Fifty Shades of Grey #1By: E L James
Christian opens the passenger door to the black Audi SUV, and I clamber in. It’s a beast of a car. He hasn’t mentioned the outburst of passion that exploded in the elevator. Should I? Should we talk about it or pretend that it didn’t happen? It hardly seems real, my first proper no-holds-barred kiss. As time ticks on, I assign it mythical, Arthurian legend, Lost City of Atlantis status. It never happened, it never existed. Perhaps I imagined it all. No.
I touch my lips, swollen from his kiss. It definitely happened. I am a changed woman. I want this man, desperately, and he wanted me.
I glance at him. Christian is his usual polite, slightly distant self.
He starts the engine and reverses out of his space in the parking lot. He switches on the MP3 player. The car interior is filled with the sweetest, most magical music of two women singing. Oh wow… all my senses are in disarray, so this is doubly affecting. It sends delicious shivers up my spine. Christian pulls out on to SW Park Avenue, and he drives with easy, lazy confidence.
“What are we listening to?”
“It’s the Flower Duet by Delibes, from the opera Lakmé. Do you like it?”
“Christian, it’s wonderful.”
“It is, isn’t it?” he grins, glancing at me. And for a fleeting moment, he seems his age; young, carefree, and heart-stoppingly beautiful. Is this the key to him? Music? I sit and listen to the angelic voices, teasing and seducing me.
“Can I hear that again?”
“Of course.” Christian pushes a button, and the music is caressing me once more. It’s a gentle, slow, sweet, and sure assault on my aural senses.
“You like classical music?” I ask, hoping for a rare insight into his personal preferences.
“My taste is eclectic, Anastasia, everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon.
It depends on my mood. You?”
“Me too. Though I don’t know who Thomas Tallis is.”
He turns and gazes at me briefly before his eyes are back on the road.
“I’ll play it for you sometime. He’s a sixteenth century British composer. Tudor, church choral music.” Christian grins at me. “Sounds very esoteric, I know, but it’s also magical, Anastasia.”
He presses a button, and the Kings of Leon start singing. Hmm… this I know. Sex on Fire. How appropriate. The music is interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing over the MP3 speakers. Christian hits a button on the steering wheel.
“Grey,” he snaps. He’s so brusque.
“Mr. Grey, it’s Welch here. I have the information you require.” A rasping, disembodied voice comes over the speakers.
“Good. Email it to me. Anything to add?”
He presses the button, then the call ceases and the music is back. No goodbye or thanks. I’m so glad that I never seriously entertained the thought of working for him. I shudder at the very idea. He’s just too controlling and cold with his employees. The music cuts off again for the phone.
“The NDA has been emailed to you, Mr. Grey.” A woman’s voice.
“Good. That’s all, Andrea.”
“Good day, sir.”
Christian hangs up by pressing a button on the steering wheel. The music is on very briefly when the phone rings again. Holy hell, is this his life, constant nagging phone calls?
“Grey,” he snaps.
“Hi, Christian, d’you get laid?”
“Hello, Elliot – I’m on speaker phone, and I’m not alone in the car,” Christian sighs.
“Who’s with you?”
Christian rolls his eyes.
“Heard a lot about you,” Elliot murmurs huskily. Christian frowns.
“Don’t believe a word Kate says.”
“I’m dropping Anastasia off now.” Christian emphasizes my name. “Shall I pick you up?”“Sure.”
“See you shortly.” Christian hangs up, and the music is back.
“Why do you insist on calling me Anastasia?”
“Because it’s your name.”
“I prefer Ana.”
“Do you now?” he murmurs.
We are almost at my apartment. It’s not taken long.
“Anastasia,” he muses. I scowl at him, but he ignores my expression. “What happened in the elevator - it won’t happen again, well, not unless it’s premeditated.”
He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live - yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn’t.
Why won’t he kiss me again? I pout at the thought. I don’t understand. Honestly, his surname should be Cryptic, not Grey. He climbs out of the car, walking with easy, long-legged grace round to my side to open the door, ever the gentleman - except perhaps in rare, precious moments in elevators. I flush at the memory of his mouth on mine, and the thought that I’d been unable to touch him enters my mind. I wanted to run my fingers through his decadent, untidy hair, but I’d been unable to move my hands. I am retrospectively frustrated.
“I liked what happened in the elevator,” I murmur as I climb out of the car. I’m not sure if I hear an audible gasp, but I choose to ignore it and head up the steps to the front door.
Kate and Elliot are sitting at our dining table. The fourteen-thousand-dollar books have disappeared. Thank heavens. I have plans for them. She has the most un-Kate ridiculous grin on her face, and she looks mussed up in a sexy kind of way. Christian follows me into the living area, and in spite of her I’ve-been-having-a-good-time-all-night grin, Kate eyes him suspiciously.
“Hi Ana.” She leaps up to hug me, then holds me at arm’s length so she can examine me. She frowns and turns to Christian.
“Good morning, Christian,” she says, and her tone is a little hostile.
“Miss Kavanagh,” he says in his stiff formal way.
“Christian, her name is Kate,” Elliot grumbles.
“Kate.” Christian gives her a polite nod and glares at Elliot who grins and rises to hug me too.
“Hi, Ana,” he smiles, his blue eyes twinkling, and I like him immediately. He’s obviously nothing like Christian, but then they’re adopted brothers.
“Hi, Elliot,” I smile at him, and I’m aware that I’m biting my lip.
“Elliot, we’d better go.” Christian says mildly.
“Sure.” He turns to Kate and pulls her into his arms and gives her a long lingering kiss.
Jeez… get a room. I stare at my feet, embarrassed. I glance up at Christian, and he’s watching me intently. I narrow my eyes at him. Why can’t you kiss me like that? Elliot continues to kiss Kate, sweeping her off her feet and dipping her in a dramatic hold so that her hair touches the ground as he kisses her hard.
“Laters, baby,” he grins.
Kate just melts. I’ve never seen her melt before – the words comely and compliant come to mind. Compliant Kate, boy, Elliot must be good. Christian rolls his eyes and stares down at me, his expression unreadable, although maybe he’s mildly amused. He tucks a stray strand of my hair that has worked its way free from my ponytail behind my ear. My breath hitches at the contact, and I lean my head slightly into his fingers. His eyes soften, and he runs his thumb across my lower lip. My blood sears in my veins. And all too quickly, his touch is gone.
“Laters, baby,” he murmurs, and I have to laugh because it’s so unlike him. But even though I know he’s being irreverent, the endearment tugs at something deep inside me.
“I’ll pick you up at eight.” He turns to leave, opening the front door and stepping out on to the porch. Elliot follows him to the car but turns and blows Kate another kiss, and I feel an unwelcome pang of jealousy.
“So, did you?” Kate asks as we watch them climb into the car and drive off, the burning curiosity evident in her voice.
“No,” I snap irritably, hoping that will halt the questions. We head back into the apartment. “You obviously did, though.” I can’t contain my envy. Kate always manages to ensnare men. She is irresistible, beautiful, sexy, funny, forward… all the things that I’m not. But her answering grin is infectious.
“And I’m seeing him again this evening.” She claps her hands and jumps up and down like a small child. She cannot contain her excitement and happiness, and I can’t help but feel happy for her. A happy Kate… this is going to be interesting.
“Christian is taking me to Seattle this evening.”
“Maybe you will then?”
“Oh, I hope so.”
“You like him then?”
“Like him enough to… ?”
She raises her eyebrows.
“Wow. Ana Steele, finally falling for a man, and it’s Christian Grey – hot, sexy billionaire.”
“Oh yeah – it’s all about the money.” I smirk, and we both fall into a fit of giggles.
“Is that a new blouse?” she asks, and I let her have all the unexciting details about my night.
“Has he kissed you yet?” she asks as she makes coffee.
“Once!” she scoffs.
I nod, rather shame faced.
“He’s very reserved.”
“I don’t think odd covers it really,” I murmur.
“We need to make sure you’re simply irresistible for this evening,” she says with determination.
Oh no… this sounds like it will be time consuming, humiliating, and painful.
“I have to be at work in an hour.”
“I can work with that timeframe. Come on.” Kate grabs my hand and takes me into her bedroom.
The day drags at Clayton’s even though we’re busy. We’ve hit the summer season, so I have to spend two hours restocking the shelves once the shop is closed. It’s mindless work, and it gives me too much time to think. I’ve not really had a chance all day.
Under Kate’s tireless and frankly intrusive instruction, my legs and underarms are shaved to perfection, my eyebrows plucked, and I am buffed all over. It has been a most unpleasant experience. But she assures me that this is what men expect these days. What else will he expect? I have to convince Kate that this is what I want to do. For some strange reason, she doesn’t trust him, maybe because he’s so stiff and formal. She says she can’t put her finger on it, but I have promised to text her when I arrive in Seattle. I haven’t told her about the helicopter, she’d freak.
I also have the José issue. He’s left three messages and seven missed calls on my cell.
He’s also called home twice. Kate has been very vague as to where I am. He’ll know she’s covering for me. Kate doesn’t do vague. But I have decided to let him stew. I’m still too angry with him.
Christian mentioned some kind of written paperwork, and I don’t know if he was joking or if I’m going to have to sign something. It’s so frustrating trying to guess. And on top of all the angst, I can barely contain my excitement or my nerves. Tonight’s the night!
After all this time, am I ready for this? My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. She’s been ready for this for years, and she’s ready for anything with Christian Grey, but I still don’t understand what he sees in me… mousey Ana Steele - it makes no sense.
He is punctual, of course, and waiting for me when I leave Clayton’s. He climbs out of the back of the Audi to open the door and smiles warmly at me.
“Good evening, Miss Steele,” he says.
“Mr. Grey.” I nod politely to him as I climb into the backseat of the car. Taylor is sitting in the driver’s seat.
“Hello, Taylor,” I say.
“Good evening, Miss Steele,” his voice is polite and professional. Christian climbs in the other side and clasps my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze that I feel all the way though my body.
“How was work?” he asks.
“Very long,” I reply, and my voice is husky, too low, and full of need.
“Yes, it’s been a long day for me too.” His tone is serious.
“What did you do?” I manage.
“I went hiking with Elliot.” His thumb strokes my knuckles, back and forth, and my heart skips a beat as my breathing accelerates. How does he do this to me? He’s only touching a very small area of my body, and the hormones are flying.
The drive to the heliport is short and, before I know it, we arrive. I wonder where the fabled helicopter might be. We’re in a built-up area of the city and even I know helicopters need space to take off and land. Taylor parks, climbs out, and opens my car door. Christian is beside me in an instant and takes my hand again.
“Ready?” he asks. I nod and want to say for anything, but I can’t articulate the words as I’m too nervous, too excited.
“Taylor.” He nods curtly at his driver, and we head into the building, straight to a set of elevators. Elevator! The memory of our kiss this morning comes back to haunt me.
I have thought of nothing else all day. Daydreaming at the register at Clayton’s. Twice Mr. Clayton had to shout my name to bring me back to Earth. To say I’ve been distracted would be the understatement of the year. Christian glances down at me, a slight smile on his lips. Ha! He’s thinking about it too.
“It’s only three floors,” he says dryly, his gray eyes dancing with amusement. He’s telepathic surely. It’s spooky.
I try to keep my face impassive as we enter the elevator. The doors close, and it’s there, the weird electrical attraction crackling between us, enslaving me. I close my eyes in a vain attempt to ignore it. He tightens his grip on my hand, and five seconds later the doors open on to the roof of the building. And there it is, a white helicopter with the name Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. written in blue with the company logo on the side. Surely this is misuse of Company property.
He leads me to a small office where an old timer sits behind the desk.
“Here’s your flight plan, Mr. Grey. All external checks are done. It’s ready and waiting sir. You’re free to go.”
“Thank you, Joe.” Christian smiles warmly at him.
Oh. Someone deserving of the polite treatment from Christian, perhaps he’s not an employee. I stare at the old guy in awe.
“Let’s go,” Christian says, and we make our way toward the helicopter. When we’re up close, it’s much bigger than I thought. I expected it to be a roadster version for two, but it has at least seven seats. Christian opens the door and directs me to one of the seats at the very front.
“Sit – don’t touch anything,” he orders as he clambers in behind me.
He shuts the door with a slam. I’m glad that the area is floodlit, otherwise I’d find it difficult to see inside the small cockpit. I sit down in my allotted seat, and he crouches beside me to strap me into the harness. It’s a four-point harness with all the straps connecting to one central buckle. He tightens both of the upper straps, so I can hardly move.
He’s so close and intent on what he’s doing. If I could only lean forward, my nose would be in his hair. He smells, clean, fresh, heavenly, but I’m fastened securely into my seat and effectively immobile. He glances up and smiles, like he’s enjoying his usual private joke, his gray eyes heated. He’s so tantalizingly close. I hold my breath as he pulls at one of the upper straps.
“You’re secure, no escaping,” he whispers, his eyes are scorching. “Breathe, Anastasia,” he adds softly. Reaching up, he caresses my cheek, running his long fingers down to my chin which he grasps between his thumb and forefinger. He leans forward and plants a brief, chaste kiss on my lips, leaving me reeling, my insides clenching at the thrilling, unexpected touch of his lips.
“I like this harness,” he whispers.
He sits down beside me and buckles himself into his seat, then begins a protracted procedure of checking gauges and flipping switches and buttons from the mind-boggling array of dials and lights and switches in front of me. Little lights wink and flash from various dials, and the whole of the instrument panel lights up.
“Put your cans on,” he says, pointing to a set of headphones in front of me. I pop them on, and the rotor blades start. They are deafening. He puts his headphones on and continues flipping various switches.
“I’m just going through all the pre-flight checks.” Christian’s disembodied voice is in my ears through the headphones. I turn and grin at him.
“Do you know what you are doing?” I ask. He turns and smiles at me.
“I’ve been a fully qualified pilot for four years, Anastasia, you’re safe with me.” He gives me a wolfish grin. “Well, while we’re flying,” he adds and winks at me.
“Are you ready?”
I nod wide eyed.
“Okay, tower. PDX this is Charlie Tango Golf – Golf Echo Hotel, cleared for take-off.
Please confirm, over.”
“Charlie Tango - you are clear. PDX to call, proceed to one four thousand, heading zero one zero, over. ”
“Roger tower, Charlie Tango set, over and out. Here we go,” he adds to me, and the helicopter rises slowly and smoothly into the air.
Portland disappears in front us as we head into US airspace, though my stomach remains firmly in Oregon. Whoa! All the bright lights shrink until they are twinkling sweetly below us. It’s like looking out from inside a fish bowl. Once we’re higher, there really is nothing to see. It’s pitch black, not even the moon to shed any light on our journey. How can he see where we’re going?
“Eerie isn’t it?” Christian’s voice is in my ears.
“How do you know you’re going the right way?”
“Here.” He points his long index finger at one of the gauges, and it shows an electronic compass. “This is an EC135 Eurocopter. One of the safest in its class. It’s equipped for night flight.” He glances and grins at me.
“There’s a helipad on top of the building I live in. That’s where we’re heading.”
Of course there’s a helipad where he lives. I am so out of my league here. His face is softly illuminated by the lights on the instrument panel. He’s concentrating hard, and he’s continually glancing at the various dials in front of him. I drink in his features from beneath my lashes. He has a beautiful profile. Straight nose, square jawed – I’d like to run my tongue along his jaw. He hasn’t shaved, and his stubble makes the prospect doubly tempting. Hmm… I’d like to feel how rough it is beneath my tongue, my fingers, against my face.
“When you fly at night, you fly blind. You have to trust the instrumentation,” he interrupts my erotic reverie.
“How long will the flight be?” I manage breathlessly. I wasn’t thinking about sex at all, no, no way.
“Less than an hour, the wind is in our favor.”
Hmm, less than an hour to Seattle… that’s not bad going, no wonder we’re flying.
I have less than an hour before the big reveal. All the muscles clench deep in my belly.
I have a serious case of butterflies. They are flourishing in my stomach. Holy shit, what has he got in store for me?
“You okay, Anastasia?”
“Yes.” My answer is short, clipped, squeezed out through my nerves.
I think he smiles, but it’s difficult to tell in the darkness. Christian flicks yet another switch.
“PDX this is Charlie Tango now at one four thousand, over.” He exchanges information with air traffic control. It all sounds very professional to me. I think we’re moving from Portland’s air space to Seattle International Airport’s.
“Understood Sea-Tac, standing by over and out.”
“Look, over there.” He points to a small pin-point of light in the far distance. “That’s Seattle.”
“Do you always impress women this way? Come and fly in my helicopter?” I ask, genuinely interested.
“I’ve never bought a girl up here, Anastasia. It’s another first for me.” His voice is quiet, serious.
Oh, that was an unexpected answer. Another first? Oh the sleeping thing, perhaps?
“Are you impressed?”
“I’m awed, Christian.”
“Awed?” And for a brief moment, he’s his age again.
“You’re just so… competent.”
“Why, thank you, Miss Steele,” he says politely. I think he’s pleased, but I’m not sure.
We ride into the dark night in silence for a while. The bright spot that is Seattle is slowly getting bigger.
“Sea-Tac tower to Charlie Tango. Flight plan to Escala in place. Please proceed. And standby. Over.”
“This is Charlie Tango, understood Sea-Tac. Standing by, over and out.”
“You obviously enjoy this,” I murmur.
“What?” He glances at me. He looks quizzical in the half-light of the instruments.
“Flying,” I reply.
“It requires control and concentration… how could I not love it? Though, my favorite is soaring.”
“Yes. Gliding to the layperson. Gliders and helicopters – I fly them both.”
“Oh.” Expensive hobbies. I remember him telling me during the interview. I like reading and occasionally going to the movies. I am out of my depth here.
“Charlie Tango come in please, over.” The disembodied voice of air traffic control interrupts my reverie. Christian answers, sounding in control and confident.
Seattle is getting closer. We are on the very outskirts now. Wow! It looks absolutely stunning. Seattle at night, from the sky…
“Looks good, doesn’t it?” Christian murmurs.
I nod enthusiastically. It looks otherworldly – unreal – and I feel like I’m on a giant film set, José’s favorite film maybe, ‘Bladerunner.’ The memory of José’s attempted kiss haunts me. I’m beginning to feel a bit cruel not calling him back. He can wait until tomorrow… surely.
“We’ll be there in a few minutes,” Christian mutters, and suddenly my blood is pounding in my ears as my heartbeat accelerates and adrenaline spikes through my system. He starts talking to air traffic control again, but I am no longer listening. Oh my… I think I’m going to faint. My fate is in his hands.
We are now flying amongst the buildings, and up ahead I can see a tall skyscraper with a helipad on top. The word Escala is painted in white on top of the building. It’s getting nearer and nearer, bigger and bigger… like my anxiety. God, I hope I don’t let him down.
He’ll find me lacking in some way. I wish I’d listened to Kate and borrowed one of her dresses, but I like my black jeans, and I’m wearing a soft mint green shirt and Kate’s black jacket. I look smart enough. I grip the edge of my seat tighter and tighter. I can do this. I can do this. I chant this mantra as the skyscraper looms below us.
The helicopter slows and hovers, and Christian sets it down on the helipad on top of the building. My heart is in my mouth. I can’t decide if it’s from nervous anticipation, relief that we’ve arrived alive, or fear that I will fail in some way. He switches the ignition off and the rotor blades slow and quiet until all I hear is the sound of my own erratic breathing.
Christian takes his headphones off, and reaches across and pulls mine off too.
“We’re here,” he says softly.
His look is so intense, half in shadow and half in the bright white light from the landing lights. Dark knight and white knight, it’s a fitting metaphor for Christian. He looks strained. His jaw is clenched and his eyes are tight. He unfastens his seatbelt and reaches over to unbuckle mine. His face is inches from mine.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You know that don’t you?” His tone is so earnest, desperate even, his gray eyes impassioned. He takes me by surprise.
“I’d never do anything I didn’t want to do, Christian.” And as I say the words, I don’t quite feel their conviction because at this moment in time – I’d probably do anything for this man seated beside me. But this does the trick. He’s mollified.
He eyes me warily for a moment and somehow, even though he’s so tall, he manages to ease his way gracefully to the door of the helicopter and open it. He jumps out, waiting for me to follow, and takes my hand as I clamber down on to the helipad. It’s very windy on top of the building, and I’m nervous about the fact that I’m standing at least thirty stories high in an unenclosed space. Christian wraps his arm around my waist, pulling me tightly against him.
“Come,” he shouts above the noise of the wind. He drags me over to an elevator shaft and, after tapping a number into a keypad, the doors open. It’s warm inside and all mirrored glass. I can see Christian to infinity everywhere I look, and the wonderful thing is, he’s holding me to infinity too. Christian taps another code into the keypad, then the doors close and the elevator descends.
Moments later, we’re in an all-white foyer. In the middle is a round, dark wood table, and on it is an unbelievably huge bunch of white flowers. On the walls there are paintings, everywhere. He opens two double doors, and the white theme continues through the wide corridor and directly opposite where a palatial room opens up. It’s the main living area, double height. Huge is too small a word for it. The far wall is glass and leads on to a balcony that overlooks Seattle.
To the right is an imposing ‘U’ shaped sofa that could sit ten adults comfortably. It faces a state-of-the-art stainless steel – or maybe platinum for all I know - modern fireplace.
The fire is lit and flaming gently. On the left beside us, by the entryway, is the kitchen area.
All white with dark wood worktops and a large breakfast bar which seats six.
Near the kitchen area, in front of the glass wall, is a dining table surrounded by sixteen chairs. And tucked in the corner is a full size, shiny black grand piano. Oh yes… he probably plays the piano too. There is art of all shapes and sizes on all the walls. In fact, this apartment looks more like a gallery than a place to live.
“Can I take your jacket?” Christian asks. I shake my head. I’m still cold from the wind on the helipad.
“Would you like a drink?” he asks. I blink at him. After last night! Is he trying to be funny? For one second, I think about asking for a margarita – but I don’t have the nerve.
“I’m going to have a glass of white wine, would you like to join me?”
“Yes, please,” I murmur.
I am standing in this enormous room feeling out of place. I walk over to the glass wall, and I realize that the lower half of the wall opens concertina-style on to the balcony. Seattle is lit up and lively in the background. I walk back to the kitchen area – it takes a few seconds, it’s so far from the glass wall – and Christian is opening a bottle of wine. He’s removed his jacket.
“Pouilly Fumé okay with you?”
“I know nothing about wine, Christian. I’m sure it will be fine.” My voice is soft and hesitant. My heart is thumping. I want to run. This is seriously rich. Seriously over-the-top Bill Gates style wealthy. What am I doing here? You know very well what you’re doing here - my subconscious sneers at me. Yes, I want to be in Christian Grey’s bed.
“Here.” He hands me a glass of wine. Even the glasses are rich… heavy, contempo-rary, crystal. I take a sip, and the wine is light, crisp, and delicious.
“You’re very quiet, and you’re not even blushing. In fact – I think this is the palest I’ve ever seen you, Anastasia,” he murmurs. “Are you hungry?”
I shake my head. Not for food.
“It’s a very big place you have here.”
“It’s big,” he agrees, and his eyes glow with amusement. I take another sip of wine.
“Do you play?” I point my chin at the piano.
“Of course you do. Is there anything you can’t do well?”
“Yes… a few things.” He takes a sip of his wine. He doesn’t take his eyes off me. I feel them following me as I turn and glance around this vast room. Room is the wrong word.
It’s not a room – it’s a mission statement.
“Do you want to sit?”
I nod, and he takes my hand and leads me to the large off-white couch. As I sit, I’m struck by the fact that I feel like Tess Durbeyfield looking at the new house that belongs to the notorious Alec D’Urberville. The thought makes me smile.
“What’s so amusing?” He sits down beside me, turning to face me. He rests his head on his right hand, his elbow propped on the back of the couch.
“Why did you give me Tess of the D’Urbervilles specifically?” I ask. Christian stares at me for a moment. I think he’s surprised by my question.
“Well, you said you liked Thomas Hardy.”
“Is that the only reason?” Even I can hear the disappointment in my voice. His mouth presses into a hard line.
“It seemed appropriate. I could hold you to some impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase you completely like Alec D’Urberville,” he murmurs, and his gray eyes flash dark and dangerous.
“If there are only two choices, I’ll take the debasement.” I whisper, gazing at him. My subconscious is staring at me in awe. He gasps.
“Anastasia, stop biting your lip, please. It’s very distracting. You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“Yes. Would you excuse me a moment?” He disappears through a wide doorway on the far side of the room. He’s gone for a couple of minutes and returns with a document.
“This is a non-disclosure agreement.” He shrugs and has the grace to look a little embarrassed. “My lawyer insists on it.” He hands it to me. I’m completely bemused. “If you’re going for option two, debasement, you’ll need to sign this.”
“And if I don’t want to sign anything?”
“Then it’s Angel Clare high ideals, well, for most of the book anyway.”
“What does this agreement mean?”
“It means you cannot disclose anything about us. Anything, to anyone.”
I stare at him in disbelief. Holy shit. It’s bad, really bad, and now I’m very curious to know.
“Okay. I’ll sign.”
He hands me a pen.
“Aren’t you even going to read it?”
“Anastasia, you should always read anything you sign,” he admonishes me.
“Christian, what you fail to understand is that I wouldn’t talk about us to anyone, anyway. Even Kate. So it’s immaterial whether I sign an agreement or not. If it means so much to you, or your lawyer… whom you obviously talk to, then fine. I’ll sign.”
He gazes down at me, and he nods gravely.
“Fair point well made, Miss Steele.”
I lavishly sign on the dotted line of both copies and hand one back to him. Folding the other, I place it my purse and take a large swig of my wine. I’m sounding so much braver than I’m actually feeling.
“Does this mean you’re going to make love to me tonight, Christian?” Holy shit. Did I just say that? His mouth drops open slightly, but he recovers quickly.
“No, Anastasia it doesn’t. Firstly, I don’t make love. I fuck… hard. Secondly, there’s a lot more paperwork to do, and thirdly, you don’t yet know what you’re in for. You could still run for the hills. Come, I want to show you my playroom.”
My mouth drops open. Fuck hard! Holy shit, that sounds so… hot. But why are we looking at a playroom? I am mystified.
“You want to play on your Xbox?” I ask. He laughs, loudly.
“No, Anastasia, no Xbox, no Playstation. Come.” He stands, holding out his hand. I let him lead me back out to the corridor. On the right of the double doors, where we came in, another door leads to a staircase. We go up to the second floor and turn right. Producing a key from his pocket, he unlocks yet another door and takes a deep breath.
“You can leave anytime. The helicopter is on stand-by to take you whenever you want to go, you can stay the night and go home in the morning. It’s fine whatever you decide.”
“Just open the damn door, Christian.”
He opens the door and stands back to let me in. I gaze at him once more. I so want to know what’s in here. Taking a deep breath I walk in.
And it feels like I’ve time-traveled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition.