Chapter 18

breaking-news

Despite the drama from Leila’s not so quiet exit from GEH, Christian and I are able to have a fairly normal weekend. It turns out that in addition to taking the state project from Ros (which I later found out was the multi-billion dollar fiber optics deal that he had told his dad about over brunch) and continuing to run his ever expanding empire, Christian has been online shopping.

We come home Friday night to several deliveries of things for the apartment and receive even more throughout the day on Saturday. So, we spend the weekend arranging furniture, rolling rugs out over the stone floors, and hanging expensive works of art. It’s a lot of work for one weekend and it’s a little tiring, but I’m glad Christian is doing it with me, rather than hiring an interior decorator to put it together for him. I like the feeling of building a home together with him.

The other good thing about helping put the apartment together is that I finally get to see all of Christian’s penthouse, and it’s gigantic. The library across from his office now actually contains books and the small room next to it is a complete with several black, leather recliners, a fully stocked bar, a pool table, a home theater sized flat screen TV, and four different gaming systems, which Christian assures me are for Elliot. There are four bedrooms upstairs, two of which are now guest rooms while one of the others has been turned into a home gym and the last one an office for me to work out of on the nights I am slammed with SIP business. He’s made it very clear over the weekend that, regardless of how much work I have to do, once I’m not longer working in the GEH building, I’m to be home by no later than 5:30.

He doesn’t work all weekend. There are no conference calls, no emails, no contracts, no reports for him to analyze. It’s the just the two of us, alone and together, and overall, it’s the best weekend I’ve spent with him since the time he took me to Vermont. Even he enjoys the separation from work and so we decide Sunday night that we’re going to extend the weekend by one more day and work from home for my last day at GEH before I have to move to SIP on Tuesday.

Because we were up late together Sunday night, Christian promised me we could have a late start Monday, but that dream is shattered by his phone ringing on the nightstand first thing in the morning, waking us both before we’re ready to start the day.

“No,” I groan when his arms move from their place around me and he rolls over to retrieve his phone. “You promised me, not until nine.”

“It’s 9:30, baby,” He says, with an amused air to his voice.

“Fine. Then no work until we’ve gotten eight hours of sleep.”

“I made love to you until 3:30 in the morning, Anastasia. If you want eight hours of sleep, you’re going to need to take the day off.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I groan. I open my eyes just as he looks down at the screen of his phone and he when he reads the name on the caller ID, he looks confused.

“Who is it?” I ask.

“My lawyer,” He says, pulling back the covers and climbing out of bed before he answers the call. I watch him leave the room, wondering if it’s a bad thing that his lawyer would be calling him first thing Monday morning or if that just goes with the territory of owning a huge company.

I’m secretly hoping that if I don’t get out of bed right away, once Christian finishes his phone call he’ll come back and maybe we can start the morning off in a much more satisfying way, but after thirty minutes of no return, I begin to lose hope of that possibility.

Finally conceding that the weekend is over and that I have to accept my grown up responsibilities and do some work, I roll out of bed and pick up my phone. There’s a text I missed from Kate last night but I’m more interested in the google alert notification at the top of the screen.


Google Alert: Christian Grey

The New York Times, May 31st 2010: Sexual Harassment Charges Brought Against Christian Grey. Several employees of Seattle based Grey Enterprises Holdings have come out this morning with claims that CEO Christian Grey, has violated the […]


Google Alert: Christian Grey

TMZ, May 31st 2010: No work, All Play for Sex Crazed Grey. Looks like Christian Grey isn’t the boss of your dreams after all. This morning, several female staffers of the huge conglomerate company filed civil litigation against Mr. Grey claiming that he pressured them to perform sexual acts in exchange for […]


Google Alert: Christian Grey

The Seattle Times, May 31st 2010: Female Employees File Suit Against Grey Enterprises Holdings CEO. A group of three, as of yet, unnamed female employees have filed suit this morning against GEH CEO Christian Grey claiming he sexually […]


What?

I look around the room, stunned for a minute by what I’ve just read and then break into a sprint towards Christian’s office. I don’t make it there though as I find Christian standing in the living room, phone still to his ear, as he stands in front of the TV with the remote his hand.

“What’s going on?” I ask, but he has to respond to whoever he’s talking to on the phone, so he gestures to the TV with the remote. I turn my attention to the news and my mouth drops open as I read the headlines flashing across the screen.

Female Employees Charge Christian Grey with Sexual Harassment

There is a woman I don’t know standing in front of a building I recognize as the King County Courthouse talking to reporters, and behind her I see three young women: Leila, Suzannah, and another I’m not familiar with. They all look pale, shaken, and visibly upset. I stare into Leila’s face on the screen, focusing on her bottom lip which is quivering ever so slightly, and I feel a wave of nausea.

“Leila is suing you for sexual harassment?” I ask Christian in a trembling voice.

“Apparently,” He replies. “But, Ana, I never touched her.”

“No, I know that,” I reassure him. “But… I don’t understand. What is she… How is she… I mean, why is she doing this?”

“I fired her,” Christian says bitterly. “I’m a public figure, an easy target, and I’m well on my way to being a billionaire.”

“So, she wants money?”

He doesn’t answer. Instead he uses the remote to turn up the volume and I turn back to the TV as Leila steps forward to stand next to her lawyer, a large tear running silently down her face.

“This was a difficult decision to come to,” She says shakily. “And I want to apologize to GEH’s COO Miss Ros Bailey, who is one of the most kind-hearted, ambitious, and inspirational women, and who I know will be affected by what Mr. Grey has done, just as the rest of us were. We simply could not sit back any longer and watch another girl fall victim to Mr. Grey’s predatory advances. No more young women should have to go through what we’ve all gone through.”

Her face crinkles as she breaks out into tears and her lawyer wraps her arms around Leila, holding her close to her and rubbing her hand over her arm gently. The press conference ends and as the news goes back to the reporter commenting on Leila’s bravery, I turn to face Christian and see him pulsing with anger.

Thirty minutes later, the apartment is crowded with lawyers. Andrea called me shortly after the press conference ended and begged me to come in and help her and since I’m more in the way here than anything, I take Luke and make my way into the office. Apparently, GEH is in chaos, fielding calls from reporters, angry women calling to express their outrage, and worse… Christian’s clients, who have seen the news reports and are less than pleased to be associated with GEH as a result. Though Christian is going out of his mind being stuck in the apartment and not at work handling his business and putting out fires, there are too many reporters outside the building and too much he needs to oversee with his legal team to leave Escala. He’s trusting Ros to deal with the client calls, or says he is, but then he calls her every fifteen minutes for updates.

When Luke and I arrive at GEH, struggling to make it into the parking garage through the line of protesters marching up and down the sidewalk, I immediately have to jump into action. They’ve opened extra phone lines to accommodate the increased call volume so no clients are left waiting on the phone, and Andrea and I spend a hectic morning telling media outlets that Christian has no comment at this time, assuring outraged members of the public that Christian is the paragon of business morality and strives for nothing but equality and respect for all women in the workplace, and accommodating clients in anyway we can before directing them to an overly stressed Ros.

Thankfully, the pandemonium dies down a little around noon and we have a second to catch our breath. Andrea runs down to the deli across the street to grab lunch for us, while I deal with the few miscellaneous phone calls that continue to slowly trickle in. When I hang up with what is probably the fortieth person today to call and scream at me about what a pervert Christian is, I rest my head on the desk and fantasize about being lost on an island with him somewhere without any connection to the outside world.

“How are you holding up?” A voice asks, surprising me, and I look up to see Ros leaning on the counter looking at me with concern.

“It’s not my favorite day,” I tell her. “But I’ll be okay. How are you handling everything?”

“Haven’t lost a client yet, thankfully.”

“Have you heard from, Christian? How’s he doing?”

“He’s pissed. He wants to be here and be the one to be talking to our clients, but he’s being held captive in his apartment,” She says and I frown, thinking briefly about calling to check on him but not knowing if he’s too busy for that right now.

“Where’s Andrea?” Ros asks.

“She went to get us lunch. Oh crap, I’m sorry… did you want something?”

“I’m okay, Ana,” She says. “Would you do something for me since she’s not here?”

“Sure.”

“I need you to schedule a meeting between me, Elena Lincoln, the head of accounting, head of finance and HR.”

“Any specific time or date?”

“As soon as possible.”

“Okay. What should I tell them it’s for?”

“I’m going to do an audit on Esclava. I don’t know, something just seems weird about the numbers. I just want to check it out.”

“Okay, sure,” I say, smiling down at my keyboard as I pull up the calendars for all the people requested to be in the meeting. It gives me a sick kind of pleasure knowing that Ros is suspicious of Elena and that she’s not going to just bend over and give her whatever she wants. If Christian isn’t ready to cut all ties with Elena yet, maybe handing her over to Ros is the next best thing.

Once the meeting is scheduled and I’ve sent out the calendar invite, the phone rings again and I groan and brace myself for another onslaught of rage before reaching out to answer it.

“Christian Grey’s office, Anastasia Steele speaking. How may I help you?” I say as sweetly as possible, but I’m surprised by who responds.

“Ana, I need you to come home.” It’s Christian and he sounds worse than he did this morning.

“I can’t…” I tell him. “It’s been crazy here all morning. Andrea doesn’t have any help.”

“I’ll have Ros find someone to help Andrea. You need to come home,” He says and in that moment I see a solemn looking Luke come around the corner.

“I’m going to take you back to Escala, Miss Steele,” Luke says, his tone mirroring Christian’s, and I give him a confused look.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Just come home, baby,” Christian says. The phone clicks and I hear the long drawn out sound of the dial tone.

“H-hold on,” I say blankly as Andrea comes through the glass doors with take out bags from the deli in hand, and I reach down into the drawer to grab my things.

“Andrea, I have to go,” I tell her and she turns panicked eyes on me.

“What? Go? You can’t go…”

“I’m sorry, Miss Parker. Mr. Grey’s orders,” Luke tells her.

“He said Ros is going to find someone to help you. I’m sorry, Andrea,” I say, and because she can’t argue, she just nods and takes her seat next to me, picking up the phone as it rings once more. I give her an apologetic look as I get out of my seat and follow Luke into the elevator.

“What’s going on?” I ask, “You’re kind of scaring me.”

“I’m not really supposed to talk to you about it, Miss Steele,” He says.

“Miss Steele? Luke…”

“No. Stop,” He says firmly. “Look, I know we’re friends, but there are times when I have to be your CPO, Ana, and this is one of those time. My instructions are to get you back to Escala as discreetly as possible. You’ll know once we get home.”

I frown at his reticent attitude but don’t push him any further. He takes me down to the parking garage and quickly directs me to the Lincoln. I move to open the front passenger door, but he stops me and instead holds open the door for the backseat. I raise an eyebrow at him as I climb in and my confusion is heightened as he reaches behind the back seat and pulls out a small, fleece blanket.

“When we get to Escala, I’m going to need you to lie down and put this over you. There are photographers outside the building and Mr. Grey doesn’t want anyone getting a picture of you.”

“What’s going on, Luke?” I ask again, but he just closes the door and makes his way to the driver’s seat.

Escala is a mad house. I only get a brief glimpse of the news trucks and hoard of reporters and paparazzi flooding the sidewalk in front of the building before Luke instructs me to get out of sight, and the next thing I know, we’re stopped in the parking garage. My door opens and I see both Taylor and Ryan, and the latter is holding another, longer blanket. He lifts it up to shield me from the view of the entrance to the garage as I get out of the car and then holds it next to me until I’m in the elevator.

Christian’s apartment is still full and buzzing with activity. I look suspiciously at two people in the foyer yelling at someone over their phones as Taylor leads me into the living room where I find even more people typing furiously on laptops or flipping through papers in thick bound files, and Christian in heated discussion with someone I don’t know.

“Christian?” I ask hesitantly, “What’s going on?”

He looks up at me and I feel a deep sense of dread as I watch his expression morph from anger to something in between regret and pain.

“What?” I repeat nervously, and he reaches out for me and leads me over to the television, where I see Leila sitting across a news desk from a reporter. The headline across the bottom of the screen reads:

Grey Scandal Breaking News

New Victim Identified: Grey’s personal intern Anastasia Steele

Christian picks up the remote and turns the volume on.

“So you’re saying she’s not a victim?” The reporter asks, and Leila shakes her head.

“We’re all victims. What he’s doing is abhorrent, even if some of the women involved don’t have the moral fiber to see that,” Leila replies.

“You said Grey has shown preference to Miss Steele, in what ways did that become apparent?”

“Well, when she first came to GEH, we found out that Mr. Grey wasn’t only paying for her living expenses and her apartment, but that her apartment was in his building, an expensive building downtown. None of the other interns were offered any benefits like that. She got a company car and less than two weeks after she started, she was promoted into a very coveted implementation position for one of GEH’s new acquisitions. She’s a student, she doesn’t have any experience and she was still learning the basics about the company… there’s no way she was qualified for that job.”

Christian reaches up and mutes the TV again and I feel tears begin to well in my eyes as I stare at my name printed in bold font on the bottom of the screen.

“I’m going to make this go away, Anastasia,” He says, as he wraps his arms around me. “I promise you. I’m so sorry, baby.”

Time becomes a very weird concept as I sit on the couch trying to process what’s happening. I’m not sure if it’s minutes or hours that I’m left here feeling like I’m drowning in the ocean of emotions that are too overwhelming for me to identify individually. I’m only half aware of the people milling about the room around me, of the heated arguments that break out over communication failures and preparations for bank transfers. I don’t feel hungry, I don’t feel tired, I don’t feel cold or hot. I feel nothing. Like I’m somehow disconnected from all of my senses and left adrift.

“No!” I hear someone yell from foyer, “I don’t care if he’s not taking visitors. I’m here to see, Ana.” I lean around the corner and watch as Kate, looking worried and dressed like she’s come here straight from work, comes around the corner.

“Ana,” She says when she sees me sitting on the couch, and she rushes to my side and wraps me in her arms. “I just heard a couple hours ago, I got here as soon as I could. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I lie.

“I went to your apartment first, why are you up here?”

“The lawyers are up here,” I tell her and then, because it’s difficult to talk with the noise of twelve or so strangers mulling around the living room, I take Kate by the hand and lead her up the stairs to one of the guest rooms Christian and I put together over the weekend.

“Impressive,” Kate says as she looks around the room. “He’s put this together really quickly.”

“Yeah,” I reply sullenly and she pulls me down onto the bed and grips my hand.

“So what’s the plan? How are we fighting this? I mean, it’s lies… those girls are lying.”

“They’re trying to get a hold of Leila’s lawyer. I think Christian is going to try and offer them a payout to make this all go away as quickly as possible.”

“But that makes it sound like he’s guilty… he’s not guilty, and those things they’re saying about you on the news aren’t true. You got this internship because you deserve it, you’re who he wanted because he knew you’d be great at it. You haven’t slept with him in two years, I can testify to that if I need too…”

“No you can’t,” I tell her.

“Sure I can. Look, I know that’s embarrassing for you and for Christian, but Ana, you have stand up for yourself. You have to fight this. This could ruin both of your careers.”

“I’m not worried about being embarrassed.”

“Then what is it?”

“I’m sleeping with him, Kate,” I admit, looking down at the comforter. “I have been for a little over a week.”

“What?” She gasps. “But I thought…”

“I lied,” I tell her, but before I can elaborate any further, my phone buzzes on the comforter and I look down and see Carrick’s name flash across the screen.

“Hi, Carrick,” I answer.

“Ana, are you with Christian?” He asks.

“Yes, I mean… no. I’m at his apartment, but he’s downstairs with his lawyers.”

“Are you okay?”

“I don’t know, to be honest. I’m a little shaken up. I’m scared, Carrick. I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t know what to do.”

“It’s going to be okay,” He says comfortingly and once again, I feel a tear roll down my face.

“He didn’t touch any of those girls, Carrick. It’s all lies.”

“I know.”

“You do?”

“Of course I do. I know my son, Anastasia. He’s a victim of sexual abuse. I know what that’s done to him even if he won’t admit it. There’s no way he would inflict that on another person.” He says and my only response is a series of muffled gasps and sobs.

“What about you?'” Carrick asks.

“Me?”

“Are you two sleeping together?”

I hesitate for a second and take a deep breath. “Yes,” I admit. “But it’s consensual and it has nothing to do with GEH. He hasn’t offered me anything in return for sexual favors.”

“And this Leila Williams, she knows about you two?”

“Yes. She’s, I don’t know… in love with him, and she found out I was sleeping with him so she called me a whore and Christian fired her. She told me before she left that she would ruin him and I would regret ever coming to GEH.”

“Who does he have representing him?”

“Uh… his corporate council? I think it’s Kramer and… uh…”

“Feinstein,” Carrick finishes for me. “Idiots. It’ll be okay, Anastasia. I don’t want you to worry, okay?”

“Okay…” I reply, though the uncertainty is still apparent in my voice. He doesn’t comment on it though. Instead he hangs up and I pull the phone away from my ear, throwing it back down on the bed and turning guilty eyes on Kate.

“Why didn’t you tell me…?” She asks, slightly hurt and I take a deep breath and wipe a tear away before I answer.

“Because of this,” I say quietly. “I was afraid that something like this would happen. You’re with Elliot, Elliot is GEH. I know he means well all the time and I know he wouldn’t ever purposefully tell anyone, but he’s careless sometimes. He likes to tell jokes and I was afraid he’d make some comment, just trying to be funny, and someone would overhear him. I just didn’t want people to think Christian hired me so he could fuck me and I didn’t want people to think I was using him.”

“You’re doing more than just sleeping with him,” Kate infers and I nod. “What happened? When did everything change?”

I recount nearly everything that has brought Christian and I to this point over the last couple weeks and am surprised at how understanding she is, rather than being angry that I hid our relationship from her. And, to be honest, her accepting attitude makes me feel even more guilty.

“So that’s why he apologized to Elliot,” She says, as I finish with Christian’s pain filled confession in my living room after reading my book last Tuesday morning. “And you think he means it. He’s really turning around?”

“Yeah. But, if I’m being honest… I don’t know what all of this is going to do to him. He wants to believe that he’s in control of his relationship with Elena, but he relies on her when he feels lost or threatened… This is exactly the kind of thing that would drive him back to her and I don’t know if he’s in the place yet where he knows that he’ll be able to handle this without her.”

“Do you think she has anything to do with it?’ Kate asks.

“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past her,” I reply darkly.

“Either way… whether it’s Elena or it’s just this Leila girl, this is such a deplorable thing for her to do. I mean, beyond what it could do to you, to Christian, to GEH… this will have consequences for women everywhere, for actual victims of sexual crimes. The last thing that we need is another reason for people to believe that women lie about things like sexual harassment and rape.”

“I don’t think Leila’s thinking about things like that right now.” I say quietly and Kate lets out a harsh breath of exasperation.

“I don’t give a fuck what she’s thinking about, her intentions don’t change anything. I really hope Christian drags her over the coals. In fact…” She says, her eyes brightening with sudden realization. “Maybe it would help his case and help mitigate some of the woman bashing fallout if a female reporter with access to mass media distribution were to write a piece showing support for Christian and calling out the atrocity of her lies.”

“I’m sure Christian would appreciate your support, Kate,” I tell her, giving her a weak smile. She squeezes my hand once more and as I take a few deep calming breaths to regain some sense of composure, my phone rings again.

“Carrick?” Kate asks but I shake my head, an overwhelming sense of dread crossing over me as I look down at the unknown number.

“Kate… it’s a 617 number,” I tell her and her eyes widen, reflecting the same fear that I feel in the pit of my stomach.

“Harvard,” She whispers.

I take another deep breath, answer the call and then slowly bring the phone up to my ear. “H-hello?”

“Good evening. I’m trying to reach Miss Anastasia Steele.”

“This is she.”

“Ah, Miss Steele. This is James Harris, I’m the Dean of Students at Harvard University. I have some questions about your internship with Grey Enterprises Holdings.”

“Okay.”

“Miss Steele, it surely hasn’t escaped your attention that you’ve been implicated in charges currently being brought against Mr. Christian Grey for offering professional advantages in exchange for sexual favors?”

“It’s not true,” I tell him. “My relationship with Mr. Grey in regards to GEH has been entirely professional. I knew him when he was a student at Harvard himself. He’s familiar with my work ethic and my skill set. I was selected for this internship based entirely on merit, I assure you.”

“And how do you respond to the reports that you have received additional privileges or perks that other interns at GEH didn’t. Claims have been made that while the standard internship at GEH pays merely minimum wage and congruent credit through the intern’s academic institution, you’ve received a luxury apartment, a new car, and a living stipend?”

“I, uh…” I stutter and Kate waves her hand to get my attention.

“You need a lawyer,” She mouths, shaking her head as a sign for me not to answer. I swallow and continue.

“Mr. Harris, I can’t speak to what the other interns have been offered in exchange for their tenure at GEH and due to the sensitivity of this subject, I’d be more comfortable answering your questions after consulting a lawyer.”

“Very well, Miss Steele. I need to inform you then that Harvard University will be launching an investigation into your internship as you have been granted congruent credit through the university and we have reason to believe you’ve violated Harvard’s code of conduct and ethics in regards to academic integrity.”

“Mr. Harris, I would never do anything to violate the university’s code of conduct. I assure you, my internship with GEH is entirely legitimate.”

“I hope so, Miss Steele, because if our investigation proves otherwise, you should be aware that the consequence will be expulsion from Harvard University.”

A wave of cold fear courses over me as the weight of his words hit me and I realize that now everything I’ve worked so hard for over the last three years is at risk. I can’t lose Harvard, it’s everything to me. Shit, what would my dad say?

“Have a good evening, Miss Steele,” Mr. Harris says, and he hangs up, leaving me feeling like I’m drowning again.

“H-he said expulsion, Kate,” I say, and she gapes at me.

“We’ll fight this then. Fuck a settlement,” She says. “We’ll get you a lawyer and we’ll fight this. Ana, you’re innocent. You have nothing to be afraid of.”

I’m shaking, the phone still in my hand as I try and process what’s happening. Kate reaches out to hug me again but I can’t handle that right now. I can’t sit here anymore, I need to be doing something. I need to know that something is being done to save my academic future.

“Christian!” I yell, suddenly jumping out of the bed and racing for the stairs. “Christian!”

I find him in the living room, going over something with one of the lawyers, but when he sees me flying down the stairs towards him and hears the tremble in my voice, he turns away and rushes over towards me.

“Ana, what’s wrong?” He asks, his eyes searching mine.

“I just got a call from Harvard,” I tell him, on the edge of tears once again. “They said that I’ve violated the code of ethics. They’re going to do an investigation and I could be expelled. I can’t lose Harvard, Christian. I can’t. Please, please don’t let me lose Harvard.” I beg and I break down, weeping into his shirt.

“Oh, Ana,” He says, his arms wrapping comfortingly around me. “It’s going to be okay. I’ll make it okay, I’ll find a way.”

“How?”

I feel him move as he turns to his lawyer. “Fix this,” He hisses, and the room is alive with noise once again as the lawyers return to their work.

I pull away from him and feel his thumb brush away the moisture on my cheek and just as he leans down to kiss me, we both hear the ping of the elevator and turn towards the sound to see Carrick step into the foyer. Christian stiffens immediately as his father’s eyes fall on him and he moves into the living room.

“What are you doing here?” Christian asks.

“I came to help,” Carrick replies. “Where are we at?”

We’re fine,” Christian says, emphasizing the word to illustrate that Carrick is not included in the ‘we’.

“Christian…” I say, looking up at him with imploring eyes and I see his jaw tense as he stares back at me. “Please. Let him help.”

There is an overwhelming aura of tension billowing around me as I watch Christian mull the decision over in his mind. He glances at his father, standing only a few feet away, then back at me before letting out a long, low breath.

“We’re trying to reach Miss Williams’ lawyers,” Christian says eventually, in a heavy voice. “My counsel is of the opinion that the fastest way to make this all go away is to offer a settlement.”

“Do you think this is about money?” Carrick asks.

“Sure,” Christian shrugs. “She’s just lost her job, she knows I have the means to pay to keep her quiet.”

“Ana?” Carrick asks. I shake my head.

“It’s about revenge,” I tell him. “She wants you, Christian. She thought she was getting close and then we crushed her. You humiliated her in front Andrea and Luke and… me, the person she feels she lost everything to. Before she left she told me she would ruin you, that I had no idea what she was capable of. This is about revenge, Christian. She wants to hurt you.”

“So what do we do?” Christian asks, turning back to his father and Carrick turns to address the room as a whole.

“Someone needs to get down to the courthouse, now. We’re going to file an injunction to keep her from talking to the media and get her off the TV. Next we’ll file countersuit for defamation of character and industrial sabotage. I need case files and court decisions on breaches of both tort and contractual fiduciary responsibility between an ex-employee and former employer. I’m going to need the GEH personnel files for each one of these girls. I want to know everything about them, their hire date, previous employment, performance reviews, everything.”

As Carrick issues his marching orders, I find myself impressed at the confidence he exudes, especially considering the men who immediately launch into action to carry out his commands are dressed in Armani suits and he’s standing before them in a pair of jeans and a Seahawks sweatshirt.

“I presume you two have something in writing to disclose your relationship to HR?” Carrick asks both Christian and I.

“Yes,” Christian says. “We drew up paperwork and Ana gave it to HR last week.” He turns to look at me and I feel the blood drain out of my face. “You did give it to HR last week, didn’t you?”

“I forgot…” I say and Christian’s face hardens immediately.

“You forgot?” He snaps.

“I-it’s on my desk at work… with everything that happened with Leila on Friday, I forgot all about it.”

“Jesus, Ana,” Christian says, running his hands through his hair with frustration and Carrick places a reassuring hand on my shoulder.

“We’ll figure out the paperwork. Leila is the young woman accusing you of harassment, right? What happened on Friday?”

I watch as Carrick takes a seat on Christian’s couch and pulls out a notepad and a pen while Christian explains why and how Leila was fired. To both mine and Christian’s dismay, Carrick informs us that exposing her to our sexual liaison over the phone on Friday, whether by accident or not, gives her a valid claim for sexual harassment.

“Thankfully though, she’s not claiming that the harassment in question occurred because of your uh… because of the event that occurred last Friday, she’s accusing you of attempting to force her into having sexual relations with you,” He says. “In this case, her lies are going to protect you from a very legitimate claim that she could have used against you. In order to avoid lawsuits such as these in the future, I would suggest you both keep your private matters confined to your private residence.”

Christian and I glance guiltily at one another before turning to Carrick, and with a sheepish look, Christian asks him to continue. Carrick asks Christian a long list of questions about Leila and her time in his office and about the other victims who Christian doesn’t even know. I try and pay attention but I find myself distracted by the news ticker running across the bottom of the screen, still displaying my name. This whole situation feels surreal, like I’m caught in a nightmare that I can’t get out of.

Kate is helping Mrs. Jones in the kitchen, cooking dinner for the dozens of people who it seems will be working here late into the night. I feel like I should probably offer my help but I’m a little dazed. This whole Harvard thing has me really thrown off. I’m supposed to start at SIP tomorrow, but now… I’m just sitting here wondering if I should quit. Experience isn’t worth anything if I don’t have a degree.

As I sit on the back of the couch, staring into space and trying to decide what I should do, I see Taylor come out of his office and walk purposefully towards us.

“Mr. Grey,” He says and Christian looks up at him but immediately brushes him off.

“Not now, Taylor,” He says.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Grey, but Mrs. Lincoln is on her way up.”

“What?” Christian exclaims and my head snaps up in the direction of the elevator as we hear the loud ping that announces her arrival. Christian gets off the couch and storms angrily towards the foyer and after a brief look between myself and Carrick, we both get up and chase after him.

I come around the corner just in time to see her step out of the elevator and hold out her arms to wrap Christian in a hug.

“What are you doing here, Elena?” he asks, pushing her away, and she looks up at him with concern.

“What do you mean, Christian? I heard what that horrible little tramp receptionist of yours was saying about you to the media, I had to come check on you. What can I do to help?”

“You can leave,” He says and she gives him a pained kind of smile.

“I know this difficult but-” She begins and then her eyes fall on Carrick and I hovering in the entrance of the foyer and her eyes go cold.

“Oh, I see…” She says. “You have company.”

“I do,” He replies curtly, “So if you could just…”

“Hello, Carrick.” Elena says, cutting Christian off. “It’s good to see you again. You know I was just thinking about you and Grace the other day. I meant to call her and see if she wanted to have lunch. I get to see Elliot and Christian quite often but I’ve missed little Mia terribly. How is she?”

I’m able to reach out in time to stop Carrick from physically launching himself across the room at her and when I look back, Christian is gripping her by the upper arms and pushing her back into the elevator.

“That’s enough,” He snarls at her, “You need to leave. Now. And do not come back here.”

“Christian, I know you’re upset,” Elena says. “I just want to help you. Call me later, we can talk.” She kisses her fingertips and reaches out to lightly touch the side of Christian’s face but he shrugs her off and turns back around to face his father. As the elevator doors close, Carrick stares at Christian, fire blazing behind his eyes and I worry for a second that he’s going to leave. That’s what happened last time he saw Elena and Christian together at that restaurant. He blew up at Christian and he left. I think Christian is worried too because he stares back into his father’s eyes with nervous uncertainty as we wait for him to say something.

“We have work to do,” Carrick says eventually, and although his voice is strained by the hint of anger beneath his tone, relief washes over me. He’s going to stay and help Christian. He’s coming around.

Once they’re back on the couch and Carrick continues his line of questioning, I begin to walk back into the living room to join them, but now my mind is fixated on Elena and the ease at which she seems to be able to gain access to Christian. She has the permissions to get into his office, she has his phone number, she has the code to the elevator to get into his house…

She has something to do with this. I know that this is because of Leila and that she’s more than capable of coming up with this horrible revenge scheme on her own, but my gut tells me that Elena is involved… and I’m going to find out how.

I turn around to follow her down into the garage but just as I reach out for the elevator button, a hand clasps around my wrist.

“Let it go, Ana,” Luke says, looking at me seriously.

“She has something to do with this, Luke,” I argue but he shakes his head.

“Then we’ll deal with it. That’s our job, and that’s the job of the lawyers in the other room. You shouldn’t be around her. Mr. Grey doesn’t want that, and neither do I.”

“Luke…”

“No, Anastasia. I’m not letting you go down there,” He says, and as if to make his point, he tightens his grip around my wrist.

I glare at him, feeling, for the first time, real anger with him. He’s really going to stop me. “You know, I don’t know if I like CPO Luke,” I tell him and he narrows his eyes.

“Then you shouldn’t have asked for him.”

I press my lips together in a tight line and yank my arm out of his grip. He responds by stepping between me and the elevator and so with an exaggerated huff, I turn around and march angrily back into the living room.

By the time I’m ready for bed that night, most of the lawyers have left, but not all of them. Carrick and Christian are deep in conversation and between that and the few people left hovering around printers spewing out court dockets from cases involving sexual harassment or slander, I wonder if Christian’s planning on going to bed anytime soon.

“Hey,” I say to Christian, giving Carrick an apologetic look for interrupting his conversation. “I’m tired.”

“Okay,” he replies. “Go to bed, baby. I’ll be in soon.”

“Okay,” I nod and lean in to give him a gentle, chaste kiss and then hug Carrick before making my way back to the bedroom.

Despite how tired I am, I’m not able to fall asleep. My brain is too crowded, thinking of everything I stand to lose with this Harvard investigation and what my dad would say if he knew the position I’d gotten myself into. I don’t know what kind of internet access he has or if he’s even interested in paying attention to that kind of stuff over there, but part of me is terrified some article about me having sex with my boss in exchange for professional favors is going to get to him. I couldn’t face the look of utter shame and disappointment I know I’d see in his eyes if he read something like that about me. The very thought makes me want to be sick and now, with the secret out, there’s nothing I can do to stop it. He’s gone to war to give me every opportunity in this world, everything I’d ever dreamed of. He sacrificed years of his life for me to go to Harvard and I might have just thrown it all away for a few minutes of hot sex.

I’m not sure how long I lie there wallowing in self-pity, but I’m sure it’s hours. Christian never comes and gets in bed with me and when I eventually roll over to look at my phone and see that it’s nearly two o’clock in the morning, I decide to find out what’s keeping him.

The apartment is dark as I attempt to navigate my way back out to the living room. Everyone has gone home so I know Christian isn’t just up working late, but I can’t find him. He’s not in his office, not in any of the rooms upstairs, not in the kitchen or the living room. The house is black and empty.

He’s not in control. He’s mad and scared and there’s one person who he always relies on when he needs someone to calm him down…

My breath catches in my throat as the fear that he’s gone to see Elena creeps into my mind, but just as I’m about to race back to the bedroom for my phone, a small movement from the balcony catches my eye.

He’s standing there, in the dark, leaning on the steel railing and staring out over the twinkling city lights and the inky black water behind them. I frown and then make my way out to join him. He doesn’t look back at me when I step through the door and into the night air that feels overly chilly as I’m dressed only in Christian’s t-shirt, and as I walk forward to join him, I notice a half empty tumbler of amber liquid resting on the table next to a lounge chair.

“Hey,” I say, “What are you doing out here?”

“Why are you awake, Anastasia?” He asks, still not turning to look at me.

“I couldn’t sleep,” I tell him. “I didn’t know where you were.”

He doesn’t answer that, I simply hear him let out a long low sigh and then watch him stand a little straighter against the railing.

“Are you okay, Christian?” I ask.

“I’m twenty one years old, Anastasia,” He replies so quietly that I have to strain to hear him. “I started my company when I was nineteen. Do you have any idea how difficult it was, how hard I’ve had to work to get people to take me seriously? I am Executive of the Year. They’ve called me a ruthless titan of the business world, a prodigy… and now all anyone will see me as is a kid who can’t control his fucking dick and who harasses young women who work for him. One lie, and I’m a joke.”

“No, Christian, you’re not a joke. This is why your dad wants to fight this, why it’s better that you don’t settle. You’re going to beat her, and you’re going to prove to everyone that you are not somebody who can be threatened or pushed around. You are a titan. You are a prodigy. When this is over, everyone will know that nobody fucks with Christian Grey.”

“I’m sorry that I got you wrapped into this, Ana. This isn’t fair to you and I swear to you that I will clear this up. I will not let her ruin anything for you. I only want to give you things, Anastasia. I never want to take anything away from you.”

“You don’t,” I tell him. “This isn’t your fault, Christian. She’s… crazy. That’s it and we’re going to get through this together. You’re not taking anything away from me. You give me everything. Just the way you hold me, you kiss me, you look at me, you give me everything.”

Finally he releases the steel railing and turns to me, reaching out and pulling me into him. His arms are tight around me, keeping me firmly in place against him, and for several minutes, we don’t move. We just stand there holding each other while we listen to the faint sounds of the city below. I move my head and gently place a kiss against the part of his shirt covering his chest and when I look up at him, he leans down and kisses me. His lips are cold when he presses them into mine, but the tender way he reaches up and caresses the back of my neck as he keeps me tight against him makes it difficult for me to care. I moan my approval as he slips his tongue into my mouth and when he moves his hand to reach up under my t-shirt and gently brushes his fingertips over my sides and cups my breast, this sweet moment between us suddenly morphs into something… hotter.

A deep carnal shiver rocks through me when his fingers clamp down over my hardening nipple and I reach down and grip onto him, feeling his firm erection through his suit pants.

“Oh, Ana,” He whispers. “I want to fuck you. Out here.”

I whimper in response which he must take as an affirmation because he moves me backwards until I’m pressed into the window behind me and though I feel the chill of the glass through my thin t-shirt, the burn that his passion leaves in my skin is hot enough that I hardly notice. I reach up and wrap my arms around his neck as he reaches down to lift me so that I can wrap my legs around him. I hold onto him as tightly as possible, kissing him, while he reaches down to undo his fly and release his erection. His fingers grip tightly to the thin band of my panties and with a harsh tug, he tears them down the middle, exposing me to him.

I gasp as he reaches down and swiftly buries himself inside of me. This is so quick! A hungry groan escapes his lips as he thrusts forward, pushing into me so hard that the glass wall begins to shudder slightly. I want to push back against him, but he holds me firm and steady, diving into me again and again, and I’m unable to do anything but cling onto him and revel in the pleasure. He grips my chin, holding my face in place as he kisses me, roughly. He moans and as I feel his fingers press tightly into the side of my face, I realize that this is more than just burning, passionate lust. This is a release of the stress and the fear and the doubt that he’s been overcome with over the long hours of this interminable day. This is real need, and knowing that I can give him an escape, a means for release, by doing this, pushes me into that dark, carnal place where I begin to build and build and… ah!

“Oh god, Ana,” He gasps, his labored breathing hot and harsh next to my ear. “I’ve needed this so much.”

“Yes, Christian!” I moan, my body alive with sensation and deep, primal need for this beautiful, perfect man.

“That’s it, baby,” He encourages me. My body trembles in his arms, and as I begin to clench around him, my impending orgasm just moments away, he realizes how close I am and he forces himself into me with a needy desperation that is a confusing cocktail of worry and eroticism.

“Come with me, Ana,” He says, the order tipping me over the edge and I explode around him, throwing my head back as I scream his name to the still lively city below us.

“Look at me,” He commands. I force myself to turn and look into his burning gray eyes, my mouth agape as the uncontrollable cries of pleasure tumble from my lips while my orgasm continues to wash over me, as he stares back at me intently, I feel his body shudder and he finds his release inside of me.

I’m weak when he eases me back onto the cold terrace, the exhaustion from the late hour and the long day mixing with the sex haze that still has a hold of me. Christian zips up and then scoops me back into his arms and carries me to his bed. Once he’s undressed and under the covers with me, I roll over onto him, my head on his chest, and he wraps his arms around me once more.

“This is going to work itself out, Christian,” I assure him. “You’ll see. This isn’t going to beat you. The truth is what matters, and you have the truth on your side. No matter what happens, no matter what they say about you or print about you, nothing can change that. You’re Christian Grey. You’re the smartest, strongest, most capable person I know. I believe in you. No matter what.”

He doesn’t say anything in reply, but he does tilt his head down to kiss my hair and his hand gently caresses my arm as we lie there together in the darkness and the silence.

“Move in with me,” He whispers, and I look up at him with a furrowed brow. “I don’t want you to have your things in the other apartment, I want them here, with mine. I don’t want your bed and my bed, I want our bed. Our room. Our home. Move in with me, Anastasia.”

I take a deep breath and look into his imploring eyes as I contemplate his request. We’ve only been back together for just over a week, and even though he’s come so far in such a short amount of time, part of me thinks this is too fast. I mean, couples without problems like traumatic bonding with child molesters don’t move in with each other for months, years even… But, then again, I don’t know that other couples love each other in the same absolute and all consuming way that Christian and I do.

“Okay,” I tell him and as the uncertainty in his expression fades away and he leans down to kiss me, I’m able to take one second to forget everything and just enjoy the feel of his lips on mine.

Next Chapter

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