We only have about an hour to lay with one another until Christian has to return to his own apartment to get ready to leave for work. When the alarm he set on his iPhone goes off, he groans and rolls out of the bed.
“Maybe you should stay home today,” I suggest as I watch him sluggishly shrug into his jacket. “That’s two of the last three nights you haven’t slept at all. You look dead on your feet.”
“I can’t,” He croaks. “I have an important meeting this afternoon.”
“Christian, you look like you can barely stand…”
“I’ll be fine. I just need some coffee,” He says, and he kisses me on the forehead before turning and shuffling out of the room. I bite down on my lip, wondering if there is anyway I could change his mind, or if maybe Elliot or Taylor might be able to talk him into at least going in late this morning, but I know better. Once Christian has made up his mind, there’s no changing it.
I sigh heavily and get out of bed, making my way into the bathroom to get ready for the day. Thirty minutes later, there is a knock on my front door, so I set my curling iron down in the sink and hurry to answer it. When I open the door, I deflate a little as I’d been hoping it would be Christian deciding he wanted to sleep in this morning after all, but it’s not. It’s Prescott, looking stiff in her clean gray suit and staring down at me with a detached kind of deference.
“Are you ready, Miss Steele?” She asks, her flat, professional tone instantly reminding me why I preferred Luke over her as my personal security detail.
“Almost,” I tell her. “Come in. Please, make yourself at home.”
“Thank you, Miss Steele,” She says.
I step aside and she walks into the apartment, but stays close to the front door. I glance awkwardly back at her as I head back into the bathroom to finish getting ready and when I’m finished, and I return to the kitchen to make some breakfast, I notice that she hasn’t moved at all.
“Can I get you some coffee, uh… Prescott?” I ask, realizing that I don’t know her first name. I know Christian likes to address his staff by their surnames, but it feels weird to me.
“No, thank you, Miss Steele,” She says, and I frown as I turn around and turn on the coffee maker for myself.
“I’m sorry if this sounds rude, but what is your first name?” I ask.
“Right. Well, Samantha, when did you get back from Cambridge?”
“A few days ago, ma’am.”
“And did you enjoy your time there? I’m not a big fan of the winters on the east coast but it’s lovely in the springtime. I love it when all the trees on campus are full and green again, it’s beautiful.”
She nods. She just… nods, and I turn back to the coffee pot, take a deep breath and try again.
“Luke told me when we first met that you like old movies? I have an obsession with old Hollywood. Luke always tells me that he can tell whether or not I’ll like a movie based on the amount of color in it. What are your favorites?”
“I’m sorry ma’am… I’m not really a fan of television or movies. I’ve always thought they were a waste of time, really. I’m your CPO so if you would like to stay in a watch a movie, I’d be happy to join you. I do need to get you to work now, though.”
“Yeah, maybe… another time,” I say grimly. I pick up my coffee cup and the sigh as I lead the way out to the elevator, feeling Prescott’s hawk like gaze on me all the way.
The drive to work is awkward. Prescott just stares at me the entire way, and if I don’t address her directly, she’s completely mute. It’s so weird that I can’t even enjoy listening to my favorite radio station because I feel to embarrassed to sing along with the music under her critical gaze. I’m actually glad to make it into the office this morning because it means Prescott has to go back into the security office, rather than hovering over me. I’d rather spend my morning listening to Leila pine over my boyfriend, than try and force anymore awkward conversation with my CPO.
It’s that bad.
“Ana!” Andrea says with obvious relief when I come through the doors. “Thank-god you’re here.”
“Hey, Andrea… what’s up?” I ask dubiously, a little stricken by the tension I see radiating off of her.
“Mr. Grey called and gave me a list of things he needs done this morning. Of course the operations meeting is this afternoon and I am still waiting on emails from four different department heads to put together the meeting agenda. I know it’s not your job, but I thought since you got that brand new car yesterday, you wouldn’t mind running a few errands for me?”
“Sure,” I shrug and then turn as the door opens behind me and Leila comes rushing in.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” She cries as she scampers forward for her desk and Andrea glares at her.
“Of all days to be late, you choose today? The phone has already been ringing off the hook and Mr. Grey isn’t even here yet!”
“I know, I’m sorry…” Leila says, but that’s all she gets to say as the phone rings again.
I walk around the desk to put my things away and then sit down to start up my laptop while I wait for Andrea to give me her list of errands. As I scroll through the general company wide emails that are cluttering my inbox, Luke comes through the door with Ryan. I smile broadly at him as he approaches the desk.
“How’s it going, Steele?” He asks with a warm, wide grin that brings me right back to the days when he’d visit me in the library at Harvard.
“Better for me than some,” I tell him, nodding at Andrea scrolling through an email with one hand while trying to write her instructions for me with the other.
“Operations meeting,” Luke shrugs. “I’m glad Taylor deals with that so I don’t have to. Seems like a whole lot of pointless stress. How was your night?”
“Fine,” I reply, because I know work isn’t the best place to recount the events of the previous night. “You?”
“Good, I talked to Leah last night, that girl I told you about the other day.”
“And?” I ask excitedly.
“And, I’ve finished your list,” Andrea interrupts. “Sorry, Luke.”
“Nope, I get it,” He says, backing away and holding his hands, palm out, in front of him. “I’ll talk to you later, Ana.”
“Yeah…” I say regretfully and as I watch him walk away, I decide that I’m going to find a way to convince Christian that he should make Luke my CPO again. I’m not going to suffer through an entire summer of having Prescott follow me around when the person who was originally hired to do that, who I’d prefer to do that, is still on Christian’s payroll.
I take the list from Andrea and turn to close the lid of my laptop when, once again, I hear the lock on the door click open.
“Good Morning, Mr. Grey,” Leila says cheerfully as Christian and Taylor come through the door. I look up and examine him carefully, frowning as I realize that he doesn’t look much better than he did this morning. Though his suit is immaculate and his hair is in it’s usual sexy state of perfect disarray, he looks so tired it leaves an almost gaunt quality to his beautiful face. I am pleased to notice that at least Taylor looks a little concerned.
“Good Morning, Leila,” Christian replies dully, not stopping at her desk on his way to his office, and then he calls over his shoulder, “Coffee. I need coffee.”
“Don’t you dare get out of that seat,” Andrea threatens Leila once Christian is out of sight. “I do not have time to help you this morning.”
“The CEO has asked for coffee,” Leila says indignantly.
“I’ll get it for him,” I say, getting up and tucking the list of errands Andrea gave me into the pocket of my blazer. I head down the opposite hallway, waving through the door to a stressed looking Ros as I pass her office, and enter the break room. Once I’ve fired up the espresso maker, I begin searching through the cupboard for Christian’s preferred cup and then take milk out of the fridge to steam. I add an extra shot, knowing he’s going to need the pick me up, and then make my way to Christian’s office.
Christian is focused on the MacBook on his desk, and even though I can tell that focus is something he seems to be having difficulty maintaining, it’s enough that he doesn’t look up at me as I approach his desk.
“Here’s your coffee,” I say, as I set the cup on his desk.
“Thank you, baby… I mean, Miss Steele,” He says, shaking his head slightly as if to reorient himself. I look at him, concerned.
“Christian, you need sleep… you should go home.”
“I can’t today,” He says. “I’ll be fine, just keep the coffee coming.”
“You sure you don’t want something stronger?” I ask. “Adderall? Cocaine maybe?” He looks up and glares at me, and it’s then that I remember what he told me about his mother and his subsequent feelings towards drugs. Shit.
“Sorry, that was supposed to be a joke,” I tell him, backtracking. “I’ll go and get you another coffee… I should also tell you that Andrea is swamped preparing for your meeting so she’s asked me to take care of the list of errands that you gave her. I’m going to be out of the office all morning.”
“Just make sure you take security with you,” He says, and I promise him that I will before I fetch him another cup of coffee.
As I leave his office for the second time, I get an idea… I poke my head through the door of the security office down the hall and see Ryan, Prescott and Luke all focused on monitors displaying images from different parts of GEH.
“Hey, Luke?” I say, trying to get his attention. “Can you come with me for a bit?”
“Uh… sure?” He replies, locking the display on his monitor and following me out into the hall. “What’s up?”
“I have some errands to run this morning and Christian says I have to take security with me.” I tell him and he narrows his eyes at me.
“I think you’re supposed to take Prescott.”
“He didn’t say that. He said I was supposed to take security. You’re security.”
“I’m not your CPO anymore, Ana.”
“Well, I’m rejecting Prescott as my CPO. I’m not interested in having her tagging along with me everywhere that I go so either you can come with me or I’m going by myself. You choose.”
He hesitates for a moment, looking like he really isn’t sure which would be the worse outcome for him and then he sighs. “Fine, I’ll go with you, but you know that you’re going to get me fired, right?”
“Nonsense,” I tell him. “That’s the beauty in all of this. I have an in with boss.”
I smile broadly at him as he rolls his eyes and then walks with me through reception and into the elevator. As the doors close, I vaguely hear my phone buzz in my bag and I pull it out and see a new email.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: One more thing…
Date: May 25th 2010 09:45 AM
To: Anastasia Steele
I forgot to tell you, you look beautiful today. I love you, baby.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings INC
My heart melts a little at his sweet words and I smile as I hit reply.
From: Anastasia Steele
Date: May 25th 2010 09:46 AM
To: Christian Grey
Making me cry is not going to help me keep the secret. I can’t wait to get you home so I can show you exactly how I feel about you, Mr. Grey. Although that might have to wait until you get some sleep!
XX Your Ana
Implementation Director, Grey Enterprises Holdings
The list that Andrea has given me is made up entirely of personal things: Pick up dry cleaning, order flowers to send to Grandma Trevelyan for her birthday… Luke and I even have to go back to Escala as Christian is having custom made shirts delivered today from Milan as well as several pieces of furniture.
“I don’t understand,” I tell Luke as I climb back into the Lincoln after spending nearly forty five minutes in Christian’s penthouse and enduring three different hysteric phone calls from Andrea asking when I was going to be back, “How could he possibly expect Andrea to get all of this done today and prepare for this meeting that seems to have everyone in a panic? Why would he schedule all of this for today?”
“Oh, I keep forgetting you’re new and haven’t realized yet that Mr. Grey sets unrealistic expectations for everyone around him.”
“Come on, Luke. That’s not fair…”
“It is though. Look, the guy is amazing. He regularly accomplishes the impossible, over and over again and it seems no matter how high the bar is set, he surpasses it. People should study him, like, biologically, just to make sure he isn’t secretly Kryptonian or something… but the problem with him being so good at everything, is that he expects the people around him to function at that same level of proficiency. He’s not the easiest guy to please.”
I purse my lips together as I think about Christian back at Harvard, constantly pushing Ros whether it was for their business plans or just to study. She never had any free time… well, until we started dating. Well, maybe now that we’re back together again, he’ll ease up on some of his employees the way he did with Ros.
When we get back to GEH, my phone rings again and when I look down and see Christian’s name on the screen, I answer immediately.
“Hey, what’s up?” I ask
“Anasta…a wh… the fu…k …re …ou?” I think he’s yelling but I don’t have any reception in the underground parking garage so I can’t really understand him.
“Christian?” I say, straining to hear him but as I step into the elevator, the phone beeps twice in my ear and the call drops. I figure it will be fine to simply wait til I’m back upstairs to ask him what he wanted but as the doors open on the eighth floor, I realize that was a mistake. I can’t distinguish what he’s saying through the glass doors, but I can hear him yelling at Andrea. He stops though the second he hears the electronic beep and the sound of the lock opening on the door and he turns cold eyes on Luke and I.
“What’s going on?” I ask as I step into the entryway, but I stop moving when I look down and see Christian’s hands shaking.
“Sawyer,” He says, in a deathly calm, even tone. “Go pack your things, you’re fired.”
“What!” I exclaim, and when Luke takes a deep steeling breath next to me and then nods before attempting to walk deliberately towards the security office. I reach out to grab him and hold him in place as I glare at Christian.
“Christian…” I begin but he silences me.
“Miss Steele,” He says harshly, emphasizing the words to demonstrate my lack of decorum. “We need to have a conversation. My office. Now.”
I swallow hard as Christian turns and storms back towards his office and do my best to ignore the eyes of everyone in the room on me.
“You’re not going anywhere,” I say to Luke. “I’ll fix this, just… go back to your office and stay there for awhile.”
Luke looks at me doubtfully but I give him, what I hope is, a reassuring nod and then I straighten up and follow after Christian.
“Looks like we’re getting a new intern…” I hear Leila say quietly behind me, and I’m pleased to hear that she at least sounds a little regretful.
I pause for brief second outside of Christian’s office door to prepare myself for the anger I know is waiting for me. So I took Luke instead of Prescott… that’s not a crime and definitely not a reason Luke should lose his job. He’s a security officer, he was ensuring my security. I nod at my own affirmation and slowly open the door. I’m caught unprepared though as before I even step inside, Christian reaches out, yanks me into the room, then slams the door closed and locks it behind me.
“What do you think you’re doing, Anastasia?” He growls at me.
“You told me to take security with me.”
“I meant, Prescott! Prescott is your CPO.”
“I don’t want Prescott, Christian. I want Luke.”
His jaw tenses and then his hands fly up to the side of my face, reaching up into my hair to hold me in place as he pushes me into the wall at my back while his lips come crashing down on mine.
I feel his teeth scrape against my bottom lip, pulling my mouth open so his tongue can invade me. I whimper slightly, out of shock more than anything, but he doesn’t ease back. His lips are hard and insistent, his tongue unrelenting as it entwines with mine. He moans a deep, sexy sound as he claims me and even though I’m here to make a stand for Luke, his ferocity still elicits a deep shiver of desire within me that rattles my core. When at last he breaks away from the kiss and I look up at him, out of breath, but determined.
“Please, Christian,” I plead with him. “I don’t want Prescott. I don’t like being around her. She’s weird and awkward and boring and she makes me uncomfortable. Luke’s my best friend, he knows me and he gets me and I like being around him. If you expect me to take security with me everywhere I go, why can’t it be him?”
“I don’t trust him around you.”
“We’re just friends, Christian! Seriously, yesterday when you told the security team we were back together, he was happy for us. He knows that I want you, he’s not interested in me that way at all. He’s like a brother to me, like Elliot. You trusted him to protect me for almost two years, you can trust him now.”
“I did trust him,” Christian says darkly. “And he broke that trust when he took you to Vermont last spring.”
“What would you have had him do?” I ask angrily. “I was going with or without him. I could have climbed that mountain alone if that’s how you would have preferred it?”
“This is my condition, Christian. I don’t want security and the only way that I’ll be okay with having a CPO at all, is if it’s Luke. Besides, wouldn’t you rather me hang out with him during the day when you’re at work rather than at night when I could be with you?”
He frowns but I think I’m getting through to him.
“Please, Christian,” I implore him. “He’s good at his job. I feel safe with him and you should too. He cares about me as more than just a client and if you’re really afraid for my safety, you should know that Luke’s friendship means that he will protect me better than anyone else on your security team. The only person I could be safer with than Luke Sawyer is you… And maybe Batman,” I add hoping to coax a smile out of him and surprisingly, it works.
“Just friends.” I confirm.
“Fine,” He concedes. “But no more of this sneaking out together business, I don’t care if it is for dry cleaning.”
“Don’t be dramatic, we didn’t sneak out,” I tell him, and then I smile at him. “I really like your new dining room table. It has… possibilities.”
He smirks and then turns around, unlocks the door, and then walks back to his desk, holding down a button on his phone until we hear Taylor’s voice.
“Taylor will you send Sawyer in here please?”
“Right away, sir,” Taylor replies and we both sit on the edge of his desk, Christian slumping over a little as the anger recedes and is immediately replaced by exhaustion again, and wait for Luke. He knocks on the door and when Christian tells him to come in he looks dubiously between the two of us.
“Sir?” Sawyer asks and Christian crosses his arms, looking sternly at Luke as he speaks.
“I’m reinstating you as Miss Steele’s CPO. Immediately. You can let Prescott know.”
“Really? Uh… Thank-you, sir,” Luke says, unbelieving, and I smile at him. I told him I would make this right, didn’t I?”
“Fine,” Christian replies. “But Sawyer, if anything happens again like what happened in Cambridge, you will be out of a job this time.”
“Yes, sir,” Luke says, nodding as he turns around and quickly leaves the office, presumably so that Christian can’t change his mind.
“Thank-you,” I tell him, leaning over and kissing him gently on the lips.
“Behave,” He replies, moving me away from him. “The door is unlocked after all and your dining room table comment has left me with all kinds of ideas.”
“I apologize, Mr. Grey,” I say sweetly, and he grins and then stands, close enough to me that he’s only just not touching me.
“Tonight though, Miss Steele, I’m going to fuck you until you can’t remember your own name and everyone living in Escala knows mine,” He says, in a low, throaty voice and it sends a wave of heat over me that pools in the deepest parts inside of me.
“Promises, Promises, Mr. Grey,” I tell him and I purposefully bite down on my lip as I turn around and saunter out of his office.
Taking a second to pull myself together, I lean back against Christian’s door, smiling to myself at the sensual threat that I truly hope he makes good on, and then walk back out to reception where I see Andrea frantically collecting things off of her desk and checking things off the list she has taped to the counter.
“What happened?” Leila asks, as she hangs up the phone and turns to look at me.
“Nothing, it was a misunderstanding,” I reply and she looks at me curiously.
“So, you’re not fired?” Andrea asks, a hint of hope in her voice.
“No, I’m not fired,” I tell her and she exhales with relief.
“Oh thank god, I only have fifteen minutes before everyone starts showing up. I need your help.” She tells me.
“What can I do for you?”
“I’ve just finished putting together the agenda, will you make like… twenty copies of it? I’ll need you to staple them and leave one at each place around the table in the big conference room. Shoot, they’ll need water too. Go into the break room, there should be water bottles in the refrigerator. Miss Bailey likes lime with her water, so use the limes out of the bottom drawer, you’ll have to cut them up. Mr. Grey likes sparkling water, there should be Perrier in there too. He takes his with lemon and he’ll want a glass with ice. Everyone else can just have the regular bottled water. Oh, and pens and notepads. Make sure there is one at every seat.”
I watch her eyes dart frantically back and forth as she tries to think of anything she’s missed, and as she reaches out to hand me the files in her hand, she lets them go before I have hold of them and they fall to the ground, spreading haphazardly across the floor.
“No!” She cries, and she falls to her knees to put everything back in the right order. I kneel down to help her and just as Leila turns to help as well, the sound of the lock opening on the main door distracts her and she turns to look at whoever it is who has entered.
“Oh, good morning, Mrs. Lincoln,” She says and I stop, feeling as though my blood has just gone cold.
“Good Morning, Leila,” Elena’s sickeningly familiar voice responds. “Is Mr. Grey in his office?”
“I believe so,” Leila replies. “Would you like me to let him know you’re here?”
“Oh, that’s okay. I’m just going to pop in and say hello before the meeting,” She replies and I drop the papers in my hand and stand up from behind the desk. Elena turns to look at me and her smile falters when she realizes who I am.
“Anastasia,” She says, surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“I work here,” I reply coldly.
“Really?” She asks and then, as if she’s realized the pleasant facade that she’s trying to maintain has slipped, she straightens her posture and smiles sweetly at me. “I thought you were at Harvard?”
“It’s summer break,” I reply, not returning her saccharin disposition. “I’m here as Christian’s intern.”
“I’m surprised. I didn’t realize you and Christian were on speaking terms again.”
“Well, Elena, there might be a lot that you don’t realize. There have been changes over the last few weeks that you’re probably not aware of.”
I watch her nostrils flare as she takes a deep breath in through her nose and swallows the vitriol I know she wants to spit back at me. Instead she smiles again and then turns to walk down the hallway towards Christian’s office. I grind my teeth together and as I turn to see if Andrea has all of the papers sorted out, I see Leila giving me a dubious look out of the corner of her eye.
“Look, I know you probably just saved your job… Can I… make a suggestion?” She asks, and I raise an eyebrow at her. “Look, obviously you know who Mrs. Lincoln is, I guess like you seem to know everyone else, but she’s really not a person you want to be on the bad side of if you want to keep working here. I’m Mr. Grey’s fourth receptionist in the last two years and I’ve been here 11 months. The first one and the one before me are gone because Mrs. Lincoln didn’t like them. She’s… close to Mr. Grey.”
“What do you mean close?” I ask, prying now.
“Well, she seems to have more of a presence around here than any of the other department heads and she doesn’t even work in this building. She’s the only person Mr. Grey will meet outside of the office for a meeting and she’s the only one besides Miss Bailey who can openly question him and not be berated or fired. Look, I know she’s… fake, but you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you just bite the bullet and suck up to her a little bit. I’ve just started to like you, Ana. I don’t want to see you run off like all the other girls that come through here.”
“I’m not worried about Elena Lincoln,” I tell her firmly as I turn and march purposefully around the desk.
“Ana, I really wouldn’t…” Leila calls, but I ignore her.
Christian’s door is closed, and as uncomfortable as that makes me, I find myself pausing and then stopping to listen as I hear their voices coming through the door.
“I’m just surprised is all,” Elena says. “The last time I talked to you, she still wasn’t answering your calls.”
“Well, she did,” Christian replies shortly.
“Are you… I mean, she said she’s working here, but are you two… sleeping together again?”
“That’s none of your business, Elena. My sex life does not concern you.”
“I know… but I came early today to tell you that I met a girl that I think you’d really like. She’s younger than you are, nineteen, but she’s in the lifestyle and she’s experienced. She’s a gymnast, very flexible. I thought you might like to meet her for lunch.”
“I’m not interested.”
“That’s fine,” Elena concedes. “I suppose that means that you at least intend to try and mend things with Anastasia? How’s that going? Has she gotten over what happened? I mean, I know you love her but I worry that maybe her proclivity to run away from you every time the going gets tough, will end up hurting you again. You know how much it pains me to see you wounded.”
I swallow the bile that crawls into my throat and shove open the door. The second I step into the office, Christian bolts out of his seat and Elena turns around, taking a deep, agitated breath when she sees me.
“Get away from him,” I say darkly, and the anger I feel at seeing the two of them together for the first time since the trial has me physically shaking.
“Anastasia…” Elena begins, but I cut her off.
“No,” I say firmly. “You don’t get to be alone with him anymore. Get out.”
“Excuse me?” She asks, turning incredulous eyes on Christian.
“Don’t look at him. I’m not talking to Christian right now, I’m talking to you, Elena, and I’m telling you that you need to leave.”
She doesn’t turn to look at me, her eyes are piercing into Christian as if she’s expecting him to defend her and the confidence she exudes actually sends a shock of fear through me. Is he going to defend her? Surely, after last night, he couldn’t…
He glances between the two of us and then takes a deep breath and stares intently back into her hard gaze.
“The meeting starts in eleven minutes, Elena,” He says calmly. “You can wait in reception.”
I see the carefully constructed look of composure on her face falter slightly as she realizes she’s being dismissed but it’s back just as quickly as it left.
“Of course,” She says graciously, and as she turns for the door she smiles at me. “The past two years have been good to you, Anastasia. You look fantastic. It really is a pleasure to see you again.”
I raise a disgusted eyebrow at her as she sashays out of the office and then turn to look at Christian who is looking at me pointedly.
“I told you,” He says. “She doesn’t mean anything to me. She’s a business associate, Anastasia.”
“I don’t want you alone with her,” I tell him. “I don’t want you to talk to her at all.”
“I promise, Anastasia. You don’t have to worry about her anymore. I’m in control now.”
I exhale sharply, but decide, like Flynn did last night, I should take the small victory. He did ask her to leave. He wasn’t inviting to her, he wasn’t particularly kind to her. He treated her like an employee, nothing more, and he sent her away. That’s acceptable. For now.
With just under ten minutes left until the meeting starts, I’m able to make copies for Andrea and set up the conference room as she asked. I’m just placing a slice of lemon over the rim of Christian’s glass as a group of men and women dressed in expensive suits file into the room and I smile as I realize that one of them is Elliot.
Andrea moves stealthily towards the back of the room to take a seat and as she pulls out her iPad, I move to sit next to her. Everyone takes their place around the table, leaving the seat at the head open, until Christian comes in the room. I can tell he’s trying to hide his exhaustion as his eyes sweep over everyone, and when he settles down into his chair and casually flips through the agenda on the table in front of him, he briefly glances up at Elena, who is seated directly on his right.
“Mrs. Lincoln, you need to move down to the end of the table,” He says and she furrows her brow. I watch as every one of GEH’s executives, including Ros, glance nervously in Christian’s direction. Some even look shocked, as if his statement was the equivalent of striking her across the face.
“Mr. Grey?” Elena asks in a tone that suggests she’s sure that she must have heard him incorrectly.
“Move. Now,” He says, more firmly this time and now she looks shocked. Still, once she’s gathered herself, she gets out of her seat and moves to the only empty place left at the table.
“Miss Steele?” Christian says, gesturing to the empty seat with his eyes before he looks back down at the papers in front of him. Andrea raises an eyebrow at me, mirroring the confused expressions of everyone seated at the table, as I quickly get out of my seat and make my way to the chair next to Christian. I glance back at Elena and see her glaring so fiercely at me, I wonder if she’s trying to strangle me with her mind Darth Vader style.
“Alright, let’s make this quick,” Christian begins. “We’ll start with construction. Grey, where are we at with the new building?”
I turn to look at Elliot, seated across the table from me next to Ros and he has to peel his gaze away from Elena to answer Christian’s question. Clearly, he was not expecting to see her here and he isn’t happy about it.
“The permits were approved by the city last week, we broke ground yesterday,” Elliot says, his tone clipped. “Work on the substructure should begin by Friday morning.”
“Good, I want Taylor to work with you and the architect through every step of the process. There are blind spots in this building that I’d like to avoid in the new construction.”
“Sure,” Elliot shrugs and Christian looks irritably up at him, clearly displeased by his less the formal response, but Elliot isn’t paying attention. He looks over at Elena again, then back at me, and then back at Elena. I give him an I-know-and-I’m-not-happy-about-it-either kind of look, and then turn to Christian who reluctantly moves on.
“Barney, how are we on the GPS upgrade R&D has been working on?” He asks.
There is a sense of tension around the table as Christian moves from department head to department head. He’s firm and almost short with each update he gets and I don’t know if that’s because he’s tired, or if that’s the norm. He does seem to ask a lot of questions that catch his staff off guard and when anyone poses a problem, he’s the one to come up with a solution almost every time. I’m also shocked to hear how well every department seems to be doing and the innovating things they’re working on. I’m realizing, as I’m watching Christian navigate his business, that this is his element. He really is good at this.
“Alright. Esclava,” He says, and he turns his expectant gaze on Elena.
“It’s been a good quarter,” Elena replies tersely, obviously still a little upset about Christian’s dismissal of her at the beginning of the meeting. She passes two blue files up for Christian and Ros to look at as she continues. “Our repeat clientele has increased twelve percent over the last three months and our profits are nearly twenty five percent higher than what we projected.”
“How?” Ros asks, astonished, as she glances at the financial summary in her hand.
“We’ve brought on some new staff in the past few months. I credit a lot of repeat business to their talent. As Mr. Grey says, it’s all about people.”
“And you think this surge of profitability is sustainable?” Christian asks dubiously.
“Absolutely,” Elena assures him. “In fact, I think we’re ready to open a third location. I’ve taken it upon myself to conduct a market survey of the area and we’ve found an available space that we believe is in a prime area while also being extremely affordable. If you’ll just look at page three…”
“Bellevue?” Christian interrupts when he turns the page and Elena smiles.
“The Bravern Center. High traffic, low overhead, high income clientele. I know it well, as should you Mr. Grey. You grew up only a few minutes away from there yourself.”
Christian is quiet for a moment while both he and Ros read over the files in their hands again.
“The numbers don’t lie…” Ros says, eventually. “This is impressive.”
“Fine,” Christian says. “We’ll move on Bravern then.”
“Excellent,” Elena says happily. “I’ll have Andrea schedule a meeting, Mr. Grey.”
“You’ll have to have her schedule it with Miss Bailey,” He replies, uninterestedly as he pushes Elena’s file aside and picks up Andrea’s agenda again.
“What?” Ros asks.
“You’re taking over Esclava. Going forward, Mrs. Lincoln will report to you,” Christian tells her, and then he turns to face the table as a whole. “There are going to be some organizational changes, due in large part to a recent acquisition we have made. As of June first, GEH will take possession of Seattle Independent Publishing. It’s a small publishing firm grown right here in Seattle but it’s on the verge of bankruptcy. We’re going to make them successful again and I’m excited about the opportunities acquiring a publishing press will afford GEH. This is something different than anything we’ve ever done before, but I’m confident in the abilities of our new intern and implementation director, Miss Anastasia Steele, to bring SIP up to GEH standards.”
“What? Me?” I ask, shocked. What does he mean me? I’ve written one book and I haven’t even begun the publication process yet. I don’t know anything about the publishing industry, and I certainly don’t know anything about saving a company from bankruptcy…
“Yes, you,” Christian says. “You’ll meet with the SIP executive team Thursday and be permanently moved into their building at the beginning of next week.”
“But I-” I begin but he cuts me of.
“Is there a problem, Miss Steele?” He asks in his most authoritative CEO tone and I know this is not the time to express my doubt.
“No, Mr. Grey,” I reply meekly and he nods.
“Good. Then we’ll get you everything we have on SIP and you can start your proposal immediately. You’ll also be reporting to Miss Bailey for the duration of this implementation.”
“What?” Ros snaps. “I thought you were handling SIP?”
“No, you’re handling SIP. Miss Steele will report directly to you.”
“Christian, with all due respect, I don’t have the capacity to oversee SIP, Esclava and the state project…”
“I’m taking the state project,” Christian interrupts her.
“You do understand the magnitude of that project? There’s no way that you have time to…” Ros argues, but Christian silences her with a look. She purses her lips and stares angrily down at the papers in front of her.
“Any other concerns?” Christian asks, looking around the table but every single person diverts their eyes away from him, unwilling to question him in his increasingly agitated state. “Good, then we’ll call it a meeting.”
The room is filled with the sound of chairs rolling over the stone floor and shuffling papers as everyone around the table stands and begins collecting their things and I covertly lean over to Christian.
“Christian, this isn’t a good idea,” I hiss at him. “I don’t know the first thing…”
“I’ll help you,” He dismisses me in a low voice so that no one else can hear. “Ros will help you. You’ll be fine. Trust me.”
I furrow my brow as now that I finally know what I’ll actually be doing this summer, I really get to think about what this internship means. On the one hand, this is a huge responsibility and if I pull it off, it’s going to look really great on my resume. I’d graduate next year with invaluable real world experience… However, it also has the potential to make me a punchline in the publishing industry if I fail and after all the hard work I’ve put in at Harvard, that thought is nauseating.
I reach down and pick up the papers in front of me as Elliot comes around the table and leans into Christian.
“Can I talk to you in your office for a minute?” He asks, and I’m surprised slightly by the edge to his tone.
“Yes,” Christian agrees. “I need to talk to you too.” Christian steps aside to let Elliot pass and then exits the room behind him. Once I’ve gathered my things, I weave my way through the few people left dawdling in the conference room to catch up with Ros.
“Oh good, Ana,” She says, pausing before she steps into her office. “I’m sorry, I hope I didn’t offend you back there… I just thought Christian was going to handle your internship. If I would have known he was planning to shift this onto me, then I would have met with you sooner. I have another meeting to get to now, but reserve some time on my calendar and we’ll go over the implementation process together.”
“Ros, I’m not going to lie, I’m really not sure about this…”
“Don’t worry,” She assures me. “Don’t tell anyone, but our jobs are really not that difficult. You’ve got the GEH name behind you and that goes a long way. I’ll be with you every step of the way, and I won’t let you fail, Ana. I promise.”
“Okay,” I say gratefully and as she heads into her office, I make my way back to my laptop to find as much open time on her calendar as I can. When I get behind the counter though, I look up and see Elena step up to the desk, smiling down at Andrea who is sitting next to me.
“I’m going to need to schedule some time with Miss Bailey,” She tells Andrea, saying Ros’s name as if it leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. “And would you check Mr. Grey’s schedule for me? I’d like to have a lunch with him later in the week.”
Andrea pulls up both Christian and Ros’s calendars and frowns. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Lincoln, it looks like Mr. Grey is all booked up, but I can get you some time with Miss Bailey on Friday.”
“Fine,” Elena says. “I’ll just have to see if I can catch Mr. Grey at home.” She gives both Andrea and Leila one last smile before turning tight eyes on me and then she makes her way towards the elevators.
“I’ve got to send out some post meeting emails,” Andrea tells me, “Will you take the meeting minutes back to Mr. Grey?”
“Sure,” I tell her, taking the printed copy of her notes out of her hands. “I’ll be right back.” I get out of my chair, but before I make my way back to Christian’s office, I walk towards the main glass doors. I know Christian isn’t going to give me very opportunities to be alone with Elena, and I really need to lay some things out for her.
“I know what you’re doing,” I say coldly when the door closes behind me.
“Do you?” She asks, turning away from the elevator to face me. The pseudo warmth is gone from both her expression and her tone, but she looks a little shaken up.
“This whole, it hurts me to see you wounded nonsense, is complete bullshit. I get what you’re doing now and you’re right, Elena. You know him, maybe better than anyone else knows him. I didn’t want to believe that was true last time, but it is, and you use that to control him. He’s happy right now and you know that trying to disrupt that will cause him to push you away. So you’re going to sit and wait for something to happen that makes him feel like he’s losing control or for me to slip up and leave him vulnerable again and once that happens, you’ll make your move. But it’s not going to work this time. I’m not underestimating you anymore, Elena, and I’m not going to run like I did last time. I’m not only fighting against you anymore, I’m fighting for him. He has me and his family back on his side and we’re going to make it our sole mission to get him away from you, no matter what it takes.”
I watch her inhale through her nose as my words wash over her and am a little pleased that when she speaks again, she seems slightly unnerved.
“You think you have it all figured out, Anastasia? That maybe Harvard has finally made you clever enough to out maneuver me? If you really believe that you’re going to get him away from me, then you’re in for another rude awakening. You have no idea what you did to him when you left him. He doesn’t trust anyone anymore, except for me. I’m all he has. I don’t need you to slip up, Anastasia. Eventually, his paranoia and need for control will get the better of him and he’ll drive you and his family away again and he’ll come back to me the way he always does. That’s just the way it is. That’s who he is and he proved that to you two years ago. There’s nothing you can do to change that.”
“It’s already changing Elena and I think you can see that. You talk a big game but I can hear the fear in your voice. You’re threatened by me and you should be. I’m going to beat you.”
“Anastasia, didn’t I teach you this lesson last time? You can’t beat me. Do you know why I know him better than any of you? It’s because I’ve created him. I don’t just control him, I own him. Consider this a warning. You’re not going to take him away from me and if you try, I’m going to hurt you again. This is my game, Anastasia, and behind all this bravado you’re trying to put up, you’re just a scared little girl who doesn’t have what it takes to play.”
“I’m not a little girl anymore and I’m not afraid of you. If you want to play games, Elena, consider me all in,” I snap at her, and I turn back into the office, refusing to look back at her as I storm towards Christian’s office. The door is closed but since I know it’s only Elliot inside, I don’t knock. I’m surprised though, when I open the door and see Elliot getting out of the seat across from Christian and walking around the desk. Christian reaches out his hand for Elliot, who then pulls him into a hug.
“There’s nothing to forgive. I’m just happy to have you back,” Elliot says, quietly. “We missed you, Christian. We love you.”
“Still,” Christian says, “I’m sorry, Elliot. I didn’t realize at the time…”
“I know,” Elliot cuts him off. “And we understand that. But now that you can see it clearly, we can move forward as a family.”
“I’d like that,” Christian says and then he glances over Elliot’s shoulder and sees me hovering in the doorway.
“I’m sorry,” I say quickly, “Andrea just asked me to bring you the minutes she took in the meeting.”
“Hey, Ana!” Elliot exclaims, his tone laced with the undertone of guilt one might expect from a child being caught doing something they weren’t supposed to. “We’re just in here talking about man shit, you know, beer, sports, hot chicks…”
“Sure, Elliot,” I say, rolling my eyes. I smile as I see Christian mirror my reaction before he yawns.
“I don’t have anything else on my schedule this afternoon that won’t keep until tomorrow,” He says. “I’m going to head home for the rest of the day.”
“Good, you look like hell, man,” Elliot says. “And I’ve got to get back down to the job site. My skyscraper isn’t going to build itself.”
“Your skyscraper?” Christian asks.
“Yeah, I’m going to put my name in big bold letters right over the front doors,” Elliot replies and surprisingly, Christian chuckles.
As Christian closes his laptop and organizes the last few things on his desk, Elliot turns for the door, but he stops when he gets to me and then wraps me in a huge, lung crushing hug.
“Thank-you, Ana,” He says. “I always knew it would be you, and I was right. You gave me my brother back. I’ll never be able to repay you for that.”
“You don’t owe me anything, Elliot,” I assure him and he smiles.
“You’re never allowed to go anywhere again, do you understand me? If he doesn’t marry you, I might have to, just to keep you around.”
“I think Kate might have opinions on that,” I say with a laugh.
“I also have opinions on that,” Christian says, looking up from the paper in his hands, clearly not amused.
“Then lock this shit down, Christian,” Elliot hisses over his shoulder. He turns back to me and winks before wishing us both a good afternoon and disappearing through the door. Christian makes his way around the desk and he too wraps me in his arms.
“Come home with me?” He asks.
“You need sleep, and me going home with you would be counterproductive to that,” I say pointedly. “Besides, apparently I have a publishing company to research.”
“That you do, Miss Steele,” He says. “You’ll come over tonight?”
“Of course I will,” I assure him.
“Good. I love you, baby,” He says and I moan appreciatively as he presses his lips into mine.
“I know you’re tired, Mr. Grey, but let’s not forget where we are,” I warn him teasingly and he smiles down at me.
“I’ll see you tonight,” He says and I turn and watch him walk out the door before placing the minutes Andrea took on his desk and then heading back out to finish my work day.
When I get back to Escala that night, Christian is still asleep so I head back to my apartment, change out of my work clothes, gather everything I need to get ready for the next day, and grab a book I’ve been meaning to read before returning to the penthouse.
By the time ten o’clock rolls around, I realize that Christian isn’t going to get up, which probably isn’t a bad thing considering how much sleep he’s actually lost over the past few days. When I’m ready to call it a night, I mark my place in my book and then head into his bedroom to crawl into bed with him. He doesn’t wake as I ease myself under the covers and as I stare at his beautiful face, finally serene in sleep, I resist the urge to kiss him since I don’t want to wake him. Instead, I turn over onto my side and close my eyes, but after only a minute or so of lying there in the dark, waiting for sleep to overtake me, I feel his arms wrap around me and from somewhere in the subconscious of his dreams he mumbles:
It’s still dark when I’m stirred awake a few hours later and I’m surprised to find the bed empty next to me. I can hear the soft tinkling notes of the piano drifting in from the living room, so I climb out of bed, take one of the robes off the back of the bathroom door and wrap it around myself as I make my way out to the piano.
Christian is sitting in the dark with the piano lid closed, and he’s fully absorbed in the music he coaxes from the keys. I stand there, holding the robe that smells like him tightly around me, watching him for a minute and when I hear the tempo slow and the forte of the notes begin to wane, I move forward, stopping only once I’m standing next to him.
“That’s beautiful. What is it?”
“Chopin,” He replies.
He pulls me in front of him so that I’m standing between his legs and leaning against the piano keys which let out a cacophonous sound as my behind presses into them. He holds me by the waist, rubbing his thumbs over the soft cashmere robe that envelopes me.
“I was just thinking about your book. Anastasia… I’m so sorry, I didn’t…” He begins but I put a finger to his lips.
“Don’t,” I tell him, the sadness in his voice now reflected in mine. “This is why I didn’t want you to read the book, Christian. It’s over, we can move past it. I don’t want to relive this over and over again… I forgive you, Christian.”
He rests his head against my stomach, letting out a long low breath and I run my fingers through his hair comfortingly until he sits up and looks at me longlingly. Then, slowly, his hands move from my waist to the ties that are holding my robe in place and with nimble fingers he unravels the knot and pulls my robe open. He leans forward and kisses my stomach, his hand gently brushing up my exposed sides towards my bra, leaving a trail of goosebumps behind. When he pulls his lips away from my body, his eyes rake over me, examining me as if he’s admiring a rare work of art, and then he stands, kisses me once and then lifts me onto the lid of his piano.
“I want you,” He whispers.
“Me too,” I reply.
I stare back into his eyes as he reaches up to brush my hair back from my face and takes my lips with his. His tongue brushes lightly against my bottom lip until I grant him access and as our tongues move together in sensual synchrony, his fingers twist into the roots of my hair and he tugs gently so that my head falls back, leaving my neck exposed to him. I feel his hands pull my legs apart as he moves closer into me, and my back arches up towards him as he begins leaving a trail of sensual kisses down my neck, between my breasts… until I’m lying flat, sprawled out over the piano.
My feet press into the keys, filling the apartment with the sound of discordant, inharmonious notes, but it’s almost an erotic manifestation of the way he holds me, the way his hands feel as they move over my body. As he leaves gentle kisses along the line of my hip bones, his thumb pushes past my lips and over my tongue and I suck on him, gently. After a moment he drags his thumb, wet with my saliva down through my cleavage towards my belly button and once he gets there, he leans down and traces the line he left with his tongue. As he moves, his hands pull me up so that my back is arched off the piano and he unhooks my bra, pulling it away from me and then moves his lips to my breast.
I moan at the delicious contact and then gasp as his fingers move down, pull my panties aside and he gently strokes my lips.
“Ah!” I cry out as his teeth graze my nipple while he simultaneously dips his fingers inside of me.
“That’s it, baby,” He cajoles me. “Feel this. Feel what I can do to you.”
“Oh god!” I moan as his thumb begins circling my clitoris in time with the movements of his fingers pumping in and out of me.
“Mmm,” He moans, and then leans down to take my nipple in his mouth once more. He slides another finger inside of me, stretching me and pushing me closer and closer to the edge of release. My hands fly out over the unrelenting surface of his piano, looking for something to grab hold of but there is nothing. I’m spiraling out of control, desperately climbing higher and higher until I’m sure I’m going to explode and just as I’m about to reach the point of no return, he stops and he pulls his fingers out of me.
“Christian…” I whimper and he shakes his head.
“Not yet, baby. I want to be inside of you when you come. I want to feel it,” He tells me and he reaches up and takes his fingers, slick with my arousal into his mouth. “Mmm… So sweet,” He adds approvingly.
“Take me, Christian,” I beg and he groans.
“I wanted your mouth, Anastasia, but I’m not as patient as I once was,” He says and I bite down on my lip as I watch him guide his erection out of his pajama bottoms towards my center, where he strokes himself over my entrance. “Fuck, you’re really wet baby. Is this for me?”
“Yes,” I whisper, the need in my voice overtly apparently.
“You’re so fucking hot like this, Anastasia,” He says, and without warning he thrusts forward, burying himself fully inside of me and I cry out at the harsh but welcome intrusion. “That’s it, baby, take it.”
“Oh god, yes!” I moan and he growls.
“Say my name, Anastasia.”
“Louder,” He commands, making me cry out as he increases his pace and the ferocity of his thrusts. “Scream for me, baby.”
“Oh fuck, Christian!” I yell and he lets out a deep, sexy sound from low in his throat as he leans over, slamming into the keys of the piano with each savage thrust. I feel my insides start to quicken with my impending orgasm and as my cries grow louder and my words become more jumbled, he realizes how close I really am and he slows his pace.
“No, Christian,” I complain but he smiles down at me wickedly.
“Too soon, baby,” He tells me. “I haven’t had my fill of you yet and I plan on coming with you. I want you to build slow so that you come so hard you feel it everywhere when you find your release. I want to take my time with you. I want you to be so sore tomorrow, that every time you move you’ll think about this, about me inside of you.”
I pant as my unquenched desire flames through my body so hot it feels as though my blood begins to boil and every nerve ending in my body is alight with anticipation. I can’t take the delayed gratification any longer, it’s nearly torture to be so tightly bound and on the edge of ecstasy but finding release just out of reach. He says he wants to come with me, then I’m going to make him come.
I reach down and grip the edge of the piano and use it to push myself into him, grinding on him as I move my hips around in a slow, sensual circle. I see his mouth open in a silent gasp of pleasure and he reaches down to to hold my hips in place to stop me. I’m not deterred though. Since he’s holding me still, I clench the muscles inside of me, gripping him tightly again and again, and the added bonus to watching him lose control is that I find myself getting close again.
“Fuck!” He hisses. “Ana, stop, not yet.”
“No, Christian, give it to me,” I beg him. “I can’t wait anymore. Fuck me, Christian. I want to feel you come inside of me.”
He lets out a broken gasp and I know he’s beyond the point of no return. He surrenders to the inevitable and resumes his ruthless pace and seconds later, I detonate. As my orgasm rips through me, his hands loosen their grip on my hips and I push back on him again and again, prolonging the intensity.
“Oh fuck, that’s it baby! Fuck yourself on me while you come,” He commands and as I grind my hips on him again, his body tenses, and then he calls out my name and empties himself inside of me.