Chapter 05

dakota-johnson

There’s a certain degree of humility I feel pulling into the parking lot for the conference of the Pacific Northwest Writers Alliance Saturday morning. The events I’m used to attending with Christian are all black tie and held in the city’s grandest ballrooms, with press and a cocktail hour. Today, I’m at the DoubleTree Inn in SeaTac, not even Seattle proper, and the woman in the headset across the parking lot, who is directing the crew carrying chairs and tables into the venue, is dressed in ripped skinny jeans and a long, tartan flannel. There’s no one to take my picture and I don’t have a publicist trying to direct the right kind of questions towards me, the way I do whenever I’m with my husband. It’s small, more down to earth. I’m only just more than nobody, and it’s…

I take a breath.

It’s a good way to start out the day.

“Mrs. Grey?” Woods stands a few paces away, looking at me like he can’t figure out why I’m not in more of a rush to get out of the light drizzle of rain. “I think we’re supposed to go this way.”

“Oh, right.” I smile and then hurry to his side, ducking beneath the umbrella he’s opened and trying not to step in any puddles deep enough to wet the parts of my feet left exposed by my heels. The lobby inside the hotel is busy, and it takes me a moment to find where I’m supposed to check in. Once I do though, the woman sitting behind the cheap folding table perks up and smiles warmly at me.

“Anastasia Steele, welcome.”

“Grey,” I correct her automatically, but then shake my head as I remember that my book was published under my maiden name, as is all the promotional material here today. “Sorry, habit.”

“Don’t apologize, Mrs. Grey. We’re very happy to have you here. I have a packet for you with today’s schedule and some information about the different publishers and authors here today. Other than that, you’re free to mix and mingle or head upstairs, if you prefer. Your publicist is already inside setting up a table for your signing this morning.”

“Thank you,” I say, taking the glossy packet she hands me, and with one last smile, I turn and walk with Woods into the ballroom.

There are all kinds of different booths being set up. I can see signs for several local publishing houses, who are here to give unrepresented authors three minutes to pitch their novels for publication. There’s an editing company advertising their services, a graphic designer who is here to offer tips on cover art, and a man I’ve never heard of scheduled to give a lecture on self-publishing dos and don’ts.

“Excuse me, uh… ma’am? Could you grab that for me?”

I turn and see a woman on a ladder, looking at me bashfully and pointing to a banner that she appears to have dropped.

“Oh. Of course.” She smiles as I hurry over to her, pick up the banner, and then reach as high as I can up on my tip-toes until her fingers close around the vinyl. “Got it?”

“Yeah,” she says, her voice strained as she pivots on the ladder and reaches high above her head to secure the banner to the wall. I wait, making sure she doesn’t drop it again, and once she pulls her hands away, she frowns. “Does that look straight?”

“It needs to go down a little on the right.” I look around the space and see an extra ladder, so I hold up a finger towards her and make my way over to it. “Here, hold on.”

“Mrs. Grey!” Woods exclaims when I pull the second ladder away from the wall. I shoot a warning look in his direction.

“I’m fine, Woods.”

After setting up the ladder, I kick off my heels and quickly climb to the top, taking hold of the banner on my side and moving it up and down the wall until Woods tells us it’s even and we tack it into the drywall. The girl across from me breathes a sigh of relief and starts the climb back to the ground.

“Thank you, so much,” she says. “I was supposed to have help today but, surprise, surprise, I’m here alone. That was really cool of you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I reply dismissively. Again, she smiles and holds out her hand.

“I’m Jennelle.”

I take her hand and grip it firmly. “Ana.”

“Well thank you again, Ana. Seriously, I– Oh my god, now he shows up.” She rolls her eyes and then nudges me with her elbow. “Once all the heavy lifting is done, am I right? Excuse me.” She rolls her eyes and shouts at someone behind me. “Hey, Brad! Thanks for all the help, you jackass.”

I laugh as she rushes past me for the clueless looking guy coming in the back entrance with the loading crews, and feel an odd sense of comfort as I return to Woods’ side. That girl had no idea who I was and that was the first perfectly normal human interaction I’ve had since… fuck, I don’t even know. Maybe this isn’t just about proving something to Christian. Maybe I really am ready for this conference. Maybe this is exactly what I need.

“Ana!” I turn in the direction I hear my name being called and see Lydia waving at me. Feeling much more confident about today than I did a few minutes ago, I stand tall, nod in her direction, and make my way over to her. “I’m glad you’re here, I was starting to worry.”

“Sorry, I got distracted.” She nods and then steps to the side so she can gesture to the station she’s set up for my signing.

“Well, what do you think?”

There’s another banner, bigger than the one I just helped hang, behind the table which has the picture of me from the back of my dust jacket on it. To the side is a long line of velvet ropes that suggest Lydia thinks there is going to be a significant line of people waiting to meet with me, as does the obscenely large pile of books stacked on top of the table and the boxes filled with more copies on the floor behind it.

“This is… a lot of my face, Lydia.”

“Such a good picture,” she says, ignoring the disapproval in my tone. “Calm, reserved, introspective. I love it. Do we need to go over some talking points in case you get stuck with some of your fans?”

I raise an eyebrow at her. “I think I can handle conversation.”

“I know, I just want to be as helpful and supportive as I can be. And, just so you know, the PNWA council has said they will carve out some time for you to give a speech if you wanted to… oh, I don’t know, take this perfect opportunity to give everyone a sample reading from your new book.”

“Lydia…”

“Alright, alright, you know I had to try. So, if you’re not going to give me a reason to track down whoever is in charge, I think we’d better get you up to your room.”

“My room?”

“Well, yeah. We can’t just have you sitting out in the open, it’ll ruin the excitement of having you come out to greet everyone. Besides, you’ll be much more comfortable upstairs. Come with me.”

Her hair fans out spectacularly as she turns on her heel and starts walking out of the ballroom. As I begin to follow her, I raise my fingers to my lips to hide my smile. Lydia can drive me a little nuts sometimes, but, weirdly, every now and then she reminds me so much of Kate that I think I want to hug her. Maybe Kate missed her calling as a literary agent, or any agent really, except that she’s taken to bossing around a room full of scandal hungry journalists itching to be the next Woodworth and Bernstein like a bird to flight. If only I could get Lydia to read me as well as my best friend, I think she and I might be able to take over the world.

I follow her into the elevator and up to the fourth floor where she leads me into a small, empty room. There are some catering trays laid out and a few bottles of cold water, but other than that there’s not much to keep me occupied.

“Alright, is there anything I can get you before I go back downstairs? Ice? Tea? A written statement about when you’ll be releasing your next book?”

“Lydia…”

She smiles. “One day, Ana. I’m gonna break you.”

“Not if I fire you first.”

“You see, that’s the kind of wit that’s going to make your next work an international best seller. You’re funny, kid. Real funny. Now, if there’s nothing else I can get you, I’m going to go eavesdrop on some pitches downstairs. See if there’s someone I can scalp before the publishing houses realize what they’re hearing. You have my number if you need something.”

I shake my head with exasperation. “Have fun, Lydia.”

“You know I will.” She squeezes my hand and winks as she turns for the door.

Once she’s gone, Woods and I talk for awhile and play a few games of cards with a spare deck he keeps in his jacket. The bright side is that it gives me the chance to call Christian and get regular updates on his day alone with Calliope, the bad side is that it gives me a lot of time to think about the number of people I can see flowing into the hotel from the parking lot. I get a picture in my mind of myself sitting at the table Lydia set up in the ballroom, scanning the hundreds of unfamiliar faces, and like a flash from a nightmare, there’s Linc’s face. The vision makes me shudder.

“Mrs. Grey? Are you alright?”

I jump slightly as Wood’s interrupts my thoughts, but quickly recover and smile.

“Sorry. Daydreaming.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Your deal or mine?”

 

We wait for a total of two hours before Lydia finally comes back to get me. There’s a pad of paper in her hand with a few names and phone numbers scribbled across it and she’s beaming like a kid on Christmas morning, so I assume she’s found a few unsigned authors downstairs who have peaked her interest.

“Like fish in a barrel?” I ask, smirking at her, but she shakes her head.

“More like a needle in a haystack. But I brought a magnet.” Her eyes twinkle with excitement, but it fades quickly as she starts ushering me out of the room.

“Let’s go, let’s go. We’re on a schedule here and your turnout was higher than I expected.”

“Higher?”

She smiles. “You’re very well loved in this city, Anastasia. Now, go, go, go!”

I start a little then hurry through the door for the elevator. As we ride back down to the lobby, my stomach is suddenly filled with butterflies. This is my first big event since it happened. My first time getting up in front of people. My first chance to either prove that I’m moving on or fall spectacularly without Christian here to pick me up again.

The doors open and Woods moves closer, following so closely behind me, he may as well be my shadow. I force myself to take several deep breaths, but by the time we make it to the entrance of the ballroom, I nearly chicken out.

“Ready?” Lydia asks.

“Uh…”

“Don’t be nervous, Ana. You’re going to be great. Just keep the conversations short and tell me if you need a new pen before it runs out of ink.”

I’m almost able to give her one full nod before she turns and opens the door, and as I step into the ballroom, I feel my stomach clench like I’ve taken a sudden, dramatic drop. Turns out that the velvet ropes I thought were excessive earlier, weren’t enough. The line of people waiting for my signing must be composed of at least three hundred people, not the hundred Lydia told me to expect, and even with the artful way the conference staff have managed to wind the line back and forth, the gigantic room still feels claustrophobic.

“Oh my god, there she is!” someone shouts, and suddenly the room erupts in screams. I flinch, but manage to recover with a smile, then wave at the crowd as I’m lead to the table stacked with books. Flashes explode from a dozen different places in the crowd in front of me, so I do my best to ignore them and keep up a pleasant excited smile for the first person who walks up to greet me.

It’s hard at first, having one quick, shallow conversation after another. There isn’t enough time to really talk to anyone but I don’t want to make this experience a waste of their money. Especially when so many of them are so kind and well wishing. The sentiment helps with the nerves, and helps me calm down and enjoy meeting people. Warmth floods through me as I hear again and again how much people really did love Escape, and after struggling to connect with one girl who spent the entire time we talked shaking and stuttering, I fear my face might be flushed bright red with a grateful kind of embarrassment.

“Hello,” I say, greeting the next young woman who comes forward.  She starts to shake.

“Oh my god, you’re Anastasia Steele.”

“Yes, I am. And you are?”

“Hailey. Hailey Lewis. Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m meeting you. I can’t tell you…” She pauses, almost like she’s suddenly too choked up to speak. “I’m sorry, I really don’t want to be a spaz… It’s just, last year was really hard for me and then I saw you on the Today show talking about how writing this book helped you, so I decided to read it. It was like you were speaking right to me through the pages and I just had this epiphany, you know? I needed a way to get out what I was feeling, even if that meant finding an outlet that had nothing to do with what happened. So I wrote a book, just like you, and it’s healed me in a way I never thought I could be healed. You’re the one who made me do that. You’re the one who gave me my life back. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for Escape, Miss Steele.”

“Ana,” I reply with a warm smile, and she immediately goes red.

“Ana.” Her voice shakes. “I’m on a first name basis with Anastasia Steele. Oh my god. I’m sorry, but I’m freaking out a little bit. You’re my idol. Really.”

“Well, thank you so much. I only published Escape because I hoped that it would touch someone just like you, so thank you for sharing your story with me. You don’t know how much it really means to me.”

“Of course.”

“You’re a writer?”

“Yeah. I mean, not really. I haven’t published anything, just the book I wrote after… uh.” She stammers again and shakes her head, I think because she doesn’t want to get into the “whys” of what she wrote. I get that, more than she probably knows, so I stop her before she feels like she has to explain more than she wants to.

“I’d love to read it.”

Her eyes grow wide. “Really? Y-you would read my work?”

“Of course I would. Do you have something I could write on?”

“Yes!” She fumbles with her bag in her haste to get inside of it, but eventually manages to remove a spiral bound notebook, from which she tears a single page. I take it and begin to write.

“This is the address for my agent’s office. If you send her a copy of your manuscript, she’ll make sure it gets to me. Just leave her an email or an address I can use to send you feedback.”

I hold out the paper for her, and when she reaches out for it, her hands shake. Her expression has gone completely blank and the way she looks at the paper almost makes me wonder if she’s having some kind of episode.

“Hailey?”

“I’m sorry,” she says, blinking like she’s coming out of a trance. “I’m just trying to convince myself that this isn’t a dream.”

I laugh again. “I promise you, it isn’t.”

Picking up my pen again, I slide one of the copies of Escape off the top of the stack next to me and write a quick, personal message on the inside of the front cover along with my signature, then hand it to her.

“Don’t forget to send your manuscript. I’ll be waiting anxiously.”

“I won’t. Thank you. Thank you so much, Miss– Ana.”

“Bye, Hailey.”

She smiles as she walks away and I’m overcome with the most amazing feeling as I turn to greet the next person in line. Seeing my name in the New York Times was great and watching the number of copies sold grow higher and higher, even months later, felt really good, but this… This has finally given me what I needed from this whole experience. I’ve helped someone. I’ve changed someone. I’m responsible for someone’s passion. That fills me with so much more pride than book sales ever could.

And it’s not even just one person. For hours I hear story after story from people who have been moved by my novel. Some who have found strength, some who have found forgiveness. My goal was to give people hope, but today has shown me that I have been able to do so much more than that and it is a truly, profoundly humbling experience. It’s everything, and as my time draws to a close and the line of people waiting diminishes, I feel like new life has been breathed into me.

“Phenomenal,” Lydia says after the last person in line leaves with a signed copy. “I expected to sell maybe a hundred-fifty copies today, you moved over three hundred. I will never stop being amazed by you, Anastasia.”

“Nor will I,” a voice says behind her. We both turn and I instantly recognize the man approaching us from the restaurant Luke and I went to earlier in the week.

“Mr. Wallace,” I say, surprised. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“This is why I’m here, Anastasia. GSP is here trying to scout some new talent, and since we’ve lost the head of our Seattle division, they brought me in from New York.”

“Oh, well, did you find what you were looking for?”

“I think there’s some good prospects. And, strangely, I think that might have something to do with you. I met with a few authors right after they spoke with you and their confidence was remarkable. Really impressionable. You bring out the best in people, Anastasia. I think you might have a real talent for this line of work. I’d even go so far as to say it’s a calling.”

“Oh, I don’t know…”

“I do. It’s my job to know.” He smiles, then reaches into his jacket to pull out a pen and another business card, which he writes on as he starts to speak again. “Look, I know you said that you’re just focusing on writing, but my boss is in town this week and I really do need to find someone to fill the position we have open with a candidate who will impress her. I’m going to schedule an interview with you for Wednesday at eleven o’clock. Come or don’t come, that’s up to you, but between us, I think you miss it. And I think you know you’d do great things and make a lot of dreams come true if you took this job. What more could you want?”

He holds the card out for me and I can see a time and address scribbled across it. For a few drawn out seconds, I hesitate, telling myself that this isn’t what I want, but his words resonate with me. The way I felt after speaking with Hailey and seeing how excited she got when I offered to read her work, that could be every day for me. And really, he’s right. What more could I want?”

I take the card and smile up at him, but before I have the chance to thank him I hear my name being called from across the room.

“Annie! Sweetheart, she’s right over here. Annie!”

I turn and deflate a little as I see Kim waving animatedly at me, but that small sense of disappointment quickly vanishes when I see my dad barrelling up behind her.

“There she is!” He comes around the table and pulls me up into a giant, lung crushing hug that takes me several seconds to worm out of. When he does let me go, his face glows with pride until he turns to see Mr. Wallace standing on the other side of the table. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are we interrupting?”

“Not at all,” Mr. Wallace says, extending his hand across the table. “Scott Wallace, I’m with Greenwich Publishing.”

“Raymond Steele,” my dad replies, glancing over at me awkwardly. “I’m with… her.”

“This is my father,” I tell him, and Mr. Wallace’s grin broadens.

“Well, congratulations, sir. Your daughter is really something. I bet you’re very proud.”

“Very.” Mr. Wallace shakes my dad’s hand again, then turns to smile at me.

“I hope to see you later in the week, Anastasia.”

“Maybe,” I agree with a nod. He turns to leave and as I face my father again, he raises an eyebrow at me.

“What was that?”

“Oh, he wants me to come work at his publishing house. What are you doing here?”

“Grace invited us to Mia’s party tonight and Christian said you had a signing today. We thought we’d come down here and check it out, see you in action. This is really something, kiddo. You’ve got quite the fanbase.”

“Yeah, it was good. I had fun today.”

“Good?” Kim says, doubtfully. “We saw that line of people, Annie. This is amazing. We are so proud of you, sweetheart.”

Don’t we me.

I bite my tongue and turn to smile at my father. “Do you want to look around a little, or are you ready to head home?”

“Home, I think. I gotta go spoil my grandbaby before Grace gets to her.”

“Okay. I just have to touch base with Lydia and then I’m out of here. Meet you at home?”

“Sure thing, kiddo.” He hugs me again, telling me once more how proud he is before he leaves. I stand there smiling as I watch him go, until he’s nearly at the door and I see him put his arm around Kim, pull her into him, and kiss her hard on the cheek. It makes my muscles tighten uncomfortably and a bitter taste creeps into my mouth.

I think it’s time to have Luke look into this woman.

 

Unfortunately, I’m not released from the conference as quickly as I’d hoped. As people start filtering out, I’m pulled into a separate room where I’m interviewed about the event for the PNWA newsletter. Then I have to stand around and wait for each of the directors to come in and takes pictures with me, first individually, then as a group. The only good thing is being forced to pose in front of the blank canvas backdrop again and again reminds me that I also should have at least one picture for my PixC account. At least it’ll make Jacquiline happy.

When I finally do get back home, it’s not only my father’s car in the driveway. The whole family has already arrived, which means I’m late for Mia’s birthday. I rush into the house as quickly as possible, thinking I’ll find everyone already seated for dinner, but instead most everyone is in the living room. I come around the corner just in time to see Kate reach into a bowl, read what’s written across the paper slip she pulls out, and wave her arms around with wild excitement.

“Okay it’s a person, and they’re very specific about color.”

“Prince!” Elliot yells, but Kate shakes her head.

“No, think 90s television. Fighting, girl power,…”

“Xena, Warrior Princess?”

“No. Super powers.”

“Wonder Woman?”

“No. Elliot, focus. Early 90s television, specific colors, fighting monsters, morphing, pterodactyl…

“Uh…”

“Time!” Mia shouts, springing up off the couch and jumping up and down with her friend Tibby. They hug and start doing a celebratory dance while they sing, “We are in the lead,” over and over again.

“What was it?” Elliot asks, disappointed.

“The Pink Power Ranger,” I say, and the whole family turns to look at me.

“Yes! Thank you, Ana. Come be on my team.” She turns and glares at her husband. “We’re going to need you.”

I laugh as Elliot rolls his eyes, but when I step into the living room, I’m distracted from Kate by the sounds of my daughter struggling in my father’s arms.

“Dada, dada,” she cries, reaching out towards me.

“No, baby. That’s mama,” my dad corrects her, but she continues to say ‘dada’ over and over again until I pull her into my arms.

“You really aren’t going to say it, huh?” I ask, narrowing my eyes at her, and she reaches forward to grab my hair.

“No.”

Everyone around us laughs, but as I turn to give Christian an annoyed look, I realize he isn’t here.

“Where’s Christian?”

“In his office,” Carrick says. “He got a call from Ros, I think.”

“Oh. Well, then I better go check on him.”

“Tell him to hurry back,” Mia says. “It’s our turn again after the parents.”

“I will. And, hey… Happy Birthday, Mia.”

She beams at me. “Thanks.”

I adjust Calliope on my hip as Kim reaches into the bowl and Carrick, Grace, and my father turn their attention to her, then leave to go pull Christian out of whatever work Ros has ensnared him in. When I open his office door, I find him on the phone, absorbed enough that he doesn’t even look up when I enter.

“I know you’re not as invested in this project as I am, Ros, so I’m not going to take your lack of faith here personally, but I’m not giving up.” He pauses, and as Ros responds to him, he starts shaking his head. “Funding has never been an issue before, and it isn’t an issue now. I’ll take care of it. I said I’ll take care of it.” He slams the phone down on the receiver and sighs as he drops his head into his hands. I watch him run his fingers through his hair a few times, and when he finally looks up at me, I cross the room and settle down on the desk in front of him.

“Something wrong?”

He shakes his head. “Nothing I can’t handle. How was your signing?”

“It was good.” He smiles and leans forward to kiss me, but Calliope grabs his lips in her fist before he even gets close.

“Dada.”

He laughs, then opens his mouth to nibble on her fingers, which makes her shriek and start to giggle.

“Alright you two,” I say, grinning. “It’s Aunt Mia’s birthday and we need to go help her celebrate. Don’t we, Munchkin?”

“No.”

Both Christian and I laugh again, but despite her discordant response, Christian takes her out of my hold so I can hop off the desk, and we carry her back out to the living room where our family is finally getting ready for dinner.

With Gail off on weekends and me spending the whole day out of the house, it was up to Christian to have Mia’s birthday dinner prepared, which means it’s been catered. We have an Italian feast laid out before us, and as we pass pastas, bread, and a gooey, cheese covered chicken around, Grace finally concedes and lets Mia open her gifts. From Kate and Elliot, she opens a designer duffle bag filled with custom made leotards and pointe shoes. Carrick and Grace give her some heirloom jewelry from Grandma Trevelyan that they’ve held for her since she was born, and my dad gives her the same bag full of lottery tickets he gave me when I turned eighteen.

“Oh my god, this is amazing,” Mia says happily, pulling out a long ribbon of scratchers. “I’m going to be a millionaire.”

My dad laughs and I turn a smug look on Christian.

“Alright, my turn,” he says, then gets up and disappears into the formal sitting room off to the side of the dining room. When he returns, he’s holding a beautifully wrapped square box that is a mystery to both me and Mia.”

“Thank you, Christian and Ana!” Mia chirps excitedly as she starts untying the ribbon. I shake my head.

“This is all Christian.”

She smiles at her brother, then lifts the lid. But when she peaks inside, she frowns.

“What is it?”

“Well read it, Miss Harvard.”

She scrunches her face at him, then reaches into the box and pulls out an envelope. When she takes out the paper inside, her eyes widen.

“Plane ticket vouchers to Spain?”

“Keep going…”

Mia raises an eyebrow, then reaches back into the box for another envelope. It’s a hotel reservation in Barcelona, followed by rail passes, ferry vouchers, and more plane tickets to get them to France, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, The UK, and Ireland. He’s planned a full European tour over the course of the entire summer, and paid for everything to get her around. The last envelope she opens, labeled “Travel Money”, contains over $15,000 in cash.

“Oh my god, you’re sending me to Europe?” Mia asks, once everything she’s opened finally sets in.

“You and four of your friends, female friends. All summer. Ana and I might even join you for part of the trip.”

“Holy mother of…” She smiles and turns to her parents. “I can go, right Mom?”

“All summer? Alone?”

“Not alone,” Christian interjects. “I’ll of course provide security.”

Carrick takes a deep breath and places his hand over his wife’s. “She’s worked really hard in school this year and she got into Harvard. She’s an adult now.”

“I know, but…”

“Please, Mom? Pleeeeeeeeease?”

Grace looks between Christian and Mia, hesitating, but eventually, she lets out a defeated breath and nods. “Fine.”

“Oh my god!” Mia squeals, then reaches over to grab Tibby’s hands. “Who should we take?”

“Whoever kisses our asses the best until we go,” she replies, and the two of them devolve into a fit of laughter.

I bite my lip nervously. “Are you sur–”

“Mrs. Grey?”

My words cut off as I turn to the doorway, where Taylor is looking at me expectantly. “Yes?”

“Sawyer is here to see you.”

“Sawyer?” Christian repeats, his brow creasing. “Why is Sawyer here? I thought you just saw him?”

“I did.” My face gets hot at the inquisitive look in his eye, and I quickly get out of my chair to avoid any further questions. “I’ll be right back.”

“Ana?” Christian’s voice echos after me as I hurry out of the room, but I don’t turn back to him. I give Taylor a dismissive look, then make a beeline for the entrance hall where Luke is waiting with a beautiful, extremely dark haired girl.

“Luke, what are you doing here?” I hiss.

“We have a problem.”

My back stiffens, and I can nearly feel the blood drain from my face. “A problem? You mean with Mr. Kozlowski?”

“No. Immigration came picked him up this morning, he’s on his way to San Francisco right now for an appeal hearing, but I’ve already confirmed that his request for an extension on his green card is going to be denied. This is a much…”

“Ana?” Christian’s voice sounds from behind me again, and I spin around trying to keep the look of guilt off my face. He walks towards us, his eyes narrowing in on Luke.

“Sawyer, what are you doing here?” he asks.

He replies without missing a beat. “Ana invited me to Mia’s party.”

“Did she?”

“Uh… yeah,” I stutter. “I thought, um…”

“She thought it would be a good chance to introduce everyone to my girlfriend. Mr. Grey, this is Jade. Jade, Christian Grey.”

“Girlfriend?” Christian repeats, and the girl standing next to Luke smiles and reaches her hand out.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Grey.”

Christian shakes her hand, and after a confused glance between the three of us, a smile starts to creep across his lips.

“Girlfriend,” he repeats, clearly pleased by the word. “That’s… wonderful! Welcome, Jade. It’s a pleasure to have you. We’ve just started dinner, but I can have a few more places set. Do you enjoy wine? I’ve just opened a bottle sent to me from a vineyard in Bordeaux.” He shoots a smile back at Luke and I, then walks with Jade out of the entryway, asking her questions about how they met.

“You have a girlfriend?” I hiss once Christian is out of earshot.

“Yeah…”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t plan on telling anyone. Believe me, I’m not an introduce-my-girlfriend-to-the-family kind of guy. But Taylor has a tail on me. I did some digging and it’s because your husband is worried about why you and I are hanging out without your security.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, and he gives me a pointed look that says I should know exactly what he’s talking about. “He thinks I’m cheating on him?”

“Don’t act so surprised, Ana. You know he’s never been comfortable with how close we are. But drawing Taylor’s attention to what we’re doing when no one is around will not work out well for us. So… here I am. Girlfriend in tow.”

“Good thinking. And, thanks.”

“Yeah, you owe me huge. This is going to make her think we’re a lot more serious than we are. I don’t know how, but you somehow manage to make every girl I date think I’m just itching to be tied down.”

“Sorry.”

“Yeah, well… Let’s go. It’s not going to help anything if we’re hanging out in private together while everyone else is in a different room.”

He hooks his arm through mine and drags me back toward the dining room, where everyone takes a minute to ask about Luke’s brand new relationship before finally turning their attention back to Mia. Nearly all of the Greys, including Kate, have been all over Europe, so they’re all eager to give her advice about her upcoming trip, and the enthusiastic attitude around the dining room table makes it difficult for me to voice any concern. Especially since I’ve already promised myself I wouldn’t let Christian see me struggling anymore. And that becomes a problem again once we’ve finished Mia’s birthday cake and the party starts to draw to a close.

“Now, I’m just saying…” Grace begins. “If you two wanted a night off, Carrick and I would be happy to take Calliope home with us.”

Christian turns and brushes his hand over my knee. “What do you think, baby?”

“Overnight?”

Grace nods. “We could take her with us to church in the morning and then maybe the zoo. We’ll have her back to you by dinner.”

“I uh…” I swallow, trying to push down the unease creeping up my throat. I can almost feel in the way that Christian is looking at me that he’s put his mother up to this. Not even as a test, which is what it feels like, but because we promised each other after we got back from the Maldives that we were going to do everything we could to keep life from getting in between us again. That means finding time for our marriage. With everything I’ve had scheduled this week and Christian working on his new project, we haven’t had much alone time together. This is the perfect opportunity and there is absolutely no logical reason for me to worry about Calliope spending a night with her loving and devoted grandparents. So, though it kills me, I nod.

“Sure. She’d love that.”

Christian’s mouth moves slightly as he tries to hide his feelings over having the house to ourselves tonight, and Grace beams so brightly, one would think she’d just been handed the keys to Disneyland.

“Great!” she says. “Don’t you worry about a thing, I’ll just go pack some of her things and we’ll get out of your hair. Carrick, will you help Mia take her gifts out to the car, please?”

“That’s okay, I’m going to stay with Tibby tonight,” Mia says.

Grace nods and makes her way out of the dining room, and instead of letting myself sit and fret over the idea of Calliope spending her very first night away from home, I turn and listen to the grilling questions Kate is already launching at Jade. Luke plays defense until Elliot finally makes Kate pull back a bit and Christian gets up with his father to get an extra car seat. I swallow the lingering doubt I have over Calliope’s first sleepover, and pick her up out of her high chair, wiping down her hands with a wet rag before passing her off to Grace. My dad gets up to hug me, Elliot and I pull Kate out of her chair, and Luke quickly ushers Jade out of the dining room before anyone can ask more questions.

“Call us if you need anything,” Christian says, once everyone has made it outside and we’ve secured Calliope inside his parent’s car. Grace waives him off.

“You two don’t worry about us. Enjoy your night.”

“Oh, we will,” Christian says, and for once his mother doesn’t grimace at the implication under his tone. “Thank you again, Mom.”

Grace winks and kisses her son on the cheek before turning to hug me. Carrick is next, but when I pass him off, Christian doesn’t hug him good-bye.

“I need to schedule a meeting with you next week.”

“Schedule? Why so formal?”

“Because I don’t need a meeting with my father, I need a meeting with the mayor.”

“I haven’t made a final decision on who I’m going to put up for police chief yet, Christian.”

“No, it’s not that. I’d just like to discuss the tax incentives the city of Seattle is willing to grant GEH before the start of the new fiscal year.”

Carrick frowns. “Sorry, son. The budget is tight this year and I don’t have any room to help you out.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Christian says, and with those two words, his entire persona shifts. Gone is my good humored husband and Carrick’s son. In his place is the cold, unwavering CEO. “For the people, I mean.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I just think it’ll probably be difficult for a lot of people should I choose to re-headquarter my company in Tacoma, where they are willing to give me the tax benefits I’m asking for. That’s what… 5,000 locals, voters, unemployed? I imagine it will be a difficult adjustment.”

Carrick takes a step away from his son, looking shocked. “Are you… are you threatening me?”

“No,” Christian dismisses him. “No, of course not. Look, I’ll have Andrea get in touch with your office. We’ll meet next week to discuss this further. I don’t know, maybe… maybe you have more wiggle room than you think.”

“I don’t, Christian.”

“We’ll see. Have a good night, Dad. You got her pacifier with the pink elephant on it, right? She won’t go down without it.”

“I-I–”

Christian wraps an arm around me and pulls me away, leaving his father stuttering and looking dumbfounded. I keep waiting for him to stop and laugh, like this is all some kind of bad joke, but he doesn’t. He leads me right into the house and closes the door behind us.

“Alone at last,” he groans, pushing me into the door and covering his body with mine, but I move out of the way when he leans in to kiss me.

“Christian, what the hell was that?”

“What?” I narrow my eyes at him, and he rolls his. “Look, Seattle is an expensive city to run a business in. I’m doing what I feel is best for my company.”

“By threatening the mayor with 5,000 layoffs if you don’t get enough in tax incentives?”

“Well… yeah. It’s a pretty powerful bargaining chip.”

“Bargaining chip? That’s what you’re calling threatening your father’s career?”

“It’s business, Ana. It’s what I would do regardless of who was in office. I can’t treat him like my dad when it comes to work.”

“This basically blackmail.”

He swallows, hard enough that I can see his adam’s apple move. “Look, Ana. This new project I’m trying to launch isn’t cheap. I don’t have enough in the R&D budget to fund it, even with the grant approvals we received from NASA.”

“So, scrap the project.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes you can.”

“No. I can’t. The implications of this project are too great. I need something that is going to take GEH to the next level, to the highest level, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.”

“Why? We already have more money than we’ll ever be able to spend. Why do you need more?”

“It’s not about the money, it’s about the power.”

“Power?” He inhales sharply through his nose and presses his lips together, like he’s afraid he’s said too much, and I feel a cold chill work its way up my back. “What do you mean by ‘power’, Christian?”

“Nothing. I don’t mean anything. Look, we’re alone. Let’s talk about this tomorrow. Right now…”

He leans in to kiss me, but, again, I move out of the way before his lips can touch mine.

“What do you mean by ‘power’, Christian?”

“Ana…”

“No, I’m not going to fuck you when you’re saying cryptic things I don’t understand and threatening people in our family. We’re going to talk about this now.”

He stares down into my eyes, clearly warring with himself, and when he finally decides how he’s going to answer me, he pulls back, leans against the wall, and looks down at the floor.

“You think you’re the only one all this was hard for? You don’t think seeing Gia holding Calliope in one hand and a gun in the other, or watching Linc put his hands all over you and tell me about all the twisted ways he’s fantasized about you wasn’t the absolute worst moment of my life? That I don’t relive it all the damn time and spend every waking minute replaying that entire night trying to figure out how I could have stopped it? I was powerless, Ana. He was going to take you from me and if your father hadn’t intervened, he would have succeeded. He beat me. And then you fell apart right in front of me and there was nothing I could do to save you. Those few weeks after, when you wouldn’t even talk and you wouldn’t eat and you spent all day, every day, locked in a room with the baby and screamed every time someone came to check on you… I used lie awake at night watching you breathe because I was afraid that you would just… give up and–”

His words stop and his shoulders rise as he takes a deep, calming breath. When he looks up at me, I can see fear in his eyes.

“I was powerless, and now that I know what that feels like, I will never let it happen it again. This project has the potential to make me one of the most powerful men in the entire world. No one will be able to touch us. No one will dare. I’m not worried about money or accolades anymore. I want power. I want to build the kind of empire that controls what’s really important. Information. Policy. World leaders. By the time I’m finished, wars will be fought before anyone ever gets close to you or Calliope again.”

“Christian…” I breathe, and he hangs his head again. I can feel an energy radiating off of him that I’ve never felt before, and it makes my entire body tingle like a million little pin-pricks all over my skin. “Why didn’t you tell me you felt like this?”

“You’re going through enough, Ana.”

I shake my head. “No, I’m fi–”

“Don’t. Don’t say you’re fine.”

“But I am, Christian. Look, I know that it was rough in the beginning, I can’t deny that, but I’m moving on. The Maldives really were good for me. They gave me some distance and let me see the world outside of what happened to us again. I’m doing better. I mean, I let Calliope out of the house. That’s something. I’m taking Mia to Harvard all by myself, I’m doing book signings, I’m meeting Luke for lunch in the city. I’m even thinking about taking a job.”

His brow furrows. “A job?”

“Yeah, I was approached by Greenwich Small Press. They’re looking for someone to step in and run their Seattle division and I’m thinking about going in to interview this week.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to work in publishing anymore. I thought you wanted to write?”

“I do, and this won’t stop me from doing that. But being at that conference today, feeling that energy and talking with all of those unsigned writers felt really right. I think part of the reason it’s been so hard for me to move on from what happened is that I’m stuck. Here. In this house. I don’t have anything to move on to. I mean, you have GEH, Elliot has Grey Construction, Kate has Kavanagh Media… what do I have?”

“You have Calliope.”

I nod. “Yeah, and I love being her mother. But I didn’t go to Harvard to just be a mom. I need something that’s mine, only mine, that I can push myself with and grow with and find success on my own. I told you a long time ago that my dream was to one day run a publishing house so I could help other people’s dreams come true and this is an opportunity to make that happen.”

“I know. That’s why I bought SIP.”

“Yeah, but you bought SIP. This isn’t like that. Greenwich came to me because they knew what I could do and they need me. I earned this.”

“Once again, you’re selling yourself short. I know that you think I gave you Grey Publishing, but I didn’t. Grey Publishing is successful because Boyce Fox’s book sales made us attractive to higher quality authors. You signed him. Grey Publishing is successful because our e-reader brings in enough cash flow to invest heavily in good marketing. That was your project. You were the one who laid the foundation for what it is today, and that has nothing to do with me.”

“But there isn’t space for me there anymore. You gave my job to Elizabeth, remember?”

He narrows his eyes at me. “I think I can find something for you.”

“Don’t you dare, Christian Grey. Elizabeth has done amazing things for GP, and I know because that’s the reason the president of Greenwich was fired. They can’t compete with you. You’re not going to fire her just so you can give your wife a job.”

“I won’t have to fire her,” he argues. “There’s plenty of space for you. We still haven’t hired a permanent replacement for Jack, you could take over the entire fiction department. It’ll give you creative control and you’ll have the opportunity to work closely with authors. And once you have a good team in place, you’ll be able to split your time between work and writing.”

“When did this turn into an offer to work at Grey Publishing?”

“The moment you told me you wanted a job.”

I shake my head. “I don’t want you to hand me a career, Christian. I want to carve a path out for myself, just like you did. It’s validating for me that someone who I’m not married to has approached me with this amazing opportunity, that they need me, and… I think I need them.”

“You won’t be working for yourself, you’ll be working for someone else.”

“That’s not as important to me as it is to you.”

“You’ll be the competition.”

“And I’ll try to take it easy on you.”

Despite himself, he laughs, then takes a deep breath and starts shaking his head. “Just as stubborn as ever. You know this is Harvard all over again.”

“And I won that fight. Over and over and over again. Honestly, you should cave now before I take this job just to spite you and then dedicate my career to burying Grey Publishing.” I give him a defiant look and his expression softens. He raises his hand and places them on either side of my face, staring deeply into my eyes.

“There you are.” It’s the first time in as long as I can really remember that he’s not looking at me like I’m damaged. There is only love and happiness reflected in his eyes and it sends a wave of welcome heat through my body.

“See? I told you, I’m fine.”

“I still think you should come work for me.”

“Well, we can talk about that after my interview. Maybe I won’t like what they have to say. And the guy that asked me to come interview isn’t even the one who makes the final decision. I have to meet with his boss. Maybe they won’t like me as much and I won’t even get the job.”

His expression changes, and after a few seconds a subtle smile plays at the corner of his mouth. “His boss. GSP is owned by a holding company and the CEO– she’s uh… well, she’s… “ He shakes his head. “You’re right. We’ll talk about this if you get the job.”

“Deal.”

“And if you don’t, you’ll come work for me?”

“Maybe. Yeah, I could see that.”

“Then, deal.”

Once again, he tries to kiss me, but I lift my hand to create a barrier between his lips and mine. “And in the meantime?”

He grins. “In the meantime, I plan on taking advantage of this rare night we have alone. I might even… go break into the closet.”

“I meant about GEH and your dad, Christian.”

“I’ll think about it. But I don’t want to talk about this anymore tonight. I want you naked and tied to my headboard.”

I bite my bottom lip. “The closet, huh?”

“Oh yes. You’ve talked a big game tonight, Ana. I think I need to remind you who the boss really is around here.”

So fast that I can’t back away, he bends over and picks me up at the waist, slinging me over his shoulder and making his way for the stairs. I squeal and try to squirm out of his grip but he simply smacks me hard on the behind and continues on all the way to our bedroom.

Next Chapter

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29 thoughts on “Chapter 05

    1. He’s hasn’t slept with anyone except Elena and Ana, and I don’t think he’ll be happy if Ana had to meet her. So yea I don’t think so.

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    2. Christian obviously knows SOMETHING about the boss of GSP. It could be that, like Ros, “she” is interested in other women. Which might mean that she makes a play for Ana, but Christian is not worried about that. (That’s my first theory, at any rate.)

      Still, like you, that was one of my first takeaways from this chapter–Christian knowing the boss of GSP. AND Christian not being overly fond of Ana working for someone OTHER than him. But we ALL knew THAT would be a problem. . . .

      (At least the boss of GSP is a woman. STILL, that won’t keep Mr. Competitive from doing something sneaky.)

      And WHERE does Mr. Wallace fit into all this?

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  1. I do not like Kim. The fact that she calls Ana, “Annie” really ticks me off. That’s Ray’s name for her. She is trying too hard to insert herself into Ana’s life. I can’t wait to see what dirt Luke finds on her.

    I do not trust this Scott Wallace fellow, either. However, we’ll see if he has ulterior motives. So, Christian knows the CEO at the publishing house where Ana will interview, huh?

    I understand Christian wanting to be able to protect his family. However, has he forgotten his father also falls under that umbrella? It was tacky and insane of him to threaten his dad. He needs to apologize to Carrick. A sincere apology. Not a half assed Christian Grey apology.

    Callie is too cute. I love her. Another great chapter. Thank you.

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    1. Agree as to all.

      Would LOVE an Outtake of Christian’s Day Off with Calliope. ESPECIALLY since Mrs. Jones was off. I can only imagine Christian trying to feed himself AND Callie AND get work done. I would have particularly enjoyed Ana walking in on Christian having noodles, sauce or the like stuck in his hair and not even realizing it!

      As to Kim, of course she is trying to hard. If she really likes Ray, then she would KNOW how important Ana is to her father, ESPECIALLY now. But Kim should ALSO know that Ana has JUST lost her mother, and Kim has also NOT yet earned the right to use Ana’s beloved nickname that ONLY her father uses. That is basic new-stepmom 101.

      AND very clever, Tara. All that focus on Ana, and we all entirely miss the fact that CHRISTIAN has also had the wind knocked out of him. He, too, was made to feel helpless. And that has been something that he hasn’t had to deal with in so long. Lincoln DID beat him and nearly took and destroyed what he loved most. AND to Christian, Lincoln seemingly DID take the person he loved most away from him. So Christian is spiraling out of control as well, particularly since he can’t cure Ana the way that he wants.

      Also explains why Christian will NOT give up this project, even though it could bankrupt him AND GEH. No wonder Ros is frustrated. But threatening HIS DAD??? How is Christian different from Andrew Lincoln and HIS tactics when he goes this route?

      AND I had wondered if Christian and/or Taylor would think Sawyer and Ana might be considering an affair (which we ALL know Ana would NEVER do. Neither would Sawyer, for that matter, as he would KNOW that would destroy Ana.). So they ARE being tailed or watched to some extent. I’m actually HAPPY for that, although not for the reasons given by Taylor, obviously.

      Wow. A LOT to think about from this chapter.

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  2. Honestly I didn’t like the person ana became, I know it’s trauma and she’s in denial but still, she won’t let anyone help her and she used sex to have her husband to stop talking about her going to therapy. But in this chapter the old Ana came back to life a little again and I loved it. But still the thing with luke has me with all these questions about how wrong this could go. Also I’m curious about how the interview for Ana is going to go, and if Christian will do anything to make sure she won’t get the job and that she’ll work at GP instead.
    I’m excited to read more and I can’t wait for next Monday! You’re really a great writer!!
    Ps. I love how Callie only says ‘dada’ 😉

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    1. Callie is Little “Miss Stubborness” personified. She KNOWS that she has her father wrapped around her little finger and that it will be her mother, most likely, to stand in her way of what she wants. Smart little infant. Love to see how THIS trend continues!

      AND that conversation with Christian WAS interesting. I’m ALSO intrigued to see how Christian intervenes. He obviously knows SOMETHING about the boss. Probably enough to see what the person is REALLY up to in considering Ana for the position, as there may be an ULTERIOR motive of which Ana is completely unaware. . . .

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  3. Luke and Ana are playing a dangerous game behind Taylor and Christian. Christian is no dummy and eventually he will learn the truth and oh god that will be explosive. This new guy stalking Ana I can’t fully trust right now. And why is Ana so distrusting of Rays new lady friend. Mia going to Europe has disaster written all over the place. Amazing chapter as always.

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    1. ESPECIALLY since Mia is going with Tibby. I swear, that girl and Mia are up to no good most of the time together. At least with Harvard, I figure Mia won’t be around Tibby. But something tells me Mia has an ulterior motive with Harvard as well.

      Sigh. EVERYONE seems to have ulterior motives right now, and figuring out what they are is proving both intriguing AND frustrating. And once Taylor and Christian learn Ana’s REAL reasons for teaming up with Sawyer, the arguments will REALLY start, particularly since Christian will start to feel helpless again. And whenever that couples with his fear of losing Ana, that “power-hungry” version emerges. And THAT Christian is one I DEFINITELY don’t like. Or trust. THAT Christian is willing to threaten and seemingly go to war against his father. And for what?

      Yep, scary potential disasters are definitely close.

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  4. Well, well, well.
    Christian is not fine.
    Ana is not fine.
    Callie is Golden.

    C wants to rule the world! Ha! Mr. Power ranger delux. Totally falls in line with his controlling personality (which I feel he will always have, and when it comes to Ana, will be his strongest trait in their relationship. Period). When he faced death and could not protect his family at the end of book three, he too snapped. Now A will not open up to him, and he can’t control her aspects of life, so he is zeroed in on gaining some kind of control through what he is very, very good at- business. He will even challenge family members to attain his need to protect his family by gaining a position that he feel can absolutely not be tampered with. I truly believe this is not about money with him.

    Ana is not the only one damaged one- I love how she found a status quo in her work/writing and helping others to find their way. I think she will always be a writer at heart, she draws so much from her personal experience in her writing that it doesn’t seem to just make a great read, perhaps she finds her own healing through it. Love how she still calls C out on his bullshit. When he goes all business on Carrick, A goes into questioning mode. The detail about A’s interaction with the fans who came to the book signing was enjoyable and quite the insight to her thoughts. While I am not a fan of Woods, I do love me some Luke. I see him as the consummate “dater”- it would take an epic romance of his own to tie him down for good.

    ***I know some of the fans following this story would LOOSE THEIR MINDS. But I would love for there to be a scene where Luke tells A that he could see them in another world- making a go of it. Maybe he will tell her that if they were both starring in Outlander- they would have made one hot couple. LOLOLOL Before haters bash me, I will say that A will never, ever love anyone but Christian, she found her soul mate in him. For craps sake, she is going to the ends of the earth to protect their future.
    ….and that makes this story so enjoyable. Because we know that while this is going to be rocky, they are going to stronger than ever on the other side of all this.

    My god, is there really six more days til next Monday.
    Argh.
    Love it!!!!!!!! Keep the chapters coming!!!!!
    AJM

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  5. Mmm so he thinks she’s cheating..wow. guess that trust is waning. I hope she goes for it, will be hilarious when she smokes him. Christian isn’t alright either….they both are PTSD on their own ways.

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  6. So I wonder if Christian is going to find a way to sabatosh Ana’s chances for this new job? And what’s this new project he’s working on that he’s really threatening to layoff 5,000 workers all while putting his father in a very awkward position? Sometimes I really don’t like the CEO Christian. I wonder who really is this new girlfriend of Ray’s.

    I feel something’s brewing…

    Really loving this story. 😍😍😍

    Like

  7. This chapter is a revelation. Christian isn’t doing well. Both of them aren’t doing well and are taking works off their minds, rather to be stronger and protect their family in the best way possible. Don’t trust Scott Wallace or that job he’s offering. Isn’t it a conflict of interest if Ana takes the job since they have GP already? What was Christian about to say about the CEO of GSP? In this career avenue, if only they communicated they would have catered a position of Ana’s liking for her and not need to resort to possibility of GSP. I know Ana will sort Christian out about Carrick, he was terrible to his dad. The book signing went so well. Still, about what she and Luke are going behind Christian and Taylor, it feels wrong. If he knew Christian will feel so betrayed, already he is fearful of their delicate situation after what happened. Bringing Jade into the picture may make it worst. Thank you, Tara, you’re amazing. After every read can’t wait to find out what happens next. Xoxo daytona

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  8. OMG, Such a great chapter. CG is letting down his walls a bit. Ana is coming back to herself a bit. CG might dig into “the closet” a little bit. Hah! Love it.

    In the Tara Universe, “Closet” is aka for The Red Room (LOL).

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  9. Many twist and turns will happen with all the introductions of new people that don’t really know who and what they are. In a way Christian probably suffered more mentally and emotionally than Ana from the Linc incident he just did not show it and did not allow it to affect his daily functions like it did to Ana after he recovered from the physical trauna he suffered, It shows he is still the stronger person in more ways and needs to stay that way and not be easily swayed to the drama that other people creates including Ana’s. Ana thinking of looking on the competition for a job smells problem in itself. Yes, creating just another problem for Christian to solve. What is so wrong in staying working with SIP when he acquired the company for her. Hope Christain sabotage it or the owner will be suspicious of her because of who she is. She is empowered by the success of her book and more likely thinks she can tackle anything now. She will continue to feed on her success and see how it will turn out. She is still young and by no means she has been exposed to smell all the rotten people around. What Christian will do he thinks and plans about it and will not be deterred if it will keep Ana and Calliope safe. He wants the power and making just money is not enough to protect them anymore. He has to find ways and he will. He does not give up that easily. He is Christian Grey. Thank you, Tara.

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  10. I’m not a grammar nazi, just a loyal fan offering a tidbit of editorial insight….don’t be offended please:[]

    Waist and waste sound alike, but their meanings are different.

    Waist is a noun meaning the part of the middle of the body above the hips or the part of clothing that covers that area.

    Waste may be used as a verb, noun or adjective. When it is a verb, it means to use carelessly or to weaken. As a noun it means something ruined or not wanted, like trash, or something used carelessly. As an adjective it means no longer useful.

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  11. I don’t have a good feeling about that job off, and what did Luke find out…that kind of feel by the way side….and will Christian really go through with his threat to his dad? Yes, that is business. but the repercussions…..wow….loved it….

    Like

  12. Maybe Ana should write about what happened with Linc? That might help her as well? That was sweet of Ana to ask Hailey to send her book so that Ana could read it. Ana really is considering that job offer? That Mr. Wallace has now popped up twice where Ana just so happens be? What was he doing at the restaurant in the middle of nowhere? Christian knows the CEO of GSP and it’s a woman?!

    Funny how Luke had to bring a ‘girlfriend” over to Mia’s birthday to throw Taylor and Christian off of what Ana and Luke are doing. 🙂

    Christian is really playing hardball with his father to get those tax credits. I feel sorry for Carrick. Christian should also consider that his father is using the city resources to find all the others that were part of the Lincoln conspiracy. But Christian seems to have a different agenda.

    Christian telling Ana how he has been feeling since that Lincoln debacle was gave Ana a different way of thinking because she didn’t realize just how traumatizing that was for Christian as well and how out of control he felt.

    Like

  13. Oh, Tara, you’ve got me hooked again. I’m suspicious of every new character, but especially suspicious when Mr. Wallace says “ … I’m going to schedule an interview with you for Wednesday at eleven o’clock … “ That sounds like hiring fast-food workers or movie extras, not an executive interview. Even if it’s a foregone conclusion that Ana will be hired, he should ask her if Wednesday 11am is convenient. That really should occur to her; and after Christian’s reaction, I’d want to do some research on who owns/controls GSP. I hope Taylor or Luke look into this before Wednesday.

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  14. “Powerless=lifeless.”
    ― Bangambiki Habyarimana
    “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”
    ― Steve Maraboli
    “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. ”
    ― Roseanne Barr

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  15. Don’t like the Ana attitude. She force Christian to see the physician therapy, not allow him closed to others women, not allowan him keep secrets from her but all things happen to her, she just ignored and closed to Luke,share secrets with him, Luke is the first person to know everything for her not Christian. She keep said love Christian but I doubt.

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  16. Thanks tara for an amazing chapter. I think the one thing I am choosing to focus on this chapter is the knowledge Christian has about the CEO. I don’t know… but the smirk and the slight hesitation as he spoke speaks volume, there is something intresting about the CEO and I am dying to find what it is!!!!!!!!
    Also I think after ASSOF we all are a little cynical when it comes to new characters. Honestly Tara you should feel really proud of yourself because you have changed the way we are receptive to things. All of us are waiting for a bomb to be dropped. Honestly I think we have gotten a lot skeptical and a whole less trusting. Sooo waiting egerly for the meeting between ana and the CEO.
    Loyal fan from Ethiopia

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  17. Something just occurred to me. One of the previous comments (sorry, I’m not recalling who made it) shared some interesting insight as to how anxious she feels now whenever Tara introduces a new character. Because of Tara’s great writing, we readers feel everyone new could be a suspect that we can’t trust and assume they are plotting some master scheme. But what if they’re not? New people come in and out of our lives all the time, do we all react that way? I doubt it. But Ana does.

    I’m beginning to understand that this may be the point of the story…We feel what Ana feels: mistrust, nervousness, anxiety….whereas we may only feel that on Mondays when a new update comes through, she feels that way all the time.

    I probably didn’t articulate that very well but you get the idea. Doesn’t matter. This story rocks either way. Just love that we’re along for the ride in a rare way; I mean, how many other authors can we do this with? Thanks for all you do, Tara.

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