.Hihaveamassedsuchanempire.Towhatdoyouoweyoursuc-cess?‖ seyesarealightwithsomewickedthought.―ButifyouworksohardIglanceupathim.Hissmileisrueful,buthelooksvaguelydisappo ,whatdoyoudotochillout?‖―Chillout?‖Hesmiles,revealingperfinted.―Businessisallaboutpeople,MissSteele,andI‘mverygoo ectwhiteteeth.Istopbreathing.Hereallyisbeautiful.Nooneshodatjudgingpeople.Iknowhowtheytick,whatmakesthemflourish uldbethisgood-looking.―Well,to‗chillout‘asyouputit–Isail,Ifl,whatdoesn‘t,whatinspiresthem,andhowtoincentivizethem.Ie y,Iindulgeinvariousphysicalpursuits.‖Heshiftsinhischair.―I‘mployanexceptionalteam,andIrewardthemwell.‖Hepausesan maverywealthyman,MissSteele,andIhaveexpensiveandabsor
  4. 4. binghobbies.‖IglancequicklyatKate‘squestions,wantingtoget hasenoughmaterialnow?Iglanceatthenextquestion.―Youwereoffthissubject.―Youinvestinmanufacturing.Why,specifically adopted.Howfardoyouthinkthat‘sshapedthewayyouare?‖Oh,t?‖Iask.Whydoeshemakemesouncomfortable?―Iliketobuildthi hisispersonal.Istareathim,hopinghe‘snotoffended.Hisbrowfngs.Iliketoknowhowthingswork:whatmakesthingstick,howtoc urrows.―Ihavenowayofknowing.‖Myinterestispiqued.―Howoldonstructanddeconstruct.AndIhavealoveofships.WhatcanIsay wereyouwhenyouwereadopted?‖―That‘samatterofpublicrecor?‖―Thatsoundslikeyourhearttalkingratherthanlogicandfacts. d,MissSteele.‖Histoneisstern.Iflush,again.Crap.Yesofcours‖Hismouthquirksup,andhestaresappraisinglyatme.―Possibly. e–ifI‘dknownIwasdoingthisinterview,IwouldhavedonesomereThoughtherearepeoplewho‘dsayIdon‘thaveaheart.‖―Whywoul search.Imoveonquickly.―You‘vehadtosacrificeafamilylifefordtheysaythat?‖―Becausetheyknowmewell.‖Hislipcurlsinawry yourwork.‖―That‘snotaquestion.‖He‘sterse.―Sorry.‖Isquirm,smile.―Wouldyourfriendssayyou‘reeasytogettoknow?‖AndIre andhe‘smademefeellikeanerrantchild.Itryagain.―HaveyouhagretthequestionassoonasIsayit.It‘snotonKate‘slist. dtosacrificeafamilylifeforyourwork?‖―Ihaveafamily.Ihaveabr otherandasisterandtwolovingparents.I‘mnotinter-estedinext―I‘maveryprivateperson,MissSteele.Igoalongwaytoprotectm endingmyfamilybeyondthat.‖yprivacy.Idon‘toftengiveinterviews,‖hetrailsoff.―Whydidyouagreetodothisone?‖―BecauseI‘mabenefactoroftheUniversity, ―Areyougay,Mr.Grey?‖Heinhalessharply,andIcringe,mortifieandforallintentsandpurposes,Icouldn‘tgetMissKavanaghoff d.Crap.Whydidn‘tIemploysomekindoffilterbeforeIreadthisstrmyback.ShebadgeredandbadgeredmyPRpeople,andIadmireth aightout?HowcanItellhimI‘mjustreadingthequestions?DamnKatkindoftenacity.‖IknowhowtenaciousKatecanbe.That‘swhyI‘ ateandhercuriosity!―NoAnastasia,I‘mnot.‖Heraiseshiseyebrmsittingheresquirminguncomfort-ablyunderhispenetratingga ows,acoolgleaminhiseyes.Hedoesnotlookpleased.―Iapologizze,whenIshouldbestudyingformyexams.―Youalsoinvestinfar e.It‘sum…writtenhere.‖It‘sthefirsttimehe‘ssaidmyname.Myhmingtechnologies.Whyareyouinterestedinthisarea?‖―Wecan‘ eart-beathasaccelerated,andmycheeksareheatingupagain.Nteatmoney,MissSteele,andtherearetoomanypeopleonthispla ervously,Ituckmyloosenedhairbehindmyear.Hecockshisheadnetwhodon‘thaveenoughtoeat.‖―Thatsoundsveryphilanthropi tooneside.―Thesearen‘tyourownquestions?‖Theblooddrainsfc.Isitsomethingyoufeelpassionatelyabout?Feedingtheworld‘ rommyhead.Ohno.―Err…no.Kate–MissKavanagh–shecompilespoor?‖Heshrugs,verynon-committal.―It‘sshrewdbusiness,‖h dthequestions.‖―Areyoucolleaguesonthestudentpaper?‖Ohcremurmurs,thoughIthinkhe‘sbeingdisingenuous.Itdoesn‘tmak ap.Ihavenothingtodowiththestudentpaper.It‘sherextra-curriesense–feedingtheworld‘spoor?Ican‘tseethefinancialbenefi cularactivity,notmine.Myfaceisaflame.―No.She‘smyroommattsofthis,onlythevirtueoftheideal.Iglanceatthenextquestion, e.‖Herubshischininquietdeliberation,hisgrayeyesappraisingconfusedbyhisattitude.―Doyouhaveaphilosophy?Ifso,whatisi me.―Didyouvolunteertodothisinterview?‖heasks,hisvoicedeat?‖―Idon‘thaveaphilosophyassuch.Maybeaguidingprinciple– dlyquiet.Hangon,who‘ssupposedtobeinterviewingwhom?HiseCarnegie‘s:‗Amanwhoacquirestheabilitytotakefullpossessio yesburnintome,andI‘mcompelledtoanswerwiththetruth.―Iwasnofhisownmindmaytakepossessionofanythingelsetowhichhei drafted.She‘snotwell.‖Myvoiceisweakandapologetic.―Thatexsjustlyentitled.‘I‘mverysingular,driven.Ilikecontrol–ofmysel plainsagreatdeal.‖There‘saknockatthedoor,andBlondeNumbfandthosearoundme.‖―Soyouwanttopossessthings?‖Youarea erTwoenters.―Mr.Grey,forgivemeforinterrupting,butyournextcontrolfreak.―Iwanttodeservetopossessthem,butyes,bottoml meetingisintwominutes.‖―We‘renotfinishedhere,Andrea.Pleaine,Ido.‖―Yousoundliketheultimateconsumer.‖―Iam.‖Hesmile secancelmynextmeeting.‖Andreahesitates,gapingathim.She‘s,butthesmiledoesn‘ttouchhiseyes.Againthisisatoddswithso sappearslost.Heturnshisheadslowlytofaceherandraiseshisemeonewhowantstofeedtheworld,soIcan‘thelpthinkingthatwe‘ yebrows.Sheflushesbrightpink.Ohgood.It‘snotjustme.―Verywretalkingaboutsomethingelse,butI‘mabsolutelymystifiedasto ell,Mr.Grey,‖shemutters,thenexits.Hefrowns,andturnshisattwhatitis.Iswallowhard.Thetempera-tureintheroomisrisingor entionbacktome.―Wherewerewe,MissSteele?‖Oh,we‘rebacktmaybeit‘sjustme.Ijustwantthisinterviewtobeover.SurelyKate o‗MissSteele‘now.―Pleasedon‘tletmekeepyoufromanything.‖
  5. 5. ―Iwanttoknowaboutyou.Ithinkthat‘sonlyfair.‖Hisgrayeyesare ntothefoyer.I‘msurprisedwhenhefollowsmeout.AndreaandOlialightwithcu-riosity.Doublecrap.Where‘shegoingwiththis?H viabothlookup,equallysurprised.―Didyouhaveacoat?‖Greyaseplaceshiselbowsonthearmsofthechairandsteepleshisfinger ks.―Yes.‖Olivialeapsupandretrievesmyjacket,whichGreytakesinfrontofhismouth.Hismouthisvery…distracting.Iswallow.―T sfromherbeforeshecanhandittome.Heholdsitupand,feelingrihere‘snotmuchtoknow,‖Isay,flushingagain.―Whatareyourpla diculouslyself-conscious,Ishrugiton.Greyplaceshishandsfornsafteryougraduate?‖Ishrug,thrownbyhisinterest.CometoSe amomentonmyshoulders.Igaspatthecontact.IfhenoticesmyreattlewithKate,findaplace,findajob.Ihaven‘treallythoughtbey action,hegivesnothingaway.Hislongindexfingerpressesthebondmyfinals.―Ihaven‘tmadeanyplans,Mr.Grey.Ijustneedtoget uttonsummoningtheelevator,andwestandwaiting–awkwardlyothroughmyfinalexams.‖WhichIshouldbestudyingfornowrather nmypart,coollyself-possessedonhis.Thedoorsopen,andIhurrthansittinginyourpalatial,swanky,sterileof-fice,feelingunco yindesperatetoescape.Ireallyneedtogetoutofhere.WhenIturnmfortableunderyourpenetratinggaze. tolookathim,he‘sleaningagainstthedoorwaybesidetheelevato rwithonehandonthewall.Hereallyisvery,verygood-looking.It‘―Werunanexcellentinternshipprogramhere,‖hesaysquietly.Ir sdistracting.Hisburninggrayeyesgazeatme.―Anastasia,‖hesaaisemyeyebrowsinsurprise.Isheofferingmeajob?―Oh.I‘llbear ysasafarewell.―Christian,‖Ireply.Andmercifully,thedoorsclothatinmind,‖Imurmur,completelyconfounded.―ThoughI‘mnots s e.ureI‘dfitinhere.‖Ohno.I‘mmusingoutloudagain.―Whydoyousaythat?‖Hecockshisheadtooneside,intrigued,ahintofasmileplayingonhislips.―It‘sobvious,isn‘tit?‖I‘muncoordinated,scruffy,andI‘mnotblonde.―Nottome,‖hemurmurs.Hisgazeisintense Chapter 2,allhumorgone,andstrangemusclesdeepinmybellyclenchsudd Myheartispounding.Theelevatorarrivesonthefirstfloor,andIsenly.Itearmyeyesawayfromhisscrutinyandstareblindlydowna crambleoutassoonasthedoorsslideopen,stumblingonce,butfotmyknottedfingers.What‘sgoingon?Ihavetogo–now.Ileanforw rtunatelynotsprawlingontotheimmaculatesandstonefloor.Iraardtore-trievetherecorder.―Wouldyoulikemetoshowyouaroun ceforthewideglassdoors,andI‘mfreeinthebracing,cleansing,d?‖heasks.―I‘msureyou‘refartoobusy,Mr.Grey,andIdohaveal dampairofSeattle.Raisingmyface,Iwelcomethecoolrefreshinongdrive.‖―You‘redrivingbacktoWSUinVancouver?‖Hesounds grain.Iclosemyeyesandtakeadeep,purifyingbreath,tryingtorsurprised,anxiouseven.Heglancesoutofthewindow.It‘sbegun ecoverwhat‘sleftofmyequilibrium.Nomanhaseveraffectedmettorain.―Well,you‘dbetterdrivecarefully.‖Histoneisstern,auth hewayChristianGreyhas,andIcannotfathomwhy.Isithislooks?oritative.Whyshouldhecare?―Didyougeteverythingyouneed?‖ Hiscivility?Wealth?Power?Idon‘tunderstandmyirrationalreaheadds.―Yessir,‖Ireply,packingtherecorderintomysatchel.Hi ction.Ibreatheanenormoussighofrelief.Whatinheaven‘snameseyesnarrow,speculatively.―Thankyoufortheinterview,Mr.Gr wasthatallabout?Leaningagainstoneofthesteelpillarsofthebey.‖―Thepleasure‘sbeenallmine,‖hesays,politeasever.AsIris uilding,Ivaliantlyattempttocalmdownandgathermythoughts.Ie,hestandsandholdsouthishand.―Untilwemeetagain,MissSte shakemyhead.Holycrap–whatwasthat?Myheartsteadiestoitsrele.‖Anditsoundslikeachallenge,orathreat,I‘mnotsurewhich. egularrhythm,andIcanbreathenormallyagain.Iheadforthecar.Ifrown.Whenwillweevermeetagain?Ishakehishandoncemore, AsIleavethecitylimitsbehind,Ibegintofeelfoolishandembarraastoundedthatthatoddcurrentbetweenusisstillthere.Itmustb ssedasIreplaytheinterviewinmymind.Surely,I‘mover-reactinemynerves.―Mr.Grey.‖Inodathim.Movingwithlitheathleticgra gtosomethingthat‘simaginary.Okay,sohe‘sveryattractive,cocetothedoor,heopensitwide.―Justensuringyoumakeitthrough nfident,commanding,ateasewithhimself–butontheflipside,hethedoor,MissSteele.‖Hegivesmeasmallsmile.Obviously,he‘s ‘sarrogant,andforallhisimpeccablemanners,he‘sautocraticareferringtomyearlierless-than-elegantentryintohisoffice.Ifl ndcold.Well,onthesurface.Aninvoluntaryshiverrunsdownmysush.―That‘sveryconsiderate,Mr.Grey,‖Isnap,andhissmilewid pine.Hemaybearrogant,butthenhehasarighttobe–he‘saccompens.I‘mgladyoufindmeentertaining,Iglowerinwardly,walkingi
  6. 6. lishedsomuchatsuchayoungage.Hedoesn‘tsufferfoolsgladly, sratherintimidating,youknow.‖Ishrug.―He‘sveryfocused,intebutwhyshouldhe?Again,I‘mirritatedthatKatedidn‘tgivemeabr nseeven–andyoung.Reallyyoung.‖Kategazesinnocentlyatme.iefbiography. Ifrownather.―Don‘tyoulooksoinnocent.Whydidn‘tyougivemea biography?Hemademefeellikesuchanidiotforskimpingonbasi cresearch.‖Kateclampsahandtohermouth.―Jeez,Ana,I‘msorry –Ididn‘tthink.‖Ihuff.―Mostlyhewascourteous,formal,slightlysWhilecruisingalongtheI-5,mymindcontinuestowander.I‘mtrul tuffy–likehe‘soldbeforehistime.Hedoesn‘ttalklikeamanoftweyperplexedastowhatmakessomeonesodriventosucceed.Some nty-something.Howoldisheanyway?‖―Twenty-seven.Jeez,Anofhisanswersweresocryptic–asifhehadahiddenagenda.AndK a,I‘msorry.Ishouldhavebriefedyou,butIwasinsuchapanic.Letate‘squestions–ugh!Theadoptionandaskinghimifhewasgay!Is mehavethemini-disc,andI‘llstarttranscribingtheinterview.‖hudder.Ican‘tbelieveIsaidthat.Ground,swallowmeupnow!EverytimeIthinkofthatquestioninthefuture,Iwillcringewithembarrassment.DamnKatherineKavanagh!Icheckthespeedometer.I‘mdrivingmorecautiouslythanIwouldonanyotherocca-sion.An ―Youlookbetter.Didyoueatyoursoup?‖Iask,keentochangethesdIknowit‘sthememoryoftwopenetratinggrayeyesgazingatme, ubject.―Yes,anditwasdeliciousasusual.I‘mfeelingmuchbetterandasternvoicetellingmetodrivecarefully.Shakingmyhead,Ir .‖Shesmilesatmeingrati-tude.Icheckmywatch.―Ihavetorun.IcealizethatGrey‘smorelikeamandoublehisage.Forgetit,Ana,Is anstillmakemyshiftatClayton‘s.‖―Ana,you‘llbeexhausted.‖―I‘coldmyself.Idecidethatallinall,it‘sbeenaveryinterestingexp llbefine.I‘llseeyoulater.‖I‘veworkedatClayton‘ssinceIstartee-rience,butIshouldn‘tdwellonit.Putitbehindyou.Ineverhavet datWSU.It‘sthelargestindependenthardwarestoreinthePortlaoseehimagain.I‘mimmediatelycheeredbythethought.Iswitcho ndarea,andoverthefouryearsI‘veworkedhere,I‘vecometoknontheMP3playerandturnthevolumeuploud,sitback,andlistento walittlebitaboutmosteverythingwesell–althoughironically,I‘thumpingindierockmusicasIpressdownontheaccelerator.AsIh mcrapatanyDIY.Ileaveallthattomydad.I‘mmuchmoreofacurl-uitthe1-5,IrealizeIcandriveasfastasIwant.Weliveinasmallcom p-with-a-book-in-a-comfy-chair-by-the-firekindofgirl.I‘mglamunityofduplexapartmentsinVancouver,Washington,closetot dIcanmakemyshiftasitgivesmesomethingtofocusonthatisn‘tCheVancouvercampusofWSU.I‘mlucky–Kate‘sparentsboughtth hristianGrey.We‘rebusy–it‘sthestartofthesummerseason,aneplaceforher,andIpaypeanutsforrent.It‘sbeenhomeforfourye dfolksareredecoratingtheirhomes.Mrs.Claytonispleasedtosearsnow.AsIpullupoutside,IknowKateisgo-ingtowantablow-by eme.―Ana!Ithoughtyouweren‘tgoingtomakeittoday.‖―Myappoi-blowaccount,andsheistenacious.Well,atleastshehasthemini ntmentdidn‘ttakeaslongasIthought.Icandoacoupleofhours.‖―-disc.HopefullyIwon‘thavetoelaboratemuchbeyondwhatwass I‘mrealpleasedtoseeyou.‖Shesendsmetothestoreroomtostartaidduringtheinterview.―Ana!You‘reback.‖Katesitsinourliving re-stockingshelves,andI‘msoonabsorbedinthetask.WhenIarrarea,surroundedbybooks.She‘sclearlybeenstudyingforfinals ivehomelater,Katherineiswearingheadphonesandworkingonh–thoughshe‘sstillinherpinkflannelpajamasdecoratedwithcut erlaptop.Hernoseisstillpink,butshehasherteethintoastory,selittlerabbits,theonesshereservesfortheaftermathofbreakin oshe‘sconcentratingandtypingfuriously.I‘mthoroughlydrainegupwithboyfriends,forassortedillnesses,andforgeneralmood d–exhaustedbythelongdrive,thegruelinginterview,andbybeinydepression.Sheboundsuptomeandhugsmehard.―Iwasbeginni grushedoffmyfeetatClayton‘s.Islumpontothecouch,thinkingangtoworry.Iexpectedyoubacksooner.‖―Oh,IthoughtImadegoo bouttheessayIhavetofinishandallthestudyingIhaven‘tdonetodtimeconsideringtheinterviewranover.‖Iwavethemini-discre daybecauseIwasholedupwith…him.―You‘vegotsomegoodstuffcorderather.―Ana,thankyousomuchfordoingthis.Ioweyou,Ikn here,Ana.Welldone.Ican‘tbelieveyoudidn‘ttakehimuponhisofow.Howwasit?Whatwashelike?‖Ohno–herewego,theKatherin fertoshowyouaround.HeobviouslywantedtospendmoretimewiteKavanaghInquisition.Istruggletoanswerherquestion.Whatc hyou.‖Shegivesmeafleetingquizzicallook.Iflush,andmyheartanIsay?―I‘mgladit‘sover,andIdon‘thavetoseehimagain.Hewa rateinexplicablyincreases.Thatwasn‘tthereason,surely?Hej
  7. 7. ustwantedtoshowmearoundsoIcouldseethathewaslordofallhe hrowmyselfintomystudiesandmyjobatClayton‘s.Kateisbusytosurveyed.IrealizeI‘mbitingmylip,andIhopeKatedoesn‘tnotice o,compilingherlasteditionofherstudentmagazinebeforesheh.Butsheseemsabsorbedinhertranscrip-tion.―Ihearwhatyoume astorelinquishittotheneweditorwhilealsocrammingforherfinaanaboutformal.Didyoutakeanynotes?‖sheasks.―Um…no,Idid ls.ByWednesday,she‘smuchbetter,andInolongerhavetoendurn‘t.‖―That‘sfine.Icanstillmakeafinearticlewiththis.Shamewe ethesightofherpink-flannel-with-too-many-rabbitsPJs.Icalldon‘thavesomeorigi-nalstills.Good-lookingsonofabitch,isn‘t mymominGeorgiatocheckonher,butalsososhecanwishmeluckfhe?‖Iflush.―Isupposeso.‖Itryhardtosounddisinterested,andIt ormyfinalex-ams.SheproceedstotellmeaboutherlatestventurhinkIsucceed.―Ohcomeon,Ana–evenyoucan‘tbeimmunetohisl eintocandlemaking–mymotherisallaboutnewbusinessventureooks.‖Shearchesaperfecteyebrowatme.Crap!Idistractherwit s.Fundamentallyshe‘sboredandwantssomethingtooccupyherthflattery,alwaysagoodploy. ime,butshehastheattentionspanofagoldfish.It‘llbesomething newnextweek.Sheworriesme.Ihopeshehasn‘tmortgagedtheho usetofinancethislatestscheme.AndIhopethatBob–herrelative lynewbutmucholderhusband–iskeepinganeyeonhernowthatI‘―Youprobablywouldhavegotalotmoreoutofhim.‖―Idoubtthat,A mnolongerthere.HedoesseemalotmoregroundedthanHusbandna.Comeon–hepracticallyofferedyouajob.GiventhatIfoistedt NumberThree.hisonyouatthelastminute,youdidverywell.‖Sheglancesupatmespeculatively.Imakeahastyretreatintothekitchen.―Sowhatdidyoureallythinkofhim?‖Damn,she‘sinquisitive.Whycan‘tshejustletthisgo?Thinkofsomething–quick.―He‘sverydriven,contr ―Howarethingswithyou,Ana?‖Foramoment,Ihesitate,andIhavolling,arrogant–scaryreally,butverycharismatic.Icanun-ders eMom‘sfullattention.―I‘mfine.‖―Ana?Haveyoumetsomeone?‖tandthefascination,‖Iaddtruthfully,asIpeerroundthedoorath Wow…howdoesshedothat?Theexcitementinhervoiceispalpablerhopingthiswillshutheruponceandforall.―You,fascinatedbya e.―No,Mom,it‘snothing.You‘llbethefirsttoknowifIdo.‖―Ana,yoman?That‘safirst,‖shesnorts.Istartgatheringthemakingsofas ureallyneedtogetoutmore,honey.Youworryme.‖―Mom,I‘mfine.andwichsoshecan‘tseemyface.―Whydidyouwanttoknowifhewa How‘sBob?‖Asever,distractionisthebestpolicy.Laterthatevesgay?Incidentally,thatwasthemostembarrass-ingquestion.Iw ning,IcallRay,mystepdad,Mom‘sHusbandNumberTwo,themanasmortified,andhewaspissedtobeaskedtoo.‖Iscowlatthemem Iconsidermyfather,andthemanwhosenameIbear.It‘sabriefconory.―Wheneverhe‘sinthesocietypages,heneverhasadate.‖―It versation.Infact,it‘snotsomuchaconversationasaone-sidedswasembarrassing.Thewholethingwasembarrassing.I‘mgladI‘l eriesofgruntsinresponsetomygentlecoax-ing.Rayisnotatalkelneverhavetolayeyesonhimagain.‖―Oh,Ana,itcan‘thavebeent r.Buthe‘sstillalive,he‘sstillwatchingsocceronTV,andgoingbohatbad.Ithinkhesoundsquitetakenwithyou.‖Takenwithme?No wlingandfly-fishingormakingfurniturewhenhe‘snot.RayisaskiwKate‘sbeingridiculous.―Wouldyoulikeasandwich?‖―Please.‖ lledcarpenterandthereasonIknowthedifferencebetweenahawWetalknomoreofChristianGreythatevening,muchtomyrelief.O kandahandsaw.Allseemswellwithhim.Fridaynight,KateandIarncewe‘veeaten,I‘mabletositatthediningtablewithKateand,wh edebatingwhattodowithourevening–wewantsometimeoutfromilesheworksonherarticle,IworkonmyessayonTessoftheD‘Urb ourstudies,fromourwork,andfromstudentnewspapers–whenthervilles.Damn,butthatwomanwasinthewrongplaceatthewrong edoorbellrings.StandingonourdoorstepismygoodfriendJosé,timeinthewrongcentury.BythetimeIfinish,it‘smidnight,andKa clutchingabottleofchampagne.―José!Greattoseeyou!‖Igivehitehaslongsincegonetobed.Imakemywaytomyroom,exhausted, maquickhug.―Comein.‖JoséisthefirstpersonImetwhenIarrivebutpleasedthatI‘veaccom-plishedsomuchforaMonday.Icurlup datWSU,lookingaslostandlonelyasIdid.Werecognizedakindreinmywhiteironbed,wrappingmymother‘squiltaroundme,close dspiritineachofusthatday,andwe‘vebeenfriendseversince.Nomyeyes,andI‘minstantlyasleep.ThatnightIdreamofdarkplace tonlydoweshareasenseofhumor,butwediscoveredthatbothRas,bleakwhitecoldfloors,andgrayeyes.Fortherestoftheweek,It yandJoséSeniorwereinthesamearmyunittogether.Asaresult,
  8. 8. ourfathershavebecomefirmfriendstoo.Joséisstudyingengine .I‘mengrossedinthetask,checkingcataloguenumbersagainstteringandisthefirstinhisfamilytomakeittocollege.He‘sprettyd heitemsweneedandtheitemswe‘veordered,eyesflickingfromtamnbright,buthisrealpassionisphotography.Joséhasagreate heorderbooktothecomputerscreenandbackasIchecktheentrieyeforagoodpicture.―Ihavenews.‖Hegrins,hisdarkeyestwinkli smatch.Then,forsomereason,Iglanceup…andfindmyselflockeng.―Don‘ttellme–you‘vemanagednottogetkickedoutforanothe dintheboldgraygazeofChristianGreywho‘sstandingatthecounrweek,‖Itease,andhescowlsplayfullyatme.―ThePortlandPlac ter,staringatmeintently.Heartfailure.―MissSteele.WhatapleaeGalleryisgoingtoexhibitmyphotosnextmonth.‖―That‘samazi santsurprise.‖Hisgazeisunwaveringandintense.Holycrap.Whng–congratulations!‖Delightedforhim,Ihughimagain.Katebea atthehellishedoingherelookingalltousled-hairandoutdoorsyimsathimtoo.―WaytogoJosé!Ishouldputthisinthepaper.Nothin nhiscreamchunky-knitsweater,jeans,andwalkingboots?IthinglikelastminuteeditorialchangesonaFridayevening.‖Shegrin kmymouthhaspoppedopen,andIcan‘tlocatemybrainormyvoices.―Let‘scelebrate.Iwantyoutocometotheopening.‖Josélooksi .―Mr.Grey,‖Iwhisper,becausethat‘sallIcanmanage.There‘sagntentlyatme.Iflush.―Bothofyou,ofcourse,‖headds,glancingne hostofasmileonhislipsandhiseyesarealightwithhumor,asifhervouslyatKate.JoséandIaregoodfriends,butIknowdeepdowni ‘senjoyingsomeprivatejoke.―Iwasinthearea,‖hesaysbywayofnside,he‘dliketobemore.He‘scuteandfunny,buthe‘sjustnotfo explanation.―Ineedtostockuponafewthings.It‘sapleasuretosrme.He‘smorelikethebrotherIneverhad.Katherineoftentease eeyouagain,MissSteele.‖HisvoiceiswarmandhuskylikedarkmsmethatI‘mmissingtheneed-a-boyfriendgene,butthetruthis–I eltedchocolatefudgecaramel…orsomething.Ishakemyheadtojusthaven‘tmetanyonewho…well,whomI‘mattractedto,eventh gathermywits.Myheartispoundingafrantictattoo,andforsomeroughpartofmelongsforthosetremblingknees,heart-in-my-mou easonI‘mblushingfuriouslyunderhissteadyscrutiny.Iamutterlth,butterflies-in-my-belly,sleeplessnights. ythrownbythesightofhimstandingbeforeme.Mymemoriesofhim didnotdohimjustice.He‘snotmerelygood-looking–he‘stheepit omeofmalebeauty,breathtaking,andhe‘shere.HereinClayton‘ sHardwareStore.Gofigure.FinallymycognitivefunctionsarereSometimesIwonderifthere‘ssomethingwrongwithme.PerhapsI storedandreconnectedwiththerestofmybody.―Ana.Myname‘s‘vespenttoolonginthecompanyofmyliteraryromanticheroes,a Ana,‖Imutter.―WhatcanIhelpyouwith,Mr.Grey?‖Hesmiles,andndconsequentlymyidealsandexpecta-tionsarefartoohigh.But againit‘slikehe‘sprivytosomebigsecret.Itissodisconcerting.inreality,nobody‘severmademefeellikethat.Untilveryrecentl Tak-ingadeepbreath,IputonmyprofessionalI‘ve-worked-in-thy,theunwelcome,stillsmallvoiceofmysubconsciouswhispers. is-shop-for-yearsfaçade.Icandothis.―ThereareafewitemsIneNO!Ibanishthethoughtimmediately.Iamnotgoingthere,notaft ed.Tostartwith,I‘dlikesomecableties,‖hemurmurs,hisgrayeyerthatpainfulinter-view.Areyougay,Mr.Grey?Iwinceattheme escoolbutamused.mory.IknowI‘vedreamtabouthimmostnightssincethen,butthat‘sjusttopurgetheawfulexperiencefrommysystem,surely?IwatchJoséopenthebottleofchampagne.He‘stall,andinhisjeansandt-shirthe‘sallshouldersandmuscles,tannedskin,darkhairan Cableties?―Westockvariouslengths.ShallIshowyou?‖Imutter,dburningdarkeyes.Yes,José‘sprettyhot,butIthinkhe‘sfinally myvoicesoftandwavery.Getagrip,Steele.AslightfrownmarsGrgettingthemessage:we‘rejustfriends.Thecorkmakesitsloudp ey‘sratherlovelybrow.―Please.Leadtheway,MissSteele,‖hesaop,andJosélooksupandsmiles.Saturdayatthestoreisanightma ys.ItryfornonchalanceasIcomeoutfrombehindthecounter,butrre.Wearebesiegedbydo-it-yourselferswantingtospruceupthei eallyI‘mconcentratinghardonnotfallingovermyownfeet–mylerhomes.Mr.andMrs.Clayton,JohnandPatrick–thetwootherpar gsaresuddenlytheconsistencyofJell-O.I‘msogladIdecidedtot-timers–andIareallrushedoffourfeet.Butthere‘salullaroundl wearmybestjeansthismorning.―They‘reinwiththeelectricalgounchtime,andMrs.Claytonasksmetocheckonsomeorderswhile ods,aisleeight.‖Myvoiceisalittletoobright.IglanceupathimanI‘msittingbehindthecounteratthetilldiscreetlyeatingmybagel dregretitalmostimmediately.Damn,he‘shandsome.Iblush.―Af
  9. 9. teryou,‖hemurmurs,gesturingwithhislong-fingered,beautiful reagain,zappingthroughmelikeI‘vetouchedanexposedwire.Iglymanicuredhand.Withmyheartalmoststranglingme–becausei aspinvoluntarilyasIfeelit,allthewaydowntosomewheredarkant‘sinmythroattryingtoescapefrommymouth–Iheaddownoneoft dunexplored,deepinmybelly.Desperately,Iscrabblearoundforheaislestotheelectricalsection.WhyisheinPortland?Whyishe myequilibrium.―Anythingelse?‖Myvoiceishuskyandbreathy.HhereatClayton‘s?Andfromaverytiny,underusedpartofmybrain iseyeswidenslightly.―Somerope,Ithink.‖Hisvoicemirrorsmine–probablylocatedatthebaseofmymedullaoblongatawheremys ,husky.―Thisway.‖Iduckmyheaddowntohidemyrecurringblushubconsciousdwells–comesthethought:he‘sheretoseeyou.No andheadfortheaisle.―Whatsortwereyouafter?Wehavesynthetiway!Idismissitimmediately.Whywouldthisbeauti-ful,powerful candnaturalfilamentrope…twine…cablecord…‖Ihaltathisexpr,urbanemanwanttoseeme?Theideaispreposterous,andIkickit ession,hiseyesdarkening.Holycow.―I‘lltakefiveyardsofthenaoutofmyhead.―AreyouinPortlandonbusiness?‖Iask,andmyvoi turalfilamentropeplease.‖Quickly,withtremblingfingers,Imeceistoohigh,likeI‘vegotmyfingertrappedinadoororsomething. asureoutfiveyardsagainstthefixedruler,awarethathishotgrayDamn!TrytobecoolAna!―IwasvisitingtheWSUfarmingdivision. gazeisonme.Idarenotlookathim.Jeez,couldIfeelanymoreself-It‘sbasedatVancouver.I‘mcurrentlyfund-ingsomeresearchthe conscious?TakingmyStanleyknifefromthebackpocketofmyjeareincroprotationandsoilscience,‖hesaysmatter-of-factly.Se ns,Icutitthencoilitneatlybeforetyingitinaslipknot.Bysomemire?Notheretofindyouatall,mysubconscioussneersatme,loud,p acle,Imanagenottoremoveafingerwithmyknife.―WereyouaGirlroud,andpouty.Iflushatmyfoolishwaywardthoughts.―Allparto Scout?‖heasks,sculptured,sensuallipscurledinamusement.Dfyourfeed-the-worldplan?‖Itease.―Somethinglikethat,‖heack on‘tlookathismouth!―Organized,groupactivitiesaren‘treallynowledges,andhislipsquirkupinahalfsmile.Hegazesatthesele mything,Mr.Grey.‖Hearchesabrow.―Whatisyourthing,AnastasctionofcabletieswestockatClayton‘s.WhatonEarthishegoingt ia?‖heasks,hisvoicesoftandhissecretsmileisback.Igazeathiodowiththose?Icannotpicturehimasado-it-yourselferatall.Hi munabletoexpressmyself.I‘monshiftingtectonicplates.Tryansfingerstrailacrossthevariouspackagesdisplayed,andforsom dbecool,Ana,mytorturedsubconsciousbegsonbendedknee.―Beinexplicablereason,Ihavetolookaway.Hebendsandselectsa ooks,‖Iwhisper,butinside,mysubconsciousisscreaming:You!packet.―Thesewilldo,‖hesayswithhisoh-so-secretsmile,andI Youaremything!Islapitdowninstantly,mortifiedthatmypsycheblush.―Isthereanythingelse?‖―I‘dlikesomemaskingtape.‖Mas ishavingideasaboveitsstation.―Whatkindofbooks?‖Hecockshkingtape?―Areyouredecorating?‖ThewordsareoutbeforeIcan isheadtooneside.Whyishesointerested?―Oh,youknow.Theusustopthem.Surelyhehireslaborersorhasstafftohelphimdecorat al.Theclassics.Britishliterature,mainly.‖Herubshischinwithe?―No,notredecorating,‖hesaysquicklythensmirks,andIhavet hislongindexfingerandthumbashecontemplatesmyanswer.Orheuncannyfeelingthathe‘slaughingatme.AmIthatfunny?Funn perhapshe‘sjustveryboredandtryingtohideit.―Anythingelseyylooking?―Thisway,‖Imurmurembarrassed.―Maskingtapeisint ouneed?‖Ihavetogetoffthissubject–thosefingersonthatfaceahedecoratingaisle.‖Iglancebehindmeashefollows.―Haveyouw resobeguiling.―Idon‘tknow.Whatelsewouldyourecommend?‖orkedherelong?‖Hisvoiceislow,andhe‘sgazingatme,grayeyes WhatwouldIrecommend?Idon‘tevenknowwhatyou‘redoing.―Focon-centratinghard.Iblushevenmorebrightly.Whythehelldoes rado-it-yourselfer?‖Henods,grayeyesalivewithwickedhumor.hehavethiseffectonme?IfeellikeI‘mfourteenyearsold–gauche Iflush,andmyeyesstrayoftheirownaccordtohissnugjeans.―Co,asalways,andoutofplace.EyesfrontSteele! veralls,‖Ireply,andIknowI‘mnolongerscreeningwhat‘scoming outofmymouth.Heraisesaneyebrow,amused,yetagain.―Youwo uldn‘twanttoruinyourclothing,‖Igesturevaguelyinthedirectio nofhisjeans.―Icouldalwaystakethemoff.‖Hesmirks.―Fouryears,‖Imutteraswereachourgoal.Todistractmyself,Ireachdownandselectthetwowidthsofmaskingtapethatwestock.―I‘lltakethatone,‖Greysayssoftlypointingtothewidertape,whichIpasstohim.Ourfingersbrushverybriefly,andthecurrentisthe
  10. 10. ―Um.‖Ifeelthecolorinmycheeksrisingagain.Imustbethecoloro edovermyshoulder.Ishufflefromfoottofoot,embarrassed.It‘sgfthecommunistmanifesto.Stoptalking.StoptalkingNOW.―I‘llta oodtoseePaul,buthe‘salwaysbeenover-familiar.kesomecoveralls.HeavenforbidIshouldruinanyclothing,‖hesaysdryly.Itryanddismisstheunwelcomeimageofhimwithoutjeans.―Doyouneedanythingelse?‖IsqueakasIhandhimthebluecove WhenIglanceupatChristianGrey,he‘swatchinguslikeahawk,hiralls.Heignoresmyinquiry.―How‘sthearticlecomingalong?‖He sgrayeyeshoodedandspeculative,hismouthahardimpassiveli‘sfinallyaskedmeanormalquestion,awayfromalltheinnuendoa ne.He‘schangedfromtheweirdlyattentivecustomertosomeonendtheconfusingdoubletalk…aquestionIcananswer.Igraspittig else–someonecoldanddistant.―Paul,I‘mwithacustomer.Somehtlywithtwohandsasifwerealiferaft,andIgoforhonesty.―I‘mno oneyoushouldmeet,‖Isay,tryingtodefusetheantagonismIseeitwritingit,Katherineis.MissKavanagh.Myroommate,she‘sthe nGrey‘seyes.IdragPaulovertomeethim,andtheyweigheachothwriter.She‘sveryhappywithit.She‘stheeditorofthemagazine, erup.Theatmosphereissuddenlyarctic.―Er,Paul,thisisChristiandshewasdevastatedthatshecouldn‘tdotheinterviewinperso anGrey.Mr.Grey,thisisPaulClayton.Hisbrotherownstheplace.n.‖IfeellikeI‘vecomeupforair–atlast,anormaltopicofconversa ‖Andforsomeirrationalreason,IfeelIhavetoexplainabitmore.―tion.―Heronlyconcernisthatshedoesn‘thaveanyoriginalphoto I‘veknownPauleversinceI‘veworkedhere,thoughwedon‘tseeegraphsofyou.‖Greyraisesaneyebrow.―Whatsortofphotograph achotherthatoften.He‘sbackfromPrincetonwherehe‘sstudyinsdoesshewant?‖Okay.Ihadn‘tfactoredinthisresponse.Ishake gbusinessadministration.‖I‘mbab-bling…Stop,now!―Mr.Claytmyhead,becauseIjustdon‘tknow.―Well,I‘maround.Tomorrow, on.‖Christianholdshishandout,hislookunreadable.―Mr.Grey,perhaps…‖hetrailsoff.―You‘dbewillingtoattendaphotoshoot? ‖Paulreturnshishandshake.―Waitup–nottheChristianGrey?Of‖Myvoiceissqueakyagain.KatewillbeinseventhheavenifIcanp GreyEnterprisesHoldings?‖Paulgoesfromsurlytoawestruckinullthisoff.Andyoumightseehimagaintomorrow,thatdarkplace lessthanananosecond.Greygiveshimapolitesmilethatdoesn‘tatthebaseofmybrainwhispersseductivelyatme.Idismisstheth reachhiseyes.―Wow–isthereanythingIcangetyou?‖―Anastasiaought–ofallthesilly,ridiculous…―Katewillbedelighted–ifweca hasitcovered,Mr.Clayton.She‘sbeenveryattentive.‖Hisexprenfindaphotographer.‖I‘msopleased,Ismileathimbroadly.Hisli ssionisimpassive,buthiswords…it‘slikehe‘ssayingsomethingpspart,likehe‘stakingasharpintakeofbreath,andheblinks.For elseentirely.It‘sbaffling.―Cool,‖Paulresponds.―Catchyoulatafractionofasecond,helookslostsomehow,andtheEarthshifts er,Ana.‖―Sure,Paul.‖Iwatchhimdisappeartowardthestockrooslightlyonitsaxis,thetectonicplatesslidingintoanewposition. m.―Anythingelse,Mr.Grey?‖―Justtheseitems.‖HistoneisclippOhmy.ChristianGrey‘slostlook.―Letmeknowabouttomorrow.‖ edandcool.Damn…haveIoffendedhim?Tak-ingadeepbreath,ItReachingintohisbackpocket,hepullsouthiswal-let.―Mycard.It urnandheadforthetill.Whatishisproblem?Iringuptherope,covhasmycellnumberonit.You‘llneedtocallbeforeteninthemornin eralls,maskingtape,andcabletiesatthetill.―Thatwillbeforty-tg.‖―Okay.‖Igrinupathim.Kateisgoingtobethrilled.―ANA!‖Paul hreedollars,please.‖IglanceupatGrey,andIwishIhadn‘t.He‘shasmaterializedatothertheendoftheaisle.He‘sMr.Clayton‘sy watchingmeclosely,hisgrayeyesintenseandsmoky.It‘sunnervoungestbroth-er.I‘dheardhewashomefromPrinceton,butIwas ing.―Wouldyoulikeabag?‖IaskasItakehiscreditcard.―Please,n‘texpectingtoseehimtoday.―Er,excusemeforamoment,Mr.Gr Anastasia.‖Histonguecaressesmyname,andmyheartonceagaiey.‖GreyfrownsasIturnawayfromhim.Paulhasalwaysbeenabu nisfrantic.Icanhardlybreathe.Hurriedly,Iplacehispurchasesiddy,andinthisstrangemomentthatI‘mhavingwiththerich,powe naplasticcarrier.―You‘llcallmeifyouwantmetodothephotoshorful,awesomelyoff-the-scaleattractivecontrol-freakGrey,it‘s ot?‖He‘sallbusinessoncemore.Inod,renderedspeechlessyetagreattotalktosomeonewho‘snormal.Paulhugsmehardtakingm gain,andhandbackhiscreditcard.―Good.Untiltomorrowperhapebysurprise.―Ana,hi,it‘ssogoodtoseeyou!‖hegushes.―HelloP s.‖Heturnstoleave,thenpauses.―Oh–andAnastasia,I‘mgladMiaul,howareyou?Youhomeforyourbrother‘sbirthday?‖―Yep.Yo ssKavanaghcouldn‘tdotheinterview.‖Hesmiles,thenstrideswiu‘relookingwell,Ana,reallywell.‖Hegrinsasheexaminesmeata threnewedpurposeoutofthestore,slingingtheplasticbagoverhrm‘slength.Thenhereleasesmebutkeepsapossessivearmdrap
  11. 11. isshoulder,leavingmeaquiver-ingmassofragingfemalehormo irty.I‘llseeyoutomorrow.‖―Goodnight,Jack.‖―Goodnight,Ana.nes.Ispendseveralminutesstaringatthecloseddoorthroughwh ‖Collectingmybag,Ishrugonmyjacketandheadforthedoor.Outiichhe‘sjustleftbeforeIreturntoplanetEarth.Okay–Ilikehim.Th ntheearlyeveningairofSeattle,Itakeadeepbreath.Itdoesn‘tbe gintofillthevoidinmychest,avoidthat‘sbeenpresentsinceSatuere,I‘veadmittedittomyself.Icannothidefrommyfeelingsanym rdaymorning,apainfulhollowreminderofmyloss.Iwalktowardtore.I‘veneverfeltlikethisbefore.Ifindhimattractive,veryattra hebusstopwithmyheaddown,staringatmyfeetandcontemplatinctive.Butit‘salostcause,Iknow,andIsighwithbittersweetregre gbeingwithoutmybelovedWanda,myoldBeetle...ortheAudi.Isht.Itwasjustacoincidence,hiscominghere.Butstill,Icanadmire utthedooronthatthoughtimmediately.No.Don‘tthinkabouthim.himfromafar,surely?Noharmcancomeofthat.AndifIfindaphoto Ofcourse,Icanaffordacar—anice,newcar.Isuspecthehasbeengrapher,Icandosomeseriousadmiringtomorrow.Ibitemylipina overgenerousinhispayment,andCLICKHERETODOWNLOADAFn t i c i p a t i o n and find myself grinning like a schoolgirl. I need to phone Kate and organize ULLCOPYOFTHISEBOOKa photo-shoot. thethoughtleavesabittertasteinmymouth,butIdismissitandtry tokeepmymindasnumbandasblankaspossible.Ican‘tthinkabou======================================================================= thim.Idon‘twanttostartcryingagain—notoutonthestreet.Thea partmentisempty.ImissKate,andIimagineherlyingonabeachin Barbadossippingacoolcocktail.Iturnontheflat-screentelevisi onsothere‘snoisetofillthevacuumandprovidesomesemblanceHe‘scomeback.Mommy‘sasleeporshe‘ssickagain.Ihideandcur ofcompany,butIdon‘tlistenorwatch.Isitandstareblanklyatthelupsmallunderthetableinthekitchen.ThroughmyfingersIcanse brickwall.Iamnumb.Ifeelnothingbutthepain.HowlongmustIeneMommy.Sheisasleeponthecouch.Herhandisonthestickygree durethis?Thedoorbuzzerstartlesmefrommyanguish,andmyhenrug,andhe‘swearinghisbigbootswiththeshinybuckleandstan artskipsabeat.Whocouldthatbe?Ipresstheintercom.―DeliverydingoverMommyshouting.HehitsMommywithabelt.Getup!Getu forMs.Steele.‖Abored,disembodiedvoiceanswers,anddisappp!Youareonefucked-upbitch.Youareonefucked-upbitch.Youa ointmentcrashesthroughme.Ilistlesslymakemywaydownstairreonefucked-upbitch.Youareonefucked-upbitch.Youareonef sandfindayoungmannoisilychewinggum,holdingalargecardboucked-upbitch.Youareonefucked-upbitch.Mommymakesasob ardbox,andleaningagainstthefrontdoor.Isignforthepackageabingnoise.Stop.Pleasestop.Mommydoesn‘tscream.Mommycu ndtakeitupstairs.Theboxishugeandsurprisinglylight.Insidearlsupsmall.Ihavemyfingersinmyears,andIclosemyeyes.Theso retwodozenlong-stemmed,whiterosesandacard.Congratulatiundstops.HeturnsandIcanseehisbootsashestompsintothekitc onsonyourfirstdayatwork.Ihopeitwentwell.Andthankyouforthhen.Hestillhasthebelt.Heistryingtofindme.Hestoopsdownand eglider.Thatwasverythoughtful.Ithasprideofplaceonmydesk.grins.Hesmellsnasty.Ofcigarettesanddrink.Thereyouare,you ChristianIstareatthetypedcard,thehollowinmychestexpandinlittleshit.CLICKHERETODOWNLOADAFULLCOPYOFTHISEBO g.Nodoubt,hisassistantsentthis.ChristianprobablyhadveryliOK ttletodowithit.It‘stoopainfultothinkabout.Iexaminetheroses —theyarebeautiful,andIcan‘tbringmyselftothrowtheminthetrAchillingwailwakeshim.Christ!He‘sdrenchedinsweatandhish ash.Dutifully,Imakemywayintothekitchentohuntdownavase.Aeartispounding.Whatthefuck?Hesitsboltuprightinbedandputs ndsoapatterndevelops:wake,work,cry,sleep.Well,trytosleephisheadinhands.Fuck.They‘reback.Thenoisewasme.Hetakes .Ican‘tevenescapehiminmydreams.Grayburningeyes,hislostladeepsteadyingbreath,tryingtoridhismindandnostrilsofthes ook,hishairburnishedandbrightallhauntme.Andthemusic...somellofcheapbourbonandstaleCamelcigarettes. muchmusic—Icannotbeartohearanymusic.Iamcarefultoavoidi tatallcosts.Eventhejinglesincommercialsmakemeshudder.IhIhavesurvivedDayThreePost-Christian,andmyfirstdayatwork avespokentonoone,notevenmymotherorRay.Idon‘thavetheca.Ithasbeenawelcomedistraction.Thetimehasflownbyinahazeo pacityforidletalknow.No,Iwantnoneofit.Ihavebecomemyownifnewfaces,worktodo,andMr.JackHyde.Mr.JackHyde...hesmil slandstate.Aravaged,war-tornlandwherenothinggrowsandtheesdownatme,hisblueeyestwinkling,asheleansagainstmydesk horizonsarebleak.Yes,that‘sme.Icaninteractimper-sonallyat.―Excellentwork,Ana.Ithinkwe‘regoingtomakeagreatteam.‖S work,butthat‘sit.IfItalktoMom,IknowIwillbreakevenfurther—omehow,Imanagetocurlmylipsupwardinasemblanceofasmile. andIhavenothinglefttobreak.Iamfindingitdifficulttoeat.ByWe―I‘llbeoff,ifthat‘sokaywithyou,‖Imurmur.―Ofcourse,it‘sfiveth dnesdaylunchtime,Imanageacupofyogurt,andit‘sthefirstthin
  12. 12. gI‘veeatensinceFriday.Iamsurvivingonanewfoundtolerancef nGreyHiChristianThankyoufortheflowers;theyarelovely.Yes,orlattesandDietCoke.It‘sthecaffeinethatkeepsmegoing,butit Iwouldappreciatealift.Thankyou.AnastasiaSteeleAssistantt‘smakingmeanxious. oJackHyde,CommissioningEditor,SIPCheckingmyphone,Ifin dthatitisstillswitchedtodivert.Jackisinameeting,soIquicklycJackhasstartedtohoveroverme,irritatingme,askingmeperson allJosé.―Hi,José.It‘sAna.‖―Hello,stranger.‖Histoneissowarmalquestions.Whatdoeshewant?I‘mpolite,butIneedtokeephima andwelcomingit‘salmostenoughtopushmeovertheedgeagain.―tarm‘slength.Isitandbegintrawlingthroughapileofcorrespond Ican‘ttalklong.WhattimeshouldIbetheretomorrowforyourshoenceaddressedtohim,andI‘mpleasedwiththedistractionofmen w?‖―You‘restillcoming?‖Hesoundsexcited.―Yes,ofcourse.‖Isialwork.Mye-mailpings,andIquicklychecktoseewhoit‘sfrom.H milemyfirstgenuinesmileinfivedaysasIpicturehisbroadgrin.―olyshit.Ane-mailfromChristian.Ohno,nothere...notatwork.Fr Seventhirty.‖―Seeyouthen.Good-bye,José.‖―Bye,Ana.‖From:om:ChristianGreySubject:TomorrowDate:June8,201114:05T ChristianGreySubject:TomorrowDate:June8,201114:27To:Ao:AnastasiaSteeleDearAnastasiaForgivethisintrusionatwork nastasiaSteeleDearAnastasiaWhattimeshallIcollectyou?.Ihopethatit‘sgoingwell.Didyougetmyflowers?Inotethattomorrowisthegalleryopeningforyourfriend‘sshow,andI‘msureyou‘ ChristianGreyCEO,GreyEnterprisesHoldingsInc.From:Anastvenothadtimetopurchaseacar,andit‘salongdrive.Iwouldbemo asiaSteeleSubject:TomorrowDate:June8,201114:32To:Chrisrethanhappytotakeyou—shouldyouwish.Letmeknow.Christia tianGreyJosé‘sshowstartsat7:30.WhattimewouldyousuggestnGreyCEO,GreyEnterprisesHoldingsInc.Tearsswiminmyeyes ?AnastasiaSteeleAssistanttoJackHyde,CommissioningEdito.Ihastilyleavemydeskandbolttotherestroomtoescapeintoone r,SIPFrom:ChristianGreySubject:TomorrowDate:June8,2011ofthestalls.José‘sshow.Crap.I‘dforgottenallaboutit,andIpro 14:34To:AnastasiaSteeleDearAnastasiaPortlandissomedistmisedhimI‘dgo.Shit,Christianisright;howamIgoingtogetthere anceaway.Ishallcollectyouat5:45.Ilookforwardtoseeingyou.?Iclutchmyforehead.Whyhasn‘tJoséphoned?Cometothinkofit ChristianGreyCEO,GreyEnterprisesHoldingsInc.From:Anast—whyhasn‘tany-onephoned?I‘vebeensoabsentminded,Ihave asiaSteeleSubject:TomorrowDate:June8,201114:38To:Chrisn‘tnoticedthatmycellphonehasbeensilent.Shit!Iamsuchanidi tianGreySeeyouthen.AnastasiaSteeleAssistanttoJackHyde,ot!IstillhaveitondiverttotheBlackberry.Holyhell.Christian‘s CommissioningEditor,SIPOhmy.I‘mgoingtoseeChristian,andfbeengettingmycalls—unlesshe‘sjustthrowntheBlackberryaw orthefirsttimeinfivedays,myspiritsliftafrac-tionandIallowmyay.Howdidhegetmye-mailaddress?Heknowsmyshoesize,ane- selftowonderhowhe‘sbeen.Hashemissedme?ProbablynotlikeImailaddressishardlygoingtopresenthimwithmanyproblems.C ‘vemissedhim.HashefoundanewsubmissivefromwherevertheyanIseehimagain?CouldIbearit?DoIwanttoseehim?Iclosemyey comefrom?ThethoughtissopainfulthatIdismissitimmediately.esandtiltmyheadbackasgriefandlonginglancethroughme.Ofc IlookatthepileofcorrespondenceIneedtosortforJackandtacklourseIdo.Perhaps,perhapsIcantellhimI‘vechangedmymind... eitasItrytopushChris-tianoutofmymindoncemore.CLICKHERENo,no,no.Icannotbewithsomeonewhotakespleasureininflicti TODOWNLOADAFULLCOPYOFTHISEBOOKngpainonme,someonewhocan‘tloveme.Torturousmemoriesflashthroughmymind—thegliding,holdinghands,kissing,thebath Thatnightinbed,Itossandturn,tryingtosleep.Itisthefirsttimeitub,hisgentleness,hishumor,andhisdark,brooding,sexystare nawhileIhaven‘tcriedmyselftosleep.Inmymind‘seye,Ivisualiz.Imisshim.It‘sbeenfivedays,fivedaysofagonythathasfeltlikea eChristian‘sfacethelasttimeIsawhimasIlefthisapart-ment.Hineternity.Iwrapmyarmsaroundmybody,huggingmyselftightly, storturedexpressionhauntsme.Irememberhedidn‘twantmetogholdingmyselftogether.Imisshim.Ireallymisshim...Ilovehim. o,whichwasodd.WhywouldIstaywhenthingshadreachedsuchaSimple.CLICKHERETODOWNLOADAFULLCOPYOFTHISEBOO nimpasse?Wewereeachskirtingaroundourownissues—myfearK ofpunishment,hisfearof...what?Love?Turningonmyside,Ihug mypillow,filledwithanoverwhelmingsadness.HethinkshedoesIcrymyselftosleepatnight,wishingIhadn‘twalkedout,wishingt n‘tdeservetobeloved.Whydoeshefeelthatway?Isitsomethingthathecouldbedifferent,wishingthatweweretogether.Howlong odowithhisupbringing?Hisbirthmom,thecrackwhore?Mythougwillthishideousoverwhelmingfeelinglast?Iaminpurgatory.An htsplaguemeintotheearlyhoursuntileventuallyIfallintoafitfulastasiaSteele,youareatwork!Imustbestrong,butIwanttogotoJ ,exhaustedsleep.ThedaydragsanddragsandJackisunusuallyaosé‘sshow,anddeepdown,themasochistinmewantstoseeChris ttentive.Isuspectit‘sKate‘splumdressandtheblackhigh-heeletian.Takingadeepbreath,Iheadbacktomydesk.From:Anastasi dbootsI‘vestolenfromhercloset,butIdon‘tdwellonthethought.aSteeleSubject:TomorrowDate:June8,201114:25To:Christia Iresolvetogoclothesshoppingwithmyfirstpaycheck.Thedressi
  13. 13. slooseronmethanitwas,butIpretendnottonotice.Finally,it‘sfi voicesofter.―Pastaallavongole,lastFriday,‖Iwhisper.Heclosvethirty,andIcollectmyjacketandpurse,tryingtoquellmynerve eshiseyesasfuryandpossiblyregret,sweepsacrosshisface.―Iss.I‘mgoingtoseehim!―Doyouhaveadatetonight?‖Jackasksash ee,‖hesays,hisvoiceexpressionless.―Youlooklikeyou‘velostaestrollspastmydeskonhiswayout.―Yes.No.Notreally.‖Hecock tleastfivepounds,possiblymoresincethen.Pleaseeat,Anastassaneyebrowatme,hisinterestclearlypiqued.―Boyfriend?‖Iflus ia,‖hescolds.Istaredownattheknottedfingersinmylap.Whydoeh.―No,afriend.Anex-boyfriend.‖―Maybetomorrowyou‘dliketoc shealwaysmakemefeellikeanerrantchild?Heshiftsandturnstoomeforadrinkafterwork.You‘vehadastellarfirstweek,Ana.We wardme.―Howareyou?‖heasks,hisvoicestillsoft.Well,I‘mshitrshouldcelebrate.‖Hesmilesandsomeunknownemotionflitsacr eally...Iswallow.―IfItoldyouIwasfine,I‘dbelying.‖Heinhalessosshisface,makingmeuneasy.Puttinghishandsinhispockets,h harply.―Me,too,‖hemurmursandreachesoverandclaspsmyhanesauntersthroughthedoubledoors.Ifrownathisretreatingback d.―Imissyou,‖headds.Ohno.Skinagainstskin.―Christian,I—‖―.Drinkswiththeboss,isthatagoodidea?Ishakemyhead.Ihavean Ana,please.Weneedtotalk.‖I‘mgoingtocry.No.―Christian,I...eveningofChristianGreytogetthroughfirst.HowamIgoingtodot please...I‘vecriedsomuch,‖Iwhisper,tryingtokeepmyemotionhis?Ihurryintotherestroomtomakelast-minuteadjustments.In sincheck―Oh,baby,no.‖Hetugsmyhand,andbeforeIknowitI‘mothelargemirroronthewall,Itakealong,hardlookatmyface.Iamm nhislap.Hehashisarmsaroundme,andhisnoseisinmyhair.―I‘veyusualpaleself,darkcirclesroundmytoo-largeeyes.Ilookgaun missedyousomuch,Anastasia,‖hebreathes.Iwanttostruggleot,haunted.Jeez,IwishIknewhowtousemakeup.Iapplysomemas utofhishold,tomaintainsomedistance,buthisarmsarewrappedcaraandeyelinerandpinchmycheeks,hopingtobringsomecolor aroundme.He‘spressingmetohischest.Imelt.Oh,thisiswhereItheirway.Tidyingmyhairsothatithangsartfullydownmyback,It wanttobe.Irestmyheadagainsthim,andhekissesmyhairrepeatakeadeepbreath.Thiswillhavetodo.NervouslyIwalkthroughth edly.Thisishome.Hesmellsoflinen,fabricsoftener,bodywash,efoyerwithasmileandawavetoClaireatreception.Ithinksheand andmyfavoritesmell—Christian.Foramoment,IallowmyselftheIcouldbecomefriends.JackistalkingtoElizabethasIheadforth illusionthatallwillbewell,anditsoothesmyravagedsoul.Afewmedoors.Smilingbroadly,hehurriesovertoopenthemforme.―Aft inuteslaterTaylorpullstoastopatthecurb,eventhoughwe‘restieryou,Ana,‖hemurmurs.―Thankyou.‖Ismile,embarrassed.Out llinthecity.CLICKHERETODOWNLOADAFULLCOPYOFTHISEBsideonthecurb,Tayloriswaiting.Heopensthereardoorofthecar OOK.IglancehesitantlyatJackwhohasfollowedmeout.He‘slookingtowardtheAudiSUVindismay.Iturnandclimbintotheback,andth ―Come‖—Christianshiftsmeoffhislap—―we‘rehere.‖What?―Heerehesits—ChristianGrey—wearinghisgraysuit,notie,hiswhit lipad—onthetopofthisbuilding.‖Christianglancestowardthebeshirtopenatthecollar.Hisgrayeyesareglowing. uildingbywayofexplanation.Ofcourse.CharlieTango.Tayloro pensthedoorandIslideout.Hegivesmeawarm,avuncularsmiletMymouthdries.Helooksgloriousexcepthe‘sscowlingatme.Ohn hatmakesmefeelsafe.Ismileback.―Ishouldgiveyoubackyourhao!―Whendidyoulasteat?‖hesnapsasTaylorclosesthedoorbehi ndkerchief.‖―Keepit,MissSteele,withmybestwishes.‖Iflushasndme.Crap.―Hello,Christian.Yes,it‘snicetoseeyou,too.‖―Ido Christiancomesaroundthecarandtakesmyhand.Helooksquizzin‘twantyoursmartmouthnow.Answerme.‖Hiseyesblaze.Holys callyatTaylorwhostaresimpassivelybackathim,revealingnothhit.―Um...Ihadayogurtatlunchtime.Oh—andabanana.‖―Whend ing.―Nine?‖Christiansaystohim.―Yes,sir.‖Christiannodsasheidyoulasthaveapropermeal?‖heasksacidly.Taylorslipsintoth turnsandleadsmethroughthedoubledoorsintothegrandiosefoyedriver‘sseat,startsthecar,andpullsoutintothetraffic.Iglanc er.Irevelinthefeelofhislargehandandhislong,skilledfingersceupandJackiswavingatme,thoughhowhecanseemethroughthe urledaroundmine.Ifeelthefamiliarpull—Iamdrawn,Icarustohidarkglass,Idon‘tknow.Iwaveback.―Who‘sthat?‖Christiansnap ssun.Ihavebeenburnedalready,andyethereIamagain.Reachins.―Myboss.‖Ipeekupatthebeautifulmanbesideme,andhismout gtheelevators,hepressesthecallbutton.Ipeekupathim,andhe‘hispressedintoahardline.―Well?Yourlastmeal?‖―Christian,th swearinghisenigmatichalfsmile.Asthedoorsopen,hereleasesatreallyisnoneofyourconcern,‖Imurmur,feelingextraordinaril myhandandushersmein.ThedoorscloseandIriskasecondpeek.ybrave.―Whateveryoudoconcernsme.Tellme.‖No,itdoesn‘t.Ig Heglancesdownatme,grayeyesalive,andit‘sthereintheairbetroaninfrustration,rollingmyeyesheavenward,andChristianna weenus,thatelectricity.It‘spalpable.Icanalmosttasteit,pulsir-rowshiseyes.Andforthefirsttimeinalongtime,Iwanttolaugh. ngbetweenus,drawingustogether.―Ohmy,‖IgaspasIbaskbrieflItryhardtostiflethegigglethatthreatenstobubbleup.Christian‘ yintheintensityofthisvisceral,primalattraction.―Ifeelit,too,‖sfacesoftensasIstruggletokeepastraightface,andIseeatrace hesays,hiseyescloudedandintense.Desirepoolsdarkanddeadofasmilekisshisbeautifullysculpturedlips.―Well?‖heasks,his lyinmygroin.Heclaspsmyhandandgrazesmyknuckleswithhisth
  14. 14. umb,andallmymusclesclenchtightly,deliciously,deepinsidem en.‖―I‘lltakeyou—wecaneatthere.‖What?―Christian,webrokee.Holycow.Howcanhestilldothistome?―Pleasedon‘tbiteyourli up.‖―Iknow.Icanstilltakeyouthereandfeedyou.‖Heglaresatmep,Anastasia,‖hewhispers.Igazeupathim,releasingmylip.Iwan .Ishakemyheadandflushbeforetakingalessconfrontationalapthim.Here,now,intheelevator.HowcouldInot?―Youknowwhatit proach.―It‘sverybeautifuluphere,thankyou.‖―Impressive,isn‘doestome,‖hemurmurs.Oh,Istillaffecthim.Myinnergoddesssti tit?‖―Impressivethatyoucandothis.‖―Flatteryfromyou,MissStrsfromherfive-daysulk.Abruptlythedoorsopen,breakingthesp eele?ButI‘mamanofmanytalents.‖―I‘mfullyawareofthat,Mr.Grell,andwe‘reontheroof.It‘swindy,anddespitemyblackjacket,I ey.‖Heturnsandsmirksatme,andforthefirsttimeinfivedays,Ire‘mcold.Christianputshisarmaroundme,pullingmeintohisside, laxalittle.Perhapsthiswon‘tbesobad.―How‘sthenewjob?‖―GooandwehurryacrosstowhereCharlieTangostandsinthecenterof d,thankyou.Interesting.‖CLICKHERETODOWNLOADAFULLCOthehelipadwithitsrotorbladesslowlyspinning.Atall,blond,squ PYOFTHISEBOOKare-jawedmaninadarksuitleapsoutand,duckinglow,runstowardus.ShakinghandswithChristian,heshoutsabovethenoiseofth ―What‘syourbosslike?‖―Oh,he‘sokay.‖HowcanItellChristianterotors.―Readytogo,sir.She‘sallyours!‖―Allchecksdone?‖―Ye hatJackmakesmeuncomfortable?Christianturnsandgazesatms,sir.‖―You‘llcollectheraroundeightthirty?‖―Yes,sir.‖―Taylor e.―What‘swrong?‖heasks.―Asidefromtheobvious,nothing.‖―T‘swaitingforyououtfront.‖ heobvious?‖―Oh,Christian,youreallyareveryobtusesometime s.‖―Obtuse?Me?I‘mnotsureIappreciateyourtone,MissSteele.―Thankyou,Mr.Grey.SafeflighttoPortland.Ma‘am.‖Hesalutes ‖―Well,don‘tthen.‖Hislipstwitchintoasmile.―Ihavemissedyourme.Withoutreleas-ingme,Christiannods,ducksdown,andlead smartmouth.‖IgaspandIwanttoshout,I‘vemissedyou—allofyosmetothehelicopterdoor.Onceinsidehebucklesmefirmlyintom u—notjustyourmouth!ButIkeepquietandgazeouttheglassfishbyharness,cinchingthestrapstight.Hegivesmeaknowinglookan owlthatisCharlieTango‘swindshieldaswecontinuesouth.Theddhissecretsmile.―Thisshouldkeepyouinyourplace,‖hemurmur uskistoourright,thesunlowonthehorizon—large,blazingfierys.―ImustsayIdolikethisharnessonyou.Don‘ttouchanything.‖If orange—andIamIcarusagain,flyingfartooclose.Theduskhasfolushadeepcrimson,andherunshisindexfingerdownmycheekbe llowedusfromSeattle,andtheskyisawashwithopal,pinks,andaforehandingmetheheadphones.I‘dliketotouchyou,too,butyou qua-marineswovenseamlesslytogetherasonlyMotherNaturekwon‘tletme.Iscowlathim.Besides,he‘spulledthestrapssotight nowshow.It‘saclear,crispevening,andthelightsofPortlandtwiIcanbarelymove.Hesitsinhisseatandbuckleshimselfin,thenst nkleandwink,welcomingusasChristiansetsthehelicopterdownartsrunningthroughallhispreflightchecks.He‘sjustsocompete onthehelipad.Weareontopofthestrangebrownbrickbuildinginnt.It‘sveryalluring.Heputsonhisheadphonesandflipsaswitch Port-landweleftlessthanthreeweeksago.Jeez,it‘sbeenhardlyandtherotorsspeedup,deafeningme.Turning,hegazesatme.―R anytimeatall.YetIfeellikeI‘veknownChristianforalifetime.Heeady,baby?‖Hisvoiceechoesthroughtheheadphones.―Yes.‖H powersdownCharlieTango,flippingvariousswitchessotherotoegrinshisboyishgrin.Wow—I‘venotseenitforsolong.―Sea-Tac rsstop,andeventu-allyallIhearismyownbreathingthroughthehtower,thisisCharlieTango—TangoEchoHotel,clearedfortakeo eadphones.Hmm.BrieflyitremindsmeoftheThomasTallisexperfftoPort-landviaPDX.Pleaseconfirm,over.‖Thedisembodiedv ience.Iblanch.Isodon‘twanttogothererightnow.Christianunboiceoftheairtrafficcontrolleranswers,issuinginstructions.―R uckleshisharnessandleansacrosstoundomine.―Goodtrip,Missoger,tower,CharlieTangoset,overandout.‖Christianflipstwos Steele?‖heasks,hisvoicemild,hisgrayeyesglowing.―Yes,thanwitches,graspsthestick,andthehelicopterrisesslowlyandsmo kyou,Mr.Grey,‖Ireplypolitely.―Well,let‘sgoseetheboy‘sphotoothlyintotheeveningsky.Seattleandmystomachdropawayfrom s.‖Heholdshishandouttomeandtakingit,IclimboutofCharlieTaus,andthere‘ssomuchtosee.―We‘vechasedthedawn,Anastasi ngo.Agray-hairedmanwithabeardwalksovertomeetus,smilinga,nowthedusk,‖hisvoicecomesthroughontheheadphones.Itur broadly,andIrecognizehimastheold-timerfromthelasttimewentogapeathiminsurprise.Whatdoesthismean?Howisitthathec werehere.―Joe.‖Christiansmilesandreleasesmyhandtoshakeansaythemostromanticthings?Hesmiles,andIcan‘thelpbutsmi Joe‘swarmly.―KeephersafeforStephan.He‘llbealongaroundeileshylybackathim.―Aswellastheeveningsun,there‘smoretose ghtornine.‖―Willdo,Mr.Grey.Ma‘am,‖hesays,noddingatme.―Yethistime,‖hesays.ThelasttimeweflewtoSeattleitwasdark,but ourcar‘swaitingdownstairs,sir.Oh,andtheelevator‘soutofordthiseveningtheviewisspectacular,literallyoutofthisworld.We er;you‘llneedtousethestairs.‖―Thankyou,Joe.‖Christiantake‘reupamongthetallestbuildings,goinghigherandhigher.―Esca smyhand,andweheadtotheemergencystairs.―Goodthingforyola‘soverthere.‖Hepointstowardthebuilding.―Boeingthere,and uthisisonlythreefloors,inthoseheels,‖hemutterstomeindisapyoucanjustseetheSpaceNeedle.‖Icranemyhead.―I‘veneverbe -proval.Nokidding.―Don‘tyouliketheboots?‖
  15. 15. nfrowns.Ishakemyhead,equallypuzzled.Heshrugs,distracted―Ilikethemverymuch,Anastasia.‖HisgazedarkensandIthinkhe .―Whatwouldyouliketodrink?‖―I‘llhaveaglassofwhitewine,thamightsaysome-thingelse,buthestops.―Come.We‘lltakeitslow. nkyou.‖Hisbrowfurrows,butheholdshistongueandheadsfortheIdon‘twantyoufallingandbreakingyourneck.‖Wesitinsilencea openbar.―Ana!‖Josécomesbarrelingthroughathrongofpeople.sourdrivertakesustothegallery.Myanxietyhasreturnedfullfor Holycow!He‘swearingasuit.Helooksgoodandhe‘sbeamingatmce,andIrealizethatourtimeinCharlieTangohasbeentheeyeoft e.Heenfoldsmeinhisarms,huggingmehard.Andit‘sallIcandonohestorm.Christianisquietandbrooding...apprehensiveeven;o ttoburstintotears.Myfriend,myonlyfriendwhileKateisaway.Teurlightermoodfromearlierhasdissipated.There‘ssomuchIwan arspoolinmyeyes.―Ana,I‘msogladyoumadeit,‖hewhispersinmttosay,butthisjourneyistooshort.Christianstarespensivelyou year,thenpausesandabruptlyholdsmeatarm‘slength,staringatthewindow.―Joséisjustafriend,‖Imurmur.Christianturnsandg tme.―What?‖―Heyareyouokay?Youlook,well,odd.Diosmio,havazesatme,hiseyesdarkandguarded,givingnothingaway.Hismo eyoulostweight?‖Iblinkbackmytears.―José,I‘mfine.I‘mjustsouth—oh,hismouthisdistracting,andunbidden.Irememberiton happyforyou.‖Crap—nothim,too.―Congratulationsontheshow.me—everywhere.Myskinheats.Heshiftsinhisseatandfrowns.― ‖MyvoicewaversasIseehisconcernetchedonhisoh-so-familiarThosebeautifuleyeslooktoolargeinyourface,Anastasia.Pleas face,butIhavetoholdmyselftogether.―Howdidyougethere?‖heetellmeyou‘lleat.‖―Yes,Christian,I‘lleat,‖Ianswerautomatica asks.―Christianbroughtme,‖Isay,suddenlyapprehensive.―Oh.lly,aplatitude.―Imeanit.‖―Doyounow?‖Icannotkeepthedisdain ‖José‘sfacefallsandhereleasesme.―Whereishe?‖Hisexpressioutofmyvoice.Honestly,theaudacityofthisman—thismanwhoh ondarkens.―Overthere,fetchingdrinks.‖InodinChristian‘sdireasputmethroughhelloverthelastfewdays.No,that‘swrong.I‘ve ctionandseehe‘sexchangingpleasantrieswithsomeonewaitinputmyselfthroughhell.No.It‘shim.Ishakemyhead,confused.―I ginline.ChristianglancesupwhenIlookhiswayandoureyeslockdon‘twanttofightwithyou,Anastasia.Iwantyouback,andIwanty .Andinthatbriefmoment,I‘mparalyzed,staringattheimpossiblouhealthy,‖hesayssoftly.What?Whatdoesthatmean?―Butnoth yhandsomemanwhogazesatmewithsomeunfathomableemotioning‘schanged.‖You‘restillfiftyshades.―Let‘stalkonthewaybac .Hisgazehot,burningintome,andwe‘relostforamomentstaringk.We‘rehere.‖Thecarpullsupinfrontofthegallery,andChristia ateachother.Holycow...Thisbeautifulmanwantsmeback,anddnclimbsout,leavingmespeech-less.Heopensthecardoorforme eepdowninsidemesweetjoyslowlyunfurlslikeamorninggloryin,andIclamberout.―Whydoyoudothat?‖MyvoiceislouderthanIex theearlydawn.―Ana!‖Josédistractsme,andI‘mdraggedbacktotpected.―Dowhat?‖Christianistakenaback.―Saysomethingliket hehereandnow.―Iamsogladyoucame—listen,Ishouldwarnyouhatandthenjuststop.‖―Anastasia,we‘rehere.Whereyouwantto —‖Suddenly,MissVeryShortHairandRedLipstickcutshimoff.―Jbe.Let‘sdothisandthentalk.Idon‘tpar-ticularlywantasceneint osé,thejournalistfromthePortlandPrintzisheretoseeyou.Comhestreet.‖Iflushandglancearound.He‘sright.It‘stoopublic.Ipr eon.‖Shegivesmeapolitesmile.―Howcoolisthis?Thefame.‖Heessmylipstogetherasheglaresdownatme.―Okay,‖Imuttersulki grins,andIcan‘thelpbutgrinback—he‘ssohappy.―Catchyoulatly.Takingmyhand,heleadsmeintothebuilding.Weareinaconve er,Ana.‖Hekissesmycheek,andIwatchhimstrollovertoayoungrtedwarehouse—brickwalls,darkwoodfloors,whiteceilings,an womanstandingbyatalllankyphotographer.José‘sphotographdwhitepipework.It‘sairyandmodern,andthereareseveralpeop sareeverywhere,andinsomecases,blownupontohugecanvaselewanderingacrossthegalleryfloor,sippingwineandadmiringJ s.Therearebothmonochromesandcolors.There‘sanetherealbeosé‘swork.Foramoment,mytroublesmeltawayasIgraspthatJos autytomanyoftheland-scapes.InonetakenoutnearthelakeatVaéhasrealizedhisdream.Waytogo,José!―Goodeveningandwelc ncouver,it‘searlyeveningandpinkcloudsarereflectedinthestilometoJoséRodriguez‘sshow.‖Ayoungwomandressedinblackw lnessofthewater.Briefly,I‘mtransportedbythetranquilityandtithveryshortbrownhair,brightredlipstick,andlargehoopedear hepeace.It‘sstunning.Christianjoinsme,andItakeadeepbreatringsgreetsus.Sheglancesbrieflyatme,thenmuchlongerthani handswallow,tryingtorecoversomeofmyearlierequilibrium.HesstrictlynecessaryatChristian,thenturnsbacktome,blinkinga handsmemyglassofwhitewine.ssheblushes.Mybrowcreases.He‘smine—orwas.Itryhardnottoscowlather.Ashereyesregaintheirfocus,sheblinksagain.CLIC ―Doesitcomeuptoscratch?‖Myvoicesoundsmorenormal.HelooKHERETODOWNLOADAFULLCOPYOFTHISEBOOK ksquizzicallyatme.―Thewine.‖―No.Rarelydoesatthesekindsof events.Theboy‘squitetalented,isn‘the?‖Christianisadmiringt―Oh,it‘syou,Ana.We‘llwantyourtakeonallthis,too.‖Grinning,s helakephoto.―WhyelsedoyouthinkIaskedhimtotakeyourportrahehandsmeabrochureanddirectsmetoatableladenwithdrinksa it?‖Ican‘thelptheprideinmyvoice.Hiseyesglideimpassivelyfrndsnacks.Howdoessheknowmyname?―Youknowher?‖Christia omthephotographtome.―ChristianGrey?‖Thephotographerfro
  16. 16. mthePortlandPrintzapproachesChristian.―CanIhaveapicture, off.Heglaresdownatme,caughtoffguardbymyaudacity,Ithink,sir?‖―Sure.‖Christianhideshisscowl.Istepback,buthegrabsm buthe‘stryingtohidehisamusement.―Frankly,yes.‖―Pervert,‖Iyhandandpullsmetohisside.Thephotographerlooksatbothofu mouthathimandbitemylowerliptopreventmysmile.Hismouthdrsandcan‘thidehissurprise.―Mr.Grey,thankyou.‖Hesnapsacou opsopen,andnowhisamusementisobvious.Hestrokeshischintpleofphotos.―Miss...?‖heasks.―Steele,‖Ireply.―Thankyou,Mi hought-fully.―Can‘targuewiththatassessment,Anastasia.‖HessSteele.‖Hescurriesoff.―Ilookedforpicturesofyouwithdates shakeshishead,andhiseyessoftenwithhumor.―I‘ddiscussitfurontheInternet.Therearen‘tany.That‘swhyKatethoughtyouwer therwithyou,butI‘vesignedanNDA.‖Hesighs,gazingatme,andhegay.‖Christian‘smouthtwitcheswithasmile.―Thatexplainsyo iseyesdarken.―WhatI‘dliketodotoyoursmartmouth,‖hemurmururinappropriatequestion.No,Idon‘tdodates,Anastasia—only s.Igasp,knowingfullwellwhathemeans.―You‘reveryrude.‖Itrytwithyou.Butyouknowthat.‖Hiseyesburnwithsincerity.―Soyoun osoundshockedandsucceed.Doeshehavenoboundaries?Hesmevertookyour‖—Iglancearoundnervouslytochecknoonecanov irksatme,amused,andthenhefrowns.―Youlookveryrelaxedintherhearus—―subsout?‖―Sometimes.Notondates.Shopping,you esephotographs,Anastasia.Idon‘tseeyoulikethatveryoften.‖know.‖Heshrugs,hiseyesnotleavingmine.Oh,sojustintheplay What?Whoa!Changeofsubject—talkaboutnonsequitur—fromproom—hisRedRoomofPainandhisapartment.Idon‘tknowwhatt layfultoserious.Iflushandglancedownatmyfingers.Hetiltsmyofeelaboutthat.―Justyou,Anastasia,‖hewhispers.Iblushandst headback,andIinhalesharplyatthecontactwithhislongfingers.aredownatmyfingers.Inhisownway,hedoescareaboutme.―You ―Iwantyouthatrelaxedwithme,‖hewhispers.Alltraceofhumorhrfriendhereseemsmoreofalandscapeman,notportraits.Let‘slo asgone.Deepinsidemethatjoystirsagain.Buthowcanthisbe?Wokround.‖Heholdshishandouttome,andItakeit.Wewanderpast ehaveissues.―Youhavetostopintimidatingmeifyouwantthat,‖Iafewmoreprints,andInoticeacouplenoddingatme,smilingbroa snap.―Youhavetolearntocommunicateandtellmehowyoufeel,‖dlyasiftheyknowme.ItmustbebecauseI‘mwithChristian,buton hesnapsback,eyesblazing.Itakeadeepbreath.―Christian,youeyoungmanisblatantlystaring.Odd.Weturnthecorner,andIcan wantedmeasasubmissive.That‘swheretheproblemlies.It‘sintseewhyI‘vebeengettingstrangelooks.Hangingonthefarwallar hedefinitionofasubmissive—youe-mailedittomeonce.‖Ipauseesevenhugeportraits—ofme.Istareblanklyatthem,stupefied,t ,tryingtorecallthewording.―Ithinkthesynonymswere,andIquotheblooddrainingfrommyface.Me:pouting,laugh-ing,scowling, e,‗compliant,pliant,amenable,passive,tractable,resigned,pserious,amused.Allinsupercloseup,allinblackandwhite.Holy atient,docile,tame,subdued.‘Iwasn‘tsupposedtolookatyou.Ncrap!IrememberJosémessingwiththecameraonacoupleofocca ottalktoyouunlessyougavemepermissiontodoso.WhatdoyouesionswhenhewasvisitingandwhenI‘dbeenoutwithhimasdriver xpect?‖Ihissathim.Heblinks,andhisfrowndeepensasIcontinuandphotographer‘sassistant.Hetooksnapshots,orsoIthought. e.Nottheseinvasivecandids.IglanceupatChristian,whoisstaring,transfixed,ateachofthepicturesinturn.―SeemsI‘mnottheonl ―It‘sveryconfusingbeingwithyou.Youdon‘twantmetodefyyou,yone,‖hemutterscryptically,hismouthsettlingintoahardline.I butthenyoulikemy‗smartmouth.‘Youwantobedience,exceptwhthinkhe‘sangry.Ohno.―Excuseme,‖hesays,pinningmewithhis enyoudon‘t,soyoucanpunishme.Ijustdon‘tknowwhichwayisupbrightgraygazeforamoment.Heturnsandheadstothereception whenI‘mwithyou.‖Henarrowshiseyes.―Goodpointwellmade,asdesk.CLICKHERETODOWNLOADAFULLCOPYOFTHISEBOOK usual,MissSteele.‖Hisvoiceisfrigid.―Come,let‘sgoeat.‖―We‘v eonlybeenhereforhalfanhour.‖―You‘veseenthephotos;you‘veWhat‘shisproblemnow?Iwatchmesmerizedashetalksanimated spokentotheboy.‖―HisnameisJosé.‖―You‘vespokentoJosé—thlywithMissVeryShortHairandRedLipstick.Hefishesouthiswall emanwho,thelasttimeImethim,wastryingtopushhistongueintoetandproduceshiscreditcard.Shit.Hemusthaveboughtoneofth yourreluctantmouthwhileyouweredrunkandill,‖hesnarls.―He‘em.―Hey.You‘rethemuse.Thesephotographsareterrific.‖Ayou sneverhitme,‖Ispitathim.Christianscowlsatme,furyemanatinngmanwithashockofbrightblondhairstartlesme.Ifeelahandat gfromeverypore.―That‘salowblow,Anasta-sia,‖hewhispersmemyelbowandChristianisback.―You‘realuckyguy.‖BlondShock nacingly.Iflush,andChristianrunshishandsthroughhishair,brsmirksatChristian,whogiveshimacoldstare.―ThatIam,‖hemutt istlingwithbarelycontainedanger.Iglarebackathim.―I‘mtakinersdarkly,ashepullsmeovertooneside.―Didyoujustbuyoneoft gyouforsomethingtoeat.You‘refadingawayinfrontofme.Findthese?‖―Oneofthese?‖hesnorts,nottakinghiseyesoffthem.―Yo heboy,saygood-bye.‖―Please,canwestaylonger?‖―No.Go.Nowuboughtmorethanone?‖Herollshiseyes.―Iboughtthemall,Anas .Saygood-bye.‖Iglareathim,mybloodboiling.Mr.DamnedContrtasia.Idon‘twantsomestrangeroglingyouintheprivacyoftheirh olFreak.Angryisgood.Angryisbetterthantearful.Idragmygazeome.‖Myfirstinclinationistolaugh.―You‘dratheritwasyou?‖Isc awayfromhimandscantheroomforJosé.He‘stalkingtoagroupof
  17. 17. youngwomen.IstalkofftowardhimandawayfromFifty.Justbeca ends,handsonhiskneesasifhe‘srunamarathon.―Fortheloveofusehebroughtmehere,Ihavetodoashesays?Whothehelldoeshe God,Ana.‖Ileanagainstthewall,panting,tryingtocontroltheriothinkheis?ThegirlsarehangingonJosé‘severyword.Oneofthe tousreactioninmybody,tryingtofindmyequilibriumagain.―I‘msmgaspsasIapproach,nodoubtrecognizingmefromtheportraits. orry,‖Iwhisperoncemybreathhasreturned.―Youshouldbe.Ikno―José.‖―Ana.Excuseme,girls.‖Joségrinsatthemandputshisar wwhatyouweredoing.Doyouwantthephotographer,Anasta-siamaroundme,andonsomelevelI‘mamused—Joséallsmooth,impr ?Heobviouslyhasfeelingsforyou.‖Iflushandshakemyhead.―Noessingtheladies.―Youlookmad,‖hesays.―Ihavetogo,‖Imutterm .He‘sjustafriend.‖―Ihavespentallmyadultlifetryingtoavoidanulishly.―Youjustgothere.‖―IknowbutChristianneedstogetback yextremeemotion.Yetyou...youbringoutfeelingsinmethatarec.Thepicturesarefantastic,José—you‘reverytalented.‖Hebea ompletelyalien.It‘svery...‖Hefrowns,graspingfortheword.―Ums.―Itwassocoolseeingyou.‖Josesweepsmeintoabigbearhug, nsettling.―Ilikecontrol,Ana,andaroundyouthatjust‖—hestandspinningmesoIcanseeChristianacrossthegal-lery.He‘sscowli s,hisgazeintense—―evaporates.‖Hewaveshishandvaguely,thng,andIrealizeit‘sbecauseI‘minJosé‘sarms.Soinaverycalcul enrunsitthroughhishairandtakesadeepbreath.Heclaspsmyhaatingmove,IwrapmyarmsaroundJosé‘sneck.IthinkChristianis nd.―Come,weneedtotalk,andyouneedtoeat.‖goingtoexpire.Hisglaredarkenstosomethingquitesinister,andslowlyhemakeshiswaytowardus.―Thanksforthewarningabout Heleadsmeintoasmall,intimaterestaurant.―Thisplacewillhavtheportraitsofme,‖Imumble.―Shit.Sorry,Ana.Ishouldhavetold etodo,‖Christiangrumbles.―Wedon‘thavemuchtime.‖Therestayou.D‘youlikethem?‖―Um...Idon‘tknow,‖Ianswertruthfully,mo urantlooksfinetome.Woodenchairs,linentablecloths,andwallmentarilyknockedoffbalancebyhisquestion.CLICKHERETOD sthesamecolorasChristian‘splayroom—deepbloodred—withsOWNLOADAFULLCOPYOFTHISEBOOK mallgiltmirrorsrandomlyplaced,whitecandles,andsmallvases ofwhiteroses.EllaFitzgeraldcroonssoftlyintheback-groundab―Well,they‘reallsold,sosomebodylikesthem.Howcoolisthat?Y outthisthingcalledlove.It‘sveryromantic.Thewaiterleadsustoou‘reapostergirl.‖HehugsmetighterstillasChristianreachesu atablefortwoinasmallalcove,andIsit,apprehensiveandwondes,gloweringatmenow,thoughfortu-natelyJosédoesn‘tsee.Jos ringwhathe‘sgoingtosay.―Wedon‘thavelong,‖Christiansaystoéreleasesme.―Don‘tbeastranger,Ana.Oh,Mr.Grey,goodeveni thewaiteraswesit.―Sowe‘lleachhavesirloinsteakcookedmeding.‖―Mr.Rodriguez,veryimpressive.‖Christiansoundsicilypol um,béarnaisesauceifyouhaveit,fries,andgreenvegetables,wite.―I‘msorrywecan‘tstaylonger,butweneedtoheadbacktoSea hateverthechefhas;andbringmethewinelist.‖―Certainly,sir.‖ttle.Anastasia?‖Hesubtlystressesweandtakesmyhandashedo Thewaiter,takenabackbyChristian‘scool,calmefficiency,scutesso.―Bye,José.Congratulationsagain.‖Igivehimaquickkisso tlesoff.ChristianplaceshisBlackberryonthetable.Jeez,don‘tInthecheek,andbeforeIknowitChristianisdraggingmeoutofthe getachoice?―AndifIdon‘tlikesteak?‖Hesighs.―Don‘tstart,Anabuilding.Iknowhe‘sboilingwithsilentwrath,butsoamI.Helooks stasia.‖―Iamnotachild,Christian.‖―Well,stopactinglikeone.‖quicklyupanddownthestreetthenheadsleftandsuddenlysweep CLICKHERETODOWNLOADAFULLCOPYOFTHISEBOOKsmeintoasidealley,abruptlypushingmeupagainstawall.Hegrabsmyfacebetweenhishands,forcingmetolookupintohisardentdeterminedeyes.Igasp,andhismouthswoopsdown.He‘skissingme,violently.Brieflyourteethclash,thenhistongueisinmymouth.DesireexplodesliketheFourthofJulythroughoutmybody,andI‘mkissinghimback,matchinghisfervor,myhandsknottinginhishair,pullingit,hard.Hegroans,alowsexysoundinthebackofhisthroatthatreverberatesthroughme,andhishandmovesdownmybodytothetopofmythigh,hisfingersdiggingintomyfleshthroughtheplumdress.Ipouralltheangstandheartbreakofthelastfewdaysintoourkiss,bindinghimtome,andithitsme—inthismomentofblindingpassion—he‘sdoingthesame,hefeelsthesame.Hebreaksoffthekiss,panting.Hiseyesareluminouswithdesire,firingthealreadyheatedbloodthatispoundingthroughmybody.MymouthisslackasItrytodragpreciousairintomylungs.―You.Are.Mine,‖hesnarls,emphasizingeachword.Hepushesawayfrommeandb

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