Since I went to bed so early, I’m wide awake by 4:30 the next morning. Elliot isn’t going to be here until 7:30 to pick me up for work and since I know I’m not going to get back to sleep, I decide to get up and head to the gym downstairs to run for a while. Maybe that’s the reason I was feeling so angsty yesterday, I haven’t been keeping up with my workout routine.
I get out of bed and dig through my drawers for a pair of jogging pants and a sports bra, and then throw my hair up into a ponytail before heading out for the elevator. As I expected, the staff of Escala haven’t arrived yet so when I make it down to the basement, it’s completely dark except for a sliver of light streaming into the hallway from the gym. I can hear the steady hammering of feet on the treadmill from whoever is in there and it’s slightly disappointing because I had been hopeful that the gym would be empty this early in the morning. When I round the corner though, I see that the person on the treadmill is Christian, and the disappointment wanes.
He’s facing away from me, reading the subtitles on the TV in front of him, which is playing the news, while he listens to his iPod through his headphones. I would guess that he’s been here for a while because there is a dark line of sweat down the back of his tight, gray t-shirt and the sight of it makes me bite my lip. A sweaty Christian Grey incites libidinous thoughts, and as I try and push them out of my mind, I find myself wishing that I would have worn a tank top rather than just a sports bra. One of us, at least, needs to be able to keep a clear head if we’re going to keep up with this no touching rule and from just the time we spent together last night, I don’t think adding extra temptation is good for Christian’s reluctant sense of self-discipline.
When I step onto the treadmill next to him and press the button to get started, the movement catches his eye and he turns to look at me, scowling at first, then surprised, then slightly stunned as his eyes travel down the line of my collar bones.
Yeah… I definitely should have worn a tank top.
“Good morning, Christian,” I tell him as he pulls one of his earbuds out and I increase the speed of the track on my machine.
“Good morning,” He replies, panting from the exertion of his run. “You really do run now.”
“Nothing gets past you,” I say. “Are you always down here this early?”
“Usually. It’s generally the only time it’s empty down here.”
“That’s what I was hoping for,” I tell him with a sarcastic smirk and he laughs.
“Well, I’m sorry I ruined that for you. Please, don’t let me interrupt you.”
I roll my eyes and then reach over to take the remote for the TV off of his treadmill and flip to the guide for something more engaging than CNN Business News. There isn’t much on this early in the morning so I settle for a rerun of a medical documentary show about obese patients getting bariatric surgery.
“Looking for motivation?” Christian asks with a grimace when I set the remote down and focus intently on the graphic surgery footage.
“Gotta have something to get you up in the morning,” I tell him, and he shakes his head but he doesn’t change the channel. We run together for a while without saying anything else and, besides the steady hammering of our feet on the treadmill, the room is filled only with the sound of our labored panting.
I try and focus back on the muted TV but once the surgery is over, the show is too slow to keep my interest, and my mind begins to wander back to the dream I had last night. The images make me feel a little awkward with Christian running only a few feet away from me so I reach forward and increase the resistance on my treadmill, hoping the added exertion will help me focus more.
In fact, all that it really seems to accomplish is that I begin to sweat. Unconsciously, I reach up and wipe my hand over the back of my neck and down across my chest, and Christian picks up one of the towels draped over the arm of his treadmill and hands it to me.
“Thanks,” I say gratefully, but he only nods as I begin to towel off. His eyes are trained on me and there is a kind of hunger in his gaze that is hard for me to ignore. Apparently the 7ish hours that we spent apart have done nothing to mitigate the pull between us, it feels exactly the way it did last night. Only hotter, and sweatier, and… oh Jesus, I really need a distraction.
I look at the workout summary on his treadmill and frown. I usually run right around 7 mph, but he’s got his machine set to 8.6. I know it’s childish, but it feels like he’s beating me and that’s not something I can allow, so I increase my own speed to 8.7. He looks over, smirks at me, and then presses the button until he’s running at 9 mph. I counter with 9.3 and so he increases his resistance to as high as it will go. There is a low groan as the angle on his treadmill increases so that he is essentially running uphill and I sigh and change my settings to match his.
It’s immediately terrible.
I feel a deep burn in my calves and my behind, and after only a minute or two I’m out of breath and a sharp stitch begins rapidly developing in my side. My breasts are beginning to hurt a little from the extra bounce and strain of running uphill and when I reach up to hold onto them to keep them still, I hear Christian’s low groan.
“Stop it,” He growls.
“What?” I pant back at him. “Can’t take a little competition?”
“It’s not the competition,” He says through clenched teeth. “You know what you’re doing.”
I look down at my hands and let out a small, breathy laugh. “It hurts, I can’t help it! They’re very sensitive.”
“Stop,” He groans, and when I don’t move my hands, he has to look away.
“You could give up,” I tell him. “If it’s too much for you.”
“It’s only too much if you keep up with this ridiculous no touching rule,” He says, and when he looks back at me, his eyes rake fervently over me again. “What do you say we both throw in the towel and hit the showers?”
I laugh again. “Keep dreaming.”
“Oh, I will,” He says. “Vividly.”
I shake my head and look back at the workout summary on my panel. I’ve only gone a mile and a half but the effort of the run at this speed and intensity is becoming too much for me now and I’m starting to feel the soreness all over my body.
“Okay, you win,” I concede as I lower the incline on my treadmill and decrease my speed to a quick walk. He lets out a low, victorious sound, hits the kill switch and then steps off his machine so that he’s standing next to me. I feel my body tense as he leans in, his chest only just far enough away from mine so that he’s not touching me, and his lips nearly brush against my ear.
“Thanks for the workout, Anastasia,” He whispers, and his breath against my neck gives me the chills. “Make sure you stretch out, I’d hate for you to be sore. Well…” His voice trails off and I feel the muscles deep inside of me clench at the implication of his words.
No touching. No touching. I repeat inside my head as I ache to just turn my head slightly to the right and kiss him… hard. He smiles at my reticence, probably guessing the direction of my wayward thoughts, and then saunters confidently out of the gym.
When I hear the door close behind me, I too hit the kill switch and step off my treadmill. As I do, I feel the protest of the muscles in my legs and realize, he is right. I do need to stretch. I also need a shower. A long, cold shower.
My early morning ended up being a good thing because Elliot texts me around six asking if he can pick me up a little early since he’s got to get down to the actual job site, where the new GEH is being built, today. We pull into the parking garage a little after seven and as we make our way past the line of cars, I see Luke waiting for the elevator. The doors open and he steps inside, spotting us approaching only as he reaches to press the button for our floor.
“Hey, Luke,” Elliot says when we get into the elevator.
“Mr. Grey,” He says with a professional kind of aloofness. “Miss Steele.”
Miss Steele? That’s all I get? After everything we’ve been through together in the last two years, the best he can give me is Miss Steele?
I give him a tight smile and a nod in response while I lean against the back of the elevator, and focus my eyes on the numbers crawling higher as we rise up to the fourth floor. Elliot gets off, waving goodbye to me as he disappears around the corner, and Luke reaches forward to press the door close button. Once we’re alone, he takes a deep breath, but doesn’t turn to look at me.
“Looks like the nice weather is going to hold out through the weekend,” He says to the metal panel in front of him.
The weather? Really?
“I guess,” I reply. He nods but doesn’t say anything else, and we ride up the remaining four floors in silence. I hate how awkward it feels, but I have no idea what I’m supposed to say to him, or even if he wants me to say something.
When the doors open to release us onto the eighth floor, I frown. I thought I was early this morning but I see both Andrea and Leila already seated behind the desk through the glass doors along with Brian Clark, the new acquisitions intern who didn’t believe I wasn’t just here as Christian’s assistant. I grind my teeth together as I realize that helping Andrea until whatever it is that Christian has planned for me, is ready is going to make me look like a liar.
While I try to remind myself that I shouldn’t care what he thinks, I reach out for the pad next to the door with my security badge, but still, nothing happens. Shit, I stormed out yesterday before Andrea had the security team fix the permissions on my badge…
“Let me get that for you,” Luke says, pulling out his own badge and swiping it against the pad. The red light turns green and I hear the clicking of the lock opening. Luke holds open the door for me and I thank him awkwardly as I hurry inside. When I step through the doors, both Andrea and Leila look shocked to see me. What was it Leila said when I left yesterday? They never last? Perhaps it isn’t unusual for Christian to chase off interns…
“Anastasia, you’re back,” Andrea says, surprised.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry about yesterday. There was a… misunderstanding. Everything’s okay now,” I reply, and Leila narrows her eyes at me.
“Is it though?” She asks, and then turns to look at Andrea. “Are we even positive she’s supposed to be here? I mean her badge doesn’t work which means that Taylor might have revoked her privileges. I don’t know how pleased Mr. Grey would be to find out you’re just letting anyone up here, Sawyer,” She adds turning back to glare at Luke.
He gives her a tight smile, which is more of a grimace than anything. It’s clear these two don’t like each other.
“Well as a member of Taylor’s team, Miss Williams, I think I know who has access to this floor. Mr. Grey, himself, sent out an email late last evening assuring the entire security team that Miss Steele would return this morning.”
“What?” Andrea asks, panicked and she picks up her phone and begins clicking frantically on the screen. “I didn’t get anything,” She says.
“You’re not on the security team,” Luke says, pulling out his own phone and placing it on the desk for Andrea to see. She skims the email and seems to be satisfied by what it says because she hands the phone back to him and smiles.
“Perfect. Would you mind correcting the permissions on Anastasia’s badge so that she could get through the doors, Sawyer?”
“Of course,” He says, turning to me for the badge. I hand it to him and he disappears down the hallway that leads to Christian’s office. I walk around the desk and place my bag inside the drawer Andrea pointed out to me yesterday and then turn to face her.
“So, Mr. Grey said that I’m going to be helping you for the next couple weeks, is there anything I can do for you?” I ask, ignoring Brian’s self-satisfied smirk.
“I don’t think so… I suppose you could take these contracts back to Mr. Grey’s office. Just leave them in a place on his desk where he’ll be sure to see them. He’s running a little late this morning, but once he gets in we usually have a quick meeting to go over his schedule and then I can look through what I have and see if there’s anything you can help with,” Andrea says, holding out a large envelope for me.
“Sounds good,” I tell her as I take the contracts and then walk up the hallway towards Christian’s office.
Christian’s desk is extremely clean so I’m not really worried about him missing the contracts, but because I want to be absolutely sure, I put a bright blue post-it that says “Read Me” on the envelope and then place it on top of his closed MacBook. I’m about to turn to leave when something catches my eye. Yesterday when I was here, I’d thought that this office was entirely devoid of any kind of decoration, but sitting on his desk is a framed 5×7 picture. I lean over, pick it up, and when I realize what it is, I inhale sharply. It’s the picture I took of the two of us in front of the fireplace at the cabin in Vermont. He’s smiling down at me, not the camera, looking sexy and in love, and I look deliriously happy. I stare longingly at it, reminiscing over that perfect weekend.
What am I doing?
It’s too easy to fall back into old patterns with Christian. I’m losing focus, letting him push the boundaries too far… not that I’m not pushing them as well. My hesitation last night as I left, and the compulsion I felt this morning on the treadmill is more than proof enough of that. But, I know that if I’m not careful, I’ll wind up back in his arms before I know what’s happening, and if that happens, I don’t know if he’ll still be willing to get the help he needs or to make the changes that I need to be able to forgive him. If that happens, if I go back too quickly, whatever we’re able to build is going to fall apart, and it’ll wreck me.
Of course, I understand that logically, when I’m alone… but all of that seems to go right out the window whenever he’s standing in front of me.
I need to get over that. I need to stay focused. If I want this back, what I had in this perfect moment captured in this picture, then I have to be strong in what I need. The Ana in this picture could love him absolutely because she had unwavering faith and trust in him. If I’m going to get this back, I have to get that back first.
I know that in order to do that, I’m going to have to face the hard stuff. I’m going to have to talk to him about the trial and about Elena, and I’m going to have to do it without running away from him or backing down. I don’t know when is the best time or what is the best way to do that, but I know it has to be soon. She’s here somewhere, lurking around Seattle, and I know that it’s only a matter of time before she rears her overly blonde head.
I brush my fingers over the glass, tracing the outline of Christian’s face with my finger, and in that moment, it occurs to me then that this might be the reason both Andrea and Leila had such a shocked reaction to my arrival yesterday. Christian doesn’t have any personal items in this office at all, except this picture. If they’ve seen this, and they recognized me, then they know that Christian and I have some kind of relationship. Maybe that’s why Leila seemed so curious about how I knew Christian when she interrogated me yesterday afternoon.
Reluctantly, I put the picture back down on Christian’s desk and hurriedly exit his office. When I round the corner a broad smile crosses my lips as I see Ros standing at the front desk, going over a document with Brian, and I can tell from here that’s she’s agitated. That disappears instantly though when she looks up at me and lets out an excited shriek.
“Ana!” She cries, dropping the paper in her hands on the desk and hurrying to close the distance between us as fast as she can in her killer heels. “I heard you were here yesterday, why didn’t you come and see me?”
“I uh… left early,” I tell her, and Ros sighs and gives me a sympathetic look.
“Christian?” She asks, as though she already knows that’s the answer.
“Yeah,” I say, and then laugh. She really does know him better than most and she’s still a good friend to him. He’s been so alone these past few years, I’m glad he’s had her. Her friendship might be something that will help him realize that he doesn’t need Elena.
“Figures,” Ros says, rolling her eyes. “He’s ridiculous sometimes, but, I don’t have to tell you that. So, what do you say you and I go to lunch this afternoon and catch up? My treat!”
“Sure!” I reply with a smile. “I could call Kate and have her join us. She’s interning with her dad at Kavanagh Media so she’s just a few blocks away.”
“Absolutely!” Ros says excitedly. “And Kavanagh Media is on our RFP list so I can charge our meal to Christian as a business expense. I’ll make reservations at Palisade, say noon?”
“Sounds great,” I tell her, and she wraps me in a hug before turning back to Brian, and motioning for him to follow her into her office.
“So you’re friends with Miss Bailey, too?” Andrea asks when I come back around the desk.
“Oh… yeah. Christian and Ros… I mean, Mr. Grey and Miss Bailey, kind of came as a package deal when they were in school.”
“So you were fairly close to Mr. Grey then?” She presses me, and again, I wonder about the picture in Christian’s office and what she’s figured out about our relationship. I try to think of a way to circumvent this topic again without really lying but thankfully, I don’t have to answer as the sound of the lock opening on the front door catches our attention, and I look up to see Taylor holding the door open for Christian.
“Good Morning, Mr. Grey,” Leila says quickly as he approaches the desk.
“Good Morning, Leila,” He greets her. “Andrea. Anastasia.”
“Can I get you some coffee, sir?” Andrea asks.
“Yes, and we can meet now to go over my schedule for this morning. Bring Anastasia with you. Have the contracts been signed?”
“Yes, sir,” Andrea says. “They’re on your desk.”
“Good. Five minutes,” He says, and then he disappears around the corner without another word. I notice Leila leaning over her desk, watching him walk away for as long as possible, and then settling back down into her chair with a sigh.
“Don’t you love it when he wears that blue tie?” She asks in a dreamy kind of voice. “It really brightens up his eyes.”
“You’ll have to excuse Leila,” Andrea says, rolling her eyes. “She’s in love.“
“And why wouldn’t I be?” Leila replies defensively. “Our love story would be so perfect, it’s practically cliché. Handsome, work-obsessed, multi-millionaire is a changed man when he finally opens his heart to his beautiful, young secretary. It sounds like every chick flick ever made. I mean, the only thing it’s missing is a cold-hearted wife who makes him miserable and just uses him for his money.”
“He doesn’t have a wife though,” Andrea says. “Because he’s gay.”
“He’s not gay!” Leila hisses back at her and I can tell by the way she says it that they must’ve had this argument a dozen times. I bite down on my lip to hide my amused smile.
“Leila, I’ve been his assistant for a year and a half and the only person I’ve ever bought flowers for was his little sister. He’s never once had a plus one to an event, and I manage his schedule, I would know if he had a date,” Andrea adds.
“That doesn’t mean he’s gay, it just means that he hasn’t found the right girl yet,” Leila replies, and then she turns to me. “Anastasia, you were friends with him. Will you please tell Andrea that he’s not gay?”
“He’s not gay,” I tell her, still trying to keep a smile off my face. “He had a girlfriend in college.”
“See. Wait… what? A girlfriend?” Leila asks. “Who?”
“Uh… just some girl he had a class with once,” I tell her. “Andrea, aren’t we supposed to be in Mr. Grey’s office?”
“Yes, but coffee first. Come with me, I’ll show you the break room.”
Andrea leads me down a hallway in the opposite direction of Christian’s office. She points out Ros’s office and the copy room before leading me into a small break room where the espresso machine is. I watch carefully as she expertly prepares Christian’s coffee, explaining to me his exact preferences as she does, and then she leads me back out into the hallway for Christian’s office.
“Miss Steele!” Luke calls through the door to the security office as I pass. I stop and turn to look at him and he’s holding my badge out for me.
“Thank-you,” I tell him, clipping the badge to the end of my blazer.
“No problem, ma’am. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you,” He says and again, I feel my heart sink.
He’s still being distant. There is none of the warmth in his eyes or in his smile that I’m used to seeing and it makes me wonder if Christian had been wrong. He might not have asked Luke to be my friend, but that doesn’t mean Luke didn’t formulate that act all on his own. I just don’t see any of the person in him now that I did before he left Cambridge all those weeks ago.
“Anastasia?” Andrea asks, leaning forward anxiously as I stand frozen in the doorway of the security office.
“Oh, sorry,” I say. I give Luke a sharp nod and then follow after Andrea again.
Our meeting with Christian is short and fairly brusk. The moment we sit in the chairs across from him, Andrea pulls out her iPad and beings reading through the various meetings, appointments, and conference calls that seem to take up every second of his day.
“You do have one conflict on here,” Andrea says as she nears the bottom of his schedule. “It looks like your meeting with R&D overlaps into your appointment with Dr. Flynn this afternoon.”
He sighs and shakes his head irritably. “Move R&D to tomorrow, confirm with Flynn.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Grey. There isn’t a two hour window open for R&D tomorrow. Tomorrow is your meeting with the Committee for Technology and Economic Development for the State project. Charlie Tango has been booked for an 8 AM departure to Olympia and isn’t scheduled to return until after 6 PM.”
“Fuck,” Christian hisses. “Fine, move R&D at 5:30, cater in breakfast, and get in contact with Sea-Tac to re-route Charlie Tango. We’ll depart from the helipad on the roof.”
“Yes, sir,” Andrea replies, taking notes on her iPad as she stands from her seat. “Should I have your lunch brought in at noon?”
“Yes, order from that deli on the corner.”
“Yes, sir,” She says with a smile. She motions quickly for me to follow after her as she turns to leave but Christian stops me.
“Not you, Miss Steele,” He says. Andrea nods and continues out of the room, and, when the door closes behind her, I look at Christian with an amused smile.
“Helipad? I take it that means you still fly helicopters?”
“Yes,” He says, returning my smile. “I acquired Charlie Tango about three months ago and she’s absolutely top of the line. Ros hasn’t gotten to fly in her yet and I know she’s excited.”
“Good. I hope you have fun,” I tell him, and he nods.
“I had Barney send these up for you,” He says, reaching into a bag at his feet and pulling out a Macbook, an iPad and an iPhone. My eyes widen.
“What are you sponsored by Apple or something?” I ask with a laugh as he places the devices in front of me.
“No, Anastasia, they’re simply the best the market has to offer right now and I never settle for second best,” He says. “But you’ll need these to work. This is a company phone that you’ll need to keep with you at all times and all three devices have been paired with your company email address. Email is usually the fastest way for me to reach you. I have something for you to do that should keep you busy for a few days. It’s not terribly exciting but I think you’re well suited for the task. I’ll send it over to you this morning, Andrea can tell you what to do from there.”
“And… there is a charity event this Friday night that I’ve committed to. They’re usually fairly dull, but the food is generally decent. If you’re available, I’d like it if you went with me.”
“Like… As your assistant?” I ask, feeling a small sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as once again he begins pressing against our newly established boundaries.
“No, Anastasia. As my date.”
There is hope in his eyes that feels as though it could cut through me and again, with him sitting only a few feet away from me, I feel my resolve begin to waiver.
Boundaries, Anastasia. Boundaries.
“Christian…” I sigh. “I can’t go on a date with you.”
“Because we’re not dating. I forgave you for the Luke thing but that was a new issue. I still haven’t forgiven you for what happened two years ago and it’s going to take time and some work from both of us for that to happen. Besides, I’m your intern. How would it look if I showed up as your date to a public event?”
“I don’t care how it looks,” He says in a low, controlled voice.
“I do. I’m still in college. I don’t have a career yet and I don’t want my name in the papers or on the internet because I attended some charity event with you. I don’t want to get a reputation as some slutty intern sleeping with her boss to get ahead, and then have to try and find a professional job.”
“I can protect you from that,” He says.
“No, you can’t, and that’s one of the reasons why I need boundaries right now. Besides, I’m not ready to be in a relationship with you, Christian. I have to be able to forgive you before I could even think of something like that.”
“And I’m willing to do whatever it takes for you to forgive me, Anastasia. You just have to tell me what you want from me.”
“I can’t do the work for you, Christian,” I say quietly. “I’ve told you what I need from you and I know that you’ve tried and I can give you credit for that, but I also need to know that you’re not just doing this because I told you to and you think it’s the fastest way to get me back. I can’t go through something like this again and if we’re ever going to get back together, I need to be able to trust you again. If I’m going to trust you, I have to know that this is real. That’s going to take some time.”
“Ana, I’m trying. You can trust me, I never want to do anything to hurt you ever again. I’ve felt what it’s like living without you and it’s agony. Nothing in the world would ever be worth living like this again. If you’d just try, just give me a chance, I would spend the rest of my life proving that to you. I can’t take back what I did but I can tell you that I’m sorry and I am. I’m really sorry, Anastasia.”
“What are you sorry for, Christian?” I ask again.
“That I hurt you,” He replies, and the lack of responsibility in that statement deepens my resolve that nothing can happen between us until he has some kind of break through.
“That’s not enough,” I tell him, and he grimaces.
“Christian, I really don’t want to talk about this at work. I’ve told you this. If you really want to talk about this, we can try and find some time at home later in the week or we can set up some time with Dr. Flynn, but now isn’t the time. When we’re here, you have to treat me like I’m just one of your employees.”
“Fine,” He says abruptly. “Then we’re done here, Miss Steele. I’ll email you what I have for you to work on and I’ll need it back before end of business on Friday.”
“Then, I’ll wait for your email, Mr. Grey,” I tell him. He nods once, which I assume is my dismissal so I gather my things and head out of his office.
When I get back to the front desk, Leila is occupied on the phone, so I sneak quietly around her, take the seat next to Andrea and open my new Macbook so I can open the email program.
“How did it go?” Andrea asks.
“Fine, he said he’s going to email me a project that he wants me to work on and that you should be able to give me some direction.”
My laptop pings as Christian’s email comes through and Andrea tilts the screen towards her.
“Oh, these are just contracts for a potential client that our lawyers drew up. Usually, when they come back, Mr. Grey will have me scan through them for formatting mistakes and spelling and grammar errors. Since there are multiple contracts you’ll want to scan through them and make sure the language is consistent. Once they’re ready, you’ll .pdf them, password protect them and then send them back to Mr. Grey so that once the client is green-lighted, he can send them over to their lawyers for review.”
“Sounds easy enough,” I tell her but as she scrolls through the list I see her frown.
“Yes, but there are quite a few here. Did he give you a time frame?”
“By the end of the week.”
“This week?” She asks with disbelief. “Well, then I’ll let you get to work. Let me know if you need any help.”
“Okay,” I tell her, and then I click on the first attachment. I’m shocked when the Word document comes up and it’s 64 pages long. Holy Shit! How many of these are there? I scroll through the list of attachments and there are 34 documents attached.
I groan. I don’t even want to do the math of how many pages this is. Andrea gives me the password to use on the .pdf copies and I begin to read.
I’m 23 pages into the first document when Ros comes out of her office at 11:45 for our lunch date.
“Ready, Ana?” She asks.
“Uh… I don’t know. I have a lot of work to do.”
“Well, as the vice president of the company, I’m required to ensure you take at least a thirty minute lunch break per Washington state law. So, grab your bag and lets go.”
I roll my eyes but do as she says, texting Kate that we’re on our way to the restaurant as I step into the elevator with her.
When we arrive at Palisade, the host informs us that Kate has already been seated and when we come around the corner and she sees us over the top of her menu, she jumps out of her seat and runs over to Ros with open arms.
“Ros!” She cries excitedly. “How are you? Oh my god, you look fantastic!”
“Thank you! I’m great, business is great,” Ros beams excited. “How are you?”
“Amazing! This internship is going to be a cakewalk. I’ll be running the place by the end of the summer,” Kate replies, making both Ros and I laugh. We take a seat at the table and once we’ve ordered our meals, Kate begins her typical litany of over personal questions.
“Are you dating anyone?” She asks.
“As a matter of fact, I am,” Ros says, smiling broadly. “Her name is Gwen and she’s a marketing executive at Microsoft.”
“Oooh, when do we get to meet her?” Kate asks.
“Soon! In fact, we’d love to have a girls night out. We’re both so tied up with work all the time, we’re in desperate need of a night of fun.”
“How about Friday?” Kate suggests.
“Ugh, Friday is no good,” Ros says. “We have a charity event to go to downtown that night. What about Saturday?”
“Saturday is good for me,” Kate says turning to look at me. “Ana?”
“Sure. I was going to go to the market on Saturday morning but I’m available Saturday night.”
“Excellent, I’ll make reservations. We can have dinner and then head over to Trinity for some drinks and dancing.” Ros says.
“Sounds great. I think Elliot wanted to hang out with some of his old friends from High School sometime soon, so I’m sure he’ll be willing to give me the night off from girlfriend duties.”
“What about you, Ana?” Ros asks. “Is there a boyfriend who might object to you coming along?”
“No, no boyfriend,” I tell her with a small laugh, and she rolls her eyes.
“That must be why Christian has been so weird these past few weeks,” She says. “You two aren’t…?”
“No!” I exclaim quickly. “No, I’m just here as an intern.”
She nods and thankfully, Kate launches into a story of something that happened to her at work that morning, so I don’t have to answer any more questions about the state of mine and Christian’s relationship. I really enjoy the easy conversation we share over lunch, it’s rejuvenating and I realize that maybe the best counter to all of this drama with Christian and Luke is just girl time. By the time we’re finished with lunch, Saturday isn’t just something I’m looking forward to, it feels necessary.
When we get back to the office, I immediately get back to work on the documents I’m reviewing. Leila has gone to lunch with a friend, who ends up being the Suzannah girl I had in my orientation class, and so Andrea has to field phone calls in addition to coordinating the meetings coming through the door every few minutes for Christian and Ros. I’m thoroughly impressed by her ability to multi-task. She’s juggling about 15 different things by the time Leila gets back but never once did she even seem flustered and she’s refused every offer of help from me.
I’m exhausted by the time I get home that night, but I don’t have time to relax. I only made it through six documents this afternoon and by my calculations I need to get through ten a day if I’m going to make it through the work load on time. So, rather than relaxing on the couch to watch TV or pulling a book off the shelf to read, I take my Macbook and crawl into bed, picking up where I left off this afternoon.
By the end of business on Friday, my head is so full of legal jargon and repetitive phrases and numbers that I can’t even think straight. I attach the password protected .pdfs of each document to an email and send it off to Christian and, even though he left the office a little early today so that he could get ready for the charity event tonight, as I gather my things to go home for the weekend, my iPhone buzzes with his email response.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Re: Completed Contracts for your Review
Date: May 21st 2010 06:35 PM
To: Anastasia Steele
Thank-you Anastasia. You’ve done a great job this week. I knew I made the right decision bringing you on.
Dr. Flynn is available for a joint session on Monday at 6:30 PM. If that works for you, I’ll have Andrea put it on my calendar.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings INC
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Joint Session
Date: May 21st 2010 06:37 PM
To: Christian Grey
Unless my boss gives me another time consuming project like he did this week, I can make myself available for that appointment.
Implementation Director, Grey Enterprises Holdings INC
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Overbearing Bosses
Date: May 22st 2010 06:40 PM
To: Anastasia Steele
I’m sure your boss will be more than willing to free up your time for you to make the appointment. I hope you have a good weekend. Let me know if you want to spend some kind of “pre-planned, casual” time together or whatever the rules are now. I’m available.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, INC
From: Anastasia Steele
Date: May 21st 2010 6:44 PM
To: Christian Grey
Sometimes rules ARE a good thing. Thank-you for respecting them, even though I can practically taste the bitterness I know went into typing those words. I have plans on Saturday but I’d be happy to arrange something on Sunday. Do I need to go through Andrea to find time on your calendar?
Implementation Director, Grey Enterprises Holdings
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Your designated point of contact
Date: May 21st 2010 6:48 PM
To: Anastasia Steele
In the interest of keeping our work and private lives separate as you have requested, I believe you should coordinate Sunday directly through me. I’ll clear the entire day.
And though rules CAN BE a good thing… sometimes they’re made to be broken.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings INC
I shake my head exasperatedly as I read his last email but choose not to respond as I make my way down to the fourth floor where I’ll have to wait until Elliot is ready to leave for the day.
It’s actually fairly late when I get back to Escala and since I have plans for an early morning trip down to Pike’s Market and I know I’m going to be out late tomorrow night, I decide to take if fairly easy tonight and maybe watch a movie. When I turn the corner of the hallway towards my apartment though, I notice someone sitting there waiting for me.
“Luke?” I ask, recognizing him once I’m almost to the door.
“Ana!” He replies, almost startled, as he scrambles to his feet.
“What are you doing here?”
“I um… I thought we could talk. I brought Chinese food,” He adds quickly, turning around and picking up a plastic bag off the floor and holding it up for me.
“Now you want to talk?” I say, glaring at him and his face falls.
“Ana, I’m sorry. I should have told you…”
I sigh and walk to my door, unlock it, and then gesture for him to head inside. He smiles gratefully and hurries forward.
“Make yourself at home,” I tell him as I throw the bag with my laptop and iPad inside of it on a chair and begin pulling plates down from the cabinet. He drapes his jacket over one of the arms on the couch and then begins dishing food out of the cardboard containers onto the plates I set on the table. We both head to the couch to eat and when I sit down, I take a bite of fried rice and then stare expectantly at him.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” He begins. “I wasn’t… I wasn’t supposed to talk to you. You weren’t even supposed to know I was there. When you caught me that night I walked you back to your car, I thought I was going to be fired. I didn’t know what else to do so, I lied to you to try and cover my own ass. You believed me and I thought that I’d solved everything. It would be so much easier to keep an eye on you if I wasn’t also trying to stay out of your line of sight all the time. I could walk you home those nights when you didn’t have a car and I could be there between classes or late at night when you stayed on campus to study…”
“Okay, I get it. I was job, that’s fine,” I interrupt him. “But what about all the other stuff? What about coffee every morning and watching LOST over the phone together every Wednesday night? I mean, you flew out to see me in Georgia last summer and now I have no idea what to think of that. Was that you acting as my friend or was that because Christian was freaked out about me being alone so he sent you to check on me?”
“It was me,” He says. “All those things were just me. I didn’t mean to get close to you, Ana. It just happened. I care about you, not as a client, but as my best friend. That was real, it still is.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about Christian?”
“Because then he would have brought me back here,” He says. “There wouldn’t have been coffee every morning or LOST on Wednesdays or crazy hikes up mountains and I didn’t want to lose that. I saw how you were after he betrayed you. He hurt you and you shut him out completely. I thought that if you knew the truth, you’d do the same to me and I didn’t want that. I know that’s selfish but… I work as CPA and my entire life is my job. I don’t have a family, I don’t have friends. You’re it… and I miss you.”
“If that’s true, then why have you been acting so cold to me all week? You know me better than almost anyone else in the world and you’ve been treating me like a stranger.”
“I know, I’m sorry. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to act around you at work. Mr. Grey wasn’t thrilled when he found out how close we were and I just thought if any of that showed at work, it might make things difficult… for both of us.”
“Well I don’t like it,” I tell him. “If you don’t want to be my friend anymore because it’s too hard with Christian or Taylor or whatever, then that’s fine, I guess… but if you’re here tonight because you want to be friends then you can’t treat me like that, even at work. It’s weird and it makes me question your intentions. I don’t want to live some kind of weird double life with you.”
“Okay, then I’ll stop. We’re friends. All the time,” He says.
I let out a long breath and look down at my fingers. “I just need to know… were you spying on me for him? I mean, I told you a lot of personal things. Did all of that make it back to Christian?”
“No,” He assures me. “It wasn’t like that. I really only spoke with Taylor and my reports to him were not personal in nature.”
“I want to believe that,” I tell him. “But it’s hard, Luke. I mean, how am I ever going to be certain you’re around because you’re my friend and not because he’s asked you to be?”
“Because I’ve sat through It Happened One Night with you thirteen times,” He says, a smile creeping across his lips. “That’s true friendship. No amount of money in the world is worth that.”
I glare at him, fighting hard to keep myself from smiling back. He raises an eyebrow at me, challenging me, and for the first time since I saw him that morning he told me he was leaving Cambridge, he looks like Luke again.
“Well then I suppose it’s time to put your money where your mouth is,” I tell him, getting up from the couch and crossing the room for the cabinet under the TV. I search through the line of DVDs until I find the title in question and then pull it out and hold up It Happened One Night for him to see. He sighs and rolls his eyes.
“Bring it on, Ana,” He says, and I laugh, put the movie in the DVD player and plop down next to him on the couch to finish eating.
To emphasis his point that he’s been forced to watch this movie too many times, he recites most of the dialogue for the first hour, but gives up when he realizes it isn’t bothering me. Instead, he scoots into me to rest his head on my shoulder, sighing with dismay every few minutes.
“I just don’t understand how you don’t like this movie.” I say. “Don’t you know that Clark Gable is like the original Hollywood heartthrob?”
“Yeah, but I’ll only ever be able to see him as Rhett Butler. Gone with the Wind has ruined his entire body of work for me, as well as my will to live,” Luke replies sarcastically.
I laugh and my phone buzzes next to me. I look down and see a Seattle number I don’t recognize. I pick it up and look suspiciously at it before showing it to Luke.
“True or False,” I begin. “This is Christian calling me.”
“I don’t know,” He shrugs. “I don’t recognize the number.”
I sigh and answer the phone. “Hello?”
“Ana, it’s Mia,” She says, catching my attention immediately and causing me to sit up as I realize that she sounds panicked. “I’m in trouble. Can you come and get me?”