Chapter 06

2-0

“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.

“Kate…”

“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.”

“Ana…”

“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.

“Hi…”

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

“What?”

“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.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Thank you, Christian,” I tell him.

“But I have conditions.”

“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 47

2-0-0

It’s difficult to pull myself together once I finally reach the ground level, but because I know Christian will be right behind me, I peel myself off the floor and bolt from the building the moment the elevator doors slide open.

Fifth Avenue is busy as people make their way out for a night on the town and it’s not easy to navigate through the sidewalk, especially in these ridiculous shoes. As I round the corner onto 34th Street, I try to remember what I know about New York in my mind to figure out where I’m going. I don’t want to go back to the hotel, that’s the first place Christian will think to look for me, but where else am I going to go?

Home. I want to go home. Penn Station isn’t far, a few blocks up and over onto 33rd. That’s my best bet, get on a train back to Boston and then switch over to a train back to Cambridge. It’ll take him long enough to follow me back that I can figure something out.

I look over my shoulder to see if Christian is behind me but I don’t see him through the crowd so, as quickly as I can, I push forward, winding my way through the tourists in the street until I see one of the only landmarks I’ve yet to visit in New York.

There isn’t time to enjoy the classic architecture of the station as I race away from the ticket counter just in time to make the very last train back to Boston. When I take my seat, I try and get a hold on my ragged breathing. I don’t want to fall apart on the train. I need to wait until I get home…

But the word home sends another shooting pain to my heart. The only place I have left to go is the house Christian bought. Fuck, what am I going to do? I didn’t re-enroll in housing for next year because I’d planned to live in the townhouse with Christian, Kate, and Elliot. Christian may not be living there next year, but can I really live in a house that he bought for me as a symbol of his love, of his devotion? And what am I going to do this summer? I can’t be alone with him. My heart won’t be able to take it. My world is shattering around me and as I try and grab hold of the fragments and piece together a plan, I can no longer hold back the tears.

Ignoring the looks of people around me as I begin to cry again, I reach into my bag and pull out my cell phone. I have twelve missed calls from Christian, but I clear out the notification and find my mom’s number.

“Hi, Ana,” She answers. “How is New York?”

“M-mom,” I sob.

“Ana?” She says, immediately concerned. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“We-just… I just… I just broke up with Christian.”

“Oh my god, what happened?”

“Mom,” I choke out again, unable to stop the tears. My call waiting tells me there is another call coming through but when I look down and see it’s Christian calling again, I ignore it. “Mom, I need your help. I need a way home.”

“Of course,” She tells me. “Of course. I’ll book you a flight now.”

“Thank you,” I tell her, and then continue to cry as I listen to her rap anxiously on the keyboard of her laptop.

“There isn’t a flight until tomorrow morning,” She tells me.

“That’s fine. I can go home and pack.”

“Is everything okay? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“No. I mean, not physically anyway,” I tell her as the call waiting beeps again.

“What happened?”

“I can’t… I can’t talk about it yet. I’m on a train, Mom. Can I call you when I get back to Boston?”

“Of course. Your flight is booked. I’m so sorry, Ana.”

“I call you back,” I say through my tears.

“I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye.”

I hang up the phone and sob into my hands, replaying the scene on top of the Empire State Building over and over again in my mind. This is all really starting to sink in, not just what he’s done but that I’ve left him. It’s over between the two of us. There won’t be any more playful banter, arguments, or loving exchanges. There won’t be any more Valentine’s Days spent in hotel rooms or syrup harvesting in the fall back in Vermont. He’ll never make love to me again…

I choke over my broken breathing as I realize that, worse, there won’t be any trips back to Seattle, no more holidays or vacations spent with the Greys. I’ve lost Christian and he’ll take Mia, Carrick, and Grace away with him. I’ll still have Elliot, that’s a gift Kate has given me, but the others… will I ever even talk to any of them again?

I spend the next hour or so spiraling in my despair as the train hurtles forward towards Boston. Christian calls me what feels like every three minutes or so but I reject his call each time. There is nothing left to say to him. I’ve heard enough of his lies to last me a lifetime. I clench my jaw as my phone rings again but when I look down, I see that it isn’t Christian, it’s Kate. I take a deep breath as I stare at her name on the screen of my phone. Did my Mom call her or did Christian?

“Hello?” I answer.

“Ana, where the hell are you? Christian just called and said you ran away from him in the middle of Manhattan and you aren’t answering his calls. He’s wandering around New York in a panic looking for you.”

“I’m on a train back to Boston,” I tell her, my voice quiet and too flat.

“You’re what? Why?”

“It’s over Kate. I ended it with Christian.”

She’s silent for a minute, probably struggling to register what I’ve just said. When she speaks again, she sounds confused.

“What do you mean you ended it?” She asks. “What- What happened?”

“He’s a liar,” I croak. “He’s a selfish liar who has no consideration for anyone but himself and I want nothing to do with him ever again.”

“What? Ana, what’s going on? What happened?”

“Kate, please… I can’t right now. I’m on my way back to Cambridge to pack and then I’m leaving for Savannah in the morning.”

“But I thought you- I- I, But you-” She stutters, unable to find the words to say as she struggles to understand what’s happening. I’m unsure if I should tell her at all. As much as I hate Christian in this moment, the things I know have the potential to ruin his relationship with his family forever. Carrick already isn’t speaking to him and all he knows is that Christian lied. If he found out Christian lied for money so that he could drop out of school and start his company against both his and Grace’s wishes… I don’t know how they’d come back from that. We certainly can’t.

“I’m coming to Savannah,” Kate says.

“Kate…” I argue, but she isn’t having any of it.

“I don’t understand, I talked to you a couple hours ago and everything was fine, better even. When I answered Christian’s call, I thought he was calling to tell me he’d asked you to marry him. I don’t know what happened between you two, but I know it has to be bad and you shouldn’t have to go through this alone. I’m your best friend, let me be there for you.”

“I can’t talk about it right now,” I say again, through a fresh wave of tears. “Please, just give me some time. I’ll call you when I get to Savannah, I promise.”

“You’re still living with me next year, right? I mean, you missed the housing deadline. What are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know, Kate. I mean, I think I have to but I really can’t think about this right now. Please, I’ll call you when I get to Savannah.”

“Okay,” She says, and I can hear the concern in her voice. “Just… know you don’t have to go through this alone. One phone call and I’m on a plane, okay?”

“Okay. Thank you, Kate.”

“I love you, Ana.”

“I love you, too,” I tell her, and then hang up the phone without saying goodbye. My phone rings again, but I ignore Christian’s call and stare miserably out the window, tears streaming down my face.

When I get to Boston, I have to wait almost an hour before the next train to Cambridge so it’s late by the time I make it to the new house. I flip on a light as I look around at the boxes piled high in the living room, boxes that were intended for Christian and I to unpack together. This house isn’t even familiar to me yet, but already, everything in it reminds me of Christian. I climb the stairs to the bedroom we would have shared, which is also filled with boxes and a bed that would have been ours, a bed he could have made love to me on every night until we graduated. But that future doesn’t exist, there is nothing left between us and so this bed is simply that. A frame, a box spring and a mattress that hold no significance whatsoever.

I start ripping through boxes and yanking out clothes. I’ve left my bag of toiletries in New York, so I’ll have to make a trip to the drug store once I get to Savannah, but I don’t care. The less I have to pack, the less time I have to spend in this house. While I pack, I call a cab to take me back to Boston. I’ll get a hotel room by the airport for the night. I really can’t stay here. I think I’ll have to find a way to make peace with it eventually since I really have no other housing option for next year, but for now, I need to get as far away as I can.

I close the zipper on the suitcase and begin rolling it down the hallway. Before I make it to the top of the stairs though, I hear the front door crash open.

“Anastasia?” Christian calls for me, his voice panicked. Fuck, how did he make it back here so fast?

I’m going to have to face him. There’s nowhere to hide from him and my cab will be here any minute. I’d hoped to have avoided the good-bye, I don’t know if my heart can take it, but I don’t have a choice now. I come around the first curve in the staircase just as I hear him begin up the stairs and he stops a few steps below me. He looks like he’s on the edge of insanity, but when he sees me standing in front of him, his expression changes into a look of relief.

“Ana, thank god,” He says, coming up the stairs and wrapping his arms around me. I cringe. It’s too much to feel him against me now, to smell him, to hear his heart beating furiously in his chest.

“Please, don’t,” I plead, pushing him away from me. He looks down, worried again.

“Ana, I’m sorry…” He says. “But we can get past this, just talk to me.”

“There is nothing past this, Christian. It’s over. The end,” I say, and maneuver around him to continue down the stairs.

“What do you mean over?” He asks, and his eyes fall on the suitcase I’m dragging behind me. “Where are you going?”

“My mom bought me a plane ticket to Savannah. I’m going to spend the summer at home,” I tell him, not even looking back at him as I continue on for the door.

“Ana, stop!” He says, and he reaches out and takes the handle of my suitcase out of my hands.

“Give it to me, Christian,” I tell him, and I’m surprised by the lack of inflection in my tone. I sound lifeless.

“No!” He says. “No, Ana, you can’t go. We have to talk about this. You have to let me make this right.”

“How are you going to make it right? You can’t un-lie to me. You can’t un-lie to the judge and take back everything you’ve done to your family. You can’t even give the money back, but that wouldn’t make it better either. We were over the moment you agreed to take her hush money. The moment you chose her. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”

“Ana, please. I-I, I’m sorry. I know it’s hard to see now but really, it was all for the best. It’s going to be better this way, trust me. Just, don’t leave. Stay here with me. Give me a chance to show you it’s for the best.”

“You’re wrong, Christian. You lied to me. You lied to everyone. I can’t trust you. How can I be in a relationship with someone I can’t trust? There’s no coming back from this. It’s over.”

“Will you stop saying it’s over?” He growls.

“It is, you need to accept that. I’m leaving you. This is done.”

“No!” He yells. “No, it can’t be done. I won’t let it be done. Ana, please, just give me a chance to show you… I can’t live without you.”

“Sure you can, you have your company now and apparently that is the most important thing in the world to you. I hope it makes you happy.”

“Anastasia!” Christian yells as I reach out for my suitcase. He grips me tightly by the arms and pulls me into him. His lips come down on mine and he begins to fumble with the zipper on the back of my dress.

“Christian, stop!” I yell, and I begin to struggle away from him.

“Let me make love to you,” He begs. “Let me remind you… it isn’t over. We’ll never be over.”

“You can’t fuck your way out of this, Christian. What makes you think I would ever let you touch me again? You can’t change my mind. There is no re-do button here.”

“Please don’t do this…”

“You did this! She’s been threatening to break us up for months and you let her. You let her win. You picked her. You lied for her. You sold your family for her. You committed a felony for her!”

“I didn’t do it for her, I did it for you,” He says quietly. “All I want to to give you the future you deserve, to give you the world. I can do that now. You’ll see, by the time you graduate, you’ll have everything you could ever want. Please, believe me Anastasia, I did this for you.”

“How dare you say that to me. You didn’t do it for me!” I snap, angry now at the insinuation. “You think you have to build some empire and make millions of dollars to give me the world? Why can’t you see it? I already had everything. I had it all because I had you. That was enough. But you took it away from me. You’ve destroyed everything. It’s gone now, and I’ll never get it back. You’re not the same person to me anymore. You’ve ruined us, and it can’t be fixed.”

“Please, Anastasia…” He begs.

“It’s too late,” I whisper. “I’m leaving and you have to let me go.”

He exhales sharply and his face crinkles as though he’s in excruciating pain, a feeling easy for me to recognize as I suffer from the same affliction. I reach over and grip tightly to the handle on my suitcase. I can see the lights of my cab waiting out front and so I turn to the door.

“You said you loved me. You said that nothing that was said or done in that courtroom could ever change that,” He says, and his desperate tone breaks me again. I feel as though my heart is being literally ripped from my chest.

“Sometimes love isn’t enough…” I sob. “I never thought you would be capable of betraying everyone who loves you for something as meaningless as money. I never thought you would hurt me this way.”

“Ana, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you. Please…” He moans, and he too looks as though he is on the edge of tears.

“I love you, Christian,” I tell him, because despite everything, that hasn’t changed, and I don’t think it ever will. It just doesn’t matter anymore. “I really hope you find success when you get back to Seattle. I hope you take the business world by storm and prove to the world you were right all along. I hope you get every single thing you’ve ever wanted and that someday, you realize that you didn’t need her to do it. That it was you all along. You’re incredible, Christian Grey. I know that. I just wish you did too.”

“Please don’t do this,” He begs again.

“Good-bye, Christian,” I say, my voice hoarse as I try and choke the words out through my tears. I open the door and step into the early summer night, leaving behind the only man I’ve ever loved. Leaving behind the man who broke my heart.

Outtakes

Book 2: A Broken Shade of Fifty