Fifty Shades Darker(7)

By: E L James


“But it’s not arbitrary; the rules are written down.”

“I don’t want a set of rules.”

“None at all?”

“No rules.” I shake my head, but my heart is in my mouth. Where is he going with this?

“But you don’t mind if I spank you?”

“Spank me with what?”

“This.” He holds up his hand.

I squirm uncomfortably. “No, not really. Especially with those silver balls …” Thank heavens it’s dark; my face is burning and my voice trails off as I recall that night. Yeah … I’d do that again.

He smirks. “Yes, that was fun.”

“More than fun,” I mutter.

“So you can deal with some pain.”

I shrug. “Yes, I suppose.” Oh, where is he going with this? My anxiety level has shot up several magnitudes on the Richter scale.

He strokes his chin, deep in thought. “Anastasia, I want to start again. Do the vanilla thing and then maybe, once you trust me more and I trust you to be honest and to communicate with me, we could move on and do some of the things that I like to do.”

I stare at him, stunned, with no thoughts in my head at all—like a computer crash. I think he’s anxious, but I can’t see him clearly, as we’re shrouded in the Oregon darkness. It occurs to me, finally, this is it.

He wants the light, but can I ask him to do this for me? And don’t I like the dark? Some dark, sometimes. Memories of the Thomas Tallis night drift invitingly through my mind.

“But what about punishments?”

“No punishments.” He shakes his head. “None.”

“And the rules?”

“No rules.”

“None at all? But you have needs.”

“I need you more, Anastasia. These last few days have been hell. All my instincts tell me to let you go, tell me I don’t deserve you.

“Those photos the boy took … I can see how he sees you. You look untroubled and beautiful, not that you’re not beautiful now, but here you sit. I see your pain. It’s hard, knowing that I’m the one who has made you feel this way.

“But I’m a selfish man. I’ve wanted you since you fell into my office. You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty, beguilingly innocent; the list is endless. I’m in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul.”

My mouth goes dry. Holy shit. If that isn’t a declaration of love, I don’t know what is. And the words tumble out of me—a dam breached.

“Christian, why do you think you have a dark soul? I would never say that. Sad maybe, but you’re a good man. I can see that … you’re generous, you’re kind, and you’ve never lied to me. And I haven’t tried very hard.

“Last Saturday was such a shock to my system. It was my wake-up call. I realized that you’d been easy on me and that I couldn’t be the person you wanted me to be. Then, after I left, it dawned on me that the physical pain you inflicted was not as bad as the pain of losing you. I do want to please you, but it’s hard.”

“You please me all the time,” he whispers. “How often do I have to tell you that?”

“I never know what you’re thinking. Sometimes you’re so closed off … like an island state. You intimidate me. That’s why I keep quiet. I don’t know which way your mood is going to go. It swings from north to south and back again in a nanosecond. It’s confusing and you won’t let me touch you, and I want so much to show you how much I love you.”

He blinks in the darkness, warily I think, and I can resist him no longer. I unbuckle my seat belt and scramble into his lap, taking him by surprise, and take his head in my hands.

“I love you, Christian Grey. And you’re prepared to do all this for me. I’m the one who is undeserving, and I’m just sorry that I can’t do all those things for you. Maybe with time … I don’t know … but yes, I accept your proposition. Where do I sign?”

He snakes his arms around me and crushes me to him.

“Oh, Ana,” he breathes as he buries his nose in my hair.

We sit with our arms wrapped around each other, listening to the music—a soothing piano piece—mirroring the emotions in the car, the sweet tranquil calm after the storm. I snuggle into his arms, resting my head in the crook of his neck. He gently strokes my back.

“Touching is a hard limit for me, Anastasia,” he whispers.

“I know. I wish I understood why.”

After a while, he sighs, and in a soft voice he says, “I had a horrific childhood. One of the crack whore’s pimps …” His voice trails off, and his body tenses as he recalls some unimaginable horror. “I can remember that,” he whispers, shuddering.

Abruptly, my heart constricts as I remember the burn scars marring his skin. Oh, Christian. I tighten my arms around his neck.

“Was she abusive? Your mother?” My voice is low and soft with unshed tears.

“Not that I remember. She was neglectful. She didn’t protect me from her pimp.” He snorts. “I think it was me who looked after her. When she finally killed herself, it took four days for someone to raise the alarm and find us … I remember that.”

I cannot contain my gasp of horror. Holy mother fuck. Bile rises in my throat.

“That’s pretty fucked-up,” I whisper.

“Fifty shades,” he murmurs.

I press my lips against his neck, seeking and offering solace as I imagine a small, dirty, gray-eyed boy lost and lonely beside the body of his dead mother.

Oh, Christian. I breathe in his scent. He smells heavenly, my favorite fragrance in the entire world. He tightens his arms around me and kisses my hair, and I sit wrapped in his embrace as Taylor speeds into the night.

WHEN I WAKE, WE’RE driving through Seattle.

“Hey,” Christian says softly.

“Sorry,” I murmur as I sit up, blinking and stretching. I am still in his arms, on his lap.

“I could watch you sleep forever, Ana.”

“Did I say anything?”

“No. We’re nearly at your place.”

Oh? “We’re not going to yours?”

“No.”

I sit up and gaze at him. “Why not?”

“Because you have work tomorrow.”

“Oh.” I pout.

“Why, did you have something in mind?”

I squirm. “Well, maybe.”

He chuckles. “Anastasia, I am not going to touch you again, not until you beg me to.”

“What!”

“So that you’ll start communicating with me. Next time we make love, you’re going to have to tell me exactly what you want in fine detail.”

“Oh.” He shifts me off his lap as Taylor pulls up outside my apartment. Christian climbs out and holds the car door open for me.

“I have something for you.” He moves to the back of the car, opens the trunk, and pulls out a large gift-wrapped box. What the hell is this?

“Open it when you get inside.”

“You’re not coming in?”

“No, Anastasia.”

“So when will I see you?”

“Tomorrow.”

“My boss wants me to go for a drink with him tomorrow.”

Christian’s face hardens. “Does he, now?” His voice is laced with latent menace.

“To celebrate my first week,” I add quickly.

“Where?”

“I don’t know.”

“I could pick you up from there.”

“Okay … I’ll e-mail or text you.”

“Good.”

He walks me to the lobby door and waits while I dig my keys out of my purse. As I unlock the door, he leans forward and cups my chin, tilting my head back. His mouth hovers over mine, and closing his eyes, he runs a trail of kisses from the corner of my eye to the corner of my mouth.

A small moan escapes my mouth as my insides melt and unfurl.

“Until tomorrow,” he breathes.

“Good night, Christian.” I hear the need in my voice.

He smiles.

“In you go,” he orders, and I walk through the lobby carrying my mysterious parcel.

“Laters, baby,” he calls, then turns and with his easy grace, heads back to the car.

Once in the apartment, I open the gift box and find my Mac-Book Pro laptop, the BlackBerry, and another rectangular box. What is this? I unwrap the silver paper. Inside is a black slim leather case.

Opening the case, I find an iPad. Holy shit … an iPad. A white card is resting on the screen with a message written in Christian’s handwriting: Anastasia—this is for you.

I know what you want to hear.

The music on here says it for me.

Christian

I have a Christian Grey mix tape in the guise of a high-end iPad. I shake my head in disapproval because of the expense, but deep down I love it. Jack has one at the office, so I know how they work.

I switch it on and gasp as the wallpaper image appears: a small model glider. Oh my. It’s the Blanik L-23 I gave him, mounted on a glass stand and sitting on what I think is Christian’s desk at his office. I gape at it.

He built it! He really did build it. I remember now he mentioned it in the note with the flowers. I’m reeling, and I know in that instant that he’s put a great deal of thought into this gift.

I slide the arrow at the bottom of the screen to unlock it and gasp again. The background photograph is of Christian and me at my graduation in the tent. It’s the one that appeared in the Seattle Times. Christian looks so handsome and I can’t help my face-splitting grin—Yes, and he’s mine!