Fifty Shades DarkerBy: E. L. James
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sarah, Kay, and Jada. Thank you for all that you have done for me.
Also HUGE thanks to Kathleen and Kristi who stepped into the breach and sorted stuff out.
Thank you too to Niall, my husband, my lover, and my best friend (most of the time).
And a big shout out to all the wonderful, wonderful women from all over the world whom I have had the pleasure of meeting since I started all this, and whom I now consider friends, including: Ale, Alex, Amy, Andrea, Angela, Azucena, Babs, Bee, Belinda, Betsy, Brandy, Britt, Caroline, Catherine, Dawn, Gwen, Hannah, Janet, Jen, Jenn, Jill, Kathy, Katie, Kel-lie, Kelly, Liz, Mandy, Margaret, Natalia, Nicole, Nora, Olga, Pam, Pauline, Raina, Raizie, Rajka, Rhian, Ruth, Steph, Susi, Tasha, Taylor and Una. And also to the many, many talented, funny, warm women (and men) I have met online. You know who you are.
Thanks to Morgan and Jenn for all things Heathman.
And finally, thank you to Janine, my editor. You rock. That is all.
He’s come back. Mommy’s asleep or she’s sick again.
I hide and curl up small under the table in the kitchen. Through my fingers I can see Mommy. She is asleep on the couch. Her hand is on the sticky green rug, and he’s wearing his big boots with the shiny buckle and standing over Mommy shouting.
He hits Mommy with a belt. Get up! Get up! You are one fucked-up bitch. You are one fucked-up bitch. You are one fucked-up bitch. You are one fucked-up bitch. You are one fucked-up bitch. You are one fucked-up bitch.
Mommy makes a sobbing noise. Stop. Please stop. Mommy doesn’t scream. Mommy curls up small.
I have my fingers in my ears, and I close my eyes. The sound stops.
He turns and I can see his boots as he stomps into the kitchen. He still has the belt. He is trying to find me.
He stoops down and grins. He smells nasty. Of cigarettes and drink. There you are, you little shit.
A chilling wail wakes him. Christ! He’s drenched in sweat and his heart is pounding. What the fuck? He sits bolt upright in bed and puts his head in hands. Fuck. They’re back. The noise was me. He takes a deep steadying breath, trying to rid his mind and nostrils of the smell of cheap bourbon and stale Camel cigarettes.
I have survived Day Three Post-Christian, and my first day at work. It has been a welcome distraction. The time has flown by in a haze of new faces, work to do, and Mr. Jack Hyde.
Mr. Jack Hyde . . . he smiles down at me, his blue eyes twinkling, as he leans against my desk.“Excellent work, Ana. I think we’re going to make a great team.”
Somehow, I manage to curl my lips upward in a semblance of a smile.
“I’ll be off, if that’s okay with you,” I murmur.
“Of course, it’s five thirty. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Collecting my bag, I shrug on my jacket and head for the door. Out in the early evening air of Seattle, I take a deep breath. It doesn’t begin to fill the void in my chest, a void that’s been present since Saturday morning, a painful hollow reminder of my loss. I walk toward the bus stop with my head down, staring at my feet and contemplating being without my beloved Wanda, my old Beetle . . . or the Audi.
I shut the door on that thought immediately. No. Don’t think about him. Of course, I can afford a car—a nice, new car. I suspect he has been overgenerous in his payment, and the thought leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, but I dismiss it and try to keep my mind as numb and as blank as possible. I can’t think about him. I don’t want to start crying again—
not out on the street.
The apartment is empty. I miss Kate, and I imagine her lying on a beach in Barbados sipping a cool cocktail. I turn on the flat-screen television so there’s noise to fill the vacuum and provide some semblance of company, but I don’t listen or watch. I sit and stare blankly at the brick wall. I am numb. I feel nothing but the pain. How long must I endure this?
The door buzzer startles me from my anguish, and my heart skips a beat. Who could that be? I press the intercom.
“Delivery for Ms. Steele.” A bored, disembodied voice answers, and disappointment crashes through me. I listlessly make my way downstairs and find a young man noisily chewing gum, holding a large cardboard box, and leaning against the front door. I sign for the package and take it upstairs. The box is huge and surprisingly light. Inside are two dozen long-stemmed, white roses and a card.
Congratulations on your first day at work.
I hope it went well.
And thank you for the glider. That was very thoughtful.
It has pride of place on my desk.
I stare at the typed card, the hollow in my chest expanding. No doubt, his assistant sent this. Christian probably had very little to do with it. It’s too painful to think about. I examine the roses—they are beautiful, and I can’t bring myself to throw them in the trash.