Chapter 20

Image result for monopoly

Google Alert: Christian Grey

ABC News, June 4th 2010: Christian Grey, Setting the Record Straight. He’s been called a philandering predator and she’s facing allegations of accepting lavish gifts and professional favors in return for engaging in a forbidden office affair. Tune in tonight as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele fight back against the accusations of Leila Williams in ABC’s continued coverage of the Grey Enterprises Holdings Sex Scandal. 10 PM EST/7 PM PST.

I have to leave work early on Friday afternoon for mine and Christian’s national interview with Elizabeth Vargas. This interview has been the source of a great ball of anxiety that’s had my stomach tied up in knots since Christian told me about it Wednesday evening. Not because I’m about to go and detail my sexual relationship with Christian on national TV, but because I’m not sure what kind of access my dad has to the media in Iraq. While I sit in the backseat of the Lincoln as Luke drives through the streets of downtown Seattle to the KOMO 4 News station, I stare down at the paper in my lap. On it are several attempts of a letter I’m trying to write for my father, but everything I’ve written so far, has been crossed out.

Hey Dad, remember how I told you I haven’t been seeing anyone? Well, that wasn’t exactly true…

Hi Daddy, I hope everything is going well for you. Things could be better here… I’m caught up in a sex scandal with my internship but if you hear anything about it, I don’t want you to worry. Christian isn’t sexually harassing me, we’re in love.

Dad, I miss you. I wish you were here because I wish I could introduce you to my boyfriend Christian Grey. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him… he used to be a student at Harvard with me but now he owns a huge company in Seattle. It’s really impressive and he’s really smart and driven. There are a lot of things being said about the two of us in the media right now and if you hear any of it, I don’t want you to worry. It isn’t true. He’s the kindest, most generous, caring man in the entire world and he loves me. I love him. I don’t know why I haven’t told you about him until now…

I frown down at my latest attempt at the letter and cross the words out with frustration. There’s just no way to get around sounding like I’m trying to cover up a sex scandal. That’s my fault. I waited until there was a sex scandal to tell my father about the first man I’ve ever loved, and now it’s going to come off like I’m hiding something or lying to him. It’s hard to convince your father, who is almost 7000 miles away, that you’re deeply and truly in love with someone for the first time when you have to preface that with ‘Despite what you may have read, I’m not having sex with him for an internship’.

I throw my letter down on the seat next to me and look down at the pile of manuscripts I’ve brought from the office. At least Christian and I are getting away together this weekend. After this interview, we’re going straight back to Escala to pack and then it’s off to the airport for two days of peace from the paparazzi and from the lawyers constantly coming in and out of our apartment. I rest my head against the back of my seat, close my eyes, and try to push away the stress from this last week as I imagine Christian and I in some strange city where I’ve never been.

Only a few more hours.

“Do you want me to put on some music, Ana?” I hear Luke ask from the driver’s seat. I open my eyes, look up at him, and see his gaze fixed on me in the rear view mirror.

“No, I like the quiet,” I tell him.

“You’re going to be okay,” He assures me. “You have nothing to hide. This interview is your chance to show that to the world and to change the narrative about you and Mr. Grey. Kate’s article is coming out Monday… this is all going to be a distant memory in a couple weeks.”

“I hope so, Luke,” I reply, and he gives me a reassuring smile as he turns into the studio, behind locked gates that will finally keep the paparazzi away from the car so that I can get into a building without being mobbed for the first time since this story broke on Monday.

When the car comes to a stop at the back entrance of the studio, there is a woman in a sharp black suit and two men who look like security guards there waiting for me. I climb out of the back of the SUV and the woman walks quickly towards me, holding out her hand.

“Miss Steele? My name is Bridget Kaiser and I’m the station manager here at KOMO news. We’ve got a dressing room set up for you to wait in until the interview begins, if you’ll follow me.” She turns around and begins walking purposefully into the building and I give Luke an uneasy glance before I follow after her. Miss Kaiser is sharp, precise, and talks very quickly. Not exactly the kind of person to put your nerves at ease…

She leads me into a small, well lit dressing room with a large, cushy sofa, two smaller, stiffer looking chairs, and a small coffee table with a basket of fruit and several bottles of chilled water resting on top. Against the far wall, there is a long counter covered in cosmetics and different hair styling tools and products. Standing in front of it are two severe looking people dressed entirely in black, each giving me an examining stare.

“Please have a seat, Miss Steele,” Miss Kaiser says, gesturing to the director style chair in front of the makeup counter. “This is Alex and Lana, they’ll be getting you ready for the cameras.”

“Where’s Christian?” I ask.

“I’m sorry, Miss Steele. Mr. Grey hasn’t arrived yet.”

“But I’m late…”

“I’m sure he’ll be here momentarily,” She says. She gives me a pacifying smile but when I don’t drop my gaze she turns to her assistant. “Will you get me an update on Grey’s arrival?” She asks. Her assistant nods and leaves the room and she turns back to me, a well practiced look of gleeful hospitality plastered across her face. “If you need anything else Miss Steele, please let us know.”

I nod as she turns around to leave the room but as Alex and Lana both make their preparations to start doing my hair and makeup, I turn to Luke, who has settled down on the couch and is going through the fruit on the coffee table.

“Will you find out where Christian is?” I ask him nervously. He looks up at me, concern etched on his face once again when he sees the expression I give him, and he stands immediately.

“Of course I will,” He says, and as he takes out his phone and turns to leave the room, I make my way to sit in the chair in front of the mirror.

“Well, Miss Steele,” Lana says in a thick Russian accent as she stares at me in the reflection of the mirror. “What shall we do with you today?”

“I don’t care,” I reply quietly. “Just… keep it natural.” She nods and picks up some kind of cream to put on my face. Alex begins running a brush through my hair, a wide barrel curling iron heating up on the counter, and while they both poke and prod their way around me, I stare vacantly into my reflection in the overlit mirror. I look pale, ghostly even, and I know it’s because of the nerves. Even sitting here, I can’t stop picturing my dad watching this news report, completely blindsided on some remote base in front of all of his friends. I know what that feels like, and the guilt that grips me because of it, is overpowering.

I have to get a grip on myself though… I don’t want Christian to see me like this. It isn’t his fault I never told my dad anything and if he sees me looking like this, I know he’ll get the wrong idea as to why.

I take a deep, steadying breath and as I slowly release it and suck in my cheeks so that Lana can apply some foundation to my skin, I see Luke come in the door behind me.

“Well?” I ask.

“He’s stuck in a meeting,” Luke says. “Taylor says it’s already gone an hour over schedule and it doesn’t look like it will wrap up for at least another thirty minutes. He said he hopes they’ll be here within the hour.”

“An hour?” I repeat. “But, the interview starts in twenty five minutes.”

“I know… He’s going to get here as soon as he can. Andrea’s on the phone with the studio working it out as we speak.”

I turn back to the mirror, trying to stay still and stop the nervous fiddling so that Alex and Lana can continue their work, but it’s difficult with this new added stress. Luke comes up next to me and rests his hand on my arm.

“I’ll be right back, okay?”

“Okay,” I say, with a slight nod, and when he turns to leave, I’m alone again.

Twenty minutes later, my makeup is finished and Alex finally lets me get up so that he can coat my hair with entirely too much hairspray to keep it from “falling flat under the hot lights”. I take a seat on the sofa, reaching for the remote to turn on the TV, which hangs from the ceiling like the kind you see in hospital rooms, but before I find something that I find even remotely interesting, the door opens and Luke re-enters the room, to my surprise, with Kate and Elliot in tow.

“Kate!” I say, feeling a small wash of relief. “What are you doing here?”

“Luke called us,” She explains. “He said he didn’t think you were doing very well and thought you could use some more people around you. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I say dismissively, but that’s never worked on Kate. “Well… I am about to go on national TV to try and convince the entire world I’m not a slut.”

“Stop it, Ana. Don’t think about it like that. You’re a girl who fell in love with a hot, sexy boy who became a hot, sexy, CEO. This isn’t the horrible thing everyone wants to make it out to be, this is a fairytale. Every girl’s dream. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.”

I pause and stare back at her gratefully. No matter what, Kate has my back, and she always knows what to say to pick me up when I’m down.

“I’ve missed you,” I say, resting my head on her shoulder and she wraps her arms around me.

“Well that is the one downside of all of this,” She says. “You’re too busy having sex with the hot, sexy CEO to hang out with your best friend.”

“Oh, she hangs out with her best friend,” Luke taunts her and Kate turns to glare at him.

“You watch your mouth, Luke Sawyer. I am not intimidated by you or your muscles and I will murder you if you think you’re going to take my place.” She says harshly and both Luke and I laugh.

“There, that’s better,” Kate says, smiling at me as I pull away.

“I’m sorry you had to come all the way down here,” I tell her. “It’s the middle of the work day, I’m going to get you fired.”

“Nah, that’s the beauty of it all. My boss is my dad. If he tried to fire me, I’d just tell my mom on him.” Kate says with a joking smile.

“And it’s hard to be fired when you own the company,” Elliot says, flopping down on the couch next to me and yanking the remote out of my hand. “They’d have to take my name off all of the letterheads, and really, it’s just not worth it.”

“Don’t you think that joke is getting a little old?” I ask him but he shakes his head.

“Not when Christian is around. Where is he anyway?”

“In a meeting apparently. According to Taylor, he’s going to be an hour late.”

“He would keep Elizabeth Vargas waiting,” Elliot says, seemingly appalled. “Punk.”

I laugh again and then turn to Kate, asking her to catch me up on her life, and as she launches into all of the menial drama she’s dealing with at work, I’m finally able to relax, glad to focus on someone else’s problems for a change.

A little while later, there is a knock on the door again and another woman in a pristine white pencil skirt and matching blazer comes into the room.

“Anastasia,” She greets me with a wide, pearly white smile. “My name is Jacqueline Knight, I’m Mr. Grey’s publicist, I was hoping I could go over a few talking points with you before your interview.”

“Sure,” I say and Kate squeezes my hand and gets off the couch to stand by Luke so that Jacqueline can sit next to me.

“Ideally, we’d like to keep GEH out of the conversation about you and Mr. Grey as much as possible. We want to create a disconnect between your relationship and the Grey brand. If you must discuss GEH, try and use words like, work or company rather than specifically using the GEH name.”

“Okay,” I agree.

“Also, this interview is about your relationship, and you’re going to have to sell that. You should be affectionate towards one another, intimate, but also reserved. You could hold his hand or touch his arm. If you’re going to cross your legs, cross them towards him, not away. And never, and I mean never, cross your arms. When he speaks, look at him, not at Ms. Vargas, and try to really express your affection with your eyes. If he tells a joke, laugh. Smile when Ms. Vargas, asks you questions about him…”

“I don’t need to pretend I’m in love with him,” I tell her. “That part I can handle.”

“Good,” She says, and as she moves to the next subject, the door to the dressing room opens and, finally, Christian walks in with Taylor and Carrick behind him.

“Now remember, son. This is the court of public opinion,” Carrick says. “If the interviewer brings anything up about the lawsuit or Leila Williams, you have to remain polite and succinct. Do not use disparaging language against her or try to infer her intentions in anyway, it will make you look defensive which is a small leap to guilty. Be respectful and stick to the facts.”

“I know, Dad,” Christian says. His eyes search the room until he sees me on the couch and when our eyes lock, the tension in his face immediately softens.

“Mr. Grey,” Jacqueline says as she stands from the couch. “I’m glad you’re here. I was just telling Anastasia…”

“Everyone out,” He interrupts her and Jacqueline falls quiet as everyone in the room turns to look at him with confusion. His eyes break away from mine as he looks around at the people staring at him. “Now,” He adds, like he doesn’t know what everyone is waiting for.

There is a great deal of movement around me as everyone scrambles from their places in an attempt to hurry out of the room. Christian closes the door behind them and then comes to sit next to me.

“What’s wrong?” He asks.

“What do you mean?”

“You look… pale,” He says and I frown. So much for makeup.

“I’m fine. I’m just… a little nervous, I think.”

“Don’t be,” He tells me. “There’s nothing to be nervous about. I get to tell the world that I love you today.”

I bite down on my bottom lip as I try and contain the smile his words coax out of me, and when I look down at my fingers in my lap, he reaches over to tilt up my chin and kiss me. The feel of his lips against mine has me more at ease that I’ve been all day, and I can feel heat rush to my cheeks as I feel him pour the unfathomably unconditional love that he holds for me into this precious point of contact.

When he pulls away from the kiss, he cups my face in his hand and I feel his thumb brush over the blush still burning in the skin of my cheeks.

“There she is,” He says and the small, charming smile that I love crosses his lips.

“I’ve missed you today, Christian.”

“Me too, baby.”

“What kept you?”

“Elena’s audit was this morning. Ros was so determined to find something that she conducted the most thorough audit I’ve ever been a part of, and then had the results reviewed twice. We went over the scheduled time by two hours.”

“Oh… what did she find?” I ask, the interview falling completely out of my mind with this news.

“Nothing,” He says as if this should have been the expected answer. “Transactions check out, inventory is perfect, books are flawless. Not a dollar out of place.”

“Nothing? Really? How is that possible?”

Christian narrows his eyes at me. “Elena is good at what she does, Anastasia. For whatever other valid things you may have to say about her, she runs those salons very well. I’m a businessman and I told you that our relationship was only business. Do you really think that I would keep her in charge of a division of my company if she wasn’t doing an absolutely outstanding job?”

His defense of her leaves a disgusting taste in my mouth. “No, but I do think that she’d lie to you…” I say and he opens his mouth to answer but there is a knock on the door and Ms. Kaiser sticks her head into the room.

“Mr. Grey, Miss Steele, they’re ready for you,” She says.

Christian nods and then turns back to me, staring at me with a myriad of emotions blazing in his steel gray eyes, before reachout out for my hand. As he helps me up off the couch, he entwines his fingers with mine and we walk out of the dressing room and down the long hallway to the set where our interview is going to take place, hand in hand.

It’s a little surreal to step onto the raised platform set. It’s supposed to look like a cozy living room. There’s a fake fireplace in the back that is pumping too much heat into the room, and a few bookshelves piled with more knick knacks than books in the back. Christian and I are directed to sit on a silky looking, cream colored loveseat (which immediately has me wondering if Jacquline had added to be symbolic), and across from it, sitting in an emerald green chair, is Elizabeth Vargas.

“Mr. Grey,” She says, her voice slightly cold as we approach, which I think might be because she’s been kept waiting. Christian reaches out to shake her hand, apologizing for his late arrival before introducing her to me. She tells us to take a seat, and when we lower ourselves onto the sofa, Christian pulls me in close to him, putting one arm behind my back and placing his hand on my hip, while his other hand wraps around mine and rests in my lap. A makeup artist rushes on stage to touch up Ms. Vargas’s makeup and as a few producers approach to give her some direction, Christian turns to me.

“Do you need anything before we start?” He asks.

“No,” I reply, shaking my head and he catches my eyes, gives me a small, reassuring smile and then leans in to place a gentle kiss on my cheek.

“You look beautiful, Anastasia,” He whispers in my ear and as a tingling shiver runs up my spine, I take a breath and turn to face Elizabeth Vargas.

The interview starts with a long monologue from Ms. Vargas talking about Christian’s rise to the top of the business world and then the controversy and the allegations that have, ‘tarnished his otherwise spotless reputation‘ over the past week. When she finally turns to us to ask the first question, Christian squeezes my hand and I stop fidgeting and trying to sit up straight as I become very aware of the camera pointed directly at me.

“When did you meet Anastasia, Mr. Grey?” Ms. Vargas asks and when he answers, Christian turns to look at me.

“It was Labor Day, 2007. The day before my first day of classes at Harvard University. Anastasia lived across the hall from me and she was coming back to her dorm just as I was leaving to meet Ros for our first real meeting for what would become GEH. The moment I saw her, I was enraptured.”

“How about you, Anastasia?” Ms. Vargas asks. “We’re you enraptured as well?”

“Of course,” I answer. “He was the handsome, elusive, mysterious guy who lived across the hall and he had me captivated.”

“Mysterious?” Ms. Vargas asks.

“Oh, well he was a little rude in the beginning…” I say in a light, slightly teasing tone. “You see, our Resident Advisor that year had put nametags on our doors to welcome us to school on the first day but Christian didn’t have one, and when we first met, he didn’t introduce himself. It took me a couple days to even find out what his name was.”

I smile at him, genuine adoration coloring my expression as I recall the early days of our relationship and when he smirks down at me, I can see Jacqueline practically bouncing up and down with joy just off set.

“Is that true, Mr. Grey?” Ms. Vargas asks, and even she can’t hold back her smile.

“Partially,” He responds. “But I wasn’t being rude. The truth is I was so struck by how beautiful she was, I couldn’t remember my own name.”

My smile is ridiculous as I stare back at him, his sweet words floating in the air between us and he leans down to kiss me, but I reach up to stop him.

“Christian, we’re on TV!” I exclaim with a laugh and as he sighs and turns back to the interviewer, Jacqueline actually claps her hands together one time in celebration of this perfect TV moment.

Most of the interview is easy, and honestly, fun. We each tell our favorite stories about our time at Harvard and all of the little moments that made our relationship special. Eventually though, we run out of happy stories. She talks briefly about Leila and the sexual harassment allegations which Christian answers with calm, easy confidence. That confidence dwindles however, when she asks about the lack of my presence around him up to this point in his career.

“It’s been widely reported again and again over the last few years that you’ve been single Mr. Grey. Was the reason you chose to keep your relationship hidden so you would be able to hire Miss Steele to work at GEH with no repercussion?”

I watch his adam’s apple jump as he swallows and looks down at his hand in mine, and I squeeze it in a comforting gesture, take a deep breath, and look Ms. Vargas straight in the eyes.

“It was difficult to be in a relationship once he left Harvard to start his company,” I tell her. “He was in Seattle, I was in Cambridge, and 3000 miles is a lot of distance. I had three years of school left and it just wasn’t working. So, we broke up. He threw himself into work, I focused on my studies. But even when we weren’t together, he called me everyday.”

Christian exhales and looks up at Ms. Vargas. “A few months ago, I decided I wanted GEH to break into the publishing industry. Seattle Independent Publishing was ripe for a takeover and I moved on it. We began the acquisition process and I needed a director. Someone smart, capable, driven, and with a background and love for literature. I knew only person who fit everything that I wanted for this project, so I offered Anastasia an internship to bring SIP under the GEH umbrella over the course of this summer.”

“So there wasn’t a promotion then?” Ms. Vargas clarifies.

“No,” Christian says. “This project was always intended for Anastasia. We had some contract delays that left her floating for a couple weeks, but she was hired to be the SIP Implementation Director from the beginning. There was no romantic relationship between Anastasia and myself with the offer was made, nor did she make me any promises.”

“Then, when did your relationship begin again?”

“Not long after I came to Seattle,” I answer. “It wasn’t planned. We tried to keep our relationship strictly business related and when that didn’t work we tried to be friends. In the end we couldn’t fight it. It just feels… meant to be. I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel about Christian Grey and that has nothing to do with this internship, or with GEH.”

“She’s the love of my life,” Christian says. “There is no doubt in my mind that right now I am sitting next to the future Mrs. Grey.”

“Would you agree with that statement?” Ms. Vargas asks me.

“I hope so,” I nod. “Someday.”

On that note, the interview ends. Ms. Vargas gives one last monologue to give context to the interview, spinning the story now as an almost Romeo and Juliet style romance and part of me wonders if GEH has paid for that little plug. Someone yells cut and there is a sudden upheaval of movement all around us. Ms. Vargas shakes both mine and Christian’s hands once more and then we’re whisked back into our dressing room, followed by Jacqueline who is so happy, she’s practically singing.

“Alright, thank you, Jacqueline,” Christian says irritably. “You can go now.”

“Oh… uh… yes sir, Mr. Grey.” She turns around and walks out of the room, leaving us alone with Kate, Elliot, Luke, and Carrick.

“Well, should we celebrate by going out to dinner?” Elliot asks.

“The interview hasn’t aired yet,” Carrick says. “The paparazzi will be out of control if these two go out in public together right now. Why don’t we all just go back to the house? Mia will be home late, but it’s a Friday night. You’re all welcome to stay at the house and we could plan something for us to do as a family all day tomorrow.”

“Where’s Mia?” I ask.

“Off hating Christian’s guts,” Elliot says, clearly annoyed, and I give him an inquisitive look, but Carrick is the one who answers my question.

“Grace thought it would be best if Mia got a job to take up some of her time this summer,” He explains. “And for some reason she blames Christian for that. But she doesn’t listen to me anymore so…”

“Quite frankly, I think this just all works out great for me,” Elliot says, and when we all give him a confused look he adds, “Well, Christian was the troublemaker, Mia’s a brat… I’d say I win the who was the best kid contest. Hands down.”

“There’s no contest,” Carrick says firmly but Elliot shakes his head.

“I don’t know… we’ll just see what happens when the will is read.”

“Sorry, Elliot. Whatever you’ll inherit will have to be controlled by a conservator,” Christian says. “They don’t let the mentally unstable control large amounts of assets. Don’t worry though, I wouldn’t let anyone else but myself take up that roll for you. I wouldn’t want you to be taken advantage of…”

“I don’t know what you two are fighting for, Grace and I are going to divide everything equally between Anastasia and Kate, so you’re not getting anything,” Carrick adds dryly.

“Fine by me!” Elliot laughs triumphantly. “Sucks to be you, Mia.”

“Sucks to be you,” Kate says pointedly. “Once we get our inheritance, Ana and I will drop you losers and marry each other. Our one true love. Right, Ana?”

“I mean, we’ll have that beautiful house in Bellevue… seems like it would be a waste not to,” I reply with a laugh. I hear Christian’s irritated huff next to me but Elliot looks between Kate and I for a minute and then smirks.

“I’d pay to see that.”

“How?” Kate laughs. “You’ll be broke!”

“Alright, Alright,” Carrick says, stopping the conversation before it goes any further. “You kids head back to the house, I’ll let Grace know we’re on the way so she can order some dinner.”

“That sounds great, Dad, but Ana and I are actually going out of town this weekend. We have to get to the airport,” Christian says regretfully.

“Oh, where are you going?” Carrick asks.

“I’m not sure,” Christian says. “We’re just going to see what’s leaving when we get there.”

“Awh,” Kate says before covering her mouth and staring at us like we’re holding a litter of newborn kittens or something. Elliot on the other hand laughs.

“That’s a terrible way to plan a vacation. I hope you end up in Boston.”

“Well, I have a house there,” Christian shrugs and I roll my eyes.

“Oh!” Kate exclaims suddenly, reaching down and picking up a pad of paper and pen off the table. “If you do go to Boston, I’m going to need you to grab a few things that I forgot.”

“We’re not going to Boston!” I exclaim but Kate tears the paper off the pad and hands it to me anyway.

“Just in case.”

When we’re back at Escala, Christian tells me that he needs ten minutes to take care of some emails he put off for the interview, so while he heads into his office, I make my way to the bedroom to do the packing I never got around to. When I get there though, I see my purple carry on suitcase already sitting on the bed next to Christian’s. Mrs. Jones must have packed for both of us this afternoon.

I sigh and fall back on the bed, closing my eyes and focusing on taking deep breaths in and out. I’m waiting for the anxiety I’ve felt over this interview to go away, but I’m still as tense now as I was this morning. Maybe it’s not the interview… maybe I’m just overwhelmed. I mean, between this job, dealing with Elena, the lawsuit, potentially losing Harvard and worrying about my Dad…

The muscles in my stomach clench as I think about Ray and immediately I know that’s what’s wrong with me. It’s not just about the letter that I couldn’t write to him earlier, not just about the possibility of him finding out about my relationship with Christian over TV or a news article rather than from me… It’s really just me, going through a hard time and missing my dad.

Talking to Luke, talking to Kate, even talking to Christian about everything that has been going on has helped me deal with it, but right now, what I want more than anything is for my dad to make me a cup of tea and then wrap me up in hug and tell me that it’s going to be okay. I’ve sent him four letters since I’ve been in Seattle and I haven’t gotten one in return. I have no idea where he is, or if he’s safe… What I wouldn’t give for just a few minutes to talk to him.

I reach down and take my phone out of my bag and pull open the calendar app. I get one phone call on Father’s Day and I count sixteen days between now and then. More than two weeks, and that thought feels like it’s going to kill me.

“You ready, baby?” Christian asks as he steps into the room and as I put my phone down and sit up to look up at him, a tear rolls down my cheek.

“Hey…” He says softly as he comes to sit next to me on the bed and wraps me in his arms. “What’s the matter?”

“I miss my dad,” I tell him. “This all so hard and I feel like if I could just talk to my dad for a second, he could help me get back to being centered, you know? He’s been gone a long time and I just… I wish he was here.”

“I know,” He says, rubbing his hand gently over my back as I cry into his suit jacket. “I’m sorry, Ana. But he’s got less than a year left, right?”

“I think… He’s supposed to be back sometime next summer.”

“Well, we can make it through a year. All of this bullshit isn’t going to last forever, I promise you. It’s going to be over soon. This is just the hard part.”

“I know,” I nod. “I’m sorry, I think I’m just a little over stressed right now. I think I might actually need this weekend for my sanity.” I tell him.

“Then let’s go,” He says and I take a deep, calming breath before taking his hand and getting off the bed. He takes both of our suitcases and I lead the way through the living room toward the elevator.

When we get to the garage, Taylor is waiting in Christian’s SUV just a few steps away from the elevator, but as Luke climbs out of the front seat to take our bags, I get an idea, and I reach out to stop him.

“I don’t want to go to the airport,” I tell Christian and he raises an eyebrow at me.

“What do you mean? I thought you just said that you needed to get away for your sanity.”

“I do. I’m not saying that I don’t want to go anywhere, I’m just saying that I don’t want to go to the airport. I know where I want to go, and we don’t need a plane to get there.”

“Okay…” He says hesitantly, “Where do you want to go?”

I smile at him, but instead of answering, I turn to Luke. “You and Taylor can take the weekend off. We’re not going to need security where we’re going.”

“Ana…” Christian says but I turn imploring eyes on him.

“Trust me, Christian,” I beg him and he takes a second to decide but eventually he lets out a long breath and then nods to Luke.

“We’ll see you Sunday night, Sawyer.”

“Mr. Grey…” Luke argues but Christian cuts him off.

“Enjoy your weekend,” He says flatly and Sawyer stares blankly between the two of us, but eventually he gives Christian a stiff nod and we turn to walk towards my Lincoln. I climb into the driver’s seat while Christian places our luggage in the trunk, and once he’s in the passenger’s seat, I pull out, past Luke and Taylor, who are staring anxiously at us, and out of the garage.

“So, not Bellevue?” Christian asks as I pass the turnoff for the I-90 East.

“No, not Bellevue,” I say, and he lets out sharp huff. I don’t think he likes not knowing where we’re going but he’s done this to me before. Vermont was a good surprise, and I hope this will be too.

Just over two hours later, I begin to see the first familiar buildings begin to pop up alongside the highway and when Christian sees the population sign on the side of the road, his eyes widen with realization.

“Montesano,” He infers and I nod. He looks out at the approaching downtown area as I pull off the exit from the Olympic Highway onto Main Street. “You want to go home.”

“Is that okay?” I ask.

“Of course it’s okay, Ana. I want you to be happy and if this is where you want to be then I’m just… I’m just happy to be here with you.”

I smile at him as I weave through the familiar streets of downtown until the buildings give way to houses and I turn onto my dad’s street. The memory of going to Christian’s parents’ house for the very first time creeps unbidden into my mind as we past the modest houses that line Park Ave. Everything about the Grey’s property is beautiful, from the classic architecture of the mansion to the sweeping, well manicured lawns, even the stunning, lakefront views. I was almost in shock when I saw the grandeur of the home where Christian had grown up, and as I pull into the gravel driveway of the small, ranch-style house I’ve known almost my whole life, I’m almost floored to see Christian having nearly the same reaction.

Ray’s house is modest in every sense, but he takes great pride in caring for it. It’s almost a little shocking to see it now. The ivy that my mom had grown to creep up the side of the house and frame the entryway is in desperate need of trimming and my dad’s normally perfect yard needs to be mowed. One of the planks in the low fence that my dad built at the edge of the front yard a few summers before I left for college has come loose and the bushes I played under with the neighborhood kids on the far side of the lawn are in serious need of some garden shears. I try and ignore all of this though as I turn and look at Christian who is appraising the house with… what? Trepidation?

“Come on,” I say as I climb out of the car. Christian follows me up the slightly cracked, concrete walkway to the front door, where I pull the spare key out from under the ceramic frog I named Mickey when I was six. I hold open the door for him and he steps carefully into the house.

It’s surprisingly cold inside, completely dark, and uncomfortably quiet. Like we’ve just walked into a haunted house in a scary movie or something.

“Wait here,” I tell Christian, “I’ll find the breaker.”

He nods and I leave him and make my way through the dining room and kitchen to the laundry room at the back of the house next to the door for the garage. After I’ve flipped the switches to turn on the power, I reach down behind the washing machine to twist the knob that will turn the water on. When I make my way back into the living room, I find Christian standing in front of the fireplaces looking at the long line of photographs that show the steady progression of my life from diapers to my high school graduation.

“What is this?” He asks, holding up a picture of me in an embarrassingly frilly, pink dress, clinging awkwardly to a tall, skinny, young man with a jet black hair and long limbs that he hadn’t fully grown into yet.

“Homecoming, sophomore year,” I tell him.

“And the boy?”

“Kameron McFadden,” I answer. “He was my lab partner in Chemistry. And before you say anything, that is the only chemistry we had together.”

“I see,” He says as he sets the picture back down and moves the next. I quickly run over and pull him away from the mantle.

“I think that’s enough with the pictures,” I say disapprovingly. “Afterall, I never stalked your parents collection of embarrassing high school photos.”

“That’s because there aren’t any. I spent my homecoming with Ele-… I mean, I uh, I didn’t go to homecoming.”

“Right,” I say frowning and he furrows his brow.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring that up…”

“No, it’s fine,” I say, cutting him off. “You didn’t go to homecoming. That just sucks for whatever lucky girl you could have taken with you.”

He rolls his eyes and I grab his hand to give him a tour of the house but before we even make it to the hallway, someone knocks on the front door.

“Crap, hold on,” I tell him as I move to answer it. It’s Mr. Anderson, my next door neighbor, and when I open the door, he looks shocked to see me.

“Hi, Mr. Anderson,” I greet him with a smile.

“Anastasia, what are you doing here? I saw the car and I… Hey kiddo!” He says, a small laugh escaping as he leans down and wraps me in a tight hug.

“I just wanted to come home for the weekend,” I tell him. “How are you?”

“I’m doing great!” He says, “Everything is just the same here, except we all miss Ray on poker night. Have you heard from him, how’s he doing?”

“Good, I think. It’s been awhile since he’s written to me but he gets busy, you know?”

“Actually, I’ve been picking up your mail and I think there were some letters addressed to you that were returned. I put them on your table.”

“Oh!” I exclaim, suddenly dying to find said letters, but not wanting be rude and look like I’m trying to get rid of him. “Great, thanks.”

“How’s Harvard? You know, we still can’t believe that you made it so far, Ana. It makes all of us real proud to know we might have had even just a little influence to help you turn out to be such a great kid.”

“Thanks, Mr. Anderson,” I say blushing. He hugs me again and I feel him look up.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you had company,” He says, as he notices Christian standing in the living room behind me.

“Oh, yeah. Mr. Anderson, this is my boyfriend, Christian Grey.”

“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Christian says cordially, stepping forward with his hand outreached for my neighbor.

“And you, son. That’s a mighty fancy suit you got there, you a student at Harvard too?”

“A former student,” Christian says. “I work in Seattle now.”

“Oh, well, good for you. I’m glad to hear Ana’s being taken care of while her dad’s away. You know Ray was always very protective of his daughter. Not a lot of boys dared to come around here.”

“Well, sir, I promise, I only have the best intentions with Anastasia.”

“That’s good to hear,” Mr. Anderson says. “Well, I’ll let you kids get back to it then. If you need anything, Ana, Jennifer and I are right next door.”

“Thank-you, Mr. Anderson,” I say, waving at him as he turns around to leave and then closing the door.

It doesn’t take me long to show Christian the entire house. He laughs at me when I tell him I can’t show him my dad’s room because I’m not allowed in there, and then spends an exorbitant amount of time going through my childhood bedroom. I worry that he’s going to spend the entire weekend in here, looking through my old yearbooks and combing through the books and CDs on my bookcase, but eventually, he tells me he needs to check in on work, so we both grab the things we’ve brought from the office and head back out to the living room.

Apparently there is a problem with something, because Christian has to make a few phone calls, and while he paces in the kitchen, casually nibbling on the pizza I was forced to order due to lack of food in the house, I read through the letters that my Dad had sent to 301 40th ST rather than 301 4th ST in Seattle, and finally, I feel the tension I’ve been riddled with the entire week begin to relax. This is exactly what I needed, a weekend away from the city to just feel normal for a minute. No penthouse, no paparazzi, no staff or security… Just me, Christian, and greasy pizza.

We both decide not to watch the interview when it airs that night, but the downside of coming home to small town Montesano over some lavish vacation destination, is that there isn’t much to do in terms of night life.

“We could… go down by the river. I used to go down there with my friends and drink beer when I was in high school. It was kind of fun.”

“Yeah, because you were underage,” Christian says. “We can drink beer here now.”

“Well then we could, uh…”

“You don’t have to entertain me, Anastasia. Everything I need is right here,” He leans over and kisses me and after a few moments, the tenderness of his kiss melts into something more enticing. I moan slightly as I feel him nibble on my bottom lip. When he reaches out and cups my breast though, I lean back and give him a chastising look.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I ask.

“I think I’m trying to make love to my girlfriend,” He says, but I shake my head.

“Oh, no. We can’t have sex here.”

“What do you mean, we can’t have sex here?” He asks, his tone suddenly very serious as he leans back and looks at me like I’ve just told him the moon landing was faked.

“Do you see that spot on the floor right there? That’s where I used to open my Christmas presents. I can’t have sex two feet away from where I once got really excited unwrapping a My Size Barbie.

“Why not?” he asks. “Christmas presents are a happy memory. We can make more happy memories right here on the couch.”

“Hold on, Grey!” I say, leaning further away as he turns to kiss me again. “That chair right there? That’s my dad’s chair and everyday I’ve been in this house, he’s been in that chair. Having sex on this couch would be like having sex in front of my dad.”

“I’m starting to see why you were a virgin when you went to college,” He says dryly. I slap him playfully on the arm, but he ignores my resentful protest. “You’re not being serious right? I mean, you don’t really intend to not have sex as long as we’re here.”

“Yes,” I tell him. “No sex.”

“Then pack your bags,” He says, standing up from the couch so quickly he nearly dumps me on the floor. “We’re going back to Seattle.”


“I could get us a hotel room.”

“Does it really sound so bad to spend a weekend hanging out and talking and just having good, wholesome fun?”

“I would describe being inside of you as good wholesome fun,” He says and I roll my eyes.

“I don’t want to leave, and I don’t want you to leave. I just want to hang out, and spend real time with you, and try to get to know you again, like I used to. And I want to do it with my clothes on.”

He stares at me for a long moment before drawing in a long, exaggerated breath and exhaling sharply. “Fine. What do you want to do then, Anastasia?”

“We could play a board game,” I suggest.

“A board game?”

“I have all the classics,” I tell him proudly and thankfully, he actually laughs.

“Well then, a board game it is. Bring it on, Miss Steele.”

I smile as I get up off the couch and make my way to the game closet where I sort through the brightly colored cardboard boxes until I find the Monopoly game.

“You ready to cry, Grey?” I ask as I hold up the game for him and he smirks at me.

“Monopoly? Come on, Ana… You know who you’re playing against right?”

“The future loser of Monopoly?” I taunt him and he shakes his head and lets out a small, evil sounding chuckle.

“Fine, let’s play,” He says. “But don’t think I’m going to go easy on you just because I love you. I’m going to take you to the cleaners, Anastasia.”

“I don’t want you to go easy on me, Christian. That way, when I beat you, I’ll know it’s legit.”

I lay out the board and money out on the living room floor and set everything up for us to begin. To my disappointment, Christian wasn’t wrong about it being a mistake playing him. I’ve never seen someone play Monopoly so aggressively or have such an intense strategy of what to buy, when to buy it, even what order to mortgage off his properties. Although this game normally takes hours to play, thirty minutes in, I’m desperately clinging to the few properties I’ve just barely been able to hold onto while he’s building housing developments all over the board.

“Have mercy on me,” I beg as I land on the condominium complex he’s built on Marvin Gardens which will completely clean me out. He laughs and shakes his head.

“I didn’t become successful in business going easy on people, cough it up,” He says, gesturing for me to not only hand him the last of my cash, but also the few properties I have in my possession. I’m bankrupt, and he rubs it in my face by clicking his tongue as he looks over his newly acquired assets.

“You really need to diversity your portfolio, Miss Steele,” He lectures me. “I’m not even sure I want this… do you know how much money it would take to make these properties profitable?”

“You could give them back,” I suggest.

“Oh, Ana! If you want them back, of course I’ll give them to you,” He says.

“Then yes, I would like them back,” I tell him, holding my hands out for the cards but he smirks.

“Oh, you’ll have to buy them from me,” He chuckles. “For a three percent increase on the appraised property value.”

“I don’t have any money!” I tell him and he smiles.

“Now, let’s see… what could you give me that would make me willing to give you your properties back. There has to be something… What. Could. It. Be?”

I glare at him. “You want me to whore myself out for a couple of lousy properties that aren’t worth anything?”

“Oh, baby. You’re not a whore,” He says. “But… if you want, we could spend the night pretending like you are.”

I give him an indignant look as I reach down for one of the little green houses and hurl it at his face and he laughs as he swats it away. He looks at me, arrogantly, and it’s difficult to keep up my reproachful glare as I fight not to smile.

“You know, I used to call this game the friendship ender because Kate and Ethan were so competitive that every time we played, we’d end up in a big fight… Now I think it might just be the relationship ender.”

He laughs again. “You knew who you were up against when you picked this game.” He argues. “My first hostile takeover involved prying one of these property cards out of Elliot’s hands.”

“Well then let’s play something different, something I’m good at,” I pout and he gives me his lascivious grin again.

“Now… What. Are. You. Good. At?” He says with the same wondering tone he used when he was trying to get me to agree to terms to take my properties back. I briefly think about throwing another house at him, but I have a better idea.

“Oh… I know what I’m good at,” I tell him, seductively.

He raises an eyebrow at me. “You do?” He asks, his voice dark and heady as if he’s contemplating whether or not he’s finally won me over.

“Oh yes…” I purr, moving onto my hands and knees and crawling slowly over the Monopoly board towards him, holding his gaze as I purposefully move my behind back and forth. I stop when I’m only inches away from his lips.

“Do you want to play, Mr. Grey?” I ask.

“Yes,” He whispers.

“Right here?”

“Right now,” He replies, his voice deeper now as he’s slowly overwhelmed by his need, and just as he leans forward to take my lips with his, I pull away.

“Good!” I exclaim brightly. “I’ll go get the Scattergories game.”

“Ana!” He groans, throwing his head back with frustration, and I smirk at him as I turn around and head back down the hallway to the game closet.

Next Chapter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.