Fifty Shades Darker(15)

By: E L James


“Do you want some tea?” I ask. Tea, Ray’s answer to every crisis and the only thing he does well in the kitchen. I fill the kettle with water.

“Actually, I’d like to go back to bed.” His look tells me that it’s not to sleep.

“Well, I need some tea. Would you like to join me for a cup?” I want to know what’s going on. I will not be sidetracked by sex.

He runs his hand through his hair in exasperation. “Yes, please,” he says, but I can tell he’s irritated.

I put the kettle on the stove and busy myself with teacups and the teapot. My anxiety level has shot to DEFCON 1. Is he going to tell me the problem? Or am I going to have to dig?

I sense his eyes on me—sense his uncertainty, and his anger is palpable. I glance up, and his eyes glitter with apprehension.

“What is it?” I ask softly.

He shakes his head.

“You’re not going to tell me?”

He sighs and closes his eyes. “No.”

“Why?”

“Because it shouldn’t concern you. I don’t want you tangled up in this.”

“It shouldn’t concern me, but it does. She found me and accosted me outside my office. How does she know about me? How does she know where I work? I think I have a right to know what’s going on.”

He runs a hand through his hair again, radiating frustration as if waging some internal battle.

“Please?” I ask softly.

His mouth sets into a hard line, and he rolls his eyes at me.

“Okay,” he says, resigned. “I have no idea how she found you. Maybe the photograph of us in Portland, I don’t know.” He sighs again, and I sense his frustration is directed at himself.

I wait patiently, pouring boiling water into the teapot as he paces back and forth. After a beat he continues.

“While I was with you in Georgia, Leila turned up at my apartment unannounced and made a scene in front of Gail.”

“Gail?”

“Mrs. Jones.”

“What do you mean, ‘made a scene’?”

He glares at me, appraising.

“Tell me. You’re keeping something back.” My tone is more forceful than I feel.

He blinks at me, surprised. “Ana, I—” he stops.

“Please?”

He sighs in defeat. “She made a haphazard attempt to open a vein.”

“Oh no!” That explains the bandage on her wrist.

“Gail got her to hospital. But Leila discharged herself before I could get there.”

Crap. What does this mean? Suicidal? Why?

“The shrink who saw her called it a typical cry for help. He didn’t believe her to be truly at risk—one step from suicidal ideation, he called it. But I’m not convinced. I’ve been trying to track her down since then to get her some help.”

“Did she say anything to Mrs. Jones?”

He gazes at me. He looks really uncomfortable.

“Not much,” he says eventually, but I know he’s not telling me everything.

I distract myself with pouring tea into teacups. So Leila wants back into Christian’s life and chooses a suicide attempt to attract his attention? Whoa … scary. But effective. Christian left Georgia to be at her side, but she disappears before he gets there? How odd.

“You can’t find her? What about her family?”

“They don’t know where she is. Neither does her husband.”

“Husband?”

“Yes,” he says distractedly, “she’s been married for about two years.”

What? “So she was with you while she was married?” Holy fuck. He really has no boundaries.

“No! Good God, no. She was with me nearly three years ago. Then she left and married this guy shortly afterward.”

Oh. “So why is she trying to get your attention now?”

He shakes his head sadly. “I don’t know. All we’ve managed to find out is that she ran out on her husband about four months ago.”

“Let me get this straight. She hasn’t been your submissive for three years?”

“About two and a half years.”

“And she wanted more.”

“Yes.”

“But you didn’t?”

“You know this.”

“So she left you.”

“Yes.”

“So why is she coming to you now?”

“I don’t know.” And the tone of this voice tells me that he at least has a theory.

“But you suspect …”

His eyes narrow perceptibly with anger. “I suspect it has something to do with you.”

Me? What would she want with me? “What do you have that I don’t?”

I stare at Fifty, magnificently naked from the waist up. I have him; he’s mine. That’s what I have, and yet she looked like me: same dark hair and pale skin. I frown at the thought. Yes … what do I have that she doesn’t?

“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?” he asks softly.

“I forgot about her.” I shrug apologetically. “You know, drinks after work, at the end of my first week. You turning up at the bar and your … testosterone rush with Jack, and then when we were here. It slipped my mind. You have a habit of making me forget things.”

“Testosterone rush?” His lips twitch.

“Yes. The pissing contest.”

“I’ll show you a testosterone rush.”

“Wouldn’t you rather have a cup of tea?”

“No, Anastasia, I wouldn’t.”

His eyes burn into me, scorching me with his I-want-you-and-I-want-you-now look. Fuck … it’s so hot.

“Forget about her. Come.” He holds out his hand.

My inner goddess does three back flips over the gym floor as I grasp his hand.

I WAKE, TOO WARM, and I’m wrapped around a naked Christian Grey. Even though he’s fast asleep, he’s holding me close. Soft morning light filters through the curtains. My head is on his chest, my leg tangled with his, my arm across his stomach.

I raise my head, scared that I might wake him. He looks young and relaxed in sleep and he’s mine.

Hmm … Reaching up, I tentatively stroke his chest, running my fingertips through the smattering of hair, and he doesn’t stir. I can’t quite believe it. He’s really mine—for a few more precious moments. I lean over and tenderly kiss one of his scars. He moans softly but doesn’t wake, and I smile. I kiss another and his eyes open.

“Hi.” I grin at him, guiltily.

“Hi,” he answers warily. “What are you doing?”

“Looking at you.” I run my fingers down his happy trail. He captures my hand, narrows his eyes, then smiles a brilliant Christian-at-ease smile, and I relax. My secret touching stays secret.

Oh … why won’t you let me touch you?

Suddenly he moves on top of me, pressing me into the mattress, his hands on mine, warning me. He strokes my nose with his.

“I think you’re up to no good, Miss Steele,” he accuses, but his smile remains.

“I like being up to no good near you.”

“You do?” he asks and kisses me lightly on the lips. “Sex or breakfast?” he asks, his eyes dark but full of humor. His erection is digging into me, and I tilt my pelvis up to meet him.

“Good choice,” he murmurs against my throat, as he trails kisses down to my breast.

I STAND AT MY chest of drawers, staring at my mirror, trying to coax my hair into some semblance of style—really, it’s just too long. I’m in jeans and a T-shirt, and Christian, freshly showered, is dressing behind me. I gaze at his body hungrily.

“How often do you work out?” I ask.

“Every weekday,” he says, buttoning his fly.

“What do you do?”

“Run, weights, kickboxing.” He shrugs.

“Kickboxing?”

“Yes, I have a personal trainer, an ex-Olympic contender who teaches me. His name is Claude. He’s very good. You’d like him.”

I turn to gaze at him as he starts to button up his white shirt.

“What do you mean, I’d like him?”

“You’d like him as a trainer.”

“Why would I need a personal trainer? I have you to keep me fit.”

He saunters over and wraps his arms around me, his darkening eyes meeting mine in the mirror.

“But I want you fit, baby, for what I have in mind. I’ll need you to keep up.”

I flush as memories of the playroom flood my mind. Yes … the Red Room of Pain is exhausting. Is he going to let me back in there? Do I want to go back in?

Of course you do! My inner goddess screams.

I stare into his unfathomable, mesmerizing gray eyes.

“You know you want to,” he mouths at me.

I flush, and the undesirable thought that Leila could probably keep up slithers invidious and unwelcome into my mind. I press my lips together and Christian frowns at me.

“What?” he asks, concerned.

“Nothing.” I shake my head at him. “Okay, I’ll meet Claude.”

“You will?” Christian’s face lights up in astounded disbelief. His expression makes me smile. He looks like he’s won the lottery, though Christian’s probably never even bought a ticket—he has no need.

“Yes, jeez—if it makes you that happy,” I scoff.

He tightens his arms around me and kisses my cheek. “You have no idea,” he whispers. “So—what would you like to do today?” He nuzzles me, sending delicious tingles through my body.