The next morning, I’m awoken by the shrill screech of Christian’s alarm. I open my eyes begrudgingly to look at the Blackberry, now too brightly illuminated, that is vibrating furiously against wood of Christian’s side table. It’s 4:45 in the morning. I groan as I feel Christian lean over me to turn off his alarm.
“Good morning,” He says, kissing me on the cheek. I moan disapprovingly and feel him smile against my skin. “Want to come to the gym with me?”
“That sounds like end of the world,” I mumble sleepily.
“What time is your first class?” He asks.
“Then I’ll be back a little after 6:30 and we can get breakfast.”
“Still too early,” I pout. “I’ll go get in my bed so you don’t wake me up when you get back.”
“I’ll be quiet,” He says diplomatically.
“But then you’ll leave. I won’t be able to lock up once I go to class,” I reply. He frowns but nods.
“Meet me for lunch at 12:30?”
“I’ll be at work,” I say with a yawn. “I have to work from 12-6 today.”
“Dinner then,” He says. I nod and he leans down to kiss me. Once he’s changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, I force myself out of bed and drag my feet out of the room after him.
“I love you,” He says, with a last kiss good-bye. I return the sentiment and shamble like a zombie into my own room.
Kate is still asleep and doesn’t stir awake at the light pouring in from the hallway, so I close the door behind me as silently as I can, creep into my own bed, and drift back off to sleep. When I do eventually wake for the day, it’s at a much more practical hour of 8:30 and sunlight is peeking through the curtains on my window. I sit up just as Kate comes out of the bathroom wrapped in an oversized yellow towel.
“I didn’t think I’d see you here this morning?” She says when she sees that I am awake. “I thought you spent the night with Christian?”
“I did. He wakes up at 4:45 in the morning to go to the gym.”
“See, and you always said I was bad for getting up at 6:30.”
“You both are going to give me a complex,” I say, yawning. An alarm on my phone goes off telling me to take my birth control, so I reach over to turn it off and get out of bed in search of my bag. After a quick shower and breakfast with Kate, I head to my only class for the day and then it’s off to work.
The library is dead in the middle of the afternoon this early in the semester, so I spend most of my shift sitting at the counter staring at the clock before I’m finally given some books to re-shelf. As quietly as possible, I push the squeaking cart to the elevator and make my way to each floor to deposit the books. I dawdle on the third floor where all the economics books are stored, moving as slowly as possible in case Christian and Ros make an appearance.
“Excuse me, Miss? I wonder if… Oh,” Astor’s voice is surprised when I turn around to face him. “Ana, I didn’t know this is where you worked.”
“Yeah, what can I help you with?” I ask, putting the last book from my cart on the shelf.
“I’m looking for this book,” He says, handing me a piece of paper.
“Laws of Commercial Transactions in a World Economy,” I say, reading the title off the paper. I check the call number listed on the paper and realize he’s in the wrong section, “It’s actually over in International Law, not Economics. I’ll show you.”
I push the cart out of the aisle and against a wall, and lead Astor to the far back corner of the third floor. I have to pull up a step stool to reach the right shelf, but as I scan the titles on the spines, I don’t see what I’m looking for.
“Hmm, I’m going to have to go down to the computer and make sure it’s still in,” I say.
“Lead the way,” Astor says with a smile. I press my lips together in an I have to smile because I’m at work kind of way and set off back across the floor to the elevator. Once the doors open, I slip inside and press the G button that will take us to the Ground Level.
“I saw you eating dinner with Christian Grey last night,” Astor says.
“He’s my boyfriend,” I reply staring at the numbers above the door signaling the passing floors.
“Really? I thought he was dating Rosaline Bailey? I’ve never seen them apart.”
“They’re starting a business together,” I tell him curtly.
“Figures. That’s all he really seems to care about. Is he really as uptight and dull as he seems?” He asks. I glare at him and he holds his hands in front of him conciliatory. “He,y the only time I ever see or talk to him, he’s just an insufferable know-it-all who argues with everything anyone says.”
“He’s hardly dull,” I say in Christian’s defense.
“Okay, I’ll bite. What does he do that keeps him from being the most boring person on the planet?” Astor asks. I give him a why do you care look and he continues. “I spend a lot of time with the guy and he hates me. Give me something to bond with him over.” I sigh and speak begrudgingly.
“Well, he’s captain of the rowing team. They’re really good, people are saying they might go to the Olympics next year. And, he’s just started flying school. He’s learning to fly helicopters.”
“Really? Well, that’s a lot more interesting than I gave him credit for. What about you? What do you do when you’re not here?”
“I don’t know, I read mostly. My roommate is my best friend and we spend a lot of time together and…” My words cut off as a huge smile breaks across my face and I feel my cheeks begin to burn as I think of the other, rather new extra-curricular activity that Christian has introduced me to.
“Alright, alright,” Astor says reading my face perfectly and rolling his eyes. “I don’t need any gory details. Although I guess that adds to Grey’s list, too.”
The doors to the elevator open and I walk across the stone floor to the circulation desk. When the computer stirs awake, I log into the library system and type Laws of Commercial Transactions in a World Economy into the search bar.
“It looks like it was checked out this morning,” I say when I see the due date next to the title in bold red font.
“What? That assignment hasn’t even come out yet. Who has it?” He asks. I click on the due date for check out information and smile.
“Christian Grey,” I reply smugly, and Astor rolls his eyes.
“Perfect,” He says sarcastically.
“You know he’s in a lot of study groups. Maybe you could just join one of them so you can both use the book.”
“I doubt it. I already told you, he hates me and I don’t know enough about Helicopters to schmooze him.”
“Well you’ll find Aviation Mechanics on the 2nd floor, just past the elevator,” I say and he laughs.
“Books aren’t always the answer, Anastasia,” He jokes.
“I don’t know, they haven’t failed me yet. I’m here after all,” I reply, and he laughs again.
“What?” I ask, suspiciously.
“Nothing. Well, okay… I like to read too, sci-fi mostly. I uh… picked Harvard because Michael Crichton went here. Jurassic Park was a big part of my childhood.”
I smile and lean in conspiratorially. “I applied to every Ivy League school. Out of the eight applications, the only acceptances I got were Harvard and Columbia. My dad thought I would pick Columbia because I have a thing for New York and when I picked Harvard he assumed it was because it was so much more prestigious, but in reality, I’ve wanted to go here since I saw Legally Blonde when I was thirteen.”
He laughs again and I join in before turning back to the computer.
“Well, I guess you’re probably the expert at sucking up to Grey.” Astor says. “Do you have a recommendation for an Aviation book?”
“Principles of Helicopter Flight,” Christian answers, walking up behind Astor. “3rd edition.”
“Grey!” Astor says, clearly startled.
“Harrington,” Christian responds in an overly cool tone while sizing him up with his eyes. He smirks and then turns to me.
“Are you off?”
I turn to look at the clock and realize it’s twenty minutes passed 6.
“Oh, yeah. Let me just tell Ryan I’m leaving,” I say. I give Astor a quick wave goodbye and hurry quickly into the back room. When I return, bag in hand, Christian is waiting for me, leaned up against a pillar and typing on his Blackberry. Astor is nowhere to be seen.
He looks breathtaking standing there in dark jeans and a long sleeved black sweater. I have to stop and admire him for a moment. Is this beautiful man before me, whom I wholly love, really mine?
“All set,” I say eventually to get Christian’s attention. He looks up, smiles and puts his Blackberry in his pocket.
“What do you want for dinner?” He asks.
“I don’t know, whatever they’re serving I guess,” I say absentmindedly, still distracted by how good he looks tonight. “Should I tell Kate to meet us? Is Ros coming?”
“I didn’t mean Annenberg, Ana.” Christian says. “I wanted to take you out tonight. Just the two of us.”
“Oh,” I say, as I begin to beam. “But I’m not dressed to go out.”
“You look beautiful,” He says, and I blush.
“Still,” I say. He shakes his head and leads me back to Grays Hall, deciding to check his email in his room while I hurry into my own dorm to change. Kate does her quick, five minute, barely there makeup routine on me and twists my hair into an elegant but messy knot on top of my head while I slide into skinny black jeans, a white button up blouse, and a heather gray cardigan. I step into a pair of black pumps and head out the door with a quick wave and expression of gratitude. I’m so happy Kate loves make-overs so much. What would I do without her?
I knock on Christian’s door and he answers almost immediately, smiling as his eyes rake over my new outfit. I take his hand and we walk side by side to his car in the parking lot.
He takes me to a restaurant called Rialto and we’re seated at a dark table with soft light flickering from the lone candle between us.
“How was your day?” He asks after we’ve ordered.
“Fine. Work was slow but I got through it. How about you?”
“It was alright. You’re making me question my gym routine. You’re far too tempting in my bed in the morning.”
“Apparently not tempting enough and my bed isn’t nearly as warm and comfortable as yours.”
“Then you should always sleep next to me,” He says.
“And be kicked out every morning?”
“You wouldn’t have to leave when I left,” He argues. “I want you there.”
“We talked about this this morning. You leave a lot earlier than I do and if I won’t be able to lock up when I have to go to class.”
He reaches into his pocket, removes a silver key and places it on the table between us.
“I had this made for you today so you could. I wanted to talk to you tonight about moving your things into my room,” He says.
What? Move? Already? We’ve only been dating for a few weeks! Am I even allowed to do that? Do I want to do that?
“Christian…” I begin hesitantly. “I live with Kate. I like living with Kate. You and I… we’re so close we don’t really need…” I see face begin to fall as he hears the rejection in my words. I sigh and reach out and take the key.
“Thank you,” I tell him. “I’m not going to move my things, but that doesn’t mean I won’t stay with you all the time. Like I said, your bed is really superior to mine.”
“We have the same beds, Anastasia. The rooms came furnished.”
“Yes, but my bed doesn’t have you in it,” I say. He smiles a half kind of smile but the muscle in his jaw is still tight. There is dead air hanging between us as the waitress sets our plates down and we begin to eat in silence.
“You were talking to Astor Harrington tonight,” Christian says at last, and I can hear the displeasure in his voice.
“He asked for my help finding a book,” I tell him.
“You were talking about me.”
“You had the book. I suggested he join a study group with you so you could both use it and he asked about some of your interests so he could break the ice. He thinks you hate him.”
“So, he’s perceptive.”
“I don’t like you alone with him.”
“We weren’t alone, I was at work.”
“He’s going to try to take you, Anastasia. Just like he tries to take everything from me. He used to think Ros and I were dating and he spent weeks trying to seduce her until he found out she was gay.”
“What are you talking about? Today he told me he thought you and Ros were dating and I had to tell him that it was a business relationship.”
“Yeah, and next he asked you about your interest’s right? Turns out that you two have something in common?”
I bite the side of my cheek with frustration because I don’t want to admit Christian is right and I really don’t like his tone, which makes me feel like a child or something. He’s paranoid. Just because it happened the way he says it did, doesn’t mean he’s right about Astor’s intentions. Not every man I meet is trying to steal me away from him. He sounds crazy and I’m going to say so until I’m cut off by his Blackberry buzzing on the table.
He looks down at the screen irritably but as he reads the name his expression changes and I notice he’s hesitant to answer. A dreadful sense of unease flashes through me as I guess who it might be.
“Is it… her?” I ask.
“No, it’s my mom,” He says. I exhale, feeling relieved but confused at his reaction until I remember Elena’s threat in Aspen and everything suddenly makes sense. Grace is spending the week with Elena and he’s worried that she got to her. He’s worried this is the phone call where his mom will tell him Elena has convinced her that I’m not good for him and he should call it all off immediately.
“Mom?” Christian says in a tight voice when he answers the phone. “I’m well, how are you?”
I study his face while he speaks, looking for any minor variance in his carefully constructed stone facade but when his expression finally does change it’s into a look of relief.
“I’m glad to hear you had a good time, I’m sorry your week was cut short. Anastasia and I are out to dinner, can I call you back this evening? I will, thank you, Mom. You too, good-bye.”
I stare expectantly at him as he sets the phone down.
“My mom wants me to pass her love onto you,” He tells me.
“And Elena?” I press him but he shakes his head in a way to tell me there is nothing to tell.
“Can I ask a question?”
“What?” He asks, still clearly irritated from our spat.
“Why don’t you just tell your mom?”
“Tell her what?”
“About you and Elena?”
I think it takes him a second to realize what I’m saying but when he finally understands, his face morphs from curiosity to horror.
“About Elena and I, are you crazy?” He hisses, looking around as if to make sure no one can hear us. “Telling my parents wouldn’t just stop them from believing what she said or end their friendship. Anastasia. My father’s a lawyer. If they found out, they’d drag her through the courts and have her put in prison.”
“Well… yeah,” I say, emphasising that that’s the point.
“I don’t want that,” He says in a tone I’d expect him to use after I asked him to do something utterly revolting. “She doesn’t deserve that.”
“Christian, she had sex with you when you were fifteen. That’s less than two years older than Mia is now. She’s a child molester.”
“It wasn’t like that…”
“You don’t get to pick and choose what it was. There are laws, Christian, and there are laws for a reason. What she did was…”
“Enough,” He says coldly, cutting me off. “I’m not going to tell my parents. Don’t bring it up again.”
“They’re not going to be mad at you, Christian.”
“I said enough.”
I stare back into his steel colored eyes and the hard, aloofness in them makes my throat sting. The unnecessary harshness in his tone is like a slap in the face. My appetite has vanished and I’m furious now. This dinner has been a disaster and honestly, I just want to be alone now.
“Fine,” I say sharply. “Are you finished?”
“Anastasia,” He says consolingly but I’m not in the mood anymore.
“I’d like to go home,” I tell him. He looks at me, torn for a moment until he shakes his head with exasperation and scans the restaurant for the waitress, waving her over to bring us the check.
The car ride home is quiet and awkward. I glance over at Christian, who looks lost in thought as he chews on the side of his index finger. He looks mad and his anger just increases mine. He doesn’t have any right to be mad at me. I was just doing my job with Astor and I’m right about Elena. After all she’s done to him, all she’s put us through, why would he ever want to defend her? It’s disgusting.
We pull into the parking lot and I get out of the car as soon as he puts it into park and begin to storm angrily back to Grays. I can hear Christian behind me, but he doesn’t call out for me to stop until I get to the door of my dorm.
“Anastasia,” He says, reaching out for my elbow and turning me to face him.
“What?” I ask.
“Why are you running from me?”
“I’m not running from you, I just want to go to bed,” I tell him.
“You’re not staying with me tonight?”
“No. I think I want to be alone.”
He frowns down at me, looking worried and like he’s trying to find the words to say something or to keep me from leaving.
“Good night, Christian.”
“I love you., I tell him, and even though I know he’s still disappointed, he at least seems less worried.
“I love you too,” He says.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” I say, and reach up and kiss him chastely on the lips before turning around and slipping through my door.
“What are you doing here?” Kate asks when I close the door behind me. “I thought you’d stay with Christian tonight?”
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” I say.
“Are you fighting?” She asks concernedly.
“Sort of. He’s having some jealousy issues and I’m just frustrated.”
“That’s the worst,” She replies, and I’m surprised by her sympathetic tone. “Trust can take a while sometimes. You’ll get there, just keep showing him that you only want him and he’ll start to believe you.”
“Wow, advice other than dump him from Katherine Kavanagh?” I ask skeptically.
“What can I say, I’m a big softy now,” She says, and I laugh as she continues. “Seriously though, I can see you’re in love with him and how happy he makes you. Relationships can be hard but the truly good ones are worth fight for. Christian is worth fighting for, Ana. He loves you.”
“I know,” I say with a sigh, and I crawl into her bed next to her and rest my head on her shoulder. “How did you become so much smarter than me?” I ask.
“It’s been my sole obsession for years now. I stay up late at night while you’re asleep working tirelessly at it,” She replies sarcastically and I laugh.
“You know what you need? A girl’s night,” Kate suggests. “I’m going to San Francisco on Friday so Thursday night, let’s go out and have a fabulous time, just girls.”
“That sounds really good, Kate.” I reply with a smile. She lets out a small squeal of excitement and hugs me tightly. I roll my eyes and get up, crossing over to my own bed and crawling into the covers without bothering to do more than pull off my jeans and sweater.
“Goodnight, Ana,” Kate says, reaching over to turn off the night.