Book One


Ana expected a lot of things from Harvard University, but getting caught up in a whirlwind romance with the incredibly sexy guy across the hall wasn’t one of them. Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled with their love story and the closer Ana gets to Christian Grey, the harder she has to fight not to lose him.

Chapter 1

Book Two


Living with her best friend and finding the love of her life had truly made Ana’s freshman year at Harvard the best of her life until one life defining moment left her shattered. Now, she must decide whether she’ll help the man she loves overcome the past he can’t escape, or protect her wounded heart and risk losing him forever. (Sequel to a Different Shade of Fifty).

Chapter 1

Chapter 08

Image result for holly golightly

Getting back to Cambridge doesn’t have the calming effect I’d hoped it would after my run in with Leila. This is the first time Christian and Kate have been around one another since Kate and Elliot broke up and awkward does not adequately describe the atmosphere between the two of them. While I spend most of Saturday with Kate, getting ready for the Halloween party we’re going to that night by having my full body painted black and white, Christian mostly stays in my room, working at my desk. The entire time I’m with Kate, he never comes downstairs once. He hasn’t said a single word to her. The most he’s been around her was on the flight home and he hardly even looked at her.

“Okay, take a seat,” Kate tells me, once my body paint is finally dry and I’m able to slip into the black sheath dress. I sigh as I watch her pick up a teasing comb and an aerosol can of hairspray, and then reluctantly sit in the dining room chair she pulls from the table. I spend the next few minutes choking on a cloud of hairspray while Kate creates a stunningly high bouffant and then secures the rest of my hair in a french twist on the back of my head. When she’s sure it’s secure, she leaves me to finish getting dressed while she changes into her own costume. I head upstairs in my bedroom and once I’m inside, Christian turns automatically to look at me, and then does a doubletake when he sees me.

“What in the…” He says, his voice trailing off as his eyes make it up to my hair.

“Well, it looks stupid now,” I say defensively. “I’m not finished yet.”

“You’re a different color.”

I look down, examining the skin showing beneath my dress which took almost two hours of blending different shades of black, gray, and white paint with an airbrush and a professional artist to get right. “Yeah, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a black and white movie. Holly Golightly was gray.”

“Is Kate gray, too?” He asks, but I shake my head.

“No, Lorelei Lee was in technicolor.”

He shakes his head and turns back to the Macbook in front of him, so I continue on into the bathroom, ruffling his hair slightly as I step past his chair.

It’s an extraordinarily humbling experience, holding up a picture of Audrey Hepburn next to your face and deciphering how much you actually look like her. Thankfully, the artist who painted my body also shaded my face so I don’t have to worry about doing much make up. Looking between the photo on my phone and my reflection in the mirror has me convinced that Audrey’s classic beauty cannot be replicated, and attempting such a thing feels like a great way to dig up a lot of deep rooted self-esteem issues, so I settle for simply applying the set of false eyelashes I bought earlier in the week and coating them with mascara.

“Ana!” Kate calls, but her voice cuts off awkwardly, presumably when she steps into my room and sees Christian sitting in the chair by the door.

“She’s in the bathroom,” He says bluntly, and the only thing I hear in response to that is the swishing noise of the taffeta in Kate’s dress as she crosses the room. She’s dressed in the tight pink evening gown and matching elbow length gloves from the iconic Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend number, her hair is rolled up into Marilyn Monroe’s signature retro waves, and her neck, ears, and wrists are already glittering with diamond costume jewelry.

“My lipstick is a little too orange,” She says, stepping into the bathroom. “Do you have a better red than this?”

“Uh… I think so,” I say, reaching into my makeup bag and digging around. The tube is at the bottom as I’ve only ever worn it once, out of curiosity, and immediately decided that red lipstick was not my look. It looks great on Kate though, and once she’s applied the lipstick and drawn on the mole just above her lip, she’s Marilyn perfectly personified.

“Alright, let’s get your jewelry and we’ll be ready to go. I have a tiara and a some pearls, but all the earrings at the costume shop were ugly so I thought you could wear your Cartier.”

“My Cartier?” I repeat, confused.

“Yeah, the earrings Christian got you for Christmas a couple years ago.”

I feel my stomach drop. I have no idea where those earrings are and unfortunately, Christian is sitting about four feet away from the bathroom door right now, undoubtedly listening to every word we’re saying. My teeth sink into my bottom lip, and Kate raises an eyebrow at me.

“What’s wrong?”

I don’t know where those earrings are,” I mouth at her, after glancing nervously at the door. Her eyes widen and I watch her lean back a little to check to see if Christian is looking, then close the door to try and prevent him from hearing us.

“What do you mean you don’t know where those earrings are?” She hisses at me, and though her voice is a soft, barely an audible whisper, I can hear the indignation in her tone. “Those earrings were like, $2500, Anastasia.”

“I know,” I whisper back. “But in those two years when Christian and I weren’t together, I wasn’t particularly concerned with keeping track of the jewelry he gave me. If I was talking to him at all, I probably would have returned them, but I wasn’t…”

“That’s the first thing he ever gave you,” She argues.

“I know that! Don’t you think I know that? I feel awful about it, but I can’t do anything about it now. I don’t remember giving them away so I’m sure they’re here somewhere, I just don’t know where…”

She presses her lips together as she looks at the closed door, and I can almost see her trying to work through the problem she’s posed in her head. “Okay, we’ll look for them after he goes back to Seattle. In the meantime, just go to your jewelry box like you’re going to get them and I’ll say something about how I don’t think you should wear them after all. I have some cheap earrings you can wear instead.”

I nod and she turns to open the door for me. Christian looks up at me as I step out into the room, and I can’t believe how stupid I feel putting on this charade. I should just tell him the truth, that I know he heard Kate bring it up but I think I might have lost them, but I also don’t want to hurt his feelings. I know how much he hates talking or even thinking about the time we weren’t together and that’s not how I want to start this night off with him. Tonight is supposed to be fun. A chance to prove that he and I can do the things normal 22 year olds do without creating some huge disaster.

I can hear the swish of Kate’s dress as she comes out of the bathroom behind me, and once I reach the jewelry box sitting on the dresser, I hear her call out to me.

“Wait, Ana…” She says hesitantly. “Maybe you shouldn’t wear actual diamonds tonight. You’re going to be drinking and dancing, you don’t want to lose them just for a stupid Halloween costume.”

“Uh… good call, Kate,” I say awkwardly.

“I think I have a pair you can wear, I’ll be right back.”

I nod and watch her leave, but the second she’s left the room, Christian gets up from the desk, closes the door behind her and rounds on me.

“You lost the earrings I gave you, didn’t you?” He asks, and I frown.

“I don’t know,” I tell him, hanging my head a little with shame. “When we broke up, I got rid of a lot of the things you gave me, I put away other stuff… I have no idea where the earrings got to.”

He sighs and crosses the room, stopping only inches away from me and holding his arms open. “So, why the theatrics? Why didn’t you just tell me that?”

“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” I admit, stepping into his embrace. “It was the first gift you ever gave me and if I would have known we were going to get back together, I would have kept better track of them.”

“It’s okay,” He tells me. “They’re just earrings.”

“$2500 earrings,” I mumble back.

“Actually they were just over $4000,” He corrects me, and when I let out a displeased sigh, he lifts my chin so that I’m looking up at him. “The earrings I bought for you after the trial, the ones you shoved back into my hand as you turned around to leave at the top of the Empire State Building so you could walk out of my life forever? Those earrings were about $10,000, and I threw them off my balcony in an extremely childish fit of rage.”

“You threw them… off your balcony?” I ask, sounding almost confused, as if the words don’t make sense in that order. “Where?”

“Just… Into Seattle,” He replies, a smile breaking across his face now, and I laugh.

“Well, some person out there had a really good day then.”

“I’m glad someone did,” He says. “I didn’t just get rid of the earrings, I destroyed a whole box of things I had of yours. Small things you’d left in my car or in my dorm room, and I really wish I hadn’t.”

I push out my lower lip in a pout but, once his words fully resonate with me, my face goes blank and my eyes widen with realization.

“What?” He asks.

“Box,” I say, lamely. “I have a box of your things.”

The confusion on his face doesn’t diminish, but I struggle out of his arms and then pull the chair at my desk over to the closet. There are several things stuffed up on the top shelf, all fit together extremely precariously as I usually have to toss whatever it is I want to put away up here and hope it sticks since I can’t reach the shelf without a step stool. In the very back corner, there is an old shoe box I haven’t looked at in over two years and, after I push several things out of the way to get to it, I pull it out and open the lid. The items inside are sparse and seemingly inconsequential, except for the small red box with the word Cartier printed on the top.

“Here they are,” I say, smiling as I pull the earrings out and hold the box up for Christian to see. He walks over and takes them out of my hand, opens the hinged lid, and then looks down at the diamonds inside.

“There they are,” He says, his voice filled with sentimentalism. I step down from the chair, leaving the box on the seat, and when I turn to face him, he pulls the earrings from the velvet casing and slips them into each of my ears.

“These really do look beautiful on you,” He says, brushing his thumb over the drop diamond hanging from the delicate, silver strand.

“You have excellent taste,” I tell him.

“Yes,” He agrees, looking down at me with an adoring smile on his face as he wraps me in his arms. “I do.”


Before we head to the party, Christian insists we stop for dinner, so Kate picks an Italian restaurant downtown. Unfortunately, since it’s Saturday night, it’s packed and when we head inside to get a table, we’re told there is a 30 minute wait.

“Excuse me?” Christian asks, clearly confused when the hostess asks if he would like to put his name on the list, which I imagine is because he’s never been asked to wait for anything in his life.

“Yes,” I interject. “We’ll wait.”

“Okay, can I get a name for your party?” She asks.

“Grey,” Christian says emphatically, as though he can’t believe she didn’t already know the answer to that question. Thankfully, the hostess seems unfazed.

“Perfect. We’ll call your name when your table is ready,” She hands us the plastic box, which will light up and vibrate when they’re ready for us, and, as Christian looks down at the thing like some kind of alien artifact, I hook my arm through his and drag him outside to wait on the sidewalk.

“That was… weird,” Christian says as we step to the side of the doors and lean against the stucco of the exterior wall. “Why didn’t you make a reservation, Kate?”

“I don’t think they do that here,” She says, picking up her phone to occupy herself while we wait. “Welcome to the world of the common people, Grey.”

I hide a laugh as I watch Christian roll his eyes and shift towards me. The wait is actually a little longer than the hostess told us it would be, but since Kate is pacing back and forth on the curb talking to Ainsley on the phone, it’s an opportunity for Christian and I to talk and retreat into our own little world together. While we stand there together though, I notice that his eyes keep shifting towards the street every so often, and when it happens for probably the 10th time, I reach up to grab his chin and turn his face back to me.

“What are you doing?” I ask him.

“It’s just weird,” He replies. “We’re standing out on a public street, no security hovering around, and no one has even looked at us. I’m just used to…”

“Being somebody?” I interrupt him. He shrugs, and I give him an almost gloating kind of smile. “I tried to tell you it’s different in Cambridge. No one cares about us here. There aren’t any paparazzi because no one wants your picture… Well, not for money anyway. That girl over there has looked over at you a few times, she probably wouldn’t say no to a selfie.”

I nod with my head and the moment he turns and makes eye contact with the girl I’m talking about, she flushes bright red and immediately tries to hide behind her friend. Christian shakes his head and turns back to me and I giggle at the obvious discomfort on his face. He’s embarrassed. It’s kind of adorable.

“You were right though, this is nice. Being out with you in public and not worrying about what’s going to be in the paper the next day,” He says.

“Sounds to me like you’re trying to argue that you should be the one flying back and forth across the country every week. I accept your proposal.”

“I don’t think so,” He says with a laugh, and then he leans in and lowers his voice. “There are other benefits to being a nobody, you know.”

“Such as?” I ask.

“There’s an alley behind this restaurant that we could check out. How do you feel about a little exhibitionism?”

“Negatively,” I reply with a laugh.

“Aw, come on, baby. Where’s your sense of adventure?” He asks, stepping in closer, snaking his arm around my waist suggestively. I take a step back and look at him indignantly.

“Public indecency is still a crime, Christian.”


“So? Just imagine, the Seattle Times, October 31st 2010,” I begin, lifting my arm into the air in front of us to help him envision the headline. “Police records show Seattle billionaire Christian Grey was arrested last night for fucking Anastasia Steele in an alley behind a restaurant in Cambridge Massachusetts.”

“Okay, point made,” Christian says, grabbing onto my elbow to push my arm down. I giggle again but am silenced as he leans down to kiss me. The plastic box in my hand begins to vibrate just as the front door to the restaurant opens.

“Grey!” The hostess calls behind us, forcing us to break the kiss to turn around and acknowledge her. Christian reaches down for my hand to pull me towards the restaurant, but I have to stop him to grab Kate.

Dinner ends up being the perfect way to start the evening. Christian’s in a good mood which makes things much easier between him and Kate. He even laughs at a few of her jokes. It has me very hopeful, not only for tonight, but going forward. I couldn’t not have either Kate or Christian in my life so I need them to work together. Since Kate and Elliot broke up, that didn’t look like it was a possibility, but so far, tonight has proved that isn’t true.

“Is that a gray hair?” Kate asks, a broad smile on her face as she reaches over to get a better look at Christian’s scalp.

“Fuck you,” Christian replies, slapping her hand away, but Kate is undeterred.

“I think it is!” She laughs. “Be careful, Ana. Carrick went gray very prematurely and boys do take after their fathers.”

“I’m adopted,” Christian says flatly.

“Oh, right…” Kate says, still trying to contain her smile. Christian narrows his eyes at her and the table is silent for all of three seconds before Christian turns very suddenly to me.

“Do you have a compact in your bag?”

“Yeah,” I say, now joining in Kate’s laughter, and I reach into my clutch and pull out the gold metal case that contains a translucent matte powder and a mirror. He opens it and holds it up, scanning his hairline, and when she sees what Kate’s talking about he gives her a slanted look.

“That’s from Ana’s body paint,” He says, and as the waiter approaches the table to leave the check, Kate completely devolves into a fit of laughter.

After dinner, Christian calls Taylor to have him bring the SUV around and we head straight over to Carter’s house. The moment the car stops, Kate jumps out and begins excitedly fluffing her dress, but Christian hesitates.

“Ready?” I ask him. His eyes shift to me, then to the house, then back to me, and he sighs.

“Let’s get this over with.”

I take his hand and step out of the car, ignoring Kate’s impatient encouragement while we wait for Taylor, Luke, and Ryan to wrap up whatever conversation they’re having. When they’re finished, Luke nods towards me and leads the way up the walk. Kate hurries up next to him, wrapping her arm through his and excitedly babbling about all the things she’s heard Carter has done for this party, while I hang back with Christian and stare at the now familiar house.

It’s a little cheesy… There are decorative ghosts and spiders hanging from the outcropping on the house, and spiderwebs filling the spaces between the banisters and railing. It’s dark out here except for the green light being projected on the front door, and from one of the dark corners of the porch, we can hear spooky music and sound effects playing.

“Do we knock?” Christian asks.

“Of course not,” Kate replies, and once she reaches forward to open the door, we’re suddenly surrounded by the loud, thumping music playing inside.

The living room is more crowded than it was last time I was here as it seems Carter’s regular parties have made him quite a few new friends. The lighting is muted, but not so much that you can’t see, and the floor is covered in glitter from the dozens of fairy wings, mermaid costumes, and the one girl just dressed like Kesha dancing around the room.

“Do you want to drink, or do you want to dance?” I ask Christian, leaning up on my tiptoes to get close to his ear so I don’t have to shout over the music. He nods towards the kitchen and we take a few steps through the crowded entryway before we’re stopped by a girl yelling next to us.

“Oh my god!” She shouts. “Is that Christian Grey?”

Suddenly, everyone within earshot stops dancing and turns towards us, and the general movement of the people around the room seems to cease in a kind of wave away from our epicenter. A hush falls over the room, and even the music seems to get quieter.

“Mr. Grey,” A guy I don’t recognize says, stepping forward and holding out his hand. “My name is David Wright, I’m a business major here at Harvard. I just finished a paper on the Grey Method of acquisition. I’d love to get your insights on some of the questions I had in my research…”

“Mr. Grey!” Another girl says. “You might not remember me, but we had a class together my freshman year. My name is Rebecca Sanders… Can I just tell you what an inspiration you’ve been?”

More and more people approach us, pushing me away to get closer to Christian as they bombard him with questions about his business practices, his speculation on fluctuation in the economy, career advice… Some people are even brave enough to outright fish for jobs. Taylor and Luke are suddenly preoccupied preventing several people from taking pictures, while Christian simply tries to excuse himself over and over again. It’s impossible though, because the moment he answers one person’s question, another one is being thrown at him.

“You brought Grey,” Carter says, coming up to stand next to me and looking completely surprised.

“Yeah, it was a compromise with Kate, but now I’m seeing it wasn’t the greatest idea I’ve ever had…”

“To bring Christian Grey into a room full of business majors about to graduate into a recession?” Carter asks. “No. No, it wasn’t.”

“Not helpful,” I reply shortly. “Can you please…”

“On it,” He says, and he moves away from me into the crowd enclosed around Christian. “Alright you animals, step away from the CEO. He’s off the clock tonight so everyone just back up and go back to your drinks.”

“Mr. Grey, what do you have to say about the alleged coup taking place at GEH? Just last week Bloomberg reported that you may be in danger of losing your company,” A voice I can’t place asks from somewhere in the crowd.

“What?” I exclaim, and immediately Christian’s jaw tightens.

“There is no coup,” He says sharply.

“But the report said…”

“I don’t make it a habit to update any media outlets of the internal workings of my company. That report is unfounded. Grey Enterprises Holdings is thriving, that’s all anyone needs to know.”

The general murmur seems to die down, or at least quiet so that it’s completely covered by the music again, and Christian turns to move through the crowd around him and back to my side.

“I’m sorry I…” I begin, but he shakes his head and cuts me off.

“It’s fine. Are you getting a drink?”

I nod, and then follow after him as he continues to push through the tightly packed bodies around us towards the kitchen. I can’t see his face, but I can tell just from the position of his shoulders that he’s angry.

“Hey,” I say, tugging on his hand to stop him and force him to turn around to face me. “I’m sorry about that, I really didn’t think…”

“It’s fine.” He repeats. “Let’s just get a drink.”

He turns again and leads me into the kitchen, and once we’re no longer in the middle of everything and don’t have people touching us on all sides, I see him relax, at least physically. His eyes rake over the bottles of liquor on the counter as he decides what he wants, but my mind is now too filled with questions for me to worry about alcohol.

“What did he mean back there, about a coup?” I ask. His jaw tenses again and he turns to look at me.

“It’s nothing, Ana. I don’t want you to worry about it,” He replies, but when I don’t drop my gaze, he sighs and continues. “It’s because of that fucking audit. When the feds came in to comb through GEH, the developers in my tech divisions and R&D were forced to hand over their designs and their research, and while those reports aren’t supposed to be released to the public, they’re still out there. Several of the developers petitioned to have their research exempted from the audit, but because I’m sole proprietor, everything created under the GEH umbrella belongs to me, so it all had to be turned over. It raised a lot of red flags for the people who have created and programmed technology because they realized they didn’t own the patents to their own work, I did. It means that if I ever chose to sell that technology, I have full legal right to do so, and they won’t see a dime. Obviously, they weren’t happy when they came to this realization and the sentiment seems to have spread through several departments, including the executive management team. There’s been… suggestions about restructuring the company and creating a board. I’d remain CEO, but the board would assume all control over GEH’s assets and I’d no longer have ownership of my company’s intellectual property.”

“Oh..” I reply. “How…. How do you feel about that?”

He scoffs. “Over my dead body.”

I frown because I’m not sure exactly what all of this means or how big of an issue it really is, but Christian reaches out to tilt my chin up so that I’m looking at him in the eyes and then leans over to kiss me softly on the lips.

“I don’t want you to worry about it, Anastasia. I’m handling it.”

“Okay,” I reply, nodding and trying to sound confident. Tonight is very quickly turning into a disaster. All I wanted was a night like we had last summer, when we went away to Montesano for a weekend and went to that bar together and had an amazing night. For once, he had been able to let his guard down, act his age, and relax. We had so much fun and after everything we’ve been through over the last few months, we need fun.

I reach forward and pick up the bottle of tequila, and two plastic cups, pouring a few fingers worth in the bottom of each, and then hand one cup to Christian.

“Let’s just get drunk,” I tell him, moving closer to him so that I can keep the conversation just between us. “Let’s forget everything, drink too much, and then go home and have hot, wild, uninhibited sex.”

“Why do we need to get drunk?” He asks, raising an eyebrow at me. “Let’s just go home and have hot, wild, uninhibited sex.”

“Because I know what happens when you start drinking, Mr. Grey,” I reply, coyly. “Don’t you remember how good it was the last time? I want to experience that all over again.”

His expression changes, the stress morphing into hunger as he looks down at my mouth, but before he can attack my lips with his, I push the plastic cup further into his grip.

“Cheers,” I say, lifting my cup to his. He taps his cup against mine and I pause to watch while he grimaces down at the silvery liquid before quickly throwing it back. Once he swallows, he immediately makes a disgusted face and shakes his head, unconsciously expressing his displeasure. He picks up one of the sliced limes in a bowl on the counter and bites down into it to mitigate the burn.

“How do you drink this shit?” He asks, “God, it’s terrible.”

“You shouldn’t have dropped out of college, Grey. I can confidently say that two extra years has definitely made me a better drinker than you.”

I tip my cup to him once more and then slam the shot down. Once I swallow, I push away the lime he offers me to show just how much better I can handle the tequila than he can, but before I can open my mouth to boast, I feel a horrible, gut wrenching jolt in my stomach and have to drop the now empty cup in my hand to cover my mouth.

“Ana?” Christian asks, concerned, as my stomach heaves again and I actually have to hold back vomit. I turn away from him and sprint towards the hallway where I know the bathroom is. I don’t think I’m going to make it, the violent heaving is coming more insistently now, and I begin searching for a trash can or even a bowl that I could throw up in should the next lurch of my stomach come before I make it to the toilet.

Thankfully, I am able to hold off until I round the corner into the bathroom, but I’m not even able to close the door behind me before I have to fall to my knees to vomit. The heaving is so violent it’s painful and it comes again and again.

“Stay here,” I hear Christian’s authoritative voice say behind me. “Keep everyone away from the door.”

The door closes and a second later I feel his hand on my back as I, once again, throw up into the toilet. He kneels next to me, rubbing his hand comfortingly over the back of my dress, while I wait to see if I’m going to hurl again.

“Go away,” I whimper. “I don’t want you to see this.”

“Stop it,” He says, softly. I take several more deep breaths, and when I’m confident I’m finished, I reach up and push down on the silver handle before slumping back against the cabinet. My face feels hot from the retching, but as I relax my body, I feel the nausea dissipate. In fact, after a few seconds, I feel perfectly normal again.

“Come,” Christian says, getting to his feet and then reaching down to help me off the floor. “I’ll have Luke bring the car around.”

“No,” I shake my head. “I’m fine. I just don’t think I was ready for that shot.”

“Ana…” He says, hesitantly, but I cut him off before he can insist we leave.

“I want to dance. Come on,” I reach down to grab his hand and pull him from the bathroom. Taylor is standing in front of the door, and I place my hand on his upper arm to nudge him to the side so that Christian and I can pass. We head out to the living room where the music is back into full swing, and I turn around to face him, pushing my body into his and swinging my hips back and forth. He’s still a little reluctant, but when I turn again and press my behind into him, he relents and reaches his hand down for my hips. We sway together for a moment and as I finally begin to feel like the night is back on track, Christian steps back, takes my hand, and simultaneously spins me around and pulls me into him. The movement makes my head spin and, once again, I’m hit hard with a wave of nausea.

I push his hands off of me and make the same beeline for the bathroom. This time though, I’m able to close and lock the door behind me, effectively keeping Christian out, before falling to my knees and emptying what little is left in my stomach. Thankfully, I’m one and done this time and I as get off the floor and rinse out my mouth with water from the sink, I find that, once again, I feel perfectly normal. I don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve barely had anything to drink at all. This has never happened to me. I normally have a borderline amazing constitution for someone my size.

Maybe it was the clams. I think to myself. I’d had shellfish in my pasta tonight and they had tasted a little off. I thought it was the butter sauce but maybe it was bad.

I let out a long sigh as I think about spending the next 24 hours sick with food poisoning, and then slowly turn back for the hallway. When I open the door, I immediately see Christian, leaning against the wall across from the bathroom and looking at me with an I told you so kind of look.

“Can we go home now?” He asks, and I nod. His arms open for me, so I quickly step out of the bathroom, and cling onto him as he places a protective arm over me and leads me through the house. “Should we grab Kate?” He asks.

“You’ll never find her,” I tell him. “Let’s just go.”

He nods, and then follows after Taylor the rest of the way out of the house. The cool night air feels good against my heated cheeks and although I don’t feel the nausea now, I do feel slightly off. I guess this night was just cursed from the beginning and when I’m safely back in the SUV and Taylor pulls away from the curb, I feel the sinking feeling of defeat. No matter how hard I try, it seems as though there is some divine power that is determined to keep my Harvard life, and my life with Christian separate.

When we get home, I immediately go upstairs to change out of my costume and get in the shower so I can wash off the body paint. I look forlornly at the flesh colored streaks that steadily appear all over my body as the paint is washed away, but as I watch the gray colored water swirling down the drain, I feel another wave of vertigo hit and have to double over to throw up again.

“Ana?” Christian calls as he raps his knuckles against the door. “Are you okay in there?”

“Fine,” I reply, wiping a tear from my cheek since the last retch was so powerful it made my eyes water. “Don’t come in here, I’ll be out in a second.”

“Okay,” He says, but I can hear the worry in his voice. After another, calming deep breath I step aside to let the water rinse the bottom of the shower, then hurry and finishing cleaning my body so I can get out and get into bed.

I knew I wasn’t going to want to dry my hair when I got out of the shower, so I had the foresight to not remove the French twist Kate did earlier. When I step out onto the cold bathroom floor and look into the slightly fogged mirror though, I realize that was a mistake. There’s still a lot of paint around my hairline and I look like a mess. I’m able to get most of it off with a damp washcloth but when I start to feel the unease in my stomach again, I give up and make my way out to the bedroom. Christian has made the bed up for me, bringing in extra pillows from the guest room so that I can sit up a little in bed, and he’s left some soda crackers and a couple bottles of blue gatorade on the night stand. My laptop is open on the bed, with my Netflix queue already brought up… In fact, the only thing I’m missing is the handsome billionaire himself.

“Christian?” I call, and seconds later, I hear his footsteps on the stairs and he appears through the doorway.

“What do you need, baby?” He asks.

“Well, I could start with cuddles,” I pout back at him. He smiles at me and then hands me the bottle of Pepto Bismol he’d apparently gone to get from the kitchen. I open the lid and pour a dose into the plastic cup that comes with it, while Christian crosses the room and opens the top drawer of my dresser. He pulls out his gray Harvard t-shirt and tosses it to me, before stripping down to his underwear and crawling into the bed, leaving just enough space for me in the pillowy heaven next to him.

“What do you want to watch?” I ask, pulling the laptop closer to me.

“A thought provoking documentary on the state of the economy and how it ties in with socio-political conditions of the middle class to drive market trends?” He asks, and I smile at him.

Little Miss Marker it is.”

He laughs and leans down to kiss the top of my head, but just after his lips touch my skin, he reaches up and places his hand over my forehead.

“You’re warm,” He notes, and then leans over me to the bedside table where he’s left a thermometer. It reveals I have a low grade fever, so he makes me drink some fluids and then holds me close against him as we start the movie. I only make it about 45 minutes in before I drift off to sleep.

The next morning, I wake up and immediately take an inventory of how I’m feeling. I’m still tired, but it seems as though the nausea has passed. I want to take my temperature again, just to make sure I’m over the worst of whatever this is, but the moment I sit up, I find that the nausea isn’t gone at all and I have to reach over for the small plastic trash can next to the bedside table because there’s no way I can make it to the bathroom before I expel all of the crackers I ate the night before from my stomach. The sound wakes Christian, and, while I want nothing more for him to quietly get up, leave the room, and wait for me to be finished, he turns and wraps his arm around me, brushing his fingers over the skin on my forearm until I stop puking.

“Oh my god,” I groan, feeling absolutely mortified at this point. “Please don’t break up with me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” He says. He gets out of bed and takes the trash can from me, then goes into the bathroom where I hear him rinsing it out in the tub. I sit up, lean against the headboard, and reach for the Pepto still sitting on the nightstand, but as I swallow the dose, I feel the strange feeling of normalcy once again. The nausea has passed as quickly as it came. In fact, I’m a little hungry now.

I pull back the covers and walk over to my dresser to find a pair of yoga pants, but when Christian comes out of the bathroom, he’s less than thrilled to see me up and about.

“Why are you out of bed?” He asks, disapprovingly, and I shrug as I step into my pants.

“I feel fine now,” I tell him. “And, I want some breakfast.”

“I’ll get you something,” He says, “Just lay down.”

“And leave you alone in the kitchen?” I ask, raising a teasing eyebrow at him. “Don’t you remember what happened the last time you cooked?”

He gives me a look that tells me he’s not amused by my joke, but I shrug it off and make my way to the stairs. When I get to the kitchen, I think briefly through the things I know we have, trying to decide what I want to make, but before I make it to the fridge, I feel a strong pair of hands on my waist and then I’m suddenly being lifted into the air.

“Christian!” I giggle, attempting to struggle out of his grip as he moves me onto the kitchen counter.

“Stay put,” He says, seriously. “I’ll make you some toast.”

I cross my arms, but don’t move, and he turns for the cupboard to pull down the bread. He’s very meticulous as he places the bread into the toaster and adjusts the knob to his preferred setting, more so than anyone simply toasting wheat bread has any right to be, but as I watch him finish and then move around the kitchen for butter and jam, I actually think I might be falling even more in love with him. I don’t often get to see the domestic side of Christian Grey, and it’s kind of nice.

“Strawberry or blackberry?” He asks, holding up both jars of jam from the fridge for me to choose.

“Strawberry,” I tell him. He nods, and places the rejected jar back into its place in the door, but before he is able to turn back for the counter, we’re both distracted by a noise on the stairs. Seconds later, Kate, dressed only in an oversized sweatshirt, stumbles into the kitchen, and she’s not alone. Following right behind her, also a little underdressed for polite company and looking slightly hung-over, is Carter Reed.

“Ana! Christian!” Kate exclaims, clearly surprised to see us down here. It’s obvious she was hoping to sneak him out without being caught, which could explain why he hasn’t even put shoes on yet.

“Kavanagh,” Christian greets her curtly. The toast pops out of the toaster, breaking the tension in the room slightly, and Christian crosses back over to me while Kate hurries Carter through the sliding glass door.

“I’ll call you later?” Carter asks, and Kate nods, but pushes him slightly to get him out of the house.

“Sure, sure,” She says.

“I had a great time last night, Kate,” He continues, clearly not affected by Kate’s less than warm demeanor, and he leans over and kisses her softly on the lips before stepping out into the driveway.

“I knew she had someone over here last night, but Reed?” Christian hisses under his breath, buttering the toast in front of him while Kate awkwardly closes the door.  She turns for the refrigerator, pulls out the carton of orange juice, and then moves to pull some Tylenol out of the drawer by the stove.

“Good morning,” She says, looking over at us as she pours her juice. “How’d you sleep?”

“Fine,” I tell her, purposefully directing my attention away and trying to focus on Christian because the atmosphere between the three of us is so tense if feels like it could be cut with a knife, and it makes me uncomfortable.

“Good,” She replies, and then she takes the Tylenol and crosses the room to put the juice away. I almost think this horribly awkward moment is over as she turns to leave, but Christian stops her.

“Isn’t that Elliot’s sweatshirt?” He asks, nodding to the Mariners pullover she’s wearing. Kate looks down, frowns, and then turns an overly confident look back on Christian.

“No, he gave it to me. It’s mine.”

Christian scoffs. “Real fucking classy, Kate.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“How long did you wait after Elliot was gone before you had someone else in your bed? A week? A night? He gave you three fucking years, Kavanagh, and you’re treating it like it was nothing.”

“Excuse me?” She asks, the anger in her voice rising. “Just because I’m trying to move on, doesn’t mean I’m treating my time with Elliot like it was nothing. I wish it would have been different with him, but it’s not. I’m not in a relationship with your brother anymore and if I want to sleep with a guy, who I’ve known for years, I’m perfectly within my rights to do that. Don’t try and paint him as some kind of victim here. You think Ana hasn’t told me about all the bars, and all the stripclubs you’ve been to over the past few weeks with him?”

“He’s not fucking his best friend’s ex-girlfriend though,” Christian snaps back. “He has restraint.”

“So I’m a whore because it was Carter?” Kate asks. “Do you care that I fucked Carter, Ana?”

“No,” I say quickly.

“No,” Kate repeats. “She’s been over him for years, and she only really liked him in the first place because she couldn’t have you. So, why do you care?”

“I would prefer it if you would keep men who have had their tongues down my girlfriend’s throat out of my house,” He says, and Kate lets out a harsh, irritated breath through her nose.

“You’re going to need a new security team then.”

The second the words come out of her mouth, her expression goes slack, her hand flies up to her mouth, and I feel an icy cold shiver work it’s way up my spine.

“What?” Christian asks, turning an angry look on me now.

“I-I…” I hesitate, completely discombobulated as I feel all the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

“Nothing,” Kate says, quickly. “It was nothing. I’m just…”

“Shut the fuck up, Kavanagh,” Christian says, turning a murderously angry glare on her, effectively silencing her, and then facing me again. “Anastasia, what is she talking about?”

“I…” I stammer again, unsure of how to say this without making Christian fly off the handle. “It was before we got back together… Before I was even talking to you.”

Christian pushes away from the counter, his hands immediately flying up into his hair as his body starts to tremble with anger.

“Go!” I hiss furiously at Kate, and she gives me an apologetic look before she darts out of the kitchen. I sit there, waiting, watching Christian go through an alarming number of different stages of anger before he finally turns to face me again.

“I asked him point blank,” He says, his voice too low and much too even for my comfort. “He said nothing ever happened between the two of you.”

“It wasn’t his fault,” I say, shaking my head quickly.

“Did you fuck him?”

“No!” I say firmly, vehemently, as I shake my head. “No, I just… I kissed him.” Christian stares back at me, his jaw tight, and his hands balled into fists at his side. I don’t know if he’s waiting for more, or simply too angry to speak, so I start babbling. “I went to a party without telling him and I got really drunk. He came to pick me up, but when we got home, I couldn’t get to bed by myself so he helped me. He was just putting me to bed and I tried to seduce him, but he stopped it. He told me that we could only ever be friends. I swear to you, Christian, that’s all that happened.”

“You tried to seduce him?” He asks, his voice overly quiet again. I stare back at him, unsure of what to say, but it’s him who speaks next. “Did he see you naked?”

“I…” I swallow, and then nod. “I was topless.”

A hard, angry breath breaks through his lips and he immediately steps to the far end of the counter and picks up the keys to my Lexus. It’s not hard to guess where he wants to go right now and since I’ve never really been particularly interested in finding out who would win in a fight between Christian and Luke, I quickly push off the counter and launch myself after him.

“Wait! Chris-” I begin, but the words are cut off as once again, my stomach heaves. Christian stops, the worry breaking through the anger on his face for a brief second as I spin around and throw up into the sink. For the first time since this started, I’m actually thankful when I feel Christian come up behind me and, once I’m finished and I’ve rinsed out the sink, he pulls me into him and takes me back upstairs.

I watch him carefully as I crawl into my bed, waiting for him to turn around and storm out again, but he doesn’t. He closes the door behind him and comes to sit on the side of my bed.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, after several minutes of silence.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asks.

“Because I knew that you’d blame him and it wasn’t his fault. I didn’t want you to fire him, or… worse. I was sad and he stopped me from making a huge mistake. I’m glad he did, because when he said no, that’s when I really knew that nothing was ever going to happen between us. He’s only ever wanted to be my friend and now, he’s one of my best friends in the whole world. But that’s it, Christian. He’s just my friend.”

He sighs and then moves to crawl into the bed next to me so that he can hold me against him. I feel an enormous amount of relief when I reach out to touch him and I don’t feel the tightness in his muscles any longer. I move, trying to cuddle with him in a spooning position, but he reaches around and forces me to turn over so that I’m facing him and his deep gray eyes begin searching mine.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?” He asks, and, even though I know he’s giving me the opportunity to tell him whether or not I slept with someone else, Luke or otherwise, while we weren’t together, the first thing that pops into my mind when he asks the question is Leila and what almost happened in New York. I stare back and him, chewing on the words that want to come out of my mouth, but that would open a whole new world of trouble. Not just for me, but for Luke and Taylor as well. When Luke talked to Taylor about what had happened, he agreed that telling Christian would mean I’d be forced to come back to Seattle and because I’m so adamant that that doesn’t happen, the two of them have put together a plan and a list of all kinds of restrictive safety precautions which will be presented to me the moment Christian gets on the plane back to Seattle tonight. I know it’s going to feel overbearing but I’ve committed to it if it means I don’t have to back out of the promise I made to my dad, and so now, with Christian staring at me, waiting for an answer, I slowly shake my head.

“No,” I tell him, and instantly a look of relief wipes the residual anxiety away from Christian’s face.

“Good,” He says. I give him a weak smile as he turns me so that we’re cuddling the way

I’d intended to before, but as he expresses chagrin over having to leave later in the evening while I’m still sick, I feel an overpowering sense of guilt for the lie I just told.

Next Chapter

Chapter 07


After several long lingering moments of our lips pressed together, I roll over on top of him once more, not breaking our kiss, so I can feel his skin against mine. When I do finally pull away and look down into his eyes, the right corner of his mouth ticks up into a sexy, half-smile.

“What are you doing here? What about class and work?” He asks.

“My classes tomorrow were cancelled so, since you were so close, I got someone to cover for me at the library and skipped class this afternoon. I wanted to surprise you.”

“It’s a good surprise,” he replies softly.

“Mmm,” I moan back. “And it’s just the beginning, Grey. Tonight, I plan on being the surprise that keeps giving and giving and giving…” My hand trails down under the covers, brushing the well defined lines of his abs as I reach lower and lower, until my hand closes around him. He moans softly, tilting his pelvis up encouragingly, but just as I begin to move my hand up and down around him, his expression shifts very suddenly and he turns to look at the clock by the bed. When he sees what time it is, his head falls back into the pillow with dismay.

“I have a dinner meeting with a prospective client tonight,” he tells me. “I have to get ready to go.”

“Oh…” I frown. “Right. You’re here on business. Well… I can find something to do while you’re gone. Kate was going to meet up with Ainsley and Eliza and they’ve been wanting to meet me. I’ll call her and see if I can tag along with them until you’re finished.”

“Why don’t you come with me?” he suggests and I raise an eyebrow at him.

“To a business dinner?” I ask. “I don’t know…”

“Why not? We’re going to a five star restaurant close to Times Square. It won’t be exorbitantly long and when we’re finished we could see Wicked at the Gershwin. Just you and me.”

“I don’t really have anything to wear…”

“We can take care of that. There’s a Saks not too far from here, I’ll call ahead and have something ready for you to pick up on the way.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to interfere with business or piss off Ros.”

“Don’t worry about Ros,” he says, rolling his eyes.

“You don’t think it’s all a little too… Pretty Woman-ish?

“You’re my girlfriend, not a prostitute,” he argues. “It’s nothing like Pretty Woman.” He shifts me off of him so that he can roll out of bed, but as pulls his pants back over his hips and re-zips his fly, he pauses and looks down at me. “Although, maybe you shouldn’t order escargot. They made a joke out of that scene in the movie but in real life, that would be mortifying.”

“You seem to know an awful lot about that movie…” I tease him.

“Courtesy of Grace Trevelyan-Grey,” he replies.

“Uh huh,” I say dubiously. “You know, you can admit your love for Julia Roberts movies to me, Christian, I won’t judge you. I’ll even watch Erin Brockovich with you tonight.” He shakes his head with exasperation at the wide, teasing grin that stretches across my face and then leans over to kiss my forehead before turning back for the bathroom.

Thirty minutes later, we’re pulling away from Saks Fifth Avenue and I’m in a brand new, simple, black cocktail dress that looks identical to a billion other dresses in this world but, because of the Monique Lhuillier tags, cost almost two thousand dollars. Christian’s hand is wrapped lightly around mine in the backseat of the SUV but he’s staring pensively out the window at the city. The car is silent, except for the muffled sounds of sirens and traffic around us, and his reticence makes me wonder if he’s worrying about something until we hear a beep from the dash of the rental car that draws both of our attention. Taylor looks down at the screen, pushes a button, and then glances back at us through the rear-view mirror.

“There’s an accident on Madison, sir. Traffic is being redirected to 5th Avenue.”

“Take Park,” Christian replies.

“Yes, sir. That will add several minutes to our commute and we are running late…”

Christian lets out an irritated breath. “Fine, take 5th.”

Taylor nods and then signals for the turn lane while Christian entwines his fingers with mine and tightens his grip on my hand.

“What’s wrong with 5th Avenue?” I ask. He looks over at me, his beautiful face marred with deep frown lines.

“Nothing. I just… I don’t drive past the Empire State Building,” he says quietly.

“Oh…” I bite down on my lip awkwardly as he turns away from me and then squeeze his hand, trying to be reassuring, but as we approach the iconic skyscraper, I feel my own sense of unease. I’d been so anxious to see Christian this weekend, I hadn’t really thought too much about New York, except how I’d hoped this would be the start of new memories. I didn’t really consider how the old ones would change the atmosphere between us. Now, as we approach the Empire State Building and I stare out the window at the sidewalk where I’d once made a panicked decision to run for Penn Station to get away from him, I feel as though the streets around me are suddenly filled with the ghosts of the past. Is that why he’s so quiet? Why he wanted me with him tonight instead of going to meet Kate? I glance at him once more and see that he’s staring down at the floor between his knees, doing his best to remain passive but unable to entirely conceal pain haunting his eyes.

With my free hand, I reach down to unbuckle my seatbelt and then slide into the seat between us.

“What are you doing? Put your seatbelt back on,” he says immediately, but I ignore his protests and put his arm over my shoulder so that I can cuddle into his side.

“We’re almost there. I’m perfectly safe right here,” I tell him.

“You’re not,” he argues, but the force in his voice has disappeared. After a brief moment of hesitation, he sighs, tightens his grip around me, and then rests his head against mine, leaving soft kisses in my hair until we pull up along the curb a few blocks later.

The restaurant we’re going to is inside a hotel, which is very old New York with its high arches and intricate stone architecture. I pause on the sidewalk for a moment, staring up at the details of the building, until Christian wraps his hand around mine and leads me inside.

The restaurant itself has a vintage feel to it, with crisp, white linens on the tables and silk wallpaper covering the walls. Christian gives the maitre’d his name and is told our party has already been seated. He lets out a huff of irritation before he nods and we’re led to a table near the back of the restaurant, where I immediately recognize Ros sitting with two unfamiliar men in sharp, clean suits.

“Ah, here he is,” Ros says, sounding relieved, but when her eyes shift to me, her smile falters a little. “Anastasia, what a surprise.”

“I apologize for being late,” Christian says, ignoring Ros and turning to shake the hands of the men now standing at the table. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person. May I introduce you to my girlfriend, Anastasia Steele.”

“Hello,” I say, smiling broadly as I shake each of their hands. They’re both warm to me, which puts me a little more at ease, especially after Ros’s less than enthused reaction, then they each take their seats and pick up their menus.”

“I trust Ms. Bailey has already taken care of your drinks?” Christian asks.

“I don’t have your excellent taste in wine, I’m afraid,” Ros says, as she lowers herself back into her chair. Christian turns to the waiter, mumbles an order, and then pulls out a chair for me. I sit down and prepare myself for what is sure to be a long, boring dinner, but as Christian takes the seat between Ros and I, Ros leans over to him and I’m just able to make out what she says.

“You’re late and you brought your girlfriend with you? This isn’t a vacation, Christian.”

“Later,” he replies, his voice a low warning. I glance over at her and she gives me a tight smile in return.

“I’m sorry,” I mouth at her.

She quickly shakes her head and mouths back, “It’s fine.”

A few minutes later, the waiter returns with a bottle of wine and he fills each of our glasses before taking our orders. I sit back, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible as they begin discussing business, and begin scanning the room. Thankfully, there’s plenty to look at and some interesting people to watch at the tables around us, which helps to pass the time. I reach out for my glass while I covertly stare at a couple canoodling with each other a few tables away, but when I take a drink of the wine, I immediately want to spit it back into my glass.

There’s something off about the taste, like it’s sour or maybe too bitter. The few seconds I hold the liquid in my mouth are pure torture as I try to hold back my gag so that I can swallow. Once I successfully get it down, I reach out for my glass of water, trying to calm the lurching feeling in my stomach that threatens to bring the wine and bread from the table back up, and then glance nervously at the man Christian is talking to as he takes a drink himself. Strangely though, he doesn’t have any adverse reaction to the wine and as he places his glass back on the table, he swallows without complaint. My brow furrows as I pick up my wine, swirl it around in the glass, and then breathe in the aroma. The smell makes my stomach heave again, so I set it back down on the table and lean back in my chair, covering my lips with my fingers while actively trying not to ruin Christian’s meeting by throwing up all over the table.

Unfortunately, I’m not as sneaky about it as I think I am, because each person at the table intermittently glances over at me, but thankfully, the waiter appears with our food in that moment and distracts everyone’s attention.

“Are you okay?” Christian whispers, leaning over and brushing his fingers soothingly over my exposed knee under the table.

“Yeah, fine,” I reply dismissively. “I just don’t really like the wine.”

He frowns. “Do you want me to order you something else? A Riesling maybe?”

Just the word seems to trigger my gag reflex so I quickly shake my head. “I don’t think wine is agreeing with me right now.”

Christian glances up at the waiter as he places my plate in front of me. “Can we have an iced tea, please?”

“Of course, sir,” the waiter responds, and after checking to make sure we have everything else we need, he leaves the table to replace my drink.

The rest of the dinner goes well, I think. Ros definitely seems to perk up by the end and Christian shakes each of the men’s hands enthusiastically before they step into their town car once we leave.

“And that is how it’s done,” Ros says happily, watching their car drive away.

“I want to get this implementation off the ground as soon as possible,” Christian says, suddenly very serious. “Assemble the team and have Andrea schedule a meeting first thing Monday morning. I want only the best on this: Welch, Simmons, and Connor. Get ahold of the lawyers and have the contracts sent over no later than Wednesday. I’ll need a meeting with finance Monday afternoon. I want the business account set up beforehand so I can immediately allocate funds. This timeline is going to be quick, I want fast turnarounds and no excuses.”

“What about the developers? Welch isn’t going to…” Ros begins, but Christian cuts her off.

“I’ll handle Welch,” he says, a little too sharply. “Just do what I ask and I’ll take care of the rest.”

“If you say so,” Ros says, and she turns to me. “It was lovely to see you tonight, Anastasia. I hope we can get together soon when we can really catch up.”

“Me too,” I reply, stepping forward to hug her goodbye. Apparently, the meeting going well has erased her misgivings about my presence at dinner tonight. Christian steps out into the street to hail a cab, which Ros climbs into, and then comes back to me.

“Are you feeling okay?” He asks, brushing his fingers over my face as he searches my eyes. “Do you still want to go to the Gershwin or should we head back to the hotel?”

“No, I’m fine now,” I tell him. “Are we really just going to be able to show up and get tickets? I thought Wicked was a popular show?”

“I have connections,” He says, with a quick wink. “Come on, we’re going to be late.” He reaches his arm around me and then he leads me through the busy streets to the theater a few blocks away, holding me close against him to shield me from the chilly autumn night.

The next morning, I wake up and blindly reach over to pull myself against Christian, but he isn’t in the bed next to me. I lean up and turn to the bathroom, thinking he might be in the shower, but the bathroom is dark. My body deflates with disappointment and I briefly consider just going back to sleep for a while, and then maybe calling Luke and making him entertain me for the day, but when I turn back around, I see a note on Christian’s pillow.


I’m sorry I didn’t wake you, but you looked so peaceful I didn’t have the heart to disturb you. I rearranged my schedule today so that we can leave for Cambridge by 2 o’clock. Please get ahold of Kate and make sure she’s ready to fly out by then. Taylor and Luke are driving your car back to Boston now and will pick us up from the airport. There’s a gym downstairs and a spa, feel free to charge whatever you want to the room.

I love you.


I re-read the note three times, and while I’m happy that we’ll be heading home sooner than I anticipated, I am a little disappointed that Luke isn’t here. I was looking forward to walking through the Met this afternoon, and I actually thought he’d enjoy that. Despite the lack of sophistication in most of his interests, he did seem to have a good time at the art museums we’ve visited in Boston a few times. I decide that maybe I’ll ask Kate to join me instead, and since I need to make sure she’s ready to leave when Christian is anyway, I pick up my phone and dial her number.

“Morning, sunshine,” She answers almost immediately.

“How was Whisper?” I ask. “I’m actually surprised you’re up this early. Aren’t you wrecked?”

“I haven’t been to bed, actually.”

“Oh,” I reply, disappointed because I assume she’s probably going to want to come back to the hotel and sleep. “Well, I was going to ask you if you wanted to go to the Met with me this morning since Luke and Taylor are driving the car back to Cambridge right now. Christian wants to fly home by two.”

“Oh… sorry, babe. I’m going shopping with Ainsley and Eliza this morning.”


“Yeah, you want to come? I had to change from what I was wearing last night, so I just left the hotel. We’re getting coffee at this cute little café up the block from you and then we’re going to take Eliza’s town car up to Midtown. We can wait if you want to join us, they’re dying to meet you.”

“I don’t think I can…” I say hesitantly. “Not that I don’t want to, but I don’t have security with me.”

“Ainsley does!” Kate says happily. “Her sister was mugged a few weeks ago so her father hired security for their whole family. We’re perfectly safe, come out with us!”

I bite down on my lip. I have been wanting to meet Kate’s new friends for weeks, but it’s been impossible with my trips to Seattle and their refusal to leave Manhattan. I don’t know if I’ll get another chance…

“Where’s the coffee shop?” I ask.

“Murray and Greenwich.”

So really just around the corner. “Okay,” I agree. “I’ll get dressed and meet you there in twenty.”

“Sounds good! See you soon, Ana!”

I hang up the phone and then scramble out of bed, dialing Christian’s number as I pull clothes out of my suitcase.

“I can’t really talk now, baby…” He answers.

“I know, I just wanted to let you know that I’m going shopping in Midtown with Kate but I’ll be back before two.”

“You don’t have security,” He argues.

“I know, but Ainsley Callaway does.”

“I don’t feel any better about you spending the afternoon with socialites, either,” He says. “I just saw a magazine cover this morning that claimed a bag of cocaine had fallen out of Callaway’s purse on her way into a club last weekend.”

“Well, we can both be sympathetic to false stories printed in magazines…”

“And if it’s not false? I don’t want your name associated with stories like that.”

“We’re just going shopping, Christian. I’ll be on my best behavior and if the paparazzi show up, I’ll grab Kate and we’ll take a cab to the hotel.”

“I know, Ros, I’m coming,” Christian hisses on the other end of the phone. “Alright, if you want to go, then go. Just, stay close to their hired security, and keep away from nightclubs and sex shops this time, please.”

“I’ll do my best. Love you!”

“I love you too, I’ll see you this afternoon.”

It takes a little longer for me to get dressed after I hang up the phone than I intended as Christian’s comment about the paparazzi has reminded me that Ainsley and Eliza are famous for their impeccable fashion sense and I don’t want to be photographed looking frumpy or poorly dressed next to either of them or flawless Kate. Thankfully, I have the Chanel jacket and purse that Christian bought me for my birthday and it adds just enough to my skinny jeans to make it look like I didn’t throw an outfit together out of a suitcase on short notice.

Once I’ve run a brush through my hair and applied some basic make up, I throw on a pair of sunglasses and then head downstairs. I’m running a little bit later than I told Kate, so I thought I would hail a cab, but the streets of the business district of lower Manhattan are congested at 9:30 in the morning and I ultimately decide it’s faster to walk.

When I get to the coffee shop, I find Kate sitting in the corner with two girls, who are both dressed like they’ve just walked off a runway somewhere. I know from previous conversations I’ve had with Kate, and the few magazine stories that I actually remember, that the stick thin girl with platinum hair is Ainsley Callaway and the girl with very full, dark brown hair on her right is Eliza Whitney. Kate looks up and smiles at me, waving her arm excitedly as she gestures me towards the table. Neither Ainsley nor Eliza turn around.

“Ana!” Kate chirps when I reach their table. “I’m so happy you made it, this is Ainsley and Eliza.”

Ainsley looks up at me, giving me an overly sweet smile before getting out of her chair and wrapping me in a limp hug. Eliza on the other hand, is much more reserved.

“It’s so wonderful to finally meet you, Anastasia,” Ainsley says, in a strange baby-talk kind of voice. “Katie has told us so much about you.”

“All good things, I hope,” I smile back at her, and then take the empty seat next to Kate. There’s a hot latte waiting for me and as I take a sip, I shoot Kate a grateful smile.

“So, you’re dating Christian Grey?” Eliza asks.

“Uh… yeah,” I reply, a little taken aback by the immediate question. I’m sure there’s some kind of decorum about getting to know people that we’ve skipped over.

“How long have you been together?” Ainsley asks.

“Off and on for a couple years.”

“How off?” Eliza replies, and I furrow my brow at her. I’ve literally never spoken to this person in my life, and she’s going to start off with when are you going to break up with your boyfriend?

“Lizzie, don’t be rude!” Ainsley exclaims, before turning back to me. “Ignore her, she’s jealous.”

Eliza turns a cold look on her, but rather than get defensive, Ainsley just shrugs. “What? You are. About a year ago, Lizzie tried to corner Grey at a gallery opening on the West Side but he barely said two words to her. It’s become pretty par the course for her. She’s been trying to rope in a billionaire for her very own for some time now, but some girls just aren’t pretty enough, right Lizzie?”

“You’re such a bitch,” Eliza says under her breath and, even though we’re talking about her trying to move in on my boyfriend, listening to Ainsley just opening insult her like that and watching her cheeks flush with humiliation while she takes a drink from her coffee, makes me feel horrible for her.

“If that’s what happened, I don’t think it was personal. Christian’s not like that, he just… I mean, even when we weren’t together, neither one of us were really interested in seeing other people.”

“So he’s like, totally obsessed with you then?’ Ainsley asks, her demeanor brightening again.

“Obsessed is a strong word,” I reply awkwardly. “We love each other.”

“Oh, come on, Anastasia! Own it! When Katie told me you were dating the hottest bachelor on the west coast, I went and read some stories about the two of you, and I saw your Elizabeth Vargas interview. He’s obsessed with you, and why shouldn’t he be? You’re gorgeous!”

Eliza’s jaw tightens and I watch her knuckles turn white as she grips her coffee cup. Kate nudges me a little under the table, so I turn back to Ainsley, who is looking at me expectantly, like she’s actually waiting for me to respond to that after what she just said to her own best friend.

“Thank you?” I reply uncertainly, and she quickly turns to Eliza.

“You hear that, Lizzie? She thinks she’s prettier than you are.”

“I didn’t say that!” I exclaim defensively, but Ainsley simply turns her saccharine smile back on me, ignoring my protest, and changes the subject.

“What do your parents do?” She asks.

“Excuse me?”

“Your parents,” She repeats. “I’ve never heard of a Steele before.”

“You probably wouldn’t have,” I tell her, clearly irritated now. “My father is in the military and my mother is a housewife. Her husband manages a golf course in Savannah.”

Her lips creep slowly creep upwards into an almost vindictive smile. “So you’re no one?”

“She’s not no one,” Kate interjects. “She’s my best friend and one of my favorite people in the world. You would do well to remember that, Ainsley.”

Ainsley looks over at her, but when Kate’s ice cold gaze doesn’t falter under her haughty, superiority, she lifts her fingers to her lips and looks over at me with remorse.

“Oh my god, that came out so rude. I’m so sorry, Anastasia. I didn’t mean like you’re no one, I just meant that like, you didn’t come from money, and that’s incredible. Especially since you go to Harvard with Katie. You must be so smart.”

“Uh huh,” I say, openly disgusted now. I’ve been around privileged little princesses like Ainsley at Harvard enough to know exactly what’s going on here, and it’s like I can taste the power struggle. She’s asserting dominance. Clearly, she’s the authoritarian in her little pack of beautiful rich girls and she wants to make that very clear to me before she invites me in. She tries to hide it behind a sweet, overly girly facade, but this girl is vicious and not only do I want nothing to do with her, I’m not sure I want Kate around her either. But unfortunately, that’s not my choice.

Ainsley winks at me and then places her cup on the table, tossing her long, perfect hair over her shoulder and beaming around at us. “Well girls, 5th Avenue is not going to clean itself out. Let’s get to it.”

Kate and Eliza push their chairs back and slowly get up from the table, but I don’t budge. I’d rather spend an afternoon alone than having Ainsley Callaway metaphorically humping my leg all day.

“Coming, Ana?” Kate asks, but I shake my head.

“I think I’m just going to head back to the hotel,” I tell her. “I’m not really in the mood to shop anymore.”

“You’re sure?” She asks, and I nod.

“Yeah, have fun. And be back by two, please. Christian will freak out if you’re late.”

“I’ll get her back, safe and sound,” Ainsley says. I give her a tight, closed lip smile and then wave good-bye to Kate as they leave the coffee shop, followed by a large man with dark sunglasses I hadn’t noticed standing in the corner behind us. Unfortunately, I’m not actually in a rush to get back to the hotel and sit around, and I briefly consider going to the Met alone, but I know that Christian won’t be happy if he finds out that I wandered around New York all afternoon by myself without security. I take my time to finish my coffee and even linger a while to watch the people passing through the window next to me, but eventually, I have no choice but to get up and gather my things to leave.

I’m just pulling my Chanel jacket over my shoulders when I turn around and immediately feel my stomach drop. A familiar set of bourbon eyes are starting intently at me from across the café. It’s Leila, and she’s not alone. She’s sitting across from a man in a black leather jacket, who has his back to me, but she isn’t looking at him. She’s focused so intently at me that it actually makes a shiver of fear crawl up my spine. What is she doing here?

Immediately, I begin digging in my purse, searching for my phone, but it isn’t there. I look again, shuffling the same things around and even shaking my bag slightly, but I can’t find it. Fuck, did I leave it in the hotel room?

My stomach drops as I remember that I set it on the bedside table after I got off the phone with Kate, but never went back to retrieve it. I don’t have a way to call anyone to come and get me, and suddenly, I find myself wishing I would have left with Kate and her friends. I wish Luke was here with me. I wish Christian, or Taylor, or even Ros would walk through the door and take me safely back to the hotel, but I know that’s not going to happen. I’m alone.

The only thing I can do now is get out of here and get back to the hotel as quickly as possible, so I throw my purse over my shoulder and make a beeline for the door. My eyes are trained on Leila as I make my way out of the cafe and, since she doesn’t move when I do, I almost think I’m overreacting to her being there, until I get to the door and the guy sitting across from her reaches beneath the back collar of his jacket, pulls a black hoodie over his head, and then slowly gets up from the table.

Panic seizes every muscle in my body and as my fight or flight response kicks in, I choose flight and make a run for it. Shoving against the heavy glass door that is hindered by the wind funneling through the tightly packed buildings, I make my way out into the street and walk briskly through the crowded sidewalk towards my hotel. Seconds later, the hooded man from the café appears and he follows after me, his strides longer and quicker than mine. I move faster, actually running now as I try to push through the crowds, but when I turn around to find him again, I see that he’s still keeping pace with me.

Tears prick in my eyes as my mind begins to race with the wild, terrifying nightmares of what could be about to happen, especially since Christian thinks I’m out with Kate and will have no reason to contact me until he comes back later this afternoon and finds that Kate has returned to the hotel without me. What if this stranger grabs me? How far would he get before anyone even realizes I’m gone?

The possibilities make my stomach roil and the tears come faster, blurring my vision, as the fear overcomes me. I round the corner, praying I can just make it one more block to the hotel, that he doesn’t turn the corner after me, that I’m just being paranoid, but the second I turn onto the adjoining street, I suddenly run into something solid, and feel fingers grip tightly around my arms.

“No!” I scream, fighting against the strong hands that now have a hold of me.

“Ana, stop!” A familiar voice commands, and the sound of my name makes me freeze. I turn, look up, and see Luke looking down at me, clearly alarmed, and as I feel the relief of safety wash over me, I break down into tears. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?” He asks.

“I… I think I’m being followed,” I tell him. His head snaps up immediately so that he can scan the sidewalk behind me. I turn too, but I no longer see the man who was behind me. Dozens of people in business suits are moving quickly around us, shouting into their cellphones or hurrying by without giving a second glance to anyone else, but I can no longer see the tell-tale black hood.

“Who?” He asks.

“I…” I hesitate again, scanning the faces around me more insistently. “He was just there. He was behind me. But I don’t see him…”

“What did he look like?”

“Uh, tall. Bulky. He had a black leather jacket and a hoodie.”

Luke reaches down for my hand, holding it tightly as he maneuvers to the corner, keeping me shielded against the building while he peers down the conjoining street. I’m silent, still shaking as my eyes dart between the faces of each person who passes, but after maybe a full minute, Luke turns back to me.

“I don’t see anyone. Ana, you’re shaking. Are you okay?”

“No,” I shake my head.

“Let’s get you back to the hotel,” He says, pulling against my forearm. I go willingly, wanting nothing more than to get as far away from here as possible, to lock myself in my hotel room with Luke sitting right beside me. Even knowing that I’m safe now with my CPO gripping tightly to my arm, I still feel the residual fear of what could have almost just happened, what I’m sure was about to happen, had Luke not miraculously appeared out of nowhere. He was right behind me, he was keeping up with me, he was following me with his eyes. I know it’s not a coincidence that he left when I did, especially since he was with Leila. But where did he go?

When we get to the hotel, Luke leads me straight to the elevator and hits the number for our floor. The doors close and he rounds on me.

“What happened?” He demands.

“I saw Leila,” I tell him, still not fully in control of my breathing. “I was leaving the coffee shop and I saw Leila. She was staring at me, like she knew something was about to happen. I got up to leave and the guy she was sitting with pulled a hood over his head and followed after me. I ran, and he was coming after me, and then I ran into you.” The moment the words come out of my mouth, I suddenly remember that this should have been impossible. There’s a reason I didn’t take Luke to the coffee shop with me this morning, he isn’t supposed to be here. “What are you doing here anyway? Christian said you and Taylor were driving my car back to Cambridge.”

“I knew you wouldn’t stay in the hotel,” He says. “When Grey called us this morning, I thought it was ridiculous that he actually thought you would wait around for him all day, especially since Kate is in town. I asked Taylor if he would be okay taking the car back on his own and he agreed. But, when I came up here to check on you this morning, you were already gone. I found your phone in the bedroom and saw that you’d called Kate, so I called her and she told me she left you at the coffee shop on the corner.”

The elevator doors open and Luke leads me into the hallway and down to the room. I feel immeasurably better once we’re locked inside, but now that the panic has subsided, I don’t know what we do from here.

“Luke, I don’t feel safe with Leila around. I believed her when she said that she was just here for school, but she’s not. She’s following me. I saw her on campus with Christian, then at that party, and now here. She followed me here and I think… after what just happened, I think she wants to hurt me.”

Luke reaches out and pulls me into him, holding me closely against his chest as I continue to shake. “I won’t let her,” He promises. “I’ll look into her. If she’s planning something, I’ll find out what it is and I’ll stop her. I’ll keep you safe, but you have to help me, Ana.”


“No more going out on your own,” He says firmly. “I don’t care if you’re going to the coffee shop on the corner, or to class, or to the store to pick up a gallon of milk, you don’t go anywhere alone.”

“Okay,” I agree hurriedly, and honestly after what just happened down on the street, that doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice. I don’t want to be alone. I never want to be in that situation again.

“Good,” He nods, but as he stares down at me, I can see the tension building behind his eyes.


“I just… I don’t know what I’m going to say to Grey.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s already uncomfortable having Leila living in the same city as you. If I tell him that we perceive her to be a real threat to your safety, he’s going to try and pull you out of school and bring you back to Seattle.”

“Oh,” I hesitate, and then look away because I know he’s right. I’d honestly expected him to ask me to come home when I’d told him she had moved to Cambridge in the first place. If he knows that she’s following me…

“I can’t leave Harvard,” I argue as I look back up at him. “My dad…”

“I know,” He cuts me off, and then takes a deep breath. “But you said yourself you don’t feel safe. I don’t want to put you at risk, maybe… maybe you should go home.”

I stare back at him, feeling almost a little betrayed by his suggestion, but when the imploring nature of his gaze doesn’t diminish, I let out a defeated sigh and drop my head, covering my face with my hands.

“Ana…” Luke says after a few moments, and when I turn to look up at him again, there are tears in my eyes.

“What did I do to deserve this, Luke?” I ask him. “I’m a good person. I’m nice to people, I do whatever I can to help people when they need me. I worked hard to get into Harvard. I didn’t get in because I’m a legacy or my parents have a lot of money. I sacrificed, my father sacrificed. It means everything to me.”

“I know,” He agrees.

“So why do I have to lose it?” I demand, the tears more insistent now. “What did I do? All I did was fall in love and now it’s like everyone around me is trying to ruin everything I’ve worked so hard for. People fall in love everyday, all over the world, and they don’t have to lose anything. So, why do I?”

“I don’t know, Ana.”

“It’s constant, Luke. Ever since we’ve been back together, it’s just one thing after another. Like the universe is trying to force me to choose between Christian or Harvard. I don’t want to choose. If I choose Harvard, I hurt Christian. If I choose Christian, I hurt my father. If I give up either one, I hurt myself. Why is it like this?”

He moves to sit next to me on the couch, wrapping me in his arms and pulling me into his chest, letting me cry into his shirt while he gently rocks me back and forth.

“I can’t choose, Luke.”

“You don’t have to choose,” He says at last. “I’ll talk to Taylor. We’ll come up with a plan to keep you safe, and to keep you in Cambridge. I don’t know how, but we’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I won’t tell Grey about Leila.”

“You won’t?”

“No. But Ana, you have to help me here. We have to be smart about this. If I don’t tell Grey that I know Leila is a threat, and I keep you here, and then something happens to you…”

“Okay,” I nod, and then I let out a long, breath to try and relieve some of the anxiety of this morning. “I’ll be perfect, I promise.”

“Good,” He says. We’re quiet for another few minutes, while I try and sort through everything that’s happened and attempt to relax the tension still gripping tightly to every muscle in my body. After reading Christian’s note when I woke up, I thought I was going to be bored all day, but that has certainly not been the case. Boredom actually sounds really good right now.

“You’re still shaking,” He tells, me, rubbing his hands comfortingly over my arms. “Why don’t you go lay down for awhile?”

“Yeah,” I agree. “Thanks, Luke.” He nods as I turn and head back for the bedroom. Once I’m inside, I shrug out of my jacket and then climb into the bed, hugging a pillow tightly and taking deep, calming breaths to try and regain my full composure before Christian gets back.

Next Chapter

Chapter 06


“Are you sure you’ve got it all?” I laugh as Carrick pulls the second suitcase, which he had to buy in order to bring back all of the Harvard gear he bought over the weekend, out of the back of my Lexus.

“I think so, but if you see something in The Crimson Store that I missed, well… Christmas isn’t too far off,” He winks at me and I laugh before pulling him into a tight hug.

“Thank you for coming,” I say for probably the millionth time this weekend. “I’ve loved every second of it.”

“Me too,” He smiles. “I really love you, Ana. You’ve made my son so happy and you’ve done so much for my family, I just don’t know if you realize how much you mean to us. It seems like since the day we met you, Grace and I have prayed that you will one day be apart of our family. I think of you like a daughter and to have you ask me here for Dad’s weekend… it feels really nice to know that you think of me a little like a father.”

“Of course I do,” I reply. “You and Grace have been family to me when I didn’t have anyone else.”

“We’ve tried,” He nods. “I just wish your father could have spent one of these weekends with you.”

“He would have loved it,” I reply, biting down on my lip as I feel the sting of the emotion his words cause to bubble up in my throat. He leans down to kiss my forehead and then sighs and turns around, waiting patiently while Kate says goodbye to her own father. “Ready, Alec?” He asks.

“Almost,” Kate’s dad says, and then he releases Kate and gives me a hug as well. “Come see us the next time you’re in Seattle, Ana. It feels like forever since we’ve had you around.”

“I will, Mr. Kavanagh,” I promise. He places a kiss on my cheek and then takes a few steps, but has to wait as Carrick hugs Kate. When she pulls away, there are tears in her eyes.

“We really miss you, Katie,” Carrick says. “We didn’t think it would end up this way with you and Elliot and it’s been hard, especially for Grace. We love you and we just… we just don’t want you to be a stranger, okay?”

“Okay,” Kate nods. “Give my love to Grace and… and Mia.”

“I will,” He replies, but this time his voice is thick, as though he too is holding back tears. I press my lips together and blink as I turn away, unable to look at the pain between them any longer. It’s been five weeks since Kate and Elliot broke up and it’s been more devastating on everyone than even I anticipated. This is the first weekend since the breakup that I haven’t flown back to Seattle to be with Christian and that’s been really hard on Kate.

The first time I went home, I left Luke behind so that Kate would have someone in the house with her, but Christian wasn’t very happy with that. So, when I left the following weekend, Kate decided to go spend a few days in New York because she felt safer in a hotel surrounded by thousands of people than she did alone in the house on our quiet street. Her first night there, she decided to go out to some club opening to try and get her mind off Elliot for the first time since their breakup, and that’s the night she met Ainsley Callaway and Eliza Whitney, two of New York’s most notorious socialites.

She’s been back to New York every weekend since and every Monday, without fail, she’s plastered all over the tabloids, dancing in nightclubs, falling drunk out of limos, and even changing dresses with Eliza in a back alley for all the photographers to see. She’s completely reverted back to the girl she used to be before she started dating Elliot, maybe even worse, and Christian has twice threatened to kick her out if she doesn’t get her act together, but there’s no way I would let him put my best friend out while she’s clearly in pain. I know that’s what this is, pain. I recognize it. It’s what I did when Christian and I first broke up, though maybe not to the extent she is, and she was always there for me. I’m not going to turn my back on her.

Elliot’s been more inconsistent with the way he’s handled the break-up. I haven’t seen him once in all the times I’ve been to Seattle, he hasn’t come to brunch at his parents’ house even one time, he doesn’t answer my phone calls, and when he does reply to my texts, it’s usually in one word answers. The only person he seems to allow to see him is Christian, and while Christian had told me he was fine, that he’d just buried himself in work to try and keep his mind occupied, I didn’t like the similarities between the way Elliot was handling this and how Christian handled our break up. I said something to Christian about it, so he took Elliot out on the town one night to try and get him out of his rut, and then again a few days later… Soon after that, Kate was showing me paparazzi photos on her phone of Christian and Elliot coming out of a strip club. The fallout from that one took several days for us to work through and when we did, we both agreed that from now on, we’re just going to let Kate and Elliot work this out on their own.

“Ugh,” Kate groans, dashing tears out of her eyes with the back of her hand as we climb back into the car. “Never get close to a guy’s family.”

“Well, my guy’s father just spent Dad’s Weekend with me, so I think I’m past that point,” I tell her.

“Yeah, well lucky for you, you aren’t going to have to deal with the same bullshit from Christian that I did with his brother. I’m trying to move on and having Carrick around hasn’t made that any easier.”

I purse my lips together to keep myself from reacting to her choice of words. She’s in the anger stage of her grief and I have to keep reminding myself of that because each of the snide little remarks she periodically makes about Elliot, which I know she doesn’t even mean, hit me like a punch in the gut.

“Carrick loves you,” I tell her instead. “All the Greys do.”

“I know, and I love them,” She says. “And that’s why it sucks. I haven’t just lost Elliot, I’ve lost my second family. Once we graduate and I don’t live with you anymore, I’ll probably never see them again.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” I try and reassure her, but she just shrugs.

“Maybe at your and Christian’s wedding, I guess,” She says. I take a calming breath and focus on the traffic in front of me, not wanting to drag this conversation out to the point where we’re both, yet again, in tears. Thankfully, she changes the subject. “Have you made up your mind about Halloween yet?”

“Well… yes,” I hesitate. “But you’re not going to like it. Christian’s in New York this week so… he’s coming here next weekend. I’m sorry, Kate, but I can’t go.”

“Ana!” She groans. “You’re with him every weekend!”

“Not this weekend,” I argue, but she just shakes her head.

“But you were with his Dad, not me. I never see you anymore.”

“I live with you, Kate.”

“Barely,” She grumbles as she slumps back into her seat and I shoot a hard, accusatory glare at her. I may leave every weekend, but the fact that we never see each other isn’t all my fault.

“You know, you could skip some of Carter’s parties during the week and hang out with me at home,” I snap.

“Or you could come to Carter’s with me,” She replies, equally as huffy. “You’re 22 and you live like you’re 45.”

“I do not, I just prioritize my time. I have a lot of work to get done during the week and I can’t spend the time I do have getting shit faced with a bunch of frat guys.”

“You didn’t used to be that way,” She says, and I glare at her again, but she’s undeterred. “I made plans for us, plans that you agreed to, and that I’ve been really excited about. I told Ainsley and Eliza they were finally going to get to meet you, I got us on the list at a hot new club, I’ve booked a room in a hotel in the middle of Manhattan… you promised me, Ana.”

“Don’t act like you told me the whole story before you got me to promise you, Kate. You asked me if I would do something with you on Halloween, and I said yes because Halloween is on a Sunday night and I thought I’d be back from Seattle. You didn’t tell me you wanted to go away for the whole weekend.”

“Why would we do something on a Sunday night when we have school the next day?” She asks. “Obviously everything is happening on Saturday, and you know I go to New York every weekend, just like you go to Seattle.”

“Kate…” I begin, but before I can argue anymore, she holds her hands up in a conciliatory gesture and continues.

“Look, Ana. I know you’re in love, and I know you miss Christian, and that you want to spend as much time with him as you can, but with this new bi-coastal lifestyle… you’re wasting your senior year. What do you want to say to Ray when he gets home? That you took full advantage of life at Harvard and appreciated every second that you got to be a student? Or that you wasted your time flying across the country twice a week to visit a guy he doesn’t even know exists?”

“That’s low, Kate,” I reply, glaring at her.

“I don’t mean for it to be,” She says. “And I’m not saying you should stop visiting Christian. I’m happy that you’re in love and finally in a good place with him again. I’m just saying that the every week thing is getting a little ridiculous, this is your chance to be young. You have your entire life to spend with Christian Grey, but you only have seven more months to be a college student. You’re never going to get this time back, and you’re wasting it.”

I feel a deep sinking feeling inside of me as the impact of her words hits me. I’ve thought about these last few months of school almost as a roadblock, something I have to get through to get what I really want, which is to graduate from Harvard and then be with Christian. I haven’t really put much thought into what it will be like when my time apart from Christian is over. I won’t be a Harvard student anymore and that’s been such a huge part of my identity for so long, something I’ve held as my biggest point of pride, I think I might actually be devastated when I graduate.

“Look, I’ll compromise with you,” Kate says. “We don’t have to go to New York next weekend. We can stay in Cambridge and find something to do here. Believe it or not, Carter is having a Halloween party that he has invited me to. Come with me to that, in the coordinating costumes we planned, and you can bring Christian.”

“You think Christian is going to want to go to a party at Carter Reed’s house?” I ask doubtfully.

“He could go home instead…” She replies.


“Please, Ana,” Kate pouts. “I miss you. I need my best friend right now.”

I let out a long breath and, after an awkward drawn out silence, I nod. “I’ll talk to Christian.”

“Good,” She says, chipper again. “Now, can we please get some food on the way home? I’m starving!”

When we get back to the house, we find Luke on the couch in the living room watching the end of the early game on TV. One of the consequences of Kate now being single and ready to mingle is that I’ve woken up several times in the last few weeks to find strange men in my house. Obviously when Christian found out, to say that he was less than pleased could quite possibly be the understatement of the century, and as a result Luke has basically moved into our guest room. He hasn’t been here all weekend because I needed the extra room for Carrick, but now that Carrick and Mr. Kavanagh are gone, I’m back to being under 24 hour surveillance.

“There you are,” He says, as we walk through the door. “What took you so long? The game’s about to start. Go Cardinals, right?”

I roll my eyes. Luke always roots for whatever team is playing against the Seahawks. “First of all, you shut your mouth, Lucas Sawyer, or I’ll shut it for you, and second of all, I need to make a phone call. I’ll be right down.”

“Yeah, it’s probably a good idea that you call Flynn,” He nods in agreement. “You’ll probably need a long session after the ‘Hawks go dooooown.”

I slap him upside the head and then head for the stairs, taking them two at a time until I get to the top and close myself off in my room. My fingers almost seem to shake a little as I dial Christian’s number. I know he’s not going to like what I’m going to tell him, but Kate’s right… I did promise her Halloween and if she’s willing to compromise for me, I need to do my part to be there for her.

“Hey, baby,” Christian answers. “I was just about to call you. Ros and I are about to take off.”

“Looks like I have a sixth sense,” I joke. “But, I actually did call for a reason. I have a request for you but I don’t think you’re going to like it…”

“What?” He asks, more cautiously now.

“Well, a few weeks ago, Kate asked me if I would dress up with her for Halloween and I agreed because Halloween was on a Sunday and I thought it would be after I got back home from visiting you. What she meant though is that she wanted me to go to New York that weekend with her…”

“I don’t want you around Ainsley Callaway or Eliza Whitney,” He interrupts me. “They’re paparazzi bait and the last thing we need is more media attention.”

“I know, so we came up with a compromise,” I take a breath. “We’re going to stay here next weekend, and we’ll go to Carter Reed’s party instead.” There’s a long pause while I wait for his reaction, but it doesn’t come. He’s silent, and I know that’s not a good sign. “You can come.” I say quickly. “I know you were planning on coming here next weekend and you still can. It’s going to be fun. There will be music, and dancing, and plenty of people who would love to talk to you about…”

“No,” He says before I’ve even finished my sentence, and his outright refusal without any kind of discussion kind of pisses me off a little.

“What do you mean, no?”

“I mean no, Anastasia. I’m not going to a college party.”

“Why? Because college students are so beneath you? I know they’re not nearly as highbrow as the girls you find dancing at Kitten’s Cabaret.

“Stop it, Ana. You know I didn’t mean to end up there and I’ve apologized to you for that.” He says, but my anger has taken over now.

“So, let me get this straight. You ask me to go to one of your boring business parties or charity galas, and I’m just expected to ask what time you need me to be ready, but when I have something I want you to do with me, the answer is just no?”

“You know those are completely different things,” He argues.

“No, I don’t. But I am just a college student who enjoys going to campus parties so I guess it makes sense that I wouldn’t be on your level of sophistication.”

“I’m not doing this with you,” He says. “I said no, I meant no.”

“Well, then I guess don’t bother coming here this weekend because I have plans with my best friend.”


“No, don’t Ana me. I fly to you every weekend, Christian. I get on a plane every Friday and fly 3000 miles to be with you, and then fly back two days later, and I hate it. I hate being on that plane so much now that I get nauseated when I drive to the airport, but I do it for you because we both agreed that we would put each other first and that is the only way I can get to you. I’m asking you to give me one night so that I can keep a promise to my best friend, who I’ve practically abandoned during a really rough time in her life in order to keep my promises to you, and you won’t even consider doing this one thing for me.”

“And why would I?” He snaps. “What the fuck do I owe Katherine Kavanagh? You want to talk about people going through rough times? What about Elliot? She ended their relationship, not him. She broke my brother’s heart. All of this, this is because of her selfish choices. She can go to hell.”

“Christian Trevelyan-Grey!” I snap, angrily. “You don’t get to talk about my friends like that. Especially not Kate, who has never said a bad word about you in her life.”

“I have to go,” He says, bluntly. “I’m not going to Carter Reed’s house. We can discuss your plans when I get to New York.”

“No discussion needed,” I scoff, and then hang up the phone and throw it angrily down on the bed. I’m fuming as I rip my shirt off to put on a jersey for the game, but I’m so angry that even sitting next to Luke on the couch and watching the Seahawks beat a division rival 22-10 doesn’t put me in a good mood.

“What’s wrong?” Luke finally asks when the Seahawks seal their victory with a 24 yard field goal and I don’t even cheer.

“Nothing,” I grumble, but he raises an eyebrow at me in disbelief so I sigh and begin to vent. “Christian’s being a jerk.”

“So, what else is new?” He laughs, but when I don’t crack a smile and instead turn to glare at him, he adopts a more serious demeanor. “How’s he being a jerk?”

I tell him about Kate and about what Christian said to me on the phone but when I’m finished, he looks back at me like he’s not sure what to say.

“What?” I ask irritably, but still he hesitates for a moment before answering.

“Just so I’m clear, do you want me to be on Kate’s side…?” He asks.

“I want you to tell me what you think.”

“Well, I don’t think he should go to Reed’s party.”

My mouth drops open slightly. “You don’t think he’s being a little bit unreasonable?” I demand.

“No,” Luke says. “Look, he’s not in college, Ana. I mean, you guys are the same age or whatever, but you are afforded a little more leeway than he is because you’re a student. He’s not. A lot of his company’s success is tied to his image, and that took a hit this summer. What if someone gets a picture of him that looks bad or could be taken out of context, like that picture that leaked of you and I at that nightclub last summer? What if someone makes up a story about something he did there that suddenly 30 students, who could be looking for tabloid money, are suddenly willing to collaborate? He has to be careful and I’ve been to some of the parties on this campus… I’ve taken you out of some of the parties on this campus, they don’t always go well.”

I stare back at him, feeling the anger pulse inside of me, and for a brief moment, I think I hate him too because I know he’s right, but I don’t want to admit it. Unfortunately, Luke knows me better than almost anyone else in the world, so when I turn away and scowl at the TV, he knows there’s more that I’m just not willing to say out loud.

“Are you mad at him because you’re the one doing all the traveling?” He asks. “Do you feel like you’re the only one putting in effort?”

“I don’t know,” I reply softly. “Maybe. Mostly, I’m worried…”

“Worried about what?”

“What I’m missing by dedicating every weekend to him. What I’m giving up every time I choose him over whatever is going on here. And then, on the flip side of that, how miserable I would be if I didn’t go to Seattle every week. A weekend at a time is not enough. I miss having him around all the time. So much that even when I’m with him, I miss him, because I know I’m going to have to leave in just a few hours.”

“It’s almost as if…” He pauses and lifts his hand to hold his chin thoughtfully. “Long distance relationships are difficult.”

“I’m not going to talk to you if you’re just going to make fun of me,” I tell him.

“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to make fun of you. Ana, you’ve picked a difficult path and while I think you’ve picked a path that is worth it for you and the one that was really your only option, you have to be honest with yourself about what you want and what it’s going to take for you to be happy, and then find a way to make that happen. Maybe you need one weekend a month home with Kate, maybe you need one night a week where you can go out and enjoy yourself, and maybe you need to quit your job at the library because you don’t need it anymore and quite frankly you don’t have time for it.”

“They need me,” I shake my head.

“They don’t though… not enough for you to be this unhappy. You have too many obligations to too many people, you’re forgetting yourself. Find the compromise that works for you… and for Mr. Grey, because he signs my paychecks.”

I slug him in the arm, but smile at him. I don’t know how he does it but Luke always manages to put things in perspective for me. It’s like he knows how to make the world smaller, more manageable.

“Thanks, Luke,” I say gratefully, and he lifts his arm over my shoulder and pulls me into him.

“Anytime, Banana,” He says. I let out a long breath, now feeling guilty for fighting with Christian earlier, and the feeling only seems to grow stronger as the hours pass. I know he’s flying across the country and I am very well aware how long that flight takes, but by 9:30 that night, I’m so anxious to make up with him that I can’t sit down.

“Ana, will you please knock it off?” Kate gripes at me while I pace back in forth in front of the coffee table. She’s trying to simultaneously finish a research paper she’s been putting off while skimming through a new article sent to her by one of the writers for the Crimson.

“I can’t,” I complain. “He should have landed by now…”

“So call him,” Luke suggests. He leans over to see the TV around me and I’m about to step in his way again on purpose, but suddenly my phone begins vibrating in my hand and when I look down I see Christian’s name flash across the screen.

“Finally,” I say with relief as I dart out of the room to take the call in private. I hesitate for one second, preparing myself for whatever version of Christian is waiting for me on the other end of this call, and then lift the phone to my ear.


“I’m not wearing a costume,” He says flatly.


“To the party,” He clarifies. “I’m not wearing a costume.”

“No,” I agree, relieved that he seems to be as ready to stop fighting as I am. “I was talking to Luke earlier and… I think you’re right. You shouldn’t go. Too many things could go wrong.”

He’s quiet for a moment and then sighs. “No, you’re right.” He says at last. “You’re the one who’s had to sacrifice things so that we could be together and that’s not what I want. I only ever want to give you things, not take them away, and right now I’m taking away part of your Harvard experience. If you need one night to go out with Kate so that you can keep a promise, I suppose I can give that to you. And, I’d rather that be in Cambridge than in New York, even if it is at Reed’s house.”



“Thank you, Christian,” I tell him.

“But I have conditions.”


“Yes,” He says. “The first being that I’m not wearing a costume.”

“Wait…” I hesitate. “You’re coming? But, I thought…”

“Of course I’m coming. You think I want you around Carter Reed while you’re drinking and with only Kate there with you. Someone needs to keep an eye on you.”

“I was going to bring Luke,” I tell him.

“And so will I. Along with Taylor and Ryan.”

“You’re going to bring a full security detail to a Halloween Party?”

“Condition number two,” He says. “Condition number three is no pictures, not even with Kavanagh. The media have gotten enough stories about the two of us off her Facebook account.”

I bite my lip. Kate isn’t going to like that one but he does have a point… both our Hawaiian vacation and my birthday were plastered all over the society pages of the Seattle Times because of pictures I took with Kate. “Okay.” I agree.

“Condition number four is that I want my PR team to approve whatever costume you’re going to be wearing just in case pictures do leak of the two of us online. The last thing I need is for pictures of us out in public with you half naked. I won’t be able to ignore it if the media starts slut shaming you.”

“I’m going as Holly Golightly,” I tell him. “I will hardly look any different than I have at all of those charity things you’ve dragged me to over the past few weeks.”

“Good. Then my last condition is that we make an early appearance, and an early exit. If anything gets even slightly out of hand, we leave. If my security team sees any underage drinking or illegal substances, we leave. If anything seems off, or uncomfortable, we leave. No arguments.”

“Deal,” I tell him.

“Good,” He pauses again. “And, I’m sorry about earlier. I shouldn’t just dismiss you like that.”

“I’m sorry, too. Sometimes I forget that even though you feel like my entire life, our worlds are still very different in some ways.”

“Seven more months,” He says.

“Seven more months,” I agree. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”

“First thing,” He agrees.

“Good. Enjoy New York. Go kick the business world’s ass.”

He laughs. “I will. I love you.”

“I love you, too. Bye.”

I hang up the phone and stare down at it wistfully. I’m almost a little discombobulated. I’d expected him to be angry and ready to fight with me, but instead… I got a real life, honest to god, Christian Grey compromise. And I don’t know if it’s the surprise I feel over what just happened or the fact that it seems like we’re finally figuring out how to just be happy with one another, but suddenly, I’m aching for him. He’s in New York, only a few hours away, and somehow, that distance feels harder than the 3000 miles that lie between here and Seattle.

“Luke!” I call, making my way back into the living room. He turns and looks at me over the back of the couch expectantly.

“Yes, my dear?” He asks.

“I need you to arrange something for me, and I need you to find a way to keep it a secret from Christian.”

My classes are cancelled on Friday because of the holiday, and after I find someone to cover for me at the library Thursday night, I decide to skip my afternoon class and make an impromptu and very secretive trip to New York. Kate has decided to come, since she’ll be missing her actual weekend with Ainsley and Eliza, and for once it’s not me who is holding us up.

“It’s a three hour drive to New York, Kate!” Luke calls irritably through the still open sliding glass door. “We don’t have all day.”

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” She says, as she scurries outside, pulling a giant suitcase behind her. Luke raises an eyebrow as she passes her luggage to him.

“You know we’re going for two days right?” He asks her.

“I’m going to Whisper with Ainsley and Eliza,” She says. “It’s supposed to be out of this world, but there’s going to be a lot of media there for the opening and I have to look perfect. I know it may come as a surprise, but it takes a lot to look this good.”

Luke presses his lips together as she gestures up and down her body and suppresses a laugh. “Nah, too easy,” He says, shaking his head. She slaps him as I reach up to close the hatchback.

“Okay, okay, let’s go!” I exclaim, waving my hands as I shoo each of them to their side of the car. Luke climbs into the driver’s seat while Kate and I each take our place in the back, and after we spend a few more seconds arguing over having to listen to Luke’s music, we pull out of the driveway and head south.

The car ride feels interminable, definitely a downgrade from the limo ride I took when Christian and I made this same drive almost two years ago, but when we finally cross the bridge into New York, my breath catches in my throat and I immediately push the long drive out of my mind. I haven’t been back to New York since I left Christian standing at the top of the Empire State Building and I’ve forgotten how much I once loved this place. Christian is in New York all the time for business, this is a place we’re going to visit together often. My only hope is that this weekend can be the beginning of new, happier memories, that will replace the old and make this place feel as exciting as it once did.

“Where are we staying?” Kate asks, interrupting my thoughts as we crawl through the traffic headed into lower Manhattan.

“The Conrad Hotel.” He says as he flicks on his blinker to pull over to the curb. I turn to look through the window on the right and see Taylor standing on the sidewalk in front of a tall glass structure with the word CONRAD mounted over the wide front doors. I feel a familiar rush of excitement the moment my eyes fall on him, as his presence is a silent reminder that Christian is here.

“Miss Steele,” He greets me as I step out of the car.

“Hi, Taylor,” I reply. “Is he here?”

“No, Mr. Grey is in a meeting downtown,” He confirms. “But if you’ll step inside with me, I’ll escort you up to his suite and Sawyer and Miss Kavanagh can check into their rooms.”

I nod, waiting while Luke pulls my luggage out of the backseat and hands the suitcase to Taylor, and then follow him through the doors and into an impressive 15 story atrium that feels a little daunting as I stare up into the open space above me.

“This way, Miss Steele,” Taylor directs me, and I have to bite my tongue to stop myself from once again asking him to call me Ana. For the very brief period I had him as my CPO last summer, it seemed like we’d made enough of a breakthrough where he’d be comfortable calling me by my first name. Since he’s been back with Christian though, it’s been nothing but Miss Steele.

I wave over my shoulder to Luke and Kate as I step onto the elevator and Taylor leans over to press the button for the 16th floor. When the doors open again, I follow him down a long hall to the corner room.

“Is Ros in this hotel too?” I ask as he opens the door.

“Yes ma’am. Just down the hall.”

“Oh,” I nod. I step past him into a small living room furnished with a L shaped couch and a desk in front of large windows overlooking the Hudson. It’s immaculate, showing zero signs that anyone is staying here. There is a hallway on the left that leads me into a large stone bathroom, which again looks as though no one has occupied it yet, except for the small black bag of toiletries sitting on the counter.

“The bedroom is through there, Miss Steele,” Taylor tells me. “Would you like me to unpack your bag for you.”

“No!” I say, a little too quickly, and I feel the heat of my blush rush to my cheeks as my mind races through the things tucked securely away inside my suitcase.

“Very well,” He nods, and he hands me my bag. I thank him, and then follow him back out to the living room to see him out. Once I’m alone, I hurry back into the bedroom, throwing my suitcase onto the bed and quickly pulling open the zipper. I have no idea how long it will take for Christian to get back so I have to hurry.

Inside my suitcase, along with my own toiletries and some clothes for the next few days, is one of the pink bags Christian purchased from Agent Provocateur, which I take into the bathroom with me while I take a shower and re-do my hair and make-up. When I’m clean, I reach into the bag and slip on the bra that does great things for my breasts, but leaves little to the imagination. The bondage style underwear is slightly more complicated to get into, and when I turn around to check out my behind in the mirror, I’m almost a little embarrassed by how revealing it is. The thin straps of black fabric that criss cross over my backside somehow seem more explicit than if I was wearing nothing at all.

“Christian’s going to like it,” I whisper aloud to myself, trying to boost my confidence, and then I head back into the bedroom to retrieve a pair of silk thigh high stockings,which make my legs look long, slender, and perfectly smooth.

I’m just securing the straps from my garter belt when I hear the electronic chime of the key card from the other room, followed seconds later by the sound of the door opening and Christian’s voice.

“They signed a fucking contract,” He says. “It’s not my problem they didn’t think about patent rights when they came on board.”

Immediately, I’m gripped with panic. He’s not alone. Taylor knew I was up here, why didn’t he stop him from bringing someone up here?

My head shoots back and forth as I debate the merits of running into the bathroom or crawling into the closet, but when Christian speaks again, I realize he’s answering a question nobody asked. A quick, sly peek through the door reveals that he’s simply on the phone, pacing back and forth through the sitting room, and I relax. Crisis averted.

After taking a calming breath, I climb onto the bed, trying to look seductive, but after listening to Christian’s phone call for five minutes without him coming back into the bedroom, the boredom and impatience make it too difficult to focus. I’m just about to walk out into the living room to jump him myself, when I hear him finally being to come up the hallway.

“I don’t have time, Ros,” He says as he steps into the bathroom. “We’re booked solid for the rest of the week. Dinner tonight, and an early meeting in the morning… Wait. Hang on a second.”

His voice cuts off and suddenly he appears in the doorway of the bathroom. His face is weary, almost alarmed, but when he sees me laying on the bed, that changes immediately.

“I’m going to need to call you back,” He says, his voice almost hoarse. “Something’s come up, push dinner thirty minutes. I’ll meet you at the restaurant.”

He hangs up the phone without another word and lets his hand fall unceremoniously to his side as his eyes rake over me once again. I give him a small, coy smile as I sit up on the bed, resting on my arms so that I’m leaning forward to give him the best view of my bustier-enhanced cleavage.

“Hi,” I whisper, but he doesn’t answer. He continues to stand there, gaping at me, until eventually he lets his phone drop to the floor and he reaches up to tug at his tie. In the next second, he’s across the room, shedding his clothing as he closes the distance between us, and I bite down on my lip as he crawls over me on the bed. With his thumb, he pulls my chin to free my bottom lip and then attacks my mouth his. His tongue is insistent, ruthless as it invades my mouth, and while I moan into him, I reach up and begin to help him pull his clothes from his body.

When he’s naked from the waist up, his belt is lying somewhere on the floor across the room, and his fly is open, his hands begins their greedy exploration of my body. I suck lightly on his tongue while his fingers find my breasts and the nipples completely exposed through the sheer fabric. He pinches it tightly and I gasp, so his mouth moves down to my jawline, his teeth grazing my skin. I can feel his erection pressing into my thigh and immediately, I feel the heat pooling between my legs.

“Christian,” I moan, squirming beneath him. His hands reach down my body, spreading my thighs further open so that he can better position himself between my legs. In one fluid motion, he pulls his erection free from his boxers, pushes my panties to the side, and begins to circle the head of his cock around my clitoris. I only just have time to enjoy the first touch of him before he eases down to my opening and then slams inside of me.

“Holy fuck!” I scream, unprepared for the invasion but simultaneously overcome by the deep satisfaction that comes along with it. It’s so quick, unexpected, but there’s something about the uninhibited need and urgency that is unbelievably hot. He slides backwards and then forces himself into me again, deeper this time and I moan before moving my lips back to his. He reaches under my thigh and lifts my right leg over his shoulder, using it as leverage so he can thrust faster and harder while he buries himself inside of me.

Our tongues tangle together in a desperate kind of way as we try to express the longing we’ve felt for one another while we were apart, the joy we feel being together again, and the lust overpowering us both. I gasp again when his hand reaches into my hair and he tugs harshly at the roots, yanking my head backwards so that he has access to my neck, and I respond by raking my fingernails down his back. He changes his pace, slowing slightly, but making each thrust inside of me sharp and purposeful. This isn’t love making, this is carnal, passionate, fucking. He’s claiming me, and though it’s not what I had anticipated, in this moment, the rough brutality feels so necessary and I want to respond in kind.

I reach into his hair and pull harshly, eliciting a harsh, pain filled breath as I pull him off of me and onto his back. In the next second, I swing my leg over his hip, straddling him. His hands move to my underwear, and he pushes his thumbs through the thin, sheer fabric, shredding it as he breaks through and begins to pull them apart with his hands, leaving my panties hanging off of me in tatters as I slide back down onto his erection. When he’s fully buried inside of me again, I pause for a moment, enjoying the fullness and rocking my hips back and forth, forcing him to reach every part of me before I begin to move up and down. He begins thrusting upward in time with my movements, and soon I’m covered in a thin sheen of sweat and I’m panting from the excruciating pace and the overpowering pleasure.

“Oh god, Christian!” I scream, throwing my head back as my entire body begins to heat. He sits up and buries his face into my cleavage, sucking hard enough on the swell of my breasts that I’m sure I’ll have hickeys tomorrow. I moan and begin tugging at his hair once more, and when I pull a little too hard, he bites me. I yelp, but as he soothes the sting away from his tongue, I’m surprised to find that, just like the times he’s spanked me, the sharp sting of pain actually heightens the pleasure and the heat building inside of me begins growing more and more tangible.

“Yes!” I cry out, “Oh god, I’m going to come!”

Christian’s hands move to my hips and he moves me, pushing me onto my stomach on the bed while he moves behind me and forces my legs open with his knees. I feel him push on my upper back so that my breasts are pressed into the mattress while he simultaneously pulls my hips into the air. A high, keening cry escapes my lips as his hand comes down hard on my ass once, and then he thrusts inside of me again, and begins to move in and out of me. I squeeze around him, desperate to climb back to where I was only moments ago, and it doesn’t take long for me to succeed. His fingers are digging into my hips, pulling me back against him while he dives in and out of me, again and again, and it takes only seconds before heat inside of me begins to boil over and the electric shocks of my orgasm rockets through me.

“Fuck, I’m coming!” I scream, and while I lose myself in the euphoria, I hear his harsh, visceral groan, and then feel the slight ripple of his release inside of me.

When my orgasm finally comes to an end and my body begins to unwind, I relax into the comforter, rolling onto my side as Christian settles down on the bed next to me. He leans forward and presses his lips into mine, tenderly this time. I take my time with this kiss, enjoying it and the juxtaposition of the gentle sweetness with the raw savagery that existed between us only a few moments ago. Eventually though, I pull away and then lean back to look in his eyes, smiling while I appreciate the fact that I have him here, in front of me, again. He reaches up, brushes my hair back from my face, and finally speaks.

“Hi,” He says, and then leans forward to kiss me again.

Next Chapter

Chapter 05

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The next morning, Christian and I have to go to brunch at his parents’ house, and while I’m sitting in the living room helping Mia go over a paper she’s written for her English class, I find myself continually glancing nervously up at the clock. Christian has promised to have me to the airport by noon which means that I’ll land in Boston somewhere around 8:30 EST, but it’s already 10:30 and our meal isn’t even ready yet.The next morning, Christian and I have to go to brunch at his parents’ house, and while I’m sitting in the living room helping Mia go over a paper she’s written for her English class, I find myself continually glancing nervously up at the clock. Christian has promised to have me to the airport by noon, which means that I’ll land in Boston somewhere around 8:30 EST, but it’s already 10:30 and our meal isn’t even ready yet.

“I don’t get semicolons,” Mia pouts as I mark yet another one out of her paper with a red pen.

“Don’t use them,” I tell her. “They’re superfluous and if you can’t use a period or a comma where you want to place your semicolon, then you need to rewrite your sentence. Keep it simple.”

“An English major who doesn’t like semicolons?” Christian interrupts. “How will people know you went to college?”

“I just talk about any J.D. Salinger book that isn’t Catcher in the Rye,” I reply offhandedly. “Are your parents ready for us?” He nods, so I tell Mia to email me her paper and I’ll send the edited version back to her by the end of tonight. She agrees and quickly pulls up her email on her laptop while Christian helps me to my feet.

We head into the kitchen to grab the dishes from the cabinet so we can set the table, and the lack of complaining as we pull plates and glasses from the cabinets makes me realize that we’re missing someone.

“Where’s Elliot?” I ask Christian while I pile forks and knives onto the plates in his hands.

“I don’t know,” He shrugs. “Mom, where’s Elliot?”

Grace turns around from the kitchen sink, frowns, and then looks down at her watch. “That’s weird, he should be here by now. Mia, will you call your brother?”

She nods and pulls her phone out of her back pocket, but only seconds after she’s lifted the phone to her ear, she pulls it away again.

“He sent me to voicemail,” She says.

“Well, he’s probably driving then,” Grace says, but Christian doesn’t look so sure. He takes his own phone out of his pocket and dials Elliot’s number, but when he too gets his voicemail, Christian leaves a message.

“Hey, we’re waiting on you and we don’t have all day. Hurry up,” He says before quickly hanging up the phone. We take the dishes into the dining room and set the table while Grace and Carrick carry food in, but by the time we’ve all sat down, Elliot still hasn’t shown up.

“This is what happens when you let him move out of the house, Mom,” Christian says irritably, but Grace simply purses her lips and glances up at the clock on the wall.

“We’ll wait a few more minutes…” She says. “In the meantime, we can catch up with each other. That’s what brunch is for.”

“How’s Harvard, Ana?” Carrick asks.

“Good,” I smile back at him. “I’ve got a heavy course load this semester, but it’s all interesting so far. I’ve been given a lot more responsibility and control in my work study at the library, we’re moving forward in publishing my book, and, even though Christian thinks our rowing team isn’t up to par, I read this morning that our football team destroyed Holy Cross last night, so it looks like we’re going to have a pretty good season.”

“That’s good, we’ll need it if we’re going to compete with Yale this year.”

“Yeah,” I nod, and then bite my lip. I hadn’t decided yet if I was going to ask him this, but seeing the look of Harvard pride reflected on his face right now makes me think that I should. “I was actually going to talk to you… Dad’s weekend is October 22nd-24th and Bob came last year, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be able to make it this year. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come? We’re playing Princeton, it should be a good game.”

“You want me to come spend Dad’s weekend with you?” He asks, and I nod hesitantly.

“I mean, if you can. I know it’s a long trip, and you’re busy, and you’re not really my dad but…”

“Anastasia,” Carrick interrupts me. “I’d absolutely love to come and spend dad’s weekend with you.”

I smile at him, feeling my cheeks heat with embarrassed gratitude, until Christian squeezes my hand under the table.

“So I take it that means you’re not coming home that weekend?” He asks.

“Nope,” I shake my head. “But you can come to Cambridge if you want.”

“Like hell he can,” Carrick argues. “It’s dad’s weekend. He’s not a dad.”

“But he could be…” Grace interjects, and immediately, Christian’s face sours. “I’m just saying,” She continues. “We’re almost through September. Ana’s going to graduate in less than nine months…”

“Not gonna happen, Mom,” Christian cuts her off. “We agreed over the summer that Mia is going to be the one to give you grandchildren and since she can’t date at least until she’s graduated from Juilliard, you’re in for a wait.”

“So this wouldn’t be a good time to tell you I’m pregnant?” Mia asks, and suddenly the room goes quiet and we all turned shocked looks on Christian’s little sister. “I’m kidding.” She says, putting her hands up in the air in front of her. “God, can’t anyone in this family take a joke?”

“Not when they’re not funny,” Carrick says. Mia rolls her eyes and it looks as though Christian is about to tell her just how unfunny he finds teen pregnancy to be, but luckily for Mia, he’s distracted by his phone vibrating on the table.

“Elliot’s not coming,” Christian says after picking up his phone and reading his text.

“What do you mean he’s not coming?” Mia asks. “He’s never missed a free meal before.”

“I don’t know. It just says, ‘I’m not going to make it. I’ll talk to you later’.”

I frown as I look over at the screen on Christian’s phone and read Elliot’s text. Immediately, I wonder if it’s because of Kate since she’s cut herself off a lot this week too. In fact, I don’t think she ever responded to the text I sent her yesterday apologizing for not letting her know when I got to Seattle. The thought makes me want to call and check on her, and I briefly consider excusing myself to do just that, but Carrick begins passing around the dishes full of food for us to begin, so I decide I’ll call her on the way to the airport. It’s already almost 11 and I can’t afford to waste anymore time.

Instead, I turn my focus to Grace’s meal, but it’s hard to shake the empty feeling hovering over us because of Elliot’s absence. Everyone seems to notice, even Mia, who tries to cover her chagrin by pushing her potatoes around her plate. There’s no way to shake the feeling that something is missing, but Grace makes the best of the situation by keeping up constant chatter and encouraging conversation between Carrick and Christian.

“I was thinking after brunch we could go out on the boat,” Carrick suggests. “We haven’t been fishing since Hawaii and the salmon are running right now.”

“I’d love to, Dad,” Christian says regretfully. “But I have to take Ana to the airport. I promised I’d have her on the plane by noon.”

“Oh,” Carrick replies, clearly disappointed.

“You should go,” I chime in. “It’s not like you’re going to miss anything if you don’t watch me get on the plane, and Taylor can drive Luke and I to the airport.”

“You’re sure?” Christian asks, and I nod.

“Of course I’m sure.”

“Okay,” He agrees, and then turns to nod to his father. I send a quick text to Taylor and Luke, and once breakfast is over, Christian takes me upstairs to his old bedroom so that we can say goodbye to each other without his family hovering over us.

“I’m going to miss you,” He says, taking me into his arms and holding me tightly into his chest.

“Me too. A weekend really isn’t long enough.”

“No, it isn’t,” He replies. “You’ll be back next weekend?”

“I promise,” I agree, and he lets out a heavy sigh before leaning down and capturing my lips with his. I kiss him back, reaching up to tangle my fingers in the roots of his already messy hair, and he reaches down for my behind. I moan slightly when he squeezes me and then pulls me into him so that I can feel his rapidly growing erection against my stomach.

“A quickie?” He asks, a slightly challenging look behind the glint in his deep, gray eyes.

I bite down on my lip. “Okay, but we have to be quiet. I think your mom is in her bedroom on the other side of the wall.”

“We’ll tell her we’re making babies,” He jokes, and when I giggle, he grabs me by the waist to toss me on his bed, then leaps after me.

Just over twenty minutes later, Taylor and Luke arrive, and while they move my bags from Christian’s car to the Mercedes SUV, I say a quick good-bye to Grace, Carrick, and Mia.

“Have a safe flight and call us sometimes, please. We miss you too,” Grace says as she pulls me into a tight hug.

“I will,” I promise.

“See you next week, kiddo,” Carrick says, giving me a hug as well.

“You too,” I reply. I lean over to kiss Mia on the cheek before I take Christian’s hand and walk with him out to the car where Luke and Taylor are waiting.

“Call me when you get home,” He says sadly.

“I will. Have fun with your dad.”

He nods and kisses me once more. His hands grip tightly to my arms, and I wonder for a minute if he’s going to refuse to let me go, but eventually, he does and he helps me into the back of the car, shuts me inside, and then stands in the driveway as we pull away and turn onto the street.

By the time we land back in Boston, it’s already dark, and when I see the headlights waiting for us on the tarmac, I feel a wave of relief. Kate didn’t answer the phone when I called her just before we took off, and I’ve been worried she was going to forget to pick us up the entire flight. As we get close enough to see the car though, I realize that I don’t recognize it. I peer through the windshield, wondering if perhaps Kate has called a driving service, but then I recognize the person behind the wheel. It’s Carter Reed.

“Carter?” I ask as the passenger’s side window rolls down.

“Hi, Ana. Kate asked me to come pick you up. I hope that’s okay.”

“Is she sick?” I ask, but when his face falters, I feel a deep, foreboding feeling in the pit of my stomach. “It’s fine.” I tell him. “Just give us a second to grab our bags. Could you pop the trunk?”

“Sure,” He replies, and after I’ve helped Luke load everything up, I climb into the front seat and buckle myself in while Carter pulls away from the jet and towards the on-ramp to the freeway.

“Private jet, huh?” He asks. “Not too shabby. I’ve got to admit, I was a little nervous about driving right onto the tarmac, but you drop Grey’s name and you can get anywhere. I wonder where else that works?”

“Hmm,” I hum, disinterestedly. “What’s going on with Kate?”

He frowns again. “I don’t really know, honestly. She called me at like, 2 o’clock in the morning on Friday really freaked out and asked if I could come stay with her until you got back. I said I would but I haven’t really seen much of her all weekend. She’s been locked in her room. She hasn’t even come out to eat.”

“At all?” I ask, shocked, and he shakes his head.

“Nope. The only words I’ve heard from her all weekend are, ‘Will you go pick up Anastasia from the airport at 8:30′. Honestly, if you guys didn’t have NFL Sunday Ticket, I’d be kind of pissed.”

“Well, thank you for coming to get me,” I say sheepishly.

“Oh, no. That’s not what I meant. I’m happy to pick you up, it’s just… I mean, your house is kind of quiet, you know? I’ve spent most of the weekend just doing homework and watching Netflix. It would have been nice if Kate had hung out with me or something.”

“I’m sorry,” I say regretfully. “Thank you for staying with her though. I was worried about leaving her alone. She’s never been good at that since, well, you know what happened a few years ago…”

“I remember,” He says, nodding solemnly.

As we pull onto the freeway, my phone begins buzzing to life with all of the things I’ve missed since we left Seattle, and while I expect the notification on my phone to be a text or a voicemail from Christian, it isn’t. It’s a Google alert.

Google Alert: Christian Grey

TMZ, September 19th 2010: Trouble in Paradise? Anastasia Steele, girlfriend of Seattle billionaire Christian Grey, was photographed boarding Mr. Grey’s private jet alone this afternoon without the handsome mogul even making an appearance to see her off. Sources close to the couple say they’ve been running cold for quite some time now and are definitely headed for a split […]

“Ugh,” I groan, and then toss my phone into the backseat where Luke is sitting. “Will you please disable that Google alert? I think I’ve read enough about what the media has to say about Christian.”

“Okay, Grandma,” He laughs, and when I turn around and give him an indignant look he brings my phone close to his face and scrunches his features together while adopting his best old lady voice. “Now let’s see here, how do I work this newfangled Google contraption?”

“You’re so annoying, Luke,” I laugh, and he smiles at me as he hands me back my phone. Once the laughter dies down though, my mind drifts back to Kate. The closer we get to the house, the more the apprehension inside of me begins to grow. Something is wrong and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to finally get answers as to what’s going on when I get home, but with the nervous fear I’m feeling right now, I’m not sure I want to know.

When we pull up into the alley behind the house, I can see Kate moving around in the kitchen, so I quickly thank Carter for a ride again, then bolt out of the car and through the sliding glass door. She jumps a little when I step into the kitchen, which seems odd as she should have been able to see us pull up through the window, but as I look at her deeply sunken and horribly puffy eyes, I wonder if she’s really aware of anything. She looks dazed.

“Hi, Kate,” I greet her nervously. She turns towards me and tries to smile, but her bottom lip begins to quiver and, in seconds, she breaks down in tears. I cross the floor, hurrying to wrap her in a hug, but the instant I have her in my arms, she almost collapses and I have to hold her weight.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, panicked, but she can’t answer me through her broken breathing. We stand there for what feels like a long time while Luke brings in the bags from the car and then awkwardly disappears into the living room. Before long, she becomes too heavy for me to hold anymore, so I slowly lower us onto the floor and I gently rock her back and forth, running my fingers comfortingly through her hair while I wait for the tears to subside. They don’t, though. Not even an hour later.

Luke eventually heads back to his apartment, locking the house down before leaving the two of us alone, and while I wonder if I’m about to spend the night on the kitchen floor trying to console my clearly devastated best friend, the kitchen phone starts to ring.

“Hold on a second, babe,” I say, as I untangle myself from her and hurry to pick it up. I assume it’s Christian, wondering why I haven’t called him since I landed, but it isn’t.

“Kate, it’s Elliot,” I tell her, but she looks over at me, tears still streaming down her face, and shakes her head.

“I’m-I’m-I’m n-ot here,” She sobs, but as I give her a questioning look, she peels herself off the floor and runs from the kitchen.

“Hey, Elliot,” I answer hesitantly.

“Ana?” He croaks back.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Can I talk to Kate, please?” He asks, ignoring my question, and I swallow.

“She’s uh… She’s not here right now,” I reply, flinching as even I’m not convinced by my lie.

“Please, Ana,” He begs, and I think I actually hear tears in his voice. “Please, give her the phone. I have to talk to her, please. Please don’t let her shut me out.”

“I-I,” My eyes begin to water and I can feel the sting of impending tears in the back of my throat as I stand there wanting to give him what he’s asking for but knowing I can’t. When I speak again, my voice is barely a whisper. “I can’t, Elliot.”

The phone goes dead without another word and as I place it back on the receiver, I swallow hard to force back the tears. When I’m sure I’m not going to break down crying, I head up the stairs to Kate’s room, opening the door without knocking.

“Why did I just lie to Elliot, Kate?” I ask.

“Because I did it for you for two years,” She replies through her tears.

“What’s going on?”

She looks up at me, taking several deep breaths as she tries to compose herself enough so that she can speak clearly. “We broke up,” She says at last. “It’s over between us. Done. Finished.”

“What?” I breathe. “What happened?”

Her hand shoots up to her mouth as she starts to sob again and I quickly close the bedroom door behind me and move to the bed so that I can hold her once more.

“He didn’t propose,” She says. “I thought he would p-ropose by the end of the summer but he d-d-didn’t. We’ve been together for three years, I’m graduating soon, we bought that house together… I thought he was going to propose.”

“So?” I press her. “You broke up with him just because he didn’t propose to you?”

She shakes her head. “When he didn’t, I didn’t understand why. So, over your birthday weekend, when Christian put us in that hotel, I asked him when he was going to ask me to marry him and he told me that he wasn’t. He doesn’t want to get married- to anyone. He thinks that marriage over complicates things and since he doesn’t want kids, he doesn’t see the point. He doesn’t want kids, Ana. I want to get married, but I think I could have let that go as long as it meant I could be with him forever and that we could have a family. But he’s adamant that he doesn’t want that, and I won’t give up kids. If I know that he’s never going to make me a mom, I can’t waste any more of my life on a relationship that is never going to make me feel fulfilled.”

She starts crying again but all I can do is stare blankly back at her. I don’t know how to respond to that. Clearly, she’s devastated and Elliot is too, and I want them to be together because I know they love each other, but this is a real reason to break up. If Elliot isn’t willing to give her a life that will make her happy, then even staying together now is just postponing the inevitable. They want different things, they aren’t compatible.

“Maybe…” I hesitate, as I once again have to fight off tears. “Maybe he’ll change his mind.”

“And if he doesn’t? If I stay with him for five, ten more years, and he never gives me a child, then what? I’ll resent him, but… it’ll be my fault. He’s made what he wants very clear and this hurts now, but it’ll hurt worse if we don’t cut our losses before we get any deeper into this.”

“How did you… I mean, you’ve been together for three years. You’ve never talked about this before?”

She shakes her head. “No. I don’t know… I didn’t want to bring it up when we were first dating because we lived on opposite sides of the country. I thought I’d scare him off. Then he moved here and it still felt new for a long time because we hadn’t been in the same city before and I guess I just never ended up asking. He’s so dedicated to his family, with everything he did for Christian, I just assumed… But that should have been a clue, I guess. He already has his family.”

“I’m so sorry, Kate,” I tell her, and she sniffs and nods.

“It’s okay, it’s for the best. I’m still in love with him and I think I’m always going to love him. I don’t hate him. I want him to be happy and, once the pain stops, I hope that we’ll be friends. I can’t imagine my life without him. Besides you, he’s… he’s my best friend.”

“I know,” I nod and she devolves into tears again.

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore, can you please go?” She sobs.

“Are you sure? I could sleep in here, we don’t have to talk…” I offer, but she shakes her head.

“No, I want to be alone.”

“Okay,” I say, sadly. “I love you, Katie.”

“I love you too, Ana,” She says. I lean over and kiss her hair and then slowly back out of the room, closing the door behind me. Once I’m alone in the hallway, her sobbing grows louder as I imagine she starts to fall apart in her bed. The sound feels as though it’s ripping my heart in two because I know exactly what this feels like. I remember, very vividly, after Christian and I broke up not being able to move, or to speak, or to do anything by cry until it hurt so badly I would throw up. The pain of losing someone you truly love is devastating and knowing that my best friend is going through that right now, destroys me.

I shamble back to my room, not knowing if I want to close my door to try and block out the sound of Kate crying or leave it open so that I at least know when it stops. Ultimately, I decide to close it because I still haven’t called Christian. I have to finish my paper tonight and I know that I have a lot of work to do still, but now that I’ve spoken to Kate, I have a million questions bounding around in my head. Christian and I have talked about our future before, about marriage and about kids, but now… I’m not as certain that we’re on the same page as I was before. He’s told me that he wants to marry me someday, but he’s never actually proposed. He’s never even gotten close or dropped any hints that he’s even thinking about it. He asked me to move in with him a week after we started dating and now we’ve been together for four months, an eternity on the Christian Grey timeline, and… nothing. Even today at brunch, Grace made a comment about us having kids and he immediately rebuffed her. Does that mean he never wants them, or that he just doesn’t want them now?

I launch myself across the room and begin digging through the bags Luke has left in my room for my phone, and once I have it, I dial Christian’s number.

“There you are, I was starting to worry,” He answers almost immediately. “Why didn’t you call me when you landed?”

“Do you want to get married?” I blurt out, completely ignoring his question.

“Right now?”

“No, not now. But, you know… someday.”

“What are you… Of course I want to marry you. I’ve been desperate to marry you since I was nineteen years old.” He replies, and while I feel the relief crash over me as I hear his reassurances, some of my earlier worries creep back into my mind, and that comfort wanes slightly.

“Then why haven’t you asked me?” I ask him, and he pauses before answering.

“I was going to. In Hawaii, I was going to. I have the ring, I had the perfect moment, there with you, on the beach… but then you said you wouldn’t stay. You said you wanted to go back to school and I don’t want to spend our entire engagement living on opposite ends of the country from one another. I want to experience it with you. Besides, the more I’ve thought about that night when I almost proposed, the more I’m glad I didn’t.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I… I want to ask your dad for permission to marry you,” He says. “And, I can’t do that until he gets back from Iraq.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, I do,” He reaffirms.

I let out a long sigh of relief. “Okay, so we’re going to get married someday. But… what about kids? You said to your mom this morning that you weren’t going to have kids…”

“That’s because if she had her way, I would have impregnated you this afternoon,” He says, dryly. “Wait… you did take your birth control today, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I say, rolling my eyes at the slight edge of panic in his voice. “But you do want kids?”

“If I’m being completely honest, I don’t know. I never really thought about having children before you and now, when I do think about it… I- I just don’t know. But, if you want to be a mother, Anastasia… I will give you children. I’d like it if we would wait a few years so that we can be married and just enjoy each other and I can be selfish with you, but there isn’t anything in the world I wouldn’t give you, and that includes children.”

“I love you, Christian,” I tell him, feeling my heart swell to the point of bursting as he yet again demonstrates the depth of his love and devotion for me.

“What brought all this on?” He asks, and I have to take a breath before I answer.

“Kate and Elliot broke up,” I tell him.

“What?” He asks.

“Elliot told Kate he wasn’t ever going to marry her or have kids with her and she broke up with him.”


“Sometime this weekend, I guess. I don’t know, she’s a mess. It’s kind of hard to talk to her right now. Elliot called and she had me turn him away but, he sounded devastated.”

“I need go over there,” He says quickly.

“Yeah, I think you do,” I agree.

“Finish your homework, Anastasia. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

“I will,” I assure him. “I love you, Christian.”

“I love you, too. Bye.”

I hang up the phone and take a deep breath, thankful on the one hand that I have someone who loves me so entirely the way Christian does, and then heartbroken on the other as I think about what Kate has lost. So many things are going to change now. It’s always been easy having my best friend dating my boyfriend’s brother. She’s always been there for family gatherings and on holidays. She’s always been right by my side, by Christian’s side, when we’ve gone through hard times. Now, she’s just going to be… absent. She won’t be at the table on Thanksgiving, she won’t open Christmas presents with us, we’ll never spend another Father’s Day together. When we graduate, she’ll leave with her family, and I’ll leave with mine. Those two will never coincide again.

I take a deep breath as I try to push away the sadness ingrained in that thought, and then move across the room to pick up my backpack so that I can continue work on my paper. I set up on my desk, and start reading, thankful that at least the clacking noise of my nails on the keyboard is loud enough to drown out Kate’s strangled sobs still echoing down the hallway.

Next Chapter

Chapter 04

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“Ana, you’re killing me,” Luke says, leaning against the door to my bedroom and staring at me with a look filled with his exasperation. “Do you know what time it is?”

“I know, I know,” I reply, just as irritated as he is. I start digging through my hamper, looking for Christian’s Harvard t-shirt. It’s at the bottom and, since I’ve slept in it almost every night this week, it desperately needs to be washed. I’ll have to do that when I get back to Seattle, or ask Gail to do it. Either way, it has to come. It’s already lost all of it’s Christian smell.

“Tick, tock. Tick tock,” Luke pushes me again, and I turn to glare at him.

“That’s really not helping.”

“No, what would have helped is if you had done this any other night this week so I could have had your bags in the car when I picked you up from school tonight. We were supposed to be on that plane over an hour ago. Who do you think Grey is going to yell at for you being late?”

“I’m sorry, Luke. How was I supposed to know my meeting would go long?” I say irritably. He shakes his head in response, clearly annoyed, but I ignore him.

My toothbrush, shampoo, and all of my other essential toiletries are in the bathroom, and I’m halfway through packing them into a small cosmetics bag when I remember that I have all of this stuff waiting for me at home already. I grit my teeth together as I silently curse myself for wasting more time that I don’t have, and then angrily pick up the birth control and vitamins I take every day and storm back out to the open suitcase laying on my bed.

“Will you please take my backpack down to the car so that I don’t forget it when we leave,” I ask Luke, and he lets out a short huff.

“Is that going to be any time in the next century?”

“Not if you don’t the drop attitude and help me,” I reply, pointedly. He takes a deep breath and moves into the room to pick up my backpack off the floor next to my bed, actually grunting a little in surprise as he feels its weight. I’ve packed it nearly to the point of bursting with everything I need to finish my paper and three classes worth of reading assignments.

He leaves the room, mumbling to himself about women taking forever as he leaves, and while I reach down to zip up my suitcase, I stick my tongue out at him.

Kate is waiting downstairs, flipping through a magazine, and when I drop my suitcase on the floor behind her, she looks up.

“There you are,” She says, and I want to roll my eyes. I get it. I’m late. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” I nod.

She gets up off the couch and grabs both our coats from the hooks by the door and then walks with me through the kitchen and out the back door, where we find Luke waiting next to the open hatchback of the Lexus. Kate and I haven’t talked much since the party on Tuesday. I was honestly surprised when she offered to take Luke and I to the airport this morning, but since I’m undoubtedly going to see Elliot this weekend, I was hoping I’d get the chance to talk to her before I left for Seattle.

“You’re sure you don’t want to come?” I ask Kate as I hand my suitcase to Luke, hoping she’ll change her mind so that I can corner her on the plane.

“No, we don’t have time for anymore packing,” Luke snaps as he slams the trunk closed and makes his way to the passenger’s seat.

“Ignore him, he’s in a bad mood,” I tell her.

“It’s fine,” She says, shaking her head. “I’ve got a ton of work to do this weekend anyway. Having an empty house will actually be good thing.” I deflate a little, because not getting to talk to her isn’t the only concern I have about leaving her on her own all weekend. In general, Kate is still extremely uncomfortable when she’s alone, a lingering effect of the terrifying stalker episode from our freshman year.

“Are you going to be okay?” I reply uncertainty. “Taylor is in Seattle so I can leave Luke here with you if you want.”

Her response is cut off by two, sharp blasts on the horn and Kate raises an eyebrow at me. “A whole weekend with that? A girl’s dream come true.”

I laugh. “I guess I’ll take him then,” She smiles and when we hear the horn once more, we both roll our eyes and climb into the car.

Unfortunately, traffic on the I-90 is fairly heavy and as Kate tries to weave her way through the tightly packed cars as quickly as possible, even I start to feel a little anxious. It’s seven thirty already. I was supposed to be in the air an hour and a half ago. Even if I was in the plane, taking off right now, I wouldn’t land in Seattle until almost 10:30 west coast time, 01:30 my time, which will basically mean I’m going to have to go straight to bed the second I get to Escala, and I’m not taking off right now.

I frown as I realize that all the delays tonight have essentially caused me to lose a night with Christian, and while I slump back into my seat, the music playing on the radio cuts off, and fills the car with the long drawn out ringing tone from my phone.

“It’s Christian,” Kate says, looking down at his name on the digital display in the dash.

“Answer it,” I tell her. She reaches for the button on the steering wheel that connects the bluetooth and, once the ringing stops, I answer.

“Hi, you’re on speaker.”

“Why aren’t you in the air?” He asks immediately. “My pilot just called to tell me you haven’t even arrived at the airport yet.”

“I know, I was going to text you just before I took off. I’m running late…”

Two hours late?”

“My meeting with Dr. Ralston went long, and it took me longer to pack than I expected, and now we’re stuck in traffic.”

He lets out an exasperated sigh. “How close are you?”

“Ten minutes,” Kate tells him.

“Fine. I’ll call and have them prepare for take off so you can leave the second you board the plane.”

“Thank you,” I tell him. “I’m sorry I’m late. I love you.”

“I love you too. I’ll see you in a few hours,” He says, and even though his words are perfectly pleasant, I can tell he isn’t happy. Especially when the phone clicks off without him even saying goodbye to me.

“I told you,” Luke says, in an airy, superior kind of way. I reach up to the front seat and flick the back of his ear.

Finally, we take the turnoff for the airport and are able to get onto the tarmac without any further delay. Christian’s jet is already roaring with life, the lights on the wings and on the tail blinking impatiently at me. I hardly even have time to give Kate a hug and thank her for dropping us off, before Luke is rushing me forward, carrying all of our bags.

“See you Sunday!” I yell back to Kate as I’m dragged towards the stairs that lead up into the plane.

“Love you, Ana! Fly safe! Text me when you land!” Kate calls after me.

I nod and then make my way up the stairs. Natalia is there waiting for me, smiling as I come through the open door and move down the aisle to the nearest seat.

“The captain is ready to take off,” She tells me, “Should I give him the go ahead?”

“Please,” I nod, and she flashes me another dazzling grin.

“Can I get you anything?”

“Some tea, please. And a blanket.”

She nods again and then turns to head up to the cockpit to give the pilot the green light, and as we begin taxing over the airfield, Luke hands me my backpack so that I can start on some of my reading.

There are a few planes in line ahead of us, so it takes probably another half an hour before we’re in the air, and once we’re at cruising altitude, Natalia sets a cup of hot Twinings in front of me, and hands me one of the plush blankets that are so soft and luxurious, they make me want to forget all about my homework and just cuddle into the seat and take a nap. It’s a long flight, just over 5 ½ hours, and by the time we’re crossing over the great plains of South Dakota, I find myself nodding off.

“Doing okay over there?” Luke asks, looking up from the screen on his laptop, which he’s using to watch some war movie.

“Yeah,” I reply, but even as I speak the word, a deep yawn forces its way out of me and leaves me feeling even more exhausted. I look down at my phone, as the time hasn’t updated from when we left Boston yet, and I groan when I see that it’s midnight because we still have two hours left before we land.

“There’s a bed in the back,” Luke suggests. “Why don’t you go try to sleep?”

“I’m fine,” I reply, shaking my head and trying to focus on my reading again. It’s too difficult though as the bleak, and arduous plot of Les Miserables does little to hold my attention. More than once, I have to go back and read 3 or 4 pages again because I start zoning out and realize I haven’t retained a single word of what I’ve read. I make it another forty minutes before I have to resign to the fact that I’m not going to be able to fight sleep any longer and I have to put the book down and make my way to the bedroom in the back of the plane. The bed is cold, too big for one person, and not nearly as comfortable as it looked before I wedged myself under the too tightly tucked sheets. Still, my head barely hits the pillow before I’m out so cold, not even the jolt of the plane touching down at SeaTac is enough to wake me. I am roused from the blissful darkness of dreamless sleep though when I feel a pair of soft, warm lips press into mine.

“Hey,” Christian’s voice whispers in the darkness. “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty.”

“Mmm,” I hum, as I begin to stretch my tired limbs beneath the blankets. I know I have to get up, but the hour or so of sleep I’ve gotten hasn’t been enough and when I finally do manage to pry my eyes open, it takes a gargantuan amount of effort.

“You sure you don’t just want to sleep here tonight?” I ask Christian, and he lets out a breathy laugh.

“No. Put your arms around me. I’ll carry you to the car.”

I do as he asks, groaning slightly as he pulls me from the bed, and then cuddle against his chest as he takes me out of the plane, down the steps, and into the warm SUV waiting for us on the tarmac. I must sleep the entire way home because it seems like only seconds pass from when Luke closes the door behind me to when Christian is gently nudging me awake again in the parking garage under Escala.

“We’re home,” He says softly. He climbs out of the car on his side, while I move slowly to exit mine. Christian gets to me faster than I’m able to get out of the car and, while I’m vaguely aware of Luke and Taylor taking my bags out of the back of the SUV, everything going on around me seems to take on a dream like quality until the elevator doors open and we’re released into the foyer of our apartment.

For a brief moment, I find clarity as I look around and feel the welcoming sense of home wash over me. It’s been a little over three weeks since I’ve been here and part of me wondered if it would feel strange to be home, but it doesn’t. It feels like I never left. Like I could be coming home from SIP or maybe an exceptionally late dinner with the Greys. Everything is exactly the same except for…

“It smells different,” I mumble sleepily, picking up on notes of something sweet and spicy as we head into the living room.

“Gail put out fall decorations,” Christian says, gesturing to the dining room table and the giant autumnal centerpiece silhouetted in the moonlight through the windows. “This whole apartment has smelled like cinnamon for a week now.”

“I like it,” I mutter in approval.

“I’m glad,” He replies, and I feel his lips press into my hair as he leads me back down the hallway towards our bedroom.

The second I’m through the bedroom door, I begin ripping my clothes off, desperate to be out of my jeans and curled up beneath the plush down comforter on our bed. I try pulling my jeans down my legs as I walk around to my side of the bed, but in my exhausted state, I’m not the most coordinated and I trip and fall in a very dramatic fashion onto the bed.

Christian laughs and crosses over to my side so that he can help remove my jeans and then turn down the bed for me. I settle down into the pillows while he gathers my discarded clothes from the floor to put in the hamper, and by the time he crawls in bed next to me, I’m nearly asleep again.

“I’ve missed you,” He tells me as he wraps his arms around me, but I can only manage a low hum in response. His hand begins to slide up my bare sides, towards my breast, and once his fingers find my nipple, he begins leaving a line of soft, sensual kisses along the curve of my neck.

“I can’t tonight, Christian,” I whisper. “I’m so tired…”

He lets out a long, drawn out breath of disappointment so I reach down and pull on his hand so that his arm wraps tighter around me.

“Hold me,” I mumble. His body shifts so that he’s pressed fully against me, and as I feel him squeeze me, I try to tell him that I love him, but my words are so garbled with sleep I’m not sure what they sound like to him.

The next morning, I’m wide awake at 4 A.M. Christian is wrapped around me, sleeping peacefully, and while I’d like to lay here, enjoying the feel of him against me and eagerly await what will come when he wakes up, I really do have a ton of work to do this weekend and I figure it’s better to get as much done before Christian wakes up as possible.

With as much care as I can manage, I slip out from under Christian’s arm and step onto the cold wood floor. I decide to take a page out of his own book, and slip a pillow into my place so that hopefully he’ll be able to sleep longer without realizing I’m gone. After placing a soft kiss on his hair, I tip toe quietly out of the room, retrieve my backpack from the floor in the foyer, and then make my way up to the office Christian made for me over the summer, where I spend the rest of the morning.

Unfortunately, I thought I’d made good progress on my paper when I’d put it down on Thursday, but when I open my laptop and look down at the page count, I find that that is not the case. A low, frustrated groan escapes from my chest as I begin reading through the last tab I had open and start scribbling notes on the pad of paper next to me. Nearly two hours later, I’ve only just begun work typing the bulk of my paper when Christian knocks softly on the door.

“Come in,” I say distractedly, not looking up from my laptop screen. The door opens and he slips inside, moving around the desk and placing each of his hands on the arms of my office chair so that he can force me to spin around and look at him.

“Good morning,” He says, leaning down to kiss me.

“Good morning,” I reply. “How’d you sleep?”

“Better than I have in weeks. Do you want to go out to breakfast this morning or would you like to cook? Gail’s going to be here this weekend, I could ask her to make something. Or we could go to my mom’s. You choose.”

“Actually, Christian…” I hesitate. “I’m kind of swamped. This paper took more research than I thought and I still have almost 7 pages to write. I really need to focus…”

“Oh,” He replies, slightly taken aback. “Well, I suppose that’s fine. I’m sure I can find something to work on. You’ll come find me when you’re finished?”

“Uh huh,” I agree quickly, reaching up to peck him on the lips once more as I turn back to my laptop. He hovers over me for a minute, and I’m not sure if he’s going to say something to me or is just reading over my shoulder, but eventually, he turns and leaves the room.

The rest of the day is a frustrating cocktail of stress and aggravation as I slowly drudge my way through page after page of this paper while constantly fending of interruptions from Christian. I know he just wants to spend time with me, I know he misses me, I know it’s hard to have me in the apartment but still inaccessible, but I told him this was what I had to do before I came and he said he wanted me here anyway. Now we’re both irritated with each other and it’s bad enough that by the time seven o’clock rolls around, I’m starving, but the last thing in the world I want to do is go downstairs and be cornered by Christian again. Unfortunately, the growling in my stomach becomes so distracting, I realize I’m going to have to bite the bullet and face him if I plan on getting any more work done tonight.

With a sigh, I get out of my seat and head out of my office, feeling like a misbehaving child as I creep down the hallway to see if Christian is in the great room. Part of me is hoping I’m going to luck out and he’ll have locked himself in his office so that I can sneak down to the kitchen without being seen and avoid the fight all together, but when I get to the stairs I can see that that isn’t the case. Like a predatory animal, he’s stalking back and forth in front of the fireplace, talking to someone on the phone.

I take a deep, bracing breath, preparing myself, and then slowly start to descend the stairs, but when I hear what he’s saying on the phone, I pause.

“I don’t give a fuck what they think, Ros, it’s still my company. I’m not just CEO, I’m sole proprietor and I have no problem cutting any one of them loose if they don’t get behind that. No one is irreplaceable.”

He’s quiet for a minute, staring into the orange and pink sunset through the windows, and when he speaks again, it’s a brief, harsh good-bye, and he hangs up the phone.

“Hey,” I call softly to get his attention as I make my way down the rest of the stairs. “What was that? Is everything, okay?”

“It’s fine,” He says shortly. “Are you finished yet?”

“No, I was just…”

“Jesus Christ, Anastasia!” He exclaims, turning away from me and running his fingers through his hair in frustration. “Do you realize that you’re leaving in sixteen hours?”

“I know, and I’m sorry I’ve been busy, but I have to get my homework done.”

“I understand that, but I’ve barely seen you. You were late getting here, you’ve spent the entire day upstairs… I didn’t even get to wake up with you. If you’re not even going to make an effort to spend time with me, why are you here?”

“I told you I didn’t have time to come this weekend, Christian. This idea you have that I’m going to come home every weekend and be able to give you all of my attention is unrealistic. I’m a student and I have responsibilities. I don’t have time to travel across the country twice a week, every week.”

“No, but you have time to go to parties at Carter Reed’s house,” He says coldly.

I blanch. “That was… I didn’t know it was his house, Christian. Kate..”

“I don’t give a fuck whose house it was, Anastasia. I’m not pissed because of Carter Reed, I’m pissed because you spent a whole night out drinking with Kate and then you tell me that you don’t have time to sit down and have fucking dinner with me. You’ve been too busy to show up when you say you’re going to, or to make love with me when you got home. I miss you, Ana. It’s hard having you so far away from me all the time. This whole thing is bringing up a lot of…” He stops, swallows, and then changes direction. “You have to make time for me. We have to make each other a priority. I worked thirteen hour days the week before your birthday so that I could have uninterrupted time with you when we were together. I’m fine if you need a couple of hours to do homework while you’re here, but I’m not fine with you using the little time in the week that I have with you to do things you should have been doing during the week while you were in Cambridge.”

I look away from him, feeling the guilt crash over me as I realize he’s right. I did try to get through the work I had before I came out here, but I also watched American Idol and Grey’s Anatomy with Kate last week. I stayed up late with Luke on Thursday to watch football, I did go to a party, and I spent a lot of time working on my query letter when I should have set more realistic expectation with Dr. Ralston. I’m not used to time begin a commodity, but now that I can see how much wasting my time during the week has hurt the man that I love, I realize how precious it really is.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him. “You’re right, I was irresponsible. You are my priority, Christian, and I’m going to spend the rest of the time I have here with you.”

“Really?” He asks. I nod.

“Yeah. I can um… I can finish my reading on the flight home and I can pull an all-nighter tomorrow if that’s what it takes to get this paper done. But I’m all yours for the rest of the weekend.”

“Good,” He nods, and he takes the few steps between us to wrap me in his arms and kiss me.

“Can we eat?” I ask, looking up at him. “I think I’m actually dying.”

He laughs. “Do you want to order in?”

“Mmm,” I mumble. “Can we order from that Pad Thai place on the corner that I like? I’ve been craving those spicy noodles ever since I’ve been back in Cambridge.”

“Sure,” He replies, smiling down at me as he reaches into his pocket for his phone so that he can order.

“I’m just gonna go save everything on my computer and then jump in the shower, okay? Fifteen minutes?”

“I’ll be waiting,” He says, and I kiss him once more before darting up the stairs to my office.

After a very rushed shower, I head downstairs to the extremely welcome smell of Thai food filling the living room. I take a seat next to Christian and immediately begin dishing a very generous serving of noodles onto my plate while he responds to something on his phone.

“Is everything okay at GEH?” I ask, remembering his phone call from earlier as I take a welcome bite and turn to look at him.

“It could be… better,” He admits ruefully. “Business is fine, it’s just… internal things. I’ve got it under control. I don’t want you to worry about it.”

“You’re sure?” I check and he nods.

“How was your week?”

“Fine,” I shrug. “Stressful, but fine. Has Elliot said anything to you about what’s going on between him and Kate? I know there’s something wrong, but Kate either brushes it off like it’s nothing or gets mad and shuts me out.”

“No,” He says. “But he has been a little… clingy this week. He’s called me three or four times a day, every day, and he’s been over here every morning to run with me. I thought he just missed Kate but he makes it sound like they’re not talking very much.”

“No, they’re not,” I agree. “And Kate…” I’m about to tell him about what I’d almost witnessed at the party last Tuesday, but I’m not actually sure if that’s a good idea. Christian is Elliot’s brother and if I tell him I thought Kate was maybe thinking of cheating on him, Christian would definitely tell Elliot and it could cause all kinds of trouble for them. I don’t want to make anything worse and so instead of telling him about the almost kiss, I hurry to think of something else. “Kate’s been upset.”

“Well, hopefully they figure it out soon,” Christian says. “I love my brother but he’s driving me crazy.”

He looks up at me, waiting for my response, but the word crazy has reminded me of the other thing I have to tell him.

“Christian…” I begin hesitantly, and he furrows his brow.

“What?” He asks, carefully.

“Do you remember when we were on campus last week and I thought I saw Leila Williams?”


“I think… I actually did.”

“What do you mean?”

“I saw her again… at that party at Carter Reed’s house.”

He drops his fork. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” I nod. “I talked to her.”

“You talked to her?” He snaps, angry now, and I raise my hand in a conciliatory gesture.

“She cornered me in the kitchen,” I explain. “I asked her what she was doing there and she told me she’s enrolled in Boston University. She lives in Cambridge now.” I watch the muscle in his jaw twitch and his hands ball into fists on the table, so before he can launch into an angry tirade that will probably include me not going back to school, I start on the damage control.

“I don’t think she’s there because of me,” I tell him honestly. “She says she has family in Connecticut and she’s there to study art history. She didn’t seem very concerned with the fact that I was there, she even told me to get over myself when I suggested she was there for me, and… I believe her. Boston University isn’t cheap and it’s not like she has money to be throwing away on college tuition just so she can follow me around.”

He takes a deep breath but his body doesn’t relax. “I don’t like this, Anastasia. I don’t want her anywhere near you.”

“I know, and I told her to stay away from me. Luke knows she’s there, he’ll keep an eye out for her and he’ll protect me. And… I mean, she’s jealous and manipulative, but I don’t think she’d actually hurt me. Even when she was trying to get revenge on you, all she could do was spread lies about you to the media, but Cambridge isn’t like Seattle with the press and stuff. Nobody cares who I am there so she can’t really do anything to me that way either.”

He still doesn’t look pacified but he nods. “I don’t want you going anywhere alone,” He says, firmly. “If you leave the house, I want someone with you at all times.”

“Okay,” I agree. I think he’s being a little overprotective, but since Luke is with me everywhere I go anyway, it’s not a difficult promise to make. He gives me a long, lingering look to let me know that he’s serious, and when I let him know once more that I understand his conditions, he nods and reluctantly moves on.

After dinner, Christian helps me clean the dishes and then suggests we watch one of the black and white movies he’s brought up from my old apartment, but I’ve been sitting all day staring at a screen and I’m kind of in the mood for something a little more interactive.

“What do you say we play a game?” I ask him, and he looks down at me dubiously.

“You’re not going to make me play Monopoly again, are you? Because I swear to god, Ana, if I don’t get to fuck you tonight, I’m going to lose my goddamn mind.”

“I was thinking something much more risque…” I say coyly. “Like, maybe, strip poker?”

“Strip poker?” He asks. “I’m not really much of a poker kind of guy…”

“Good, then I’ll get to see your dick.”

“Oh, baby. We don’t have to play cards for that to become a reality for you,” He says, lowering his voice. He reaches down for the buttons on his trousers, but I stop him.

“We do if you want to get me naked,” I tell him. He pouts and I give him a wide smile as I turn back towards the game room we stocked over the summer. “I’ll get the cards, you prepare yourself to lose.”

“I never lose, Anastasia,” He taunts me.

The game goes fairly well in my favor for the first few hands as Christian was right, he isn’t very good. Once he starts to get the hang of the game though, he also starts winning and soon we’re both sitting at the dining room table, stripped down to our underwear.

“Pair of sixes, ace high,” I say as I lay my cards out on the table, and Christian clicks his tongue.

“I’m sorry, baby. That’s not going to be good enough to beat my three queens.”

I make a face as I stare down at the cards in front of him, then sigh in defeat and reach up for the hooks on my bra.

“Oh no,” He says, shaking his head. “I want your panties.”

“Will I get them back?” I ask, raising an eyebrow at him.

“That depends on how memorable tonight is,” He says. “Take them off.”

I smirk at him and get out of my chair, turning so that my behind is only a foot or so away from him, and then bend over at the waist to give him the perfect view as I slowly drag my panties down my legs.

“Oh, Ana,” He moans. His hands grip firmly onto my ass and he presses his thumbs into my lips to spread me open. I hear the low groan of his chair against the marble floor as he leans forward but, when I feel his breath, I quickly stand up straight before his mouth can touch me.

“What are you doing?” He asks, as I turn and toss my panties into his lap.

“Getting back to the game,” I say innocently. His brow furrows, like he can’t possibly understand how we could go back to something as trivial as playing cards now that I’m sans-panties, and I smirk. When I sit back in my chair, I place my right foot on one of the joints on the legs of the table, and the other on the armrest of his chair, holding them open to give him an unobstructed view. He stares between my legs, the hunger obvious in his eyes.

“Your deal, Christian,” I tell him.

“You win,” He whispers, but his eyes stay transfixed between my legs. The very tip of his tongue brushes the bottom of his top lip and I can tell he’s aching to fall to the floor and devour me, but this little tease has suddenly made the game much more interesting. I’m not ready for it to be over. Slowly, I reach down between my legs and place my fingers over my center, blocking his view, but touching myself does nothing to quench the longing that is blazing like fire in his gaze.

“Fuck, Ana…” He groans, but I shake my head.

“Deal the cards, Christian.”

With a great deal of effort he tears his eyes away from me and starts dealing us each a hand. When I move my hand away from between my legs and reach down to pick mine up, his eyes immediately shift down again, and I click my tongue disapprovingly.

“Focus, Christian,” I tell him, and he lets out an aggravated huff before picking up his own pile of cards. Once we’ve started the hand, I can see the great deal of effort he puts into keeping his eyes off of me, trying to hide the extent of his desire, but his body betrays him. His erection has grown to the point where it’s broken through the hole in the front of his boxers, and every now and then, I catch him reaching down to adjust it.

“How many do you want?” He asks me.

“Just one please,” I say, tossing the two of clubs from my hand face down onto the table. He takes one off the top of the pile and I pick it up, smirking a little as I look down at the king of hearts that gives me two pair. He also takes one card, glances down at it, and then looks up at me expectantly.

“What do you say we make this more interesting?” I ask him, and he raises an intrigued eyebrow at me.

“Go on…”

“If I win this hand, you have to come visit me next. In Cambridge.”

He rolls his eyes. “You have a roommate, Anastasia.”

“What do you call Gail and Taylor?” I ask him.

“Staff,” He replies. “Who live in their own quarters and who I know aren’t listening and won’t walk in on us if I choose to fuck you on my kitchen counter. “

“I’ll send Kate to spend the weekend at Luke’s,” I counter. “Or we could get a hotel. Or we could just do whatever the fuck we want and Kate can deal with it. The point is, if I win, you travel to me. You sit on a plane for 5 ½ hours. You deal with the jet lag.”

He narrows his eyes. “Fine. But if I win, I get to do whatever I want with you tonight. Total. Power. Exchange. For the rest of the night.”

“Kinky fuckery?” I ask, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Oh, yes,” He nods, and I fight the smile tugging at the corner of my lips.


“Then play your hand, Miss Steele,” He says, nodding to me. I bite down on my bottom lip and slowly lower my cards so that he can see them.

“Kings and Aces,” I say confidently, and his face falls.

“That’s really too bad,” He says, and just as I’m about to begin my victory gloating, he sighs, turns his cards towards me, and I can see that he has a full house. “I’d really have liked to have more time to plan tonight.”

I mash my lips together indignantly and then reach forward with my leg to nudge him with the ball of my foot, but he grabs onto my ankle and lifts my leg so that he can lavish his tongue around my toe. I let my head fall backwards as I enjoy the feeling until he stops suddenly.

“Get on your knees, Anastasia,” He commands and, because he’s won fair and square and I’ve agreed to the terms, I have no choice but to comply.

I slide out of the chair, folding up the sweater I was wearing to put under my knees, and then settle down on the floor. Once I’m comfortable, I look up at him expectantly.

“Suck my cock,” He tells me.

I reach forward to help him remove his boxers and then grip him firmly by the base of his erection while I slowly lower my mouth onto him. He lets me set my own pace for a moment, and besides leaning forward once to unsnap my bra and pull it down my shoulders, he mostly just sits back and enjoys the feeling of my lips and tongue moving around him. After a while though, he stops me very suddenly by pulling me back.

“Wrap those beautiful breasts around me,” He says, reaching down to hold his erection straight up. I look at him confused for a moment, unsure of what he means. “Push them together and move them down around my cock,” He clarifies. “I’m want to fuck them”

I do as he asks, pressing my breasts together and then leaning over his lap so that he can slide his erection between them. He moans as he begins to move, and so, holding pressure around him, I begin to slide my breasts up and down over him. Soon he’s really thrusting upward, matching my pace, and I’m surprised by how turned on I am by this.

“Fuck, that looks so good,” He says, his eyes blazing down at me. “Stick your tongue out, lick the tip of my cock. Oh, Ana…”

I do as he asks and look up at him, not concealing how much I’m actually enjoying this, and just as his ab muscles begin to clinch, signaling that he’s getting close, he reaches down and pulls me off the floor.

“Get on the table,” He tells me, brushing the cards to the floor with his arm. I do, placing my knees close to the edge of the table while he bends down behind me to pick something up off the floor. “Bend over and give me your hands.”

This is difficult as I have to lower my chest and head all the way down on the table before I can reach my hands behind my back. He grabs onto them, holding them both with one hand while he wraps fabric around my wrists to bind them together. I’m slightly confused because he wasn’t wearing a tie or anything else I would imagine he could use to restrain me, but when I look back, I can see the deep purple lace from my panties resting on my fingers.

“Is that okay?” He asks, tugging on the thin fabric to test whether or not he’s tied it too tightly.

“Yes,” I respond, and I’m immediately met with a harsh slap on my ass. I moan as I’m reminded how much I really love it when he spanks me, and he does it again.

“Yes, what?” He asks.

“Yes, sir.”

“Mmm,” He moans. I hear the scraping of the chair on the floor behind me and once he’s settled down in the chair, he grips tightly to each of my hips and then brings his mouth to my now aching core. I let out a ragged breath as I feel his tongue make contact with my clitoris, and just as my thighs begin to tremble, he pulls away and slaps me hard on the ass again.

“What was that for?” I ask indignantly.

“My pleasure,” He responds, and then he does it again. I feel the muscles deep inside of me clench as he hits me a third time and a shiver rocks over my body. “You like that, don’t you, Anastasia?”

“Yes, Sir,” I breathe. He hits me twice more, harder each time and while the first slap sends a jolt of pleasure through me, the second rocks me forward a little too violently, and my face slams into the table.

“Ah! Yellow!” I cry out and immediately, he stops.

“What’s wrong? Did I hurt you?” He asks, his voice suddenly alarmed.

“No, not really,” I assure him. “But my face isn’t attached to the table, Christian.”

“Sorry,” He says, but as he reaches up to untie my hands, I move them away from him.

“I didn’t say red,” I protest. “I don’t want you to stop.”

“Let’s get you on the floor then,” He says, after a moment’s hesitation. He grips me by the hips, holding me up as he guides me to the ground, and once he has me laid over the table again, his hand reaches down between my legs.

“Oh, yesssss,” I hiss as I feel his long finger sink into me. He adds another, using it to stretch me and then search for the place inside me that is guaranteed to have me unraveling in his hands. The moment he finds it, my muscles tighten and he lets out a low, pleasure laced groan while he begins tracing slow circles inside of me. Soon, I’m panting, squirming desperately over the unrelenting surface of the table, and he begins thrusting his fingers into me harder.

“Are you going to come, Anastasia?” He asks.

“Yes, Sir,” I mewl. “So close…”

“Look back at me,” He commands. “I want you to look at me while I make you come. Your orgasms are for me tonight, Anastasia. Your pleasure is mine.”

I do as he asks, and the moment I see the possessive heat burning in his steely eyes, the dam breaks and I come, hard, around his fingers.

“Christian!” I scream. “Oh, fuck! Christian!”

“That’s it, baby,” He encourages me. His pace doesn’t falter and it has me flying. I’m gasping, writhing uninhibitedly over the table, and before I come fully down, he removes his fingers and then slams inside of me, invigorating the fire again. He’s relentless, savage almost, as each hard thrust is accompanied with the harsh, high grating sound of the table moving over the marble floor. He grabs ahold of my still tied wrists, using them for leverage as he ravages me, and as wild, and passionate, and unencumbered as this is, I find myself somehow wanting more. I want his hands to hold me tighter, his thrusts to take me harder, and while I know that if he did, he would probably hurt me, I almost don’t care. There’s a trust between us now that allows me to lose myself in the darkness of the kink with him. I know he would never intentionally hurt me. He won’t even punish me, something he made clear the last time we explored this kind of sex together. This about fantasy and the pure unadulterated sexual gratification we both get from mixing pain with pleasure and from my complete surrender to his desires and expert touch.

“Oh, fuck! Yes!” I scream as he slaps me again. “Harder, Christian!” His hand massages the part of my ass where he’s hit me, soothing away the sting before he spanks me again, and when his hand pulls away and comes down hard on my ass once more, the tight ball of concentrated pleasure deep inside of me shatters and sends shockwaves through every part of my body.

“Fuck! Ana!” He growls. “You’re going to make me come.”

I whimper and the second the tremors of my orgasm cease, he pulls out of me and quickly yanks the knot in my panties loose so that my hands are freed.

“On your knees,” He commands me, and I hurriedly turn around and lower myself down onto the ground in front of him again. He’s stroking his cock, his face screwed up in concentration, and for a moment I think he wants to come in my mouth, so I lean forward to wrap my lips around him, but he stops me.

“Lean your head back,” He tells me. “Hold your breasts together.” I give him a strange look but do as he asks and a few seconds later I feel hot, wet liquid dripping down over my breasts, accompanied by his low, satisfied groan. His body shudders slightly as he comes down, but when he’s finished, he reaches out for my hand to help me to my feet and then pulls me into him. His lips come down on mine and I’m a little surprised by the gentility of the kiss. He’s been so rough and because I promised TPE for the rest of the night, I expected his kiss to continue that, for his lips to be hard and possessive as he claimed me with his mouth, but instead I’m met with sweet and loving tenderness. It almost knocks me off balance. I’m still reeling from the mindblowing, animalistic sex, and here he is, doing a complete 180 on me.

“Let’s go get you cleaned up,” He whispers softly against my lips. “Then you can pick a movie for us to watch in bed together.”

“I get to pick the movie?” I ask, surprised. “What happened to total power exchange?”

He chuckles. “I’m ordering you to pick a movie so that I can hold you in our bed for the rest of the night. That’s really what I want.”

“Your wish,” I reply with a smile.

“I love you, Anastasia,”

“I love you too, Christian,” I tell him, and he kisses me once more before taking my hand and leading me back towards our bedroom.

Next Chapter

Chapter 03

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“Don’t go,” I plead, wrapping my arms around Christian as we approach the stairs that lead up into the jet. “Just… move your entire company to Cambridge and never leave. You can use our guest room as an office.”

He lets out a short laugh and pulls me tighter against him, reaching into my hair and kissing me softly on the top of my head. “It’s actually a little unsettling how appealing I find that idea right now.”

I pull away and drop my head backwards so that I can look up at him. His fingers play with my hair for a moment as he stares down at me, and then slowly, he lowers his lips to mine.

“Come to Seattle this weekend,” He says, and I take a deep breath.

“I’ll look at my schedule,” I tell him. “I think I have a paper due early next week and I’ve got to see what happens when I get my manuscript back. I’ll let you know as soon as I can though.”

“Okay,” He agrees, reluctantly. I lean up and kiss him once more and then, with a disheartened sigh, untwist my arms from his waist so that he can board the plane.

“I love you, Anastasia,” He says, pausing at the top of the stairs.

“Love you,” I reply, waving goodbye as he gives me one last smile and then disappears into the plane. There’s a sudden whirlwind of commotion as staff members begin preparing the plane to take off, but since I can’t see Christian anymore anyway, I turn back for the Lexus, glance at the jet one last time in my rear-view mirror, and then start back for Cambridge.

To my surprise, when I walk through the sliding glass door of my house, I find a very chipper looking Kate cooking in the kitchen, dancing around to Lady Gaga.

“You seem like you’re in a better mood,” I say, making my way through the kitchen and tossing my coat over a chair next to the dining room table.

“I told you I was fine,” She says. “I was tired and I’d just walked in on one of my literal worst nightmares. I mean, the kitchen, Ana? Really?”

I shrug. “He pays the bills.”

She shakes her head and turns away from me, pushing chopped vegetables around in the skillet in front of her, but I’m not quite ready to let her off the hook yet.

“So, how are you and Elliot doing?” I ask.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he didn’t come to Cambridge to drop you off at school and he stayed all of one night the very first time he came to visit you.”

“Oh,” She says, deflating a little. “I don’t know, I think we’re going through a… rough patch, I guess. He’s just busy with work and, I don’t know, I don’t…” Her voice cuts off as she stares down into the pan in front of her, and I don’t know if she’s stalling or trying to find the right words to say. Eventually though, she straightens a little and gives me a tight lipped smile. “We’re fine, Ana.”

“Okay,” I concede, but only because I can see that she doesn’t want to tell me what’s really going on.

“How was your weekend?” She asks, obviously changing the subject. “You and Christian seemed shockingly quiet last night.”

I roll my eyes. “We watched a movie.”

“Uh huh,” She says, giving me a skeptic glance.

“You know, we’re not attached at the genitals, Kate. We do like just being around each other. I just wanted to spend quality time with him last night, laying in bed, cuddling, and forcing him to sit through a Shirley Temple movie so that he couldn’t make it dirty.”

She laughs. “I don’t know about that… The Good Ship Lollipop? I’m sure he could come up with something creative for that.. Tell you to hop aboard or something.”

“You’re a terrible person,” I tell her, shaking my head with exasperation. She laughs again as she dumps her stir fry onto two plates and brings them over to the table. I try to change the subject back to her, but she always seems to be able to divert me. After lunch, we spend the rest of the afternoon comparing workloads for the week and finishing up some last minute homework and by the time I’m headed to bed, I still haven’t really talked to her about Elliot at all, but I’m bound and determined to figure out what’s going on eventually.

My meeting with Dr. Ralston is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, so once I’m finished with class for the day, I send a quick text to Christian, just to tell him that I’m thinking about him, and then make my way to his office. There’s another student inside so I pace back and forth while I wait, carefully walking heel to toe on the line in the linoleum. Eventually, the door opens and a rather somber looking guy steps out, clinging to a blue book in his hands.

“Good luck in there,” He says wistfully once he’s closed the door behind him. “Ralston is a real hard ass.”

“Yeah,” I agree as I slip past him. Part of me wants to say something in my mentor’s defense, but I do know where this guy is coming from. Some of the most stressful weeks I’ve spent at Harvard have preceded one of Dr. Ralston’s exams. He nods and gives me a tight lipped smile as I reach up to rap on the door.

“Come in,” Dr. Ralston answers. I do and he smiles up at me as I take the seat across from him. “Oh, Anastasia, how wonderful to see you.”

“Good afternoon, Dr. Ralston,” I greet him.

“My wife baked some cookies that I haven’t been able to give out to the staff today, can I tempt you?”

“I’m fine,” I decline politely, trying to hide the smile as I remember using Dr. Ralston’s constant offer of treats in his defense against Christian’s concerns.

“Okay,” He says with a long, disappointed sigh. “How are your classes treating you this semester?”

“Good so far,” I reply. “I’m enjoying the subjects I’m taking, but my workload is heavier than it’s been in the past and that’s been an adjustment. I already have a monster of a paper due next week.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” He says. “Because I’m about to add to your to do list.” He reaches into his bottom desk drawer, searches through the file folders for a moment until he finds my manuscript, and then places it in front of me. I begin flipping through it and am not even a quarter of the way in before I’m utterly horrified. The pages are so marked up with red pen, they look like they’re bleeding.

“They…” I hesitate. “They didn’t like it?”

“Oh quite the contrary,” Dr. Ralston says. “We had a lot of very meaningful and productive conversation surrounding the themes and context of your work.”

“But…” I look down at the paper again, trying to look at the edits more objectively. There are standard corrections for grammar or spelling I’d been too hasty to correct myself, but there are also entire blocks of text and even scenes crossed out with words like “contrived” written next to them.

“Why was this taken out?” I ask, folding the paper back and lifting it up so that he can see the scene in question.

“We had a long discussion about that scene,” He says. “It was deemed to be unnecessary.”

I frown as I read the first few lines of the scene again. It’s the part of my book I’d based off the weekend I spent in Vermont with Christian. It wasn’t unnecessary, it was a pivotal moment that changed the entire course of our relationship.

“But this is when I… uh, Isaiah really fell in love with Erica. It changed everything.”

“They’ve already said they love each other,” Dr. Ralston counters.

“I know… But this is different. This is when their relationship became something unique, something that set it apart from everyone around them. This is when he knew that Erica was his soulmate.”

“That may be true,” He says, “But it slows down the plot and you’re pushing the acceptable word count for a novel of this subject matter. You’re not writing a romance novel or high fantasy, you’re writing about mental illness and depression. It’s important to stay focused and on topic, or you’re going to lose the reader’s interest. Look, you’re the writer and it’s ultimately your decision, but sometimes you have to kill your darlings, Anastasia.”

“I’ll… think about it,” I agree reluctantly, and he nods.

“Good. Read through the comments carefully and try to approach the critiques with an open mind. I think your writing will be better for it. Make your changes and have it back to me in two weeks.”

“Two weeks?” I gasp, and his brow furrows.

“Two weeks. These things take time, Anastasia, and you don’t have much of it until you graduate. We need to move quickly as I won’t be able to help you after you’re finished with school… that is unless you plan on staying in Cambridge after graduation.”

No. Christian would definitely not be in favor of that idea.

“Two weeks,” I reply, more conciliatory this time. “Okay, I better get started then.”

“Excellent! And, we should meet on Friday so we can start going over the query letter process and drafting the letter you’ll be sending out to prospective agents. Now that your novel is edited, I’d like to begin that process as soon as possible.”

“Friday,” I repeat, pulling out my phone to make a calendar reminder. We agree on a time and then he wishes me luck on the editing process as I turn to leave.

“You’re sure you won’t take a cookie?” He asks once more. “They’re brain food.”

“Sure,” I concede with a laugh. He smiles broadly at me as I take a cookie from the plate he offers me and then wave good-bye before leaving the office.

That night, my stress level is through the roof as I sit at the coffee table trying to work on book editing, a research paper, and all of the reading assignments for my other classes at once. The multitasking doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help though as I’ve been sitting here for almost three hours and I’ve only gotten through maybe three to four pages of my manuscript. On top of that, I haven’t even clicked on most of the tabs I have open on my laptop for my research paper.

Kate is sitting across from me, chewing on the end of her pen as she goes through the submissions for the next issue of the Crimson, and Luke is laying on the couch behind me, reading some of the harsher comments from my book editors aloud to torture me.

“Wait, wait!” He says, not even trying to hold back his laughter. “Listen to this one. This language is drawn out, overindulgent, and monotonous. The predictable cliches the author uses to describe helplessness are less compelling and more painfully, painfully angsty and whiny. Oh, or this one. This description is entirely bereft of ambition or imagination.”

“Alright, alright,” I snap, reaching back to snatch the manuscript out of his hands. “I’ve had just about enough of the Comedy Central Roast of Anastasia Steele.”

He laughs. “See, that comment was full of imagination. Unlike your book.”

“You want me to kick his ass for you?” Kate asks, looking up at me over her notebook, and I roll my eyes.

“No, I don’t think you’d cause enough damage with those dainty little arms,” I say, turning to glare at him. “I need someone bigger to do it. Like, Taylor.” My phone rings on the table and when I look over and see Christian’s name on the screen, I turn to smirk at Luke again. “And look, here’s just the guy to make that happen.”

“I knew you were going to say that,” He taunts me as I get up off the floor to head towards the kitchen so that I can answer Christian’s call in relative privacy. “Totally unimaginative!”

I shake my head with exasperation and answer the phone. “Hey, babe.”

“Hi. How was school?”

“Fine. I got my book back this afternoon.”


“And I’m the worst writer of the 21st century. You can’t imagine how much they ripped this manuscript apart.”

“Well, you saw what went into that process over the summer. It’s not malicious, they’re just doing their job.”

“It sure doesn’t feel that way,” I pout, knowing full well how melodramatic I sound. “It feels like I’ve failed.”

“That’s not true. Think of how many writers don’t even make it this far. Think of all the manuscripts you just outright passed on without reading more than one chapter. Publishing is a tough business. You’re going to need a thicker skin if this is really what you want to do.”

“I know,” I relent. “You’re right, this is good. It’s going to make my novel better in the end.”

“And it’s already amazing. Painful, but incredible. You’re an extraordinary writer, Anastasia. I know that once you’re published, the world will love your work.”

“See, you should be in charge of critiquing my book,” I say with a soft giggle, and he chuckles back.

“Have you decided whether you’re coming home this weekend or not?”

“I don’t know…” I reply hesitantly. “I’ve got a lot of work this week and I’m stressed out about getting my edits done in time. I haven’t been able to focus all night. I’m not sure I’m going to have time to come home this weekend, especially because I have a meeting with Dr. Ralston on Friday afternoon. I wouldn’t get out of Boston until really late anyway.”

“So you’ll get here late and you’ll do your homework on the plane,” He argues. “You can do homework here, you still have an office upstairs. I just want you here with me.”

“You won’t distract me?”

“Not if you really have work to do,” He promises, and I take a deep breath as I mull the decision over.

“Okay,” I concede. “I’ll fly home after my meeting on Friday.”

“My plane will be waiting for you.”

“Thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of work to get finished before I have to fly all the way across the country in three days.”

“Okay. I love you.”

“Love you too, bye.”

I hang up the phone and then exhale sharply, still feeling doubt over whether or not it’s a good idea to fly home this weekend. But unfortunately, this is how our relationship is now and if it’ll make him feel better just having me in the apartment, I can study from there just as easily as I can from here.

I drag my feet as I head back into the living room, actually dreading getting back to work even though it’s now more vital than ever. “I’m going to Seattle this weekend,” I tell Kate. “You wanna come with me?”

“No thanks,” She says. “I’ve got a test next week and a lot of submissions to review for the Crimson before the Homecoming Issue.”

“I tried that on Christian, not even close,” I tell her, and then turn to Luke. “Looks like it’s just going to be me and you, buddy.”

“Oh sure, you ask Kate if she wants to go, but just expect me to come along with you? What about my plans, Ana?”

“You don’t have plans,” I reply, dryly.

“I could have plans,” He says defensively.

“Okay, fine. I need to go to Seattle this weekend, Luke. Can you come with me or are you busy?”

He reaches up to his chin, making a dramatic show of thinking it over. “I’m not sure, I’ll have to check with my friends.”

“You don’t have friends,” Kate laughs and Luke looks back at here with shock.

“Katherine, I’m hurt. I thought we had something truly special. I was looking forward to spending some real quality time together this weekend.”

“Awh,” Kate replies. “Well if that’s how you feel, we could totally hang out. We could watch It Happened One Night, I hear that’s your favorite.”

“Mmm, sorry. Can’t,” He says regretfully. “I have to go to Seattle.”

“You’re such a loser,” I laugh, and then duck as he throws a pillow at me. He reaches over for the remote, turning on some TV show I’ve never seen, while I attempt to try and finish at least one thing on my long list of school work. After about an hour of reading through a few different scholarly articles about the great vowel shift between 1300 and 1650 and still feeling like I’m getting nowhere, I find myself spending more time thinking about how much work I have to do, rather than actually doing it.

“Focus, Anastasia,” I say aloud, shaking my head slightly to try and orient myself.

“You need to relax,” Luke says. “Stressing about it is just making it harder.”

“No, you need to unwind,” Kate counters. “You’re in your head too much. Why don’t you try taking the night off, loosen up a little, and then pick it back up tomorrow when you’ve got a clearer head?”

“I don’t have time,” I pout.

“Well you’re clearly not going to get anything done anyway and sitting here trying to work when you’re not in a good headspace is just making you miserable and stressed. If you don’t find a way to relax a little, you’re not going to get any work done tonight and you’ll just carry this negative energy with you tomorrow.” She says. “I vote we take a break and have some fun.”

I glance down at the open books in front of me, feeling a wave of dread as I look over the first few sentences. Maybe Kate is right. Maybe it would be better if I took a night to clear my head so that tomorrow I can make a plan and attack this with more organization.

“What did you have in mind?” I ask.

“There’s a party over on Merrill Street tonight. Let’s go check it out.”

“A party?” I ask doubtfully. “I don’t know, Kate. I’m not really about that life anymore.”

“It’s supposed to be super chill. I got invited by one of the guys who works on the Crimson and he’s not a rager kind of a guy.” Kate reassures me. “And just because there’s tequila around you doesn’t mean you have to drink it all, Ana. We’ll take it easy, hang out, listen to some music, maybe dance a little. I’ll have you in bed by 11, I promise.”

I purse my lips together. It does sound tempting. I haven’t really done anything social all semester because I’ve been sick, or busy, or with Christian, and… this is my senior year. Next year I’ll hopefully be working full time at some big publishing house in Seattle and I won’t always have the chance to drop everything and have a few drinks with Kate anymore, especially when Christian is around all the time. This is really my last shot.

“What do you say?” Kate asks.

“Okay,” I agree. “Just this once.”

“Yes!” Kate squeals, jumping up to her feet. “Let’s go get ready!”

“Hold on,” Luke interrupts, sitting on the couch and turning an almost somber look on me. “Do you really think this is a good idea, Ana? I mean, Mr. Grey…”

“Mr. Grey will get over it,” Kate snaps. “She’s going to be fine. It’s just a small house party and I know the people throwing it. If it gets crazy, we’ll come home.”

“I don’t know…” Luke says, uncertainly.

“Come with me,” I tell him. “Christian can’t object if you’re there with me.”

“You’d be surprised,” He mumbles, but when I stick out my bottom lip and give him the sad puppy dog eyes that I know he can’t refuse, he ultimately gives in and nods.

Thirty minutes later, Kate, Luke, and I are walking up the short concrete walk to the front door of a house I’ve never been to before. Whoever it is that answers the door seems to know Kate though and we’re quickly ushered inside where about thirty or so people are standing around talking, holding clear plastic cups filled with alcohol in their hands while Like a G6 thumps over the speakers in the corner.

“Let’s get a drink!” Kate shouts at me over the music. I nod and grab onto her hand, letting her pull me into the kitchen, where we contribute to the host’s alcohol fund, and then making ourselves a cocktail. She’s bobbing up and down to the music as I finish topping off the few fingers worth of tequila in the bottom of the plastic cup I’m holding with orange juice and grenadine, and once I take my first drink, she yanks on my arm to pull me out into the middle of the crowded living room to dance.

After a few drinks and a lot of encouragement from Kate, I am actually able to unwind and enjoy myself. Luke is hovering close by, watching intently as Kate and I sway together, holding our drinks above our heads and swinging our hips back and forth. Soon, and probably because of my third tequila sunrise, I’ve almost forgotten all about the mountain of homework I have waiting for me at home and the overly harsh critiques on the novel I’ve poured my heart and soul into. We’re having a great time until a guy I don’t know, but who is surprisingly cute, comes up to us, turning his body towards Kate but looking down at me.

“Mind if I cut in?” He asks, and I’m about to tell him we’re fine on our own but Kate speaks up first.

“Sure,” She says, reaching down for his hand and turning to pull him further into the crowd of people dancing around us. She’s almost able to disappear in the second it takes me to recover from my surprise, but I reach out and grab onto her hand to stop her.

“Kate, what are you doing?” I hiss.

“It’s just a dance,” She says. “I’ll be back in two seconds.”

“But…” I start, but she’s turned away from me and soon is lost through the group of tightly packed students. I let out a harsh huff and make my way across the room to where Luke is standing.

“Where’s she going?” He asks, nodding in Kate’s direction.

“I guess she’s going to dance with that guy.” I tell him, and he raises an eyebrow at me.

“Is Elliot going to be okay with that?”

I shrug. I’m not in a position to tell her what she can and cannot do, but part of me thinks that dancing with a guy and letting him put his hands on her while she’s not only a little intoxicated, but also 3000 miles away from her very serious boyfriend of three years, is a little inappropriate. I certainly wouldn’t do that to Christian, and I know that he would definitely blow a gasket if he found out I did, but their relationship is different than ours is. Elliot’s not the same guy as Christian and maybe he won’t care. It is just a dance after all, it’s not like she’s on a date with the guy. Besides, I suppose I can’t really judge her when she was nothing but supportive of me when I was going through my party phase a year ago. Still, it doesn’t sit right.

“Why don’t we go sit down?” Luke suggests.

I nod and then follow after him, clinging to his arm, as he crosses the room. There’s a large, L shaped couch in the corner that’s mostly empty, but as I take a seat, the guy sitting next to me turns around and I see that it’s Carter Reed.

“No fucking way. Hey, Ana!” He exclaims. He’s clearly more than a little intoxicated.

“Hey, Carter,” I reply, and he turns to his friends, gesturing at me frantically.

“Do you know who this is?” He shouts at them “Do you KNOW who this even is?”

They shake their heads and he gets to his feet, rather unsteadily, and climbs onto the couch. He wavers a little, already unsure on his feet because of the alcohol but completely unstable standing on the soft cushions of the sofa, and waves his arms to get the attention of the entire room.

“Attention, everyone. Attention please! The one and only Anastasia Steele is in the house tonight. This girl, I fucking love this girl!”

“Carter!” I say, feeling my cheeks heat with humiliation as I reach up to yank on his jacket and try to pull him back down on the couch. “What are you doing?”

“Alright,” Luke interjects, grabbing onto Carter and stabilizing him, before moving him a few more feet away from me. “Let’s keep it cool, alright?”

“Nah, dude, it’s cool,” He says. “It’s my house.”

What? This is Carter’s house? Oh my god, I’m going to kill Kate…

“Ana,” Carter interjects. “AnaAnaAna. We need to talk. What happened over the summer? The last time I talked to you, you weren’t even speaking to Grey and, all of a sudden, I turn on the TV and you’re on the news talking about getting married and shit.”

“Yeah,” I say awkwardly. “We’re back together.”

“No fucking way,” He says. “Do you even realize what a big deal he is now? What he’s done to change the game of venture capitalism? He’s a legend and, holy shit, he’s got a fuck ton of money.”

“Yeah, but he’s still the same guy. Our relationship hasn’t really changed much. He just has less free time now than he did in college.”

“But he’s kind of famous. I mean, watch…” He says, and then turns to his other friends again. “Guys. Guys! This girl is dating Christian Grey. Like, THE Christian Grey.”

“Get out!” The girl on Carter’s left says, her mouth dropping open.

“No you’re not,” Another girl says, in disbelief. I tell her that it’s true but she shakes her head. “He lives in Seattle. Why would he be dating a girl who’s still in school and who lives on the opposite side of the country?”

“Love,” I say firmly, but when she rolls her eyes, I feel a flash of vindictive anger and pull out my phone. I have a picture of Christian and I sitting on the beach in Hawaii as the background of my home screen so I turn it around to show her and her eyes widen.

“Oh my god,” She says with disbelief. “I thought… I mean, I read that he was fucking some intern at his company and got sued for sexual harassment.”

“Well, he didn’t get sued… and I was that intern,” I reply sheepishly. “But, to be fair, we dated before I went to work at GEH… It’s all very complicated.”

“You worked at Grey Enterprises Holdings?” A guy on the far end of the couch asks, but the first girl waves him off.

“No one cares about that. Tell us about Grey. I mean, he’s so hot! How do you make that happen?”

“She dumped me for him,” Carter says, now putting on a dramatic show and pretending to wipe a tear from under his eye. “Ana and I dated for a few months our freshman year and then Grey swiped her out from under me when he was still a student here.” He moves his arm in a grand sweeping gesture in front of him, that causes him to fall backwards onto the couch a little, and I roll my eyes.

“That’s really not what happened. Carter and I broke up months before Christian and I started dating.” I tell the girl, although I have no idea why I suddenly feel the need to explain myself to strangers.

“Oh my god, she just called him Christian!” The girl squeaks. “Like he’s just a normal guy. Ah, this is amazing! I mean, Christian Grey! What’s he like?”

“Well…” I spend the next twenty minutes or so talking to Carter and the few friends he has sitting around him about Christian and about the summer I spent interning at GEH. I’m actually surprised by how interested they are in Christian’s company. When I start talking about my internship, a few of them ask questions that I can’t answer, and while they start arguing about the merits of the Grey Method, I’m reminded that I’m currently surrounded by Harvard Business majors.

“Dude,” Carter says, turning a very serious look on me. “You have to get Grey to come and do a lecture for my futures markets class. Do you know what that would do for me? My professor would probably let me coast for the rest of the year.”

“I don’t know,” I say doubtfully. “He’s a pretty busy guy.”

“Just try, okay?”

“Yeah, try…” I reply, trying to be as noncommittal as possible. Even if Christian was interested in coming to give a lecture at Harvard, I doubt he’d do it as a favor to Carter.

“I’m going to go and get another drink,” I tell Carter, and he nods dismissively before turning back to his other friends. Luke, who has spent the last half hour or so talking with the pretty blonde sitting next to him, gives me a questioning look when I get up, but I tell him to stay put and that I’ll be right back. I’ve had a creeping sense of guilt over the past few weeks as I’ve realized how much of Luke’s life is wrapped up in being my CPO, and after Kate’s comment about how he doesn’t have any friends earlier, it’s been nagging at me all night. I think I had a lot to do with why he and Leah didn’t work out and even though he seems to be okay with the fact that their relationship ended, I don’t want him to be alone forever just so he can drive me around all the time. He’s young, and cute. He should get the chance to act that way sometimes.

“I should come with you,” He argues.

“I’m just going to the kitchen, I’ll be right back,” I reply. He frowns, but I walk away before he can argue any further.

There’s no more tequila in the kitchen, which is fine because it is getting pretty late, so I decide to drink a glass of water to try and stave off any lingering effects of the alcohol, but when I turn to head back into the living room to rejoin Luke, I’m stopped cold in my tracks.

Standing a few feet in front of me, staring at me intently and not bothering to conceal the loathing in her eyes, is Leila Williams.

“Leila?” I croak, and her nostrils flare as she straightens a little.

“I thought I might see you here eventually,” She says.

“What are you talking about?” I ask her. “What are you doing here?”

“I go here,” She says. “Well, to BU, just over the river. I’m studying art history.”

I narrow my eyes at her. “You really expect me to believe that you just happened to enroll in a school less a mile away from me?”

“Oh, please. Don’t flatter yourself, Anastasia. Unlike you, this is where I’m from. I grew up in Connecticut, less than an hour and a half away from here. My parents still live there. I moved home and I enrolled in school. You don’t have a monopoly on Cambridge.”

I grind my teeth together as I stare back at her, unsure whether to simply ignore her and get out of here, or to throw down with her right here for everything she’s done to Christian. Ultimately, because I’m at school and because the father I love has sacrificed everything to make this place a reality for me, I choose the former.

“Just stay away from me,” I tell her coldly and she smirks.

“As much as you want it to, Anastasia, the world doesn’t revolve around you. Get over yourself.”

I swallow back all of the hateful, bitter words I want to spit at her and walk purposefully back into the living room, feeling her eyes on me the entire way back to Luke.

“We need to get out of here.” I tell him, and he looks up at me with concern.

“What’s wrong?”

“I just saw Leila Williams.”

“What?!” He exclaims, immediately getting to his feet and looking purposefully around the room. “Where?”

“I don’t know,” I reply, because I can’t see her anymore. “She was in the kitchen. Apparently she enrolled in Boston University this semester. She lives here now.”

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” He groans.

“I wish I was.”

He takes a deep calming breath through his nose and then scans the room one last time. “Let’s get you out of here.”

I nod and start to walk towards the door with him, only to realize that I’m missing the other person we came with.

“Wait, where’s Kate?” I ask. Luke stops and we look back towards the open part of the living room where people are still dancing, but she isn’t there. “She said two seconds, it’s been like… An hour.”

“God damn it,” He says with a huff. “Come on, let’s find her.”

We turn back and make our way through the crowd and into the hallway, peering into rooms as we go. At the back of the house there is a fully enclosed sun room where a few people are sitting, passing a bong back and forth. I purse my lips together when I find that Kate isn’t one of them, and wonder where she’s gone.

“Hey, you wanna hit?” the guy on the couch with the bubbler in his hand asks, holding it out for me.

“No, thank you. You haven’t seen a blonde come through here have you?”

“It’s a party, babe. I’ve seen a lot of blondes,” He says.

“Right. Well, thanks anyway,” I turn around and am going to head back into the living room and maybe check the kitchen again, but out of the corner of my eye I see a small, dark alcove off to the right.

“Hold on, Luke,” I tell him as he holds open one of the french doors that leads back into the main house, and then cross the room to check.

She’s standing there, smiling up at the guy who is leaning too closely into her while he rests his arm against the wall over her head. He reaches up and brushes his fingertips over her cheek, looking as though he’s going to kiss her, and when he begins to lower his face down to hers, I launch myself forward.

“Hey! Get lost,” I say firmly as I physically push him away from Kate. He staggers backwards, looking shocked.

“Ana, what are you doing?” Kate shrieks, and I round on her.

“What am I doing? What are you doing? What about Elliot?”

“What about Elliot?” She snaps back, and I actually have to lean away from her as I hear the anger ingrained in her voice.

“Who’s Elliot?” The guy next to me asks.

“Her boyfriend,” I reply, shooting a sharp glare at him. “Her big boyfriend, who will kill you.”

“Wait, you have a boyfriend?” He asks, genuinely surprised as he turns back to Kate.

“Ryan…” She begins, trying to be conciliatory, but I cut her off.

“Yes, she does. Now get out of here.”

Luke comes around the corner then and I think he scares the guy off because he suddenly scurries away. Luke turns to look after him uncertainly, probably wondering if he needs to go after him, but when I don’t say anything, he lets it go.

“What’s going on with you, Kate?”

“Nothing…” She says, almost a little disheartened, but I’m not buying it.

“It sure as fuck didn’t look like nothing.”

Her eyes snap up to me, the anger flaming to life again behind her eyes. “I’m not going to do this with you, Ana. You can judge me all you want while you sit over there knowing that you have a man who is absolutely devoted to you and would give you anything in the world if it would make you happy. Who would put himself aside and choose you over everything else. Who just wants you to be secure and happy. Not all of us get that luxury!”

“Kate…” I say, my voice only a breath as I feel the impact of her words, but she storms away from me before I can say anything more. I watch her disappear around the corner, too stunned to immediately follow after her, until Luke finally brings me out of my daze.

“Ana, let’s go,” He says.

“Go… Yeah,” I reply, and after taking a moment to pause and re-center myself, I wrap my arm around Luke’s and let him guide me from the party and through Kate’s angry wake back to the house.

My head is spinning as I try and work through everything that has happened tonight. Something is going on between Kate and Elliot, that’s obvious now, and whatever it is, it isn’t good. And, I wasn’t hallucinating the other day. Leila really is in Cambridge. Christian’s not going to like that and I’m going to have to find a way to tell him she’s here without him freaking out and doing something drastic.

“Luke, can you not tell Christian about Leila?” I ask as we round the corner onto our street.

“That’s not really something I can keep from him, Ana.” Luke replies. “He’s definitely going to want to know. I mean, like it or not, she is a security risk.”

“I get that. But, I think if you tell him, he’ll overreact. I think it’s better if I tell him, in person, when he can see me right in front of him and he knows I’m safe. If you tell him while I’m here, he might show up in the middle of the night and drag me back to Seattle.”

“You promise that you’ll tell him?” Luke checks, and I nod.


“Okay,” He sighs. “I won’t tell him.”

“Thank you,” I say, and when we turn onto the walk that leads to our house, I flinch as Kate slams the door, hard, behind her.

Next Chapter

Chapter 02

Image result for harvard rowing

I’m awoken early the next morning by the sun streaming in through my bedroom window and the sound of my shower turning on behind the closed door of my bathroom. A quick glance at my phone tells me that it’s 7 AM, which means I’ve only gotten just under two hours of sleep, and I groan slightly as I turn back around to bury my face in my pillow. Christian and I made love all night, and as incredible as every moment of it was, my body is sore and I’m so tired I can’t even think coherently. I really want to go back to sleep but it’s Saturday and today is my last day with him until he has to go back to Seattle tomorrow morning. I don’t want to waste the whole day sleeping…

Coffee. I need coffee.

With an extraordinary amount of effort, I roll out of bed and make my way over to Christian’s suitcase. I’m still naked from last night but putting on real clothes seems like too much work right now. So, because I know that we’re alone and the house and will be for the rest of the weekend, I settle for one of his t-shirts and then make my way down to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee.

While I wait next to the counter, listening to the hissing and gurgling of the machine, I take a second to stretch out my tired muscles. I ache everywhere, but it’s a good ache, an ache that I’ve missed desperately since I’ve been away from Christian. When I’m finished and the coffee begins pouring into the pot, I gather the dishes still laid out over the dining room table and rinse them off before putting them into the dishwasher. Thankfully, even though Christian’s a terrible cook, he wasn’t very messy so it doesn’t take long for me to have the kitchen put back together enough that I can make us something for breakfast. There’s fresh jam from the farmer’s market in the fridge, so I decide to keep it simple and just pull the bread out of the cupboard. But while I’m buttering Christian’s toast, I feel his arms wrap around me from behind.

“I sent you shopping all day yesterday and you’re still wearing my clothes?” He asks softly, nuzzling my hair as he pulls me into him.

“You could buy me all the clothes in the world. That’s never going to change,” I tell him.

“Good,” He says. “You look incredibly sexy in my t-shirts.” His hands reach up and cup my breasts through the thin cotton, and he moans slightly when he finds I’m not wearing a bra and he can roll my nipples through the fabric.

“Don’t tell me you’re ready to go again…” I say, almost incredulous. “Didn’t you get enough last night?”

“I’ll never get enough of you, Ana,” He says.

I moan slightly at the feel of his breath and his lips playing lightly against the skin of my neck and then turn in his arms so that I can kiss him. His hair is still damp when I run my fingers through it and his skin is still hot from the shower. It’s comforting and makes me want to press as much of my body into him as possible so that I can envelop myself in his heat.

“Seems I’m not the only one who can’t be sated,” He teases me when I pull away from the kiss. I give him a mischievous look, then reach down to quickly untuck the towel wrapped around his waist, and let it fall to the floor.

“Oops,” I say, looking up at him innocently.

“Hmm,” He hums. “Whatever are we going to do about that?”

“I have an idea,” I tell him and I bite down on my lip as I push him back slightly and then ease myself down onto my knees. He watches me intently as I stare into his eyes, and grip him by the base of his half-hard erection.

“Oh, baby…” He groans, his eyes brightening as I wrap my lips around him and I begin to push him slowly into my mouth. I massage him with the flat of my tongue until he reaches the limit at the back of my throat, and then I ease back, tracing my tongue along the well-defined veins and the lip beneath the frenulum before moving down again. He reaches down and wraps my hair around his fingers, encouraging me to move faster and deeper, thrusting his hips forward slightly when my lips linger around the head of his erection too long. At one point he pushes a little too far and I gag around him, and while I have to quickly pull backwards, he lets out a deeply satisfied moan.

“Look up at me, baby,” He says. “Let me see those beautiful eyes.”

I do, and then tighten my lips around him as I take him in my mouth again. His breath hisses between his teeth when I pull him back to my limit once more, and then use the muscles in my throat to swallow over and over again.

“Oh fuck, Ana,” He gasps, tightening his grip in my hair. I feel his erection harden even further in my mouth, telling me he’s getting close, so I reach up to use my hand, sliding it up and down his length in opposition of my mouth. His hips begin pushing forward again, more aggressively this time, so I relinquish a little of my control to let him set the pace that’s going to get him across the finish line. His breathing is labored, the muscles in his legs are tight… He’s almost there.

“Fuck, baby,” He hisses, his voice labored now. “I’m going to come.”

“Mmm,” I moan back, tightening my lips around him to express my satisfaction. He lets out another deeply gratified sound, and after three more harsh thrusts, he pulls me into him, pushing as deeply as possible into my mouth, and I feel warm liquid begin to drip down my throat.

“Jesus, Ana,” He says, when his orgasm finally comes to an end. He leans over slightly, using the counter to support his weight while he reorients himself. But, when I get to my feet, he quickly pulls me against him and kisses me again.

“You. Are. Incredible,” He whispers, between each sweet kiss he places against my lips. I hum softly and then pull back so I can look at him.

“You’re not so bad yourself, Mr. Grey.”

He smiles, letting out the softest breath of a laugh, before his eyes twinkle mischievously. “Well, I’ve had mine,” He says. “I think it’s your turn.”

I shriek as his hands shoot down to my sides and he lifts me up onto the counter. In the next second, he’s ripped his t-shirt over my head, and his lips have claimed mine once again. I take a moment to enjoy the feel of his tongue massaging mine, his taste, the scent of my shampoo in his still damp hair, but when his fingers dip down between my legs and seek out my clitoris, I gasp against his lips and all the muscles south of my navel clench.

His lips move down my jawline to the curve of my neck and when he slips a finger inside of me, I lean forward and wrap my arms and legs around him. A second finger joins the first and soon my whole body is trembling while he moves them in and out of me.

“Now, let’s see here…” He says, quietly. His fingers begin to move in different directions, swirling around, searching every inch of me until…

“Oh, fuck!” I cry out, gripping more tightly to him as a jolt of pleasure courses through me. He lets out a low, gravelly growl.

“That’s it, baby. Feel this.”

He increases his pace, moving his fingers in and out, directly into my g-spot every time. It’s almost too much and my body begins to shudder, involuntary spasms washing over me as I try to squirm away from him and the intensity, but his free hand holds tightly to my hips, refusing to let me escape. I can’t hold onto him anymore. My body falls back against the cabinets, my chest heaving with my harsh, erratic breath.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!” I scream. “Christian! Fuck!”

“Yes!” He hisses. “Come on, baby. Give it up for me. Come in my fucking hand.”

I’m building and building, knowing the higher I climb, the longer I’ll fall, but as my body begins to heat, and I’m just about to tip over the edge, the glass door only ten feet away from us slides open.

“Oh… gross!” Kate shrieks, turning around to shield her eyes.

“Shit!” I yelp, shoving myself forward into Christian’s chest since there isn’t anything within reach to cover myself with.

“You better wash that counter,” She says irritably, still looking away as she moves behind Christian to get through the kitchen to escape.

“What are you doing here, Kavanagh?” Christian snaps, the anger in his voice apparent. “I brought Elliot so that he could keep you out of the house.”

“Well, he bought you a night,” She says. “He’s on his way back to Seattle.”

“Seattle?” Christian asks, turning towards her. “What do you mean…”

“I’m gonna need you to put some pants on if you’re going to be asking questions,” Kate interrupts him, holding her hand out in front of her to block Christian’s junk from her field of vision. Christian narrows his eyes at her as she turns around again and hurries out of the kitchen, and when he turns back to me, I stare back at him in shock until, eventually, I drop my head into his shoulder and start laughing.

“I can’t believe that just happened,” I say, mortified. “Kate just saw your dick.”

“Lucky, Kate,” He replies flatly. “Are you…?” His eyes shift down between my legs and then back up to me.

“Oh yeah, that’s gone,” I tell him. “We’re well past that point now.”


He bends down to pick up the towel on the floor at his feet, wraps it around his waist, and then throws me the t-shirt he’d tossed to the floor on the other side of the room. The second I’m no longer completely naked, I hop off the counter, wipe it down with a Clorox wipe, and then hurry upstairs. Christian follows me and gets dressed, but while I make my way to the shower, he heads back out to the hallway and seconds later, I hear him bang on Kate’s door.

“What?” She asks, only just loud enough that I can hear her over the water. I want to turn the shower off so I can eavesdrop better but I also don’t want to be caught snooping, so instead, I head over to the bathroom door, opening it slightly, so I can hear what they’re saying.

“Why is Elliot going back to Seattle?” Christian demands.

“I don’t know,” Kate says. “He had to do something for work.”

“He didn’t tell me that.” Christian argues, and even though I can’t see her, I know from the long drawn out pause that Kate is rolling her eyes at him.

“Well, maybe he missed the memo where everyone is expected to run every decision they make through you first.”

I blanch. God damn it, Kate…

“You really want to go there with me, Kavanagh?” Christian asks, his voice icy, and there is another long pause before Kate answers.

“Look, I’m tired. I’m just going to spend the rest of the weekend in my room so you guys can do whatever it is you were going to do and pretend I’m not here, okay? Go take the hotel room if you want, it’s empty.”

“I don’t want the hotel room, that’s why I booked it for you and Elliot. So, why aren’t you in it?” Christian asks.

“I don’t know, Christian. He left. I didn’t want to stay there by myself… I promise I’m not going to ruin your weekend. You won’t know I’m here.”

“Fine,” He says at last, though I can still hear the reluctance behind the acceptance in his tone. “But I’m not toning anything down just because you’re here. It’s your choice to stay.”

“Fair,” She says. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a nap.”

I hear the door close and then turn around and jump in the shower, pouring shampoo into my hand as the water wets my hair and then immediately working it into my scalp so that Christian won’t be able to tell that I was listening instead of showering.

“Your friends…” He sighs as he comes into the bathroom.

“You don’t think anything is going on between Kate and Elliot, do you?” I ask, pulling back the curtain a little so that I can look at him. “I mean, it’s weird that he would just leave in the middle of the weekend. Isn’t it?”

He shrugs. “Sometimes business calls. He’s just starting out and it’s a lot of work. When GEH first opened its doors, I was working almost eighteen hour days, seven days a week. He’ll get the hang of it eventually and be able to normalize his schedule more. He needs to find someone he trusts to help him. I’d have never been able to take this weekend with you if Ros hadn’t taken over the audit.”

“Has he said anything to you?” I ask.

“No,” He replies, shaking his head. “And if there was anything to worry about, he would. They’ve been together a long time, I’m sure if there is anything going on between them, they’ll work it out.”

“Okay,” I say, though I don’t feel as reassured about it as he seems to be. I’ve lived with Kate and Elliot for two years, they’re obsessed with each other. It just seems off that Elliot would put anything before her, especially something like work… He’s always been a family first kind of guy and he definitely thinks of Kate as family.

“Do you want to go out and do something today?” Christian asks, leaning against the counter so he can see me better through the gap in the shower curtain.

“Like what?”

“Maybe go walk around campus?”

I lean back and raise an eyebrow at him. “You want to go down to campus?” He nods and I look at him, surprised for a moment, and then smirk. “Huh. Well, look who finally wants to go to Harvard.”

“It’s a big part of your life, and I want to be apart of it,” He says. “Besides, I have a lot of happy memories at Harvard. I’d like to relive some of those with you.”

“Okay,” I agree. “Just give me twenty minutes.”

He nods and then exits the bathroom. I hurry through the rest of my shower, listening to him checking in with Ros over the phone through the door before I pull out my hair dryer. Once I’m finished though, I open the bathroom door and find Christian has disappeared. I assume he’s gone to eat the toast I started for him, so I quickly dress and then make my way down the hallway to the stairs. But, when I pass Kate’s room, I think I hear her crying inside. I pause, take a second to listen, and then knock on the door.


The sobbing sound stops. “What?” She asks.

I open the door and find her in her bed, wearing running pants and a baggy sweater. Her eyes are puffy and her cheeks are bright red.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, closing the door behind me and hurrying to sit next to her on the bed.

“Nothing,” She says, shaking her head at me. “I’m starting my period in a few days, it’s just PMS.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, skeptically.

“I’m sure. Christian is only here for one more day, Ana. Don’t waste the time you have with him on me. I’m fine, I promise.”

“Okay,” I agree hesitantly. “But we’ll talk tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow,” She nods.

I take a deep breath and get up, pausing briefly at the door to give her a chance to stop me, just in case she really does need to talk, but when she doesn’t say anything I slip back out into the hallway and make my way downstairs to where Christian is waiting for me. He hands me a cup of coffee, which I take gratefully and slam back as quickly as possible, and after taking a few bites of his toast, we head out to the back alley where the Lexus is parked.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I ask as he walks to the driver’s side.

“Getting in the car?” He replies, not understanding my insulted tone.

“I don’t think so, Mr. Grey. My car, my town. You can sit in the passenger’s seat.”

He raises an eyebrow at me. “You know, I did live in Cambridge for a year. I think I know how to get to campus from here…”

“Uh huh,” I say doubtfully, “And if you hit traffic on Cambridge street?”

“Then I’ll use Broadway,” He counters.

“Rookie mistake,” I say, pushing past him and opening the driver’s side door for myself. He stares at me incredulously for a moment but eventually, he concedes and moves around to the other side of the car.

I pull back down the alley and turn south toward Auburn, which is where we’ll be most likely to find parking. As we wind our way through the streets of downtown though, Christian seems much more interested in examining the car than paying attention to where we’re going. He asks me dozens of questions about the car, from which aftermarket modifications we went with to how it has handled on the roads. Unfortunately, since I’ve been sick nearly the entire time I’ve had this car, I haven’t done much driving so I’m not really able to answer him. I do assure him though that Luke will happily talk Car and Driver with him all night if that’s something he’s into.

Once we’re on campus, Christian wants to see where all my classes are this semester so that he can picture me better when I’m at school talking to him over the phone. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly boring tour as all of my classes are in the Barker Center this semester, and he’s had classes in this building himself. Still, if he’s bored he doesn’t let on. Instead, he asks questions about the subjects I’m taking, and my professors, and if I’ve heard anything about my book yet.

“I’m supposed to schedule a meeting with Dr. Ralston,” I tell him, “But the beginning of the term is so busy I haven’t had the chance yet.”

“And where is his office?” Christian asks.

“It’s right…” My voice cuts off as I turn around to point out Dr. Ralston’s office, and am surprised when the door opens and he walks into the hallway.

“Speak of the devil,” I say, and then grip tightly to Christian’s hand and drag him down the hall. “Dr. Ralston!”

“Anastasia?” He asks, narrowing his eyes as if to see me better, and once he’s sure it’s me, his face breaks out into a smile. “Hi, how are you? I actually just sent you an email to schedule some time with you. I have your book ready to review.”

“Oh, great,” I say happily. “I’m sorry, I’ve been meaning to reach out to you but I’ve had a weird start of term. How was your summer?”

“It went very well. I’d ask about yours but I’m afraid it would be disingenuous if I told you I hadn’t already seen some of the things that were written about you over the summer.”

“Oh…” I say, feeling my cheeks immediately heat. “Yeah, it was eventful to say the least.”

“I’ll say. It’s not every day I can turn on the evening news and see my best student in a sit down interview with Elizabeth Vargas.”

“We tried to get Diane Sawyer,” Christian interjects. “But she was unavailable.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, suddenly remembering myself. “Dr. Ralston, this is my boyfriend, Christian Grey. Christian, this is Dr. Thomas Ralston, he’s the head of the English department.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Dr. Ralston says, reaching out to shake Christian’s hand. “I’ve read a lot about you, Mr. Grey. You’re an impressive young man.”

“Thank you, sir,” Christian replies.

Dr. Ralston nods at Christian and then turns back to me. “I’ll look forward to your email, Anastasia,” He says. “I’d like to get the ball rolling on this as quickly as possible.”

“Yes, sir,” I agree. He shakes my hand and then reaches out for Christian’s once more.

“And congratulations to you, Mr. Grey. Anastasia is a beautiful young woman.”

“I think so,” Christian says, almost a little curtly, and as Dr. Ralston excuses himself and turns to leave, I look up at Christian with confusion.

“That was kind of rude…”

“Why did he call you beautiful?” He asks.

“Because he was being nice?” I reply, but Christian narrows his eyes at me.

“Nice, huh? How much time do you two spend alone together?”

I roll my eyes. “Stop it.”

“How much time?” he repeats.

“Hardly any,” I say with a sigh. “He’s my professor, Christian. We talk about my writing and he brings me doughnuts. And, he’s like… almost seventy years old.”

“Right, because no one has ever heard of an older professor using his position and influence to coerce a young college student into compromising positions.”

“You’re ridiculous,” I say, brushing off his concern and walking towards the exit. He follows after me, making wild accusations and asking pointed questions until we’ve made it into the heart of campus and my unwillingness to play into his jealousy finally forces him to let it go. There are more students out here, hanging out in the quad and hurrying across the paved walkways to the library and study groups. His mood does lighten up a bit though as we walk past the familiar landmarks that make up the Harvard campus and we start reminiscing together. There’s a rowing practice happening outside today, so we decide to stop in the campus market for some sandwiches and then head down to the grassy knoll by the river to watch.

“Garbage,” Christian mutters, shaking his head as he looks down at my watch to check the time it took them to finish the course.

“They looked pretty good to me,” I argue, but he shakes his head.

“That’s a 500m course and they finished it in a minute and thirty-six seconds. We ran that same course in our last meet when I was captain in a minute and twenty-seven. You know, when we beat Dartmouth and took home a trophy. But that’s neither here nor there.”

“Well, get out there,” I taunt him. “Go teach those youngsters how you did it back in your day.”

“They couldn’t keep up,” He replies, giving me a cocky smile as he looks down at me. “Though McCray, the guy third from the back, was on the team when I was captain. I would have thought I’d left a better legacy than this.”

“Guess you’re just not as good of a teacher as you think you are. Maybe that’s why Elliot had to leave this weekend.”

“That’s harsh, Anastasia,” He says, pushing me slightly. I laugh, but as I push myself up off the grass, I yawn. The day is starting to catch up to me and between the warm sun and the sound of the river lapping against the shower all mixed together with the lack of sleep from last night, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to make it without a nap. I lean my head over on Christian’s shoulder, feeling my eyelids droop.

“You ready to go home?” he asks.

“Mhm,” I mumble.

“You know, you really should try to get more sleep. Staying up all night just isn’t healthy.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say, rolling my eyes as I get up off the lawn. He laughs and follows after me, taking my hand as we head back up campus towards the car. It means that we walk through the residences and, as we cross the Old Yard, Christian smirks and nods his head in the direction of Grays Hall.

“How much do you think I’d have to pay to get whoever it is who lives in my old room to let me fuck you in there one last time?”

“Probably not as much as you think,” I reply, and suddenly, I’m stopped dead in my tracks as Christian yanks on my arm, pulling me back into him.

“Let’s find out,” He jokes. I squeal as he reaches down to pick me up, but just as he lifts me over his shoulder, I see a familiar face that makes my gut clench.

“Stop!” I yell, struggling out of Christian’s arms. He releases me, easing me back down onto the ground, and I immediately start looking back and forth across the yard, but I don’t see her anymore.

“What is it?” Christian asks, checking me over like he thinks he’s hurt me.

“I thought…” I hesitate as I scan the yard once more. “I thought I just saw Leila.”

“Leila?” He asks. “Leila Williams?”

I nod and he turns around and begins searching too, staring intently at each of the faces of the few students walking back and forth up the walk ways around us, but I don’t see her anymore. It’s strange. I’m certain it was her…

“We need to get you into bed,” Christian says after his inspection is complete. “I think you’re hallucinating.”

“Maybe,” I say doubtfully. He looks at me worriedly for a moment and then takes my hand to lead me back towards the car again. As we walk between the buildings on the edge of the yard, I look over my shoulder once more, unable to shake the uncomfortable feeling that we’re being watched.

Next Chapter

Chapter 01

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My body is in full out mutiny. A few days after I arrived back in Cambridge, I was hit hard by what I thought was just allergies until I was forced to go to the doctor to get a stronger dose of Claritin and I found out that my hayfever had turned into a severe sinus infection. As a result, I’ve spent days struggling to breathe and feeling as though my head’s in the clouds. It’s been absolutely miserable, and now, as I drag myself out of the library after I’ve finished with work, I feel like I’d prefer to curl up in a ball right here on the sidewalk and let death have me, rather than continue the 30 more feet I have to go to where Luke is waiting for me behind the wheel of my brand new Lexus RX.

Thankfully, I think he realizes I’m struggling because once he sees me, he darts out of the driver’s seat, opens the passenger door for me, and helps me inside.

“You good?” He asks, probably wondering if I’m going to pass out in the passenger’s seat. I nod as I pull the seatbelt down over me and he gives me a sympathetic look before closing the door. While I wait for him to get back in the car and then to pull out on the street, I lean my head against the cool window next to me, and try to take some pleasure in the fact that at least I’m not upright anymore. Not being able to breathe means I haven’t slept much in days and I am completely and utterly exhausted. With any luck, I’ll be able to get a few seconds of sleep on the way home.

“You shouldn’t have gone to work today,” Luke says disapprovingly as we make the loop back around to Bryant Street.

“I had to,” I mumble. “The new library aide is awful and we’re already so behind on everything…” There’s more to my argument, but talking seems to take more energy than I have to give, so I let my sentence trail off and relax deeper into my seat. I can see Luke shaking his head out of the corner of my eye, but he doesn’t press the issue further. As we pull up to a stop light, I close my eyes and begin drifting in and out for the rest of the drive home.

When we get back to my house, I reluctantly slump out of the car and through the sliding glass door to the kitchen where I find Kate standing over the stove stirring a steaming pot that fills the room with the comforting smell of chicken soup.

“Hey!” She greets me. “Happy almost birthday!”

I groan and collapse into a chair at the table. “Don’t remind me.”

“It’s a little soon to be dreading birthdays, isn’t it?” She asks. “You’re only twenty-two for Christ sake.”

“It’s not that I’m getting older. It’s that I’m going to see Christian for the first time in eleven days tomorrow and we’re going to end up spending my birthday in bed watching Netflix with a box of tissues and a bottle of Mucinex rather than… well, you know.”

“The travesty,” Kate says dramatically, placing a bowl of soup in front of me. I try to laugh, but that quickly devolves into a coughing fit. She reaches over to rub my back, looking worried, while Luke moves across the kitchen to get me a glass of orange juice from the fridge.

“So when does Christian get here?” Kate asks when I’ve finally regained control of my breathing again.

“Tomorrow night,” I croak, and while I attempt to swallow a spoonful of soup, she raises an eyebrow at me.

“Tomorrow night? You mean, he’s not going to spend the day with you?”

I shake my head. “Elena’s sentencing is tomorrow morning, so he’s not flying out here until it’s over.”

“You mean, he’s missing most of your birthday just so he can sit in a courtroom and watch Elena Lincoln get sentenced to prison?” She asks, clearly disapproving. “You’re okay with that?”

“Are you kidding? That’s my birthday present. He’s going to record the whole thing on his phone and we’re going to watch it together over a bowl of popcorn.” Kate looks back at me, not buying my cavalier attitude, and I sigh. The truth is, it was at my insistence that he’s staying. The date had originally been set for this last Tuesday, but it got pushed back due to a scheduling error in the courts. When Christian found out it was going to be on my birthday, he said he was going to skip it but I told him he should go.

“I think… I think he needs to be there,” I tell Kate. “He needs to see it happen in order for him to feel like it’s real, and I get that. I’d feel better if I could be there too, and maybe I would have been if I literally didn’t feel like I was about to die, but here we are… He’s going to be here the whole weekend anyway. I’m fine.”

I take a deep breath and massage the dip between my eye and the bridge of my nose, trying to relieve some of the sinus pressure, and I hear Kate sigh and then drop her spoon into her bowl.

“You know what? You’re not going to be sans-boyfriend AND sick on your birthday.” She says. “That’s not how twenty-two starts for you. Come with me.”

“Wha-” I begin, but my words are cut off as she yanks me out of my chair and pulls me towards the stairs.

“Luke!” I complain. “Stop her! You’re supposed to be protecting me.”

“Sorry, I’m off the clock,” He calls after me. “See you tomorrow, Ana.”

I’m just able to glare at him and his overly amused smile as Kate pulls me up the stairs, then through her bedroom and into the bathroom. The second the door is closed behind me, she turns the water on in the shower all the way to hot and then begins rummaging in the cabinets beneath her sink. The room fills with steam as she hands me first a bottle of vitamin C tablets, and then some fish oil capsules. I take both of them with some water from the bathroom sink while she sets a large, needleless syringe on the counter.

“What’s that for?” I ask dubiously.

“Your sinuses. I’m going to go make you some tea, get in the shower and breathe in the steam,” She tells me. I hesitate for a minute but she doesn’t wait around to convince me. I really just want to go to bed but… if whatever she’s going to do makes it so that I feel even a fraction better tomorrow when Christian arrives, I suppose I’m willing to try anything. I miss him, a lot, and I want to be healthy and alert while he’s here. We’ve only been apart for ten days and it’s been harder than I thought it would be. I’ve been counting down the days for his return almost from the moment he left, and now that it’s nearly here, I’m sick. All I want is to enjoy my birthday with him and, if this is going to make me feel better so that can be a possibility, I’ll do it. With a sigh of defeat, I strip down, put my hair in a bun on top of my head, and step into the too hot water.

A few minutes later, Kate returns, and I listen to her moving things around on the bathroom counter for a moment, but it’s too hard to focus on the sounds to try and figure out what she’s doing.

“Cover your boobs,” She says, but before I can even react to that, she pulls the shower curtain open and I stumble backwards in surprise.

“Jesus, Kate,” I say indignantly as I fold my arms over my chest. She ignores me and holds out the syringe which is now filled with murky water.

“What is that?” I ask, suspiciously.

“Just put it in your nose and force the water through. It’ll clean everything out.”

“Gross,” I protest.

“Just do it,” She says, shoving the syringe into my hand and harshly yanking the curtain closed. I stare down at it warily, drops of water dripping from the tip of my nose onto the plastic resting in my palm as I work up the nerve to do it.

“Ana…” Kate cajoles me. Pushing my reluctance aside, I lift the tube to my right nostril and push the plunger upward. It feels like fire at first and leaves the taste of salt and something astringent in my mouth. I gag as the water pours through my other nostril and then start coughing and choking. Once I’ve regained control of my breathing though, I take a deep breath through my nose and, for the first time in days, find it unobstructed.

“Oh my god,” I say, actually shocked as I take another deep breath.

“I told you,” Kate says. “Now hand it back so you can do the other one.”

I do, and once I’ve finished with the flush and Kate feels I’ve stood under the hot water long enough, she lets me out of the shower and hands me a cup of tea. I take it and head back to my room to get dressed, and a few minutes later, Kate comes in with the humidifier. I crawl into bed, feeling an immediate sense of relief, and while she adds a few drops of peppermint oil into the filter, I take a sip of my tea.

It’s terrible.

“Kate,” I cough, as my mouth is filled with something spicy, bitter, and sour all at the same time. “What did you put in this?”

“A lot of stuff,” She shrugs as she turns on the switch and the humidifier hums to life. “Cayenne pepper, ginger, apple cider vinegar… I know it’s gross, but it’s my mom’s secret cure. Drink it and I promise you’ll feel better.”

“I can’t drink this!” I argue.

“Suit yourself,” She says as she gets to her feet. “I just thought you didn’t want to be sick when Christian got here tomorrow.”

I frown down at it and then reach up to plug my nose and throw it back. It’s worse than when I used to take shots of bottom shelf tequila and burns just as much. I cough again once I get it all down, and then thrust the mug onto the bedside table, as far away from me as possible. Kate picks it up, and then hands me a glass of water and the bottle of antibiotics I’d got from the doctor.

“I’m sorry you’re sick, but, trust me, you’re going to feel better tomorrow,” She says, leaning over to kiss me on the forehead. “Happy birthday, Annie”

“Thanks, Katie,” I reply. She smiles down at me and then turns to leave the room. The moment the light is off, I immediately feel myself begin to drift off into much need sleep, but I’m jerked back awake by the sound of my phone vibrating on the nightstand. I don’t even look at the screen before I reach over and put the phone to my ear.

“You’re late.”

“Late?” Christian responds. “It’s only five o’clock. I haven’t even left my office yet.”

“It’s five o’clock in Seattle, but it’s eight o’clock here and I’m already in bed.”

“Already, huh? Still not feeling well?”

“Not yet, but Kate did some kind of voodoo witchcraft on me that’s supposed to make me feel better overnight. She said I shouldn’t be alone AND sick on my birthday.”

There’s a pause. “I should be there when you wake up. I can still fly out tonight…”

“No, it’s okay. You need to be there,” I yawn. “What time do you have to be at the courthouse in the morning?”

“Nine. And, I’ll get on a plane as soon as it’s finished, promise.”

“Okay,” I reply. My eyes are beginning to droop as the overwhelming exhaustion begins to catch up to me again.

“I do have plans for you tomorrow though,” He tells me. “Do you think you’ll be well enough to do anything, or should I re-evaluate?”

“Depends. What do you have planned?” I ask, and he laughs as he picks up on the suggestion in my voice.

“Plenty of that…” He says, “But a few other things you can do with your clothes on, too.”

“Seems like a waste…” I reply airily.

“You have a one track mind, Anastasia.”

“I wonder why that is?” I ask pointedly, but when he replies, his tone is overtly innocent.

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

“It couldn’t possibly be because of a series of rather explicit text messages and about a dozen or so picture requests from a certain Seattle billionaire…”

“I have a beautiful girlfriend who is currently living 3000 miles away from me. Can you blame me?”

“No, and that’s why I think you should keep your plans focused. Unless for some weird reason, you’re not into sick girls or something…”

“You have a sinus infection, Anastasia. You’re not contagious and I haven’t seen you in almost two weeks. There is no scenario that doesn’t end with me making love to you as long as we can both physically handle tomorrow night.”

“Mmm,” I moan appreciatively. “Well, in that case, plan what you will. I’m open for anything, sick or ‘s my birthday and I want to enjoy it.”

“Healthy plans it is then. Now, get some sleep. You won’t get much tomorrow night…”

“Promises, promises,” I tell him. “I can’t wait to see you. I love you, Christian.”

“I love you too. Happy birthday, baby.”

“Thank you. Goodnight.”


I hang up the phone and then stare sadly at the still illuminated screen for a moment before putting it back on the nightstand and rolling over to cuddle into my blankets and drift off into a surprisingly restful night of sleep.

The next morning though, I’m very suddenly jerked awake by Kate jumping onto my bed.

“Happy Birthday!” She screams.

“Oh my god!” I gasp as I shoot bolt upright. The second I’m off the pillow she envelops me in a tight hug.

“I let you sleep in, but you’ve got to get up and get ready to go. We’re on a tight schedule.”

“A schedule for what?” I groan, struggling out of her arms so that I can collapse back into my pillows.

“I’m not going to ruin Christian’s surprise, just get out of bed and get ready,” She says, and although I want to tell her to leave me alone and let me sleep some more, Christian’s name peaks my interest.

“What do you mean Christian’s surprise?” I ask. “Wait! Is he here?”

“Well, no…” She says. “But you didn’t really think he was going to ignore your birthday until he got here tonight, did you? He just called and gave me all the details, so let’s go!”

I sit there, looking at her blankly for a moment as I try and sort through both the last dregs of the drowsiness I feel from being awoken so suddenly and what she’s actually telling me. Christian did say he had plans, but I thought he meant plans with him. I hadn’t thought much about what I was going to do before he got here. I’d mostly planned on staying in bed to take this last opportunity to recover. But now, as I become more and more alert and take a moment to assess how I’m actually feeling this morning, I realize that I feel… better. Nearly completely better, in fact. I can breathe, my head doesn’t feel clogged, there’s no lingering pain in my sinuses… Kate’s mom’s tea really must be some kind of miracle brew and this realization, coupled with the prospect of Christian’s secret birthday plans, causes a smile to begin slowly creeping across my lips.

I quickly pull back the covers, lean over to wrap Kate in a hug while I thank her profusely and kiss her on the cheek, and then scramble out of bed for my bathroom so that I can get ready for the day. I’m not sure what Christian has planned, so I take more time on my hair and makeup than I have since I’ve been back to Cambridge, just in case he plans on making any surprise appearances, and once I’m finished, I get dressed and hurry out of my bedroom.

The excitement builds as I make my way down the stairs, taking the steps two at a time, and then peaks when I make it far enough down so that I can see the living room. The entire room is filled with what must be hundreds of red roses covering every flat surface. I stare at them for a moment, feeling completely shocked. It’s beautiful and completely over the top. How did he set this up from Seattle?

Kate is bouncing with giddy excitement in the corner holding something in her hands so I walk towards her and take the card she hands me.

There are 997 roses here. One for every day I’ve loved you. I can’t wait to fill the room with a million more.

I love you, Anastasia Steele. I’ll see you tonight.

Happy Birthday.


Ps. There will be a car arriving to pick you up at 8:30.


My teeth sink into my bottom lip as I read his sweet words, but then frown when I remember the time. It’s nearly 8:30 now…

“There’s breakfast in here, if you want it,” Kate tells me. “Luke’s already helped himself.”

I follow her into the kitchen where I find Luke seated at the dining room table digging into a stack of blueberry pancakes and bacon. He looks up when we come around the corner though and immediately bolts out of his chair to wrap me in a hug.

“You look better,” He tells me and I smile back at him.

“I feel better. A lot better.”

“That’s awesome, and hey… Happy birthday!”

“Thanks. I see you’ve wasted no time getting to the food.”

“Are you kidding me? We’re in for such a long day, you should eat something too.”

“You know what we’re doing?” I ask.

“Of course I do. I’m your security, Ana. I received a very long briefing last night from Mr. Grey himself.”

“What is it?” I press him, knowing he isn’t as good at keeping secrets as Kate is because he doesn’t take pleasure in knowing things other people don’t, but he shakes his head.

“I’m not telling you anything except that you need to eat some breakfast…. And that you have something on your shirt.”

“On my shirt?” I ask, looking down to where he’s pointing, but the second I tilt my head down, he flicks his finger up into my nose and then laughs.

“I hate you,” I say, though the words lose all meaning as I can’t stop myself from laughing.

At exactly 8:30, a long stretch limo pulls up in front of the house and Kate practically yanks me out of my seat to pull me out the front door. Luke has to lock up while Kate and I sprint across the yard and I let out an elated shriek when we open the door of the limo and balloons begin pouring out and float up into the sky.

“This is ridiculous,” Luke says, glancing up at the balloons that have gotten away as we climb into the back of the car.

“Ridiculous?” I ask, indignantly. “Tell me, is it all happiness that bothers you, or just mine?” He rolls his eyes.

“That’s not happiness, that’s just long distance littering.”

“Kate, did we bring umbrellas?” I ask, turning away from Luke.

“No, why?”

“Because Luke over here is trying to rain on my parade,” Luke shoves me as Kate giggles and then wraps me under her arm, holding up her phone to take pictures of the three of us as we pull out into the street.

The limo takes us into downtown Boston and to a new place called Trapped. We’re met on the sidewalk by the manager who leads us inside and allows us to pick a theme for the game we’re going to play. We choose a 1920s mob scenario and then are locked in a room where we have to solve a series of clues and puzzles in order to escape. It’s really intricate, with several staff members playing characters that try to throw us off and sometimes just scare us. There’s climbing, and running, and all kinds of obstacles we have to work our way through, and it takes hours for us to finally solve the mystery and escape the room, but it’s one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.

When we leave Trapped, the limo takes us to a fancy restaurant downtown where we’re led to a private table and brought a bottle of a 2003 Brut Rose Cristal, which the waiter makes sure to tell us is compliments of Mr. Grey. After we’ve placed our orders, I pull out my phone to text Christian a quick thank you.

We had so much fun at Trapped! Thank you for the champagne, everything has been perfect so far.

His response is almost immediate.

I’m glad. I’m on my way to the airport now, see you in a few hours. I love you.

I love you too!

After lunch, our driver takes us down to Newbury Street, where all of the best shopping in Boston is located. I can tell Luke feels uncomfortable as we pull up in front of our first stop, Agent Provocateur, and I can understand why. This isn’t exactly the place I’d most like to go shopping with him, but my hesitation is pushed aside when the doors open and a man in a pristine suit greets us with a single red rose and a card.

“Miss Steele?” He asks.

“Yes,” I say, walking quickly up to him. He smiles and hands me the rose and the card, which I read as we’re led inside.

I’ve taken the liberty of picking out a few things I want you to have, but please feel free to buy anything, and I truly mean anything, your heart desires.


“These are the things Mr. Grey has already set aside for you Miss Steele,” The salesman tells me, and as I look up from the note, I don’t know whether to shake my head, or laugh. The counter is completely covered in dozens of light pink boxes and bags, tied up in stain black ribbon, all with the slanted script that spells the store name over the front.

“Is there anything he didn’t buy?” I ask, as I look into the first few gift bags and see a lot of black, see-through lace.

“Most of Mr. Grey’s purchases were from our Naughty line,” The salesman tells me. “But I’d be happy to show you some of our everyday wear, or perhaps some select pieces from our nightwear collection?”

“I think we can handle it,” Kate says, kindly. I shoot her a grateful glance. I’m not sure how comfortable I am having a salesman help me pick out underwear…

Since Christian has me more than stocked up on lingerie, I pick out a few bras and a silk robe and give in on the far too expensive bikini Kate says I have to buy. I frown as the salesman rings it up and I look at the price reflected on the credit card machine in front of me. The top and the bottoms of the swimsuit alone are $215 each! That’s nearly five hundred dollars for an amount of fabric I could ball up into one fist. Kate continues to gush though as we leave the store, so I pacify my concerns by telling myself that Christian will probably like it. It did make my cleavage look really great…

After Agent Provocateur, we head down the street to Chanel, where Christian has picked out a black, quilted handbag with the double C logo sewn into the front, and a gorgeous gray tweed jacket that fits me like a glove. It’s harder to get Kate out of that store than it was Agent Provocateur, and as we leave, I wonder who has more bags between us…

“I think you might have missed a pair of boots, Kate,” Luke teases her as he places our bags in the back of the car. I laugh but Kate’s eyes widen with something close to panic.

“Where?” She asks. Both Luke and I roll our eyes, and hook our arms through hers to pull her back into the limo, where she pouts the entire way down the street.

Our final stop is at Tiffany’s where I’m immediately handed an iconic blue box wrapped up in a white ribbon. He’s left me another card telling me to pick something out for myself and for Kate which sends Kate into a flurry of excitement as she begins combing through the cases. While she’s distracted, I place the gift from Christian on the counter, untie the bow, and gently ease off the lid. I gasp as I see the diamond encrusted watch inside, with the Tiffany blue face and the thin platinum links that make up the bracelet.

“It’s beautiful,” The woman standing behind the counter tells me. “Your boyfriend has excellent taste.”

“Yeah, he’s pretty incredible,” I say, looking up and smiling at her. She helps me fasten the watch around my wrist and then places the box in a bag for me so that I can look through the rest of the inventory with Kate.

It feels a little weird buying jewelry for myself, especially diamonds which seem to dominate the displays, but apparently the staff have been instructed not to let me leave without something so I decide to follow Kate around, knowing she’ll have plenty of opinions anyway. When I catch up with her though, I find her staring sadly down at a case of engagement rings. We haven’t talked much about the fact that Elliot didn’t end up proposing in Hawaii, but looking at her now, I think it’s getting to her more than I thought…

“Everything okay?” I ask and she takes a deep breath and then gives me a tight lipped smile.

“Yeah. Do you want to look at necklaces?”

“Uh… sure,” I say awkwardly. She nods and then looks forlornly down at the engagement rings one last time before pushing off from the case and walking across the store.

Ultimately, I decide on a necklace with an infinity pendant that the store clerk adds mine and Christian’s birthstones to. Luke takes our bags out to the car, placing them with the rest of our purchases, while Kate gushes over my watch and we climb into the back of the limo. As we pull down the street and make our way towards what Luke tells us is our last stop of the day, I look anxiously down at the clock on my cell phone. It’s 3:30 and I know that Christian is in the air, but I’m ready for him to get here. I’ve had a perfect morning and afternoon with Kate and Luke, but at the end of the day, Christian is the person I want to spend my birthday with.

The limo takes us to a spa where Kate and I get 90 minute massages. It’s hard to enjoy though, as I keep checking my new watch every few minutes. Time seems to have slowed down and even while we’re getting facials and are literally forced to lie still while the esthetician attacks our faces with product and a weird suction wand, I still feel keyed up.

I’m practically bouncing in my seat as we climb into the limo and make our way further into downtown Boston. I look anxiously out the windows as we weave through the streets, almost as though I expect to see Christian standing on the sidewalk waiting for me. By the time we pull into the drop off lane at the Four Seasons, the built up anticipation has me ready to explode. I look up at the gold letters mounted on the tall brick face of the building, smiling broadly, but when the door opens, Luke pulls me back to prevent me from getting out.

“Miss Kavanagh,” The driver says, gesturing for her to get out of the limo. “Mr. Grey has asked me to inform you that his brother is waiting for you upstairs and that he wishes you both a wonderful weekend.”

“In other words,” Luke interjects. “Don’t come home.”

Kate looks a little shocked, but I just shrug when she turns to face me. I’m not sure why Christian has put Kate and Elliot up in a fancy hotel for a weekend, but right now the only thing I can focus on are the words, “his brother is waiting for you upstairs”. Is, not will be. Elliot’s here. And if Elliot is here, that means Christian is too.

“Have a good weekend,” I say quickly, hoping she doesn’t feel like I’m pushing her out the door even though that’s really exactly what I’m doing.

“You too,” She tells me, leaning over to hug me good-bye. A tight smile crosses her lips as she pulls away and then she waves to Luke before stepping out of the limo and closing the door behind her.

Once we’re back in Cambridge, the limo stops at Luke’s apartment and he gives me a sly, knowing smile as he exits, which I try to ignore but am quickly betrayed by the growing blush in my cheeks.

“Happy Birthday, Ana,” He tells me.

“Thanks, Luke,” I reply and as he begins to smile again, making it awkward once more because I know he knows what I’m about to go do. I shake my head and reach out for the handle on the door.

“See you later, buddy,” I tell him and he laughs as the door closes and the limo begins to pull away from the curb.

The lights are on in the house when I get back and as the car comes to a stop, I peer through the windows, already looking for him. There’s a movement in the dining room, someone walking in from the kitchen, and while it’s hard to make out who it is through the darkly tinted glass, I know it’s Christian.

He’s here.

The car stops and I bolt out of the back door, but am called back by the driver who reminds me I’ve left all my bags from the day of shopping in the trunk. Reluctantly, I walk back down to the curb, refuse his offer of help to carry everything inside, and instead hold out my arms for him to load me up. Once the last bag is hooked over my wrist, he wishes me a happy birthday, so I thank him for helping us get around and then reach into my wallet for the cash I have stashed inside so that I can tip him. I only have $100 bill, but at this point I’m more concerned about getting inside than over tipping the driver. When I hand it to him, he thanks me profusely until I turn around and hurry up the walk, struggling slightly with the door as it’s difficult to open while I’m so ladened down with bags. Eventually though, I’m able to twist the handle and ease it open so that I can step inside.

“Ow, fuck!” I hear Christian hiss from the dining room. I watch him quickly pull his hand away from the candle he’s lighting on the table, the charred match falling onto the wood surface below as he lifts the tip of the finger to his mouth. His attention is caught when the door closes behind me and when he looks up, he seems surprised to see me.

“Hi, baby,” He says. “You’re early.”

I don’t respond. Instead, I let the bags fall to the floor at my feet and I bolt across the room and leap into his open arms. While I press myself as firmly into him as possible, my lips find his and I pour nearly two weeks of longing into him.

“I missed you,” I whisper, breaking the kiss only long enough to speak the words. He moans into me and deepens our kiss again, showing me, instead of telling me, how much he’s missed me too. I think for a moment that we’re going to progress beyond the kiss, that we’re only seconds away from ripping each other’s clothes away and making love right here on the dining room floor, but as I reach down for the top button on his shirt, he pulls away from my lips and gives me a disapproving look.

“All in good time, Ana,” He chides me. “I’ve made you dinner.”

“You cooked?” I ask, raising a disbelieving eyebrow at him.

He smiles and nods, and then loosens his grip around my legs so that I slide down his body. Once I’m firmly back on the ground, he pulls out a chair for me to sit and then disappears back into the kitchen. When he returns, he’s holding a pot in his hand, looking a little sheepish as he makes his way back to me.

“I’ve never cooked before….” He says, almost as if he’s warning me.

“Okay,” I nod, now looking down at the pot with trepidation. He nods and then reaches into the pot with a serving spoon and scoops some kind of gray, gloopy mush onto my plate. I’m slightly taken aback as I look down at it… I’m not even sure what it is.

“It’s mushroom risotto,” He explains, answering my unasked question. “Gail tried to teach me, she said it was easy…”

“Oh, right,” I reply, forcing a smile as I look up at him. “It looks… great.”

He lets out a short breath and then takes the seat next to me, dishing out his own helping and then waiting for me to start. I bite nervously down on my bottom lip as I scoop some of the mush onto my fork and take a bite. It somehow tastes raw and burnt at the same time, while still managing to taste like nothing at all. The consistency is bad, like glue, and I worry as I attempt to chew it, that I’m not going to be able to swallow. After a few failed attempts I am able to get it down though, and while I’m desperate to take a sip of wine to get this taste out of my mouth, I force myself to look up and smile at him.

“It’s good,” I tell him, but my voice is not very convincing. He gives me an unreadable look for a moment and then picks up his own fork to take a bite. The second the mush touches his tongue his face immediately goes blank, like he’s shocked by how bad it tastes. I watch him chew through the paste and when he too has to force himself to swallow, a fit of giggles bursts out of me.

“I definitely should have had something catered.” He says, reaching out for his own glass of wine.

“No, I love it,” I say, grateful that I’m finally able to take a drink now that he has.

“You don’t have to placate me, Anastasia…”

“I’m not. I mean, it’s not good and I’m not going to eat it, but I love that you made it for me. And, I love you.”

He smiles and passes me a bowl of salad, which thankfully is perfectly edible.

“You look like you feel better,” He notes as we fill our plates with the salad.

“Yeah, Kate really did work some magic. I’ve been on antibiotics for days but it turns out all I needed was a salt water flush and a disgusting mug of tea. So you’ll have her to thank for everything that happens later tonight.”

He laughs. “I’ll have Andrea send her a thank you card.”

“I’m sure she’ll appreciate that. Kate does love to get credit for things,” I giggle. “How’s work going?”

His expression shifts and I notice some of the good humor in his eyes fades a little as he decides how to answer that. “It could be better. I’m experiencing a little more fallout from the trial than I had anticipated and Ros has been busy with the audit the judge ordered, trying to track the illegal revenue stream through the company. There have been a few red flags and it’s caused some discourse within the executive management team.”

“What does that mean?” I ask, but he shakes his head.

“I’m handling it,” He assures me, though it’s hard to be reassured when I can see the uncertainty just below the surface of the façade he’s trying to put on for me. I feel like I should move on, think of something to lighten the mood again, but his mention of the trial has brought up another question…

“How did court go this morning?” I ask him, and he frowns.

“It’s your birthday, Ana,” He says, shaking his head. “We don’t have to talk about Elena Lincoln.”

“No, I want to know,” I press him. “I didn’t get to see it go down like you did.”

He takes a deep breath and a drink of wine before he continues. “Fifteen years.” He says at last. “Parole after five.”

“What?” I gasp, my mouth actually opening in shock. “How…?”

“She took a plea deal,” He explains. “She plead guilty to the money laundering and seven counts of prostitution. The prosecution dropped the other fourteen…” He swallows. “And the underage sex trafficking.”

I’m dumbfounded. After everything that woman has done, she gets fifteen years. Fifteen? She’ll barely be more than retirement age at that time. Christian and I will only be in our thirties… Hell, parole could mean she’s out in only five.

“So, you’re saying that if she just doesn’t fuck up again, she goes free in five years?” I ask. He nods and it lights an angry, incredulous fire inside of me. “How the fuck is that even…”

My voice cuts off as I become angrier and angrier to the point where I can’t even speak.

“My dad told me it was the deal he would have gotten me,” Christian says.

“You didn’t do anything,” I say coldly.

“I know,” He agrees, and as I sit there, so infuriated that I’m physically shaking, he leans over and takes me into his arms. “She can’t contact us and when she is released, she’ll be under strict supervision. We’re done with her. She’s out of our lives. I don’t want to talk about her, or think about her anymore. I want to move on.”

I take a deep breath and nod. There isn’t anything I can do anyway and I suppose if she’s out of our lives, that’s all I can really ask for anyway.

He leans into me and kisses me again. I close my eyes and relax under his touch, letting all of the tension and reservation inside of me slip away as I lose myself in the contact between his lips and mine.

“We should clean up so that I can take you upstairs,” He says softly, but I reach up into his hair, tugging gently as I move out of my chair and climb onto his lap so that I’m kneeling over him.

“Fuck the dishes,” I say. He head tilts back as I lean down and kiss him and I feel his hands run up the back of my legs. It sends a warm shiver up my spine and suddenly, I’m aching for him. I’m on top of him, pressed into him, our tongues are dancing together, but still, I don’t feel close enough to him.

“I’ve been thinking about this all day,” I tell him. “I can’t wait anymore.”

“Then let’s go to bed,” He says.

He shifts me back onto the floor so that he can stand and then takes both of my hands to lead me, blindly, towards the stairs. I take the steps first and it puts me even with him in height so I take advantage to kiss him again. Suddenly, I’m pushed back into the wall, his left hand pulling against my hips so that I’m pressed flush against him, while his right hand reaches to the back of my neck to hold me in the kiss. I moan into his mouth, parting my lips further as his tongue finds mine.

For a moment, it feels like we might never make it to the bed, that he’s just going to rip into me right here on the stairs, but when my teeth scrape against his bottom lip, he lets out a low, feral growl and pulls away.

“Get upstairs,” He pants, and I scramble forward to obey his command. A high yelp and then giggle bubbles out of my lips as I take the next two steps and then feel him slap my ass. The sound he makes in response resonates inside of me, sending tremors of desire through my entire body, and by the time I make it to my bedroom, it feels as though my skin is singing with my need for him.

“I love you, Christian,” I tell him, stepping forward to kiss him again as my fingers begin tugging at the buttons on his shirt until I can pull it away from him and let it pool carelessly on the floor. In the next second, he’s stripped me down to my bra and lifted me from the ground so that I can wrap my legs around his waist and we’re pressed together, skin to skin, while he takes me back to the bed. Once he’s laid me out over the comforter, his lips part from mine and he moves down to unfasten the buttons on my jeans.

“You’re so beautiful, baby,” He whispers as he slowly eases them down my legs. His lips make contact with me over and over again, exploring each new inch of skin he exposes. “God, I love your body.”

Once I’m naked from the waist down, he moves up my body, his tongue tracing the lines of my hips to my stomach and then up to my cleavage, which is still deep and defined under the constraints of my bra.

“Mmm,” He hums, pushing my breasts together more as he buries his face between them. “So fucking sexy.”

I look down as his lips create suction against the swell of my breast and feel the heat between my legs intensify as I see the bright, liquid steel in his eyes, burning with his desire. My hearts begins to pound in my chest as our eyes meet and for a moment, I’m so lost in him, I have to remind myself to breathe.

“Christian, kiss me,” I beg, twisting my fingers in his hair as I attempt to pull him up to me. He moves up to my lips without a fight, lifting his hips off of me for a moment so that I can work the buttons and zipper on his pants and begin to ease them down his hips. I shift down a little, moving my lips to his neck while we work together to completely remove his pants and boxers, and as I suck gently on the sensitive spot just below his ear, I feel him shudder. The unconscious movement brings goosebumps to my skin as I bask in the thought of his pleasure, that it’s me and my body that makes him feel this way.

“I’m ready, Christian.” I tell him, “Please…”

“Not yet,” He says. “I want to make you come with my mouth.”

I whimper as he shifts, moving down my body again until his lips make contact with my center. A long moan pours from my lips and I tilt my pelvis up to his mouth, silently, but greedily, begging for more. He complies, slipping his tongue into me while his lips move around my clitoris. Soon, my legs begin to tremble and my breath comes out in hitched and broken gasps. I tighten my legs around his head, fighting against the urge to pull away as the pleasure begins to overwhelm me. His hands reach under my ass, gripping tightly to me as he pushes deeper into me, doubling his efforts with his tongue and his lips, and soon the tightly coiled pressure growing in my belly explodes, flooding my veins with intense, fiery euphoria.

“Holy fuck, Christian!” I scream, attempting to thrash away from him, but his strong hands hold me in place, forcing me to lie there while my orgasm rattles me to my core.

When I come down, I lie there, panting, unable to speak, while Christian leaves soft kisses against me. “I’ll never get tired of watching you come for me, Ana,” He whispers, sending intense aftershocks up my legs as his lips brush softly against my clitoris. “I love that I can do this to you.”

“Only you,” I tell him. He finally releases me and I reach down to tug on his arms, trying to pull him up on top of me again. He shifts onto his knees and moves so that he’s level with me, the muscles in his arms showing in an unbelievably captivating way as he holds himself up over me.

“I love you, Christian,” I whisper.

“I love you, too,” He leans down and kisses me again, easing himself down on top of me so that I can feel his weight. Soon, I can feel a desperate kind of tightness in his lips, in the way he’s holding me, and in the way he’s grinding his erection into me.

“I need to feel you,” He says, reaching behind me to unhook my bra and then tossing it across the room. His hand slides up my body to grip my breast so that my nipples are peaking through his index and middle fingers. I feel his erection brush against me again as his fingers close around my nipple and I have to bite down on my lip to hold back my cries.

“I want you, Christian. Please.”

He moans and then reaches down between my legs, gripping firmly to his erection while he swirls the head around my clitoris, teasing me as he lubricates himself.

“Do you know what you do to me?” He asks.

“No.” I reply, incoherently.

“You make me come alive, Anastasia,” He tells me. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” I moan and then, with one fluid motion, he’s inside of me. I throw my head backwards, my mouth falling open as I revel in the connection between us. It’s more than the satisfaction of our hunger and lust for one another. More than the pleasure. It encompasses everything I want to share with Christian. It’s trust and our commitment to each other. It’s vulnerability, a promise, the thing that makes me his, and what makes him mine. It’s the greatest expression of our love and it’s almost a tragedy that, eventually, it will come to an end, no matter how pleasurable that end may be.

“Hold me tighter, Christian,” I beg, and his arms wrap around me as he thrusts forward, eliciting a cry from deep inside of me. Our mouths come together again, and the kiss somehow works in synchronization with his movements inside of me. I push against him, taking everything from him I can and reaping the benefits ten times over.

Soon, I’m building again. Climbing higher and higher, soaring, my back rising off the bed as I chase the orgasm just out of the reach of my fingertips. His hands grip tightly to me, pulling me into him as his thrusts become more purposeful. He directs all of his focus into the one place inside of me that brings every nerve ending in my body to life, and while I devolve into a panting, gasping mess, screaming his name over and over again, I surrender myself to the pleasure, leaving myself entirely at his mercy, until I explode.

“Oh Jesus, Ana!” He cries, his face screwing up tighter as my vaginal walls clamp down around him. “Fuck, baby. Christ, you feel good,” His mouth opens and his breathing harshens and just as he reaches the precipice of his climax, I dig my fingernails into him, dragging them down his back, and he tumbles over the edge with me, confessing his love once more as he pours his release into me.

We lie there for a moment, pressing against each other while our breathing slowly returns to normal. Every muscle in my body feels relaxed, comfortable, even though his weight is still pressing me into the mattress.

“Happy birthday, Ana,” He whispers.

“Thank you,” I reply, turning my head so that I can look at him again. As we lay there, neither of us willing to move, we stare into each other’s eyes and, again, I’m nearly overwhelmed by the love I see reflected there. I wonder if he can see that in the way I look at him? If he can look into my eyes and know that he is what makes me whole.

“What are you thinking about?” He asks, brushing the tendrils of hair on my forehead away from my face.

“You,” I reply. “How much I love you. How much you mean to me. How happy I am that you’re here and that I can hold you again.”

“Me too,” He says. “I’ve missed you so much, Anastasia. You’re my best friend and I hate it when you’re away from me. It feels like part of me is missing.”

“Kiss me,” I whisper, and he leans down to press his lips to mine. There’s so much that words could never say in this kiss, an enormity that no language on earth could define. We’ve made love together countless times, in nearly every way I can imagine, and yet, something about tonight feels momentous. Maybe that we’ve finally crossed over the threshold of the pain and darkness in the past and are finally moving forward together into the light. I can’t be sure. The only thing I can be sure of is the complete devotion I feel for the the man wrapped around me and the utter certainty that he is the one person on this planet who I’m meant to be with.

“Make love to me, again,” I mutter against his lips. “I don’t want you to stop.”

“I never want to stop,” He assures me, and while his tongue claims mine and his hands take possession of my body, he eases himself inside of me, and once again, I’m home.

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