Fifty Shades Darker(5)

By: E L James


He narrows his eyes. “Good point well made, as usual, Miss Steele.” His voice is frigid. “Come, let’s go eat.”

“We’ve only been here for half an hour.”

“You’ve seen the photos; you’ve spoken to the boy.”

“His name is José.”

“You’ve spoken to José—the man who, the last time I met him, was trying to push his tongue into your reluctant mouth while you were drunk and sick,” he snarls.

“He’s never hit me,” I spit at him.

Christian scowls, fury emanating from every pore. “That’s a low blow, Anastasia,” he whispers menacingly.

I pale, and Christian runs his hands through his hair, bristling with barely contained anger. I glare back at him.

“I’m taking you for something to eat. You’re fading away in front of me. Find the boy, say good-bye.”

“Please, can we stay longer?”

“No. Go. Now. Say good-bye.”

I glower at him, my blood boiling. Mr. Damned Control Freak. Angry is good. Angry is better than tearful.

I drag my gaze away from him and scan the room for José. He’s talking to a group of young women. I stalk off toward him and away from Fifty. Just because he brought me here, I have to do as he says? Who the hell does he think he is?

The girls are hanging on José’s every word. One of them gasps as I approach, no doubt recognizing me from the portraits.

“José.”

“Ana. Excuse me, girls.” José grins at them and puts his arm around me, and on some level I’m amused—José all smooth, impressing the ladies.

“You look mad,” he says.

“I have to go,” I mutter mulishly.

“You just got here.”

“I know but Christian needs to get back. The pictures are fantastic, José—you’re very talented.”

He beams. “It was so cool seeing you.”

Jose sweeps me into a big bear hug, spinning me so I can see Christian across the gallery. He’s scowling, and I realize it’s because I’m in José’s arms. So in a very calculating move, I wrap my arms around José’s neck. I think Christian is going to expire. His glare darkens to something quite sinister, and slowly he makes his way toward us.

“Thanks for the warning about the portraits of me,” I mumble.

“Shit. Sorry, Ana. I should have told you. D’you like them?”

“Um … I don’t know,” I answer truthfully, momentarily knocked off balance by his question.

“Well, they’re all sold, so somebody likes them. How cool is that? You’re a poster girl.” He hugs me tighter as Christian reaches us, glowering at me now, though fortunately José doesn’t see.

José releases me. “Don’t be a stranger, Ana. Oh, Mr. Grey, good evening.”

“Mr. Rodriguez, very impressive.” Christian sounds icily polite. “I’m sorry we can’t stay longer, but we need to head back to Seattle. Anastasia?” He subtly stresses we, and takes my hand as he does so.

“Bye, José. Congratulations again.” I give him a quick kiss on the cheek, and before I know it Christian is dragging me out of the building. I know he’s boiling with silent wrath, but so am I.

He looks quickly up and down the street then heads left and suddenly sweeps me into a side alley, abruptly pushing me up against a wall. He grabs my face between his hands, forcing me to look up into his ardent, determined eyes.

I gasp, and his mouth swoops down. He’s kissing me, violently. Briefly our teeth clash, then his tongue is in my mouth.

Desire explodes like the Fourth of July throughout my body, and I’m kissing him back, matching his fervor, my hands knotting in his hair, pulling it, hard. He groans, a low sexy sound in the back of his throat that reverberates through me, and his hand moves down my body to the top of my thigh, his fingers digging into my flesh through the plum dress.

I pour all the angst and heartbreak of the last few days into our kiss, binding him to me, and it hits me—in this moment of blinding passion—he’s doing the same, he feels the same.

He breaks off the kiss, panting. His eyes are luminous with desire, firing the already heated blood that is pounding through my body. My mouth is slack as I try to drag precious air into my lungs.

“You. Are. Mine,” he snarls, emphasizing each word. He pushes away from me and bends, hands on his knees as if he’s run a marathon. “For the love of God, Ana.”

I lean against the wall, panting, trying to control the riotous reaction in my body, trying to find my equilibrium.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper once my breath has returned.

“You should be. I know what you were doing. Do you want the photographer, Anastasia? He obviously has feelings for you.”

I shake my head, guiltily. “No. He’s just a friend.”

“I have spent all my adult life trying to avoid any extreme emotion. Yet you … you bring out feelings in me that are completely alien. It’s very …” He frowns, grasping for the word. “Unsettling.

“I like control, Ana, and around you that just”—he stands, his gaze intense—“evaporates.” He waves his hand vaguely, then runs it through his hair and takes a deep breath. He clasps my hand.

“Come, we need to talk, and you need to eat.”





CHAPTER TWO




* * *



HE WHISKS ME into a small, intimate restaurant.

“This place will have to do,” Christian grumbles. “We don’t have much time.”

The restaurant looks fine to me. Wooden chairs, linen tablecloths, and walls the same color as Christian’s playroom—deep bloodred—with randomly placed small gilt mirrors, white candles, and small vases of white roses. Ella Fitzgerald croons softly in the background about this thing called love. It’s very romantic.

The waiter leads us to a table for two in a small alcove, and I sit, apprehensive and wondering what he’s going to say.

“We don’t have long,” Christian says to the waiter as we sit. “So we’ll each have sirloin steak cooked medium, béarnaise sauce if you have it, fries, and green vegetables, whatever the chef has; and bring me the wine list.”

“Certainly, sir.” The waiter, taken aback by Christian’s cool, calm efficiency, scuttles off. Christian places his BlackBerry on the table. Jeez, don’t I get a choice?

“And if I don’t like steak?”

He sighs. “Don’t start, Anastasia.”

“I am not a child, Christian.”

“Well, stop acting like one.”

It’s as if he’s slapped me. So this is how it will be, an agitated, fraught conversation, albeit in a very romantic setting, but certainly no hearts and flowers.

“I’m a child because I don’t like steak?” I mutter, trying to conceal my hurt.

“For deliberately making me jealous. It’s a childish thing to do. Have you no regard for your friend’s feelings, leading him on like that?” Christian presses his lips together in a thin line and scowls as the waiter returns with the wine list.

I blush—I hadn’t thought of that. Poor José—I certainly don’t want to encourage him. Suddenly I’m mortified. Christian has a point; it was a thoughtless thing to do. He glances at the wine list.

“Would you like to choose the wine?” he asks, raising his eyebrows at me expectantly, arrogance personified. He knows I know nothing about wine.

“You choose,” I answer, sullen but chastened.

“Two glasses of the Barossa Valley Shiraz, please.”

“Er … we only sell that wine by the bottle, sir.”

“A bottle, then,” Christian snaps.

“Sir.” He retreats, subdued, and I don’t blame him. I frown at Fifty. What’s eating him? Oh, myself probably, and somewhere in the depths of my psyche, my inner goddess rises sleepily, stretches, and smiles. She’s been asleep for a while.

“You’re very grumpy.”

He gazes at me impassively. “I wonder why that is?”

“Well, it’s good to set the right tone for an intimate and honest discussion about the future, wouldn’t you say?” I smile at him sweetly.

His mouth presses into a hard line, but then, almost reluctantly, his lips lift, and I know he’s trying to stifle his smile.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“Apology accepted, and I’m pleased to inform you I haven’t decided to become a vegetarian since we last ate.”

“Since that was the last time you ate, I think that’s a moot point.”

“There’s that word again, ‘moot.’ ”

“Moot,” he mouths and his eyes soften with humor. He runs his hand through his hair, and he’s serious again. “Ana, the last time we spoke, you left me. I’m a little nervous. I’ve told you I want you back, and you’ve said … nothing.” His gaze is intense and expectant while his candor is totally disarming. What the hell do I say to this?

“I’ve missed you … really missed you, Christian. The past few days have been … difficult.” I swallow, and a lump in my throat swells as I recall my desperate anguish since I left him.

This last week has been the worst in my life, the pain almost indescribable. Nothing has come close. But reality hits home, winding me.