Fifty Shades Darker(2)

By: E L James




* * *



From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: Tomorrow

Date: June 8 2011 14:25

To: Christian Grey





Hi Christian

Thank you for the flowers; they are lovely.

Yes, I would appreciate a lift.

Thank you.





Anastasia Steele Assistant to Jack Hyde, Editor, SIP

Checking my phone, I find that it is still set to forward calls to the BlackBerry. Jack is in a meeting, so I quickly call José.

“Hi, José. It’s Ana.”

“Hello, stranger.” His tone is so warm and welcoming it’s almost enough to push me over the edge again.

“I can’t talk long. What time should I be there tomorrow for your show?”

“You’re still coming?” He sounds excited.

“Yes, of course.” I smile my first genuine smile in five days as I picture his broad grin.

“Seven thirty.”

“See you then. Good-bye, José.”

“Bye, Ana.”



* * *



From: Christian Grey Subject: Tomorrow Date: June 8 2011 14:27

To: Anastasia Steele





Dear Anastasia

What time shall I pick you up?





Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.



* * *



From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: Tomorrow

Date: June 8 2011 14:32

To: Christian Grey

José’s show starts at 7:30. What time would you suggest?





Anastasia Steele

Assistant to Jack Hyde, Editor, SIP



* * *



From: Christian Grey

Subject: Tomorrow

Date: June 8 2011 14:34

To: Anastasia Steele





Dear Anastasia

Portland is some distance away. I shall pick you up at 5:45.

I look forward to seeing you.





Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.



* * *



From: Anastasia steele

Subject: Tomorrow

Date: June 8 2011 14:38

To: Christian Grey

See you then.





Anastasia Steele

Assistant to Jack Hyde, Editor, SIP

Oh my. I’m going to see Christian, and for the first time in five days, my spirits lift a fraction and I allow myself to wonder how he’s been.

Has he missed me? Probably not like I’ve missed him. Has he found a new submissive? The thought is so painful that I dismiss it immediately. I look at the pile of correspondence I need to sort for Jack and tackle it as I try to push Christian out of my mind once more.

That night in bed, I toss and turn, trying to sleep and it’s the first time in a while I haven’t cried myself to sleep.

In my mind’s eye, I visualize Christian’s face the last time I saw him as when I left. His tortured expression haunts me. I remember he didn’t want me to go, which was odd. Why would I stay when things had reached such an impasse? We were each skirting around our own issues—my fear of punishment, his fear of … what? Love?

Turning on my side, I hug my pillow, filled with an overwhelming sadness. He thinks he doesn’t deserve to be loved. Why does he feel that way? Does it have to do with his upbringing? His birth mom, the crack whore? My thoughts plague me into the early hours until eventually I fall into a fitful, exhausted sleep.

THE DAY DRAGS AND drags and Jack is unusually attentive. I suspect it’s due to Kate’s plum dress and the black high-heeled boots I’ve stolen from her closet, but I don’t dwell on the thought. I resolve to go clothes shopping with my first paycheck. The dress is looser on me than it was, but I pretend not to notice.

Finally it’s five thirty, and I collect my jacket and purse, trying to quell my nerves. I’m going to see him!

“Do you have a date tonight?” Jack asks as he strolls past my desk on his way out.

“Yes. No. Not really.”

He raises an eyebrow, his interest clearly piqued. “Boyfriend?”

I flush. “No, a friend. An ex-boyfriend.”

“Maybe tomorrow you’d like to come for a drink after work. You’ve had a stellar first week, Ana. We should celebrate.” He smiles and an unknown, unsettling emotion flits across his face, making me uneasy.

Putting his hands in his pockets, he saunters through the double doors. I frown at his retreating back. Drinks with the boss, is that a good idea?

I shake my head. I have an evening of Christian Grey to get through first. How am I going to do this? I hurry into the restroom to make last-minute adjustments.

In the large mirror on the wall, I take a long, hard look at my face. I’m my usual pale self, dark circles around my too-large eyes. I look gaunt, haunted. I wish I knew how to use makeup. I apply some mascara and eyeliner and pinch my cheeks, hoping for some color. Tidying my hair so that it hangs artfully down my back, I take a deep breath. This will have to do.

Nervously I walk through the foyer with a smile and a wave to Claire at Reception. I think she and I could become friends. Jack is talking to Elizabeth as I head for the doors. Smiling broadly, he hurries over to open them for me.

“After you, Ana,” he murmurs.

“Thank you.” I smile, embarrassed.

Outside on the curb, Taylor is waiting. He opens the rear door of the car. I glance hesitantly at Jack, who has followed me out. He’s looking toward the Audi SUV in dismay.

I turn and climb into the back, and there he sits—Christian Grey—wearing his gray suit, no tie, white shirt open at the collar. His gray eyes are glowing.

My mouth dries. He looks glorious except he’s scowling at me. Why?

“When did you last eat?” he snaps as Taylor closes the door behind me.

Crap. “Hello, Christian. Yes, it’s nice to see you, too.”

“I don’t want your smart mouth now. Answer me.” His eyes blaze.

Holy shit. “Um … I had a yogurt at lunchtime. Oh—and a banana.”

“When did you last have a real meal?” he asks acidly.

Taylor slips into the driver’s seat, starts the car, and pulls out into the traffic.

I glance up and Jack is waving at me, though how he can see me through the dark glass, I don’t know. I wave back.

“Who’s that?” Christian snaps.

“My boss.” I peek up at the beautiful man beside me, and his mouth is pressed into a hard line.

“Well? Your last meal?”

“Christian, that really is none of your concern,” I murmur, feeling extraordinarily brave.

“Whatever you do concerns me. Tell me.”

No, it doesn’t. I groan in frustration, rolling my eyes heavenward, and Christian narrows his eyes. And for the first time in a long time, I want to laugh. I try hard to stifle the giggle that threatens to bubble up. Christian’s face softens as I struggle to keep a straight face, and a trace of a smile kisses his lovely sculptured lips.

“Well?” he asks, his voice softer.

“Pasta alla vongole, last Friday,” I whisper.

He closes his eyes as fury, and possibly regret, sweeps across his face. “I see,” he says, his voice expressionless. “You look like you’ve lost at least five pounds, possibly more since then. Please eat, Anastasia,” he scolds.

I stare down at the knotted fingers in my lap. Why does he always make me feel like an errant child?

He shifts and turns toward me. “How are you?” he asks, his voice still soft.

Well, I’m shit, really … I swallow. “If I told you I was fine, I’d be lying.”

He inhales sharply. “Me, too,” he murmurs and reaches over and clasps my hand. “I miss you,” he adds.

Oh no. Skin against skin.

“Christian, I—”

“Ana, please. We need to talk.”

I’m going to cry. No. “Christian, I … please … I’ve cried so much,” I whisper, trying to keep my emotions in check “Oh, baby, no.” He tugs my hand, and before I know it I’m on his lap. He has his arms around me, and his nose is in my hair. “I’ve missed you so much, Anastasia,” he breathes.

I want to struggle out of his hold, to maintain some distance, but his arms are wrapped around me. He’s pressing me to his chest. I melt. Oh, this is where I want to be.

I rest my head against him, and he kisses my hair repeatedly. This is home. He smells of linen, fabric softener, body wash, and my favorite smell—Christian. For a moment, I allow myself the illusion that all will be well, and it soothes my ravaged soul.

A few minutes later Taylor pulls to a stop at the curb, even though we’re still in the city.

“Come”—Christian shifts me off his lap—“we’re here.”

What?

“Helipad—on the top of this building.” Christian glances toward the building by way of explanation.

Of course. Charlie Tango. Taylor opens the door and I slide out. He gives me a warm, avuncular smile that makes me feel safe. I smile back.

“I should give you back your handkerchief.”

“Keep it, Miss Steele, with my best wishes.”

I blush as Christian comes around the car and takes my hand. He looks quizzically at Taylor, who stares impassively back at him, revealing nothing.

“Nine?” Christian says to him.

“Yes, sir.”

Christian nods as he turns and leads me through the double doors into the grandiose foyer. I revel in the feel of his hand and his long, skilled fingers curled around mine. The familiar pull is there—I’m drawn, Icarus to his sun. I’ve been burned already, and yet here I am again.

Reaching the elevators, he presses the “call” button. I peek up at him, and he’s wearing his enigmatic half smile. As the doors open, he releases my hand and ushers me in.