Read Darker Online

Authors: E L James

Darker (12 page)

“Run, weights, kickboxing.” Sprinting to and from your apartment for the past week.

“Kickboxing?” she queries.

“Yes, I have a personal trainer, an ex–Olympic contender who teaches me. His name is Claude. He’s very good.” I tell Ana that she’d like him as a trainer.

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

I walk over to where she stands, still fiddling with her hair, and I embrace her. Our eyes meet in the mirror. “But I want you fit, baby, for what I have in mind. I’ll need you to keep up.”
That’s if we ever get back into the playroom.

She arches a brow.

“You know you want to.” I mouth the words at her reflection. She toys with her lip but then breaks our eye contact.

“What?” I ask, concerned.

“Nothing,” she says, and shakes her head. “Okay, I’ll meet Claude.”

“You will?”

That was easy!

“Yes, jeez. If it makes you that happy,” she says, and laughs.

I squeeze her and give her a peck on her cheek. “You have no idea.” I kiss her behind her ear. “So what would you like to do today?”

“I’d like to get my hair cut, and, um, I need to bank a check and buy a car.”


Here goes. From my jeans pocket I fish out the Audi key. “It’s here,” I inform her.

She looks blank, but then her cheeks pink and I realize she’s upset.

“What do you mean it’s here?”

“Taylor brought it back yesterday.”

She steps out of my embrace, scowling at me.

She’s pissed. Why?

From the back pocket of her jeans she brandishes an envelope. “Here, this is yours.” I recognize it as the envelope that I put the check in for her ancient Beetle. I lift both hands and step away. “Oh no. That’s your money.”

“No, it isn’t. I’d like to buy the car from you.”

What. The. Hell.

She wants to give
money! “No, Anastasia. Your money, your car.”

“No, Christian. My money, your car. I’ll buy it from you.”

Oh. No. You. Don’t.

“I gave you that car for your graduation present.” And you said you’d accept it.

“If you’d given me a pen, that would be a suitable graduation present. You gave me an Audi.”

“Do you really want to argue about this?”


“Good. Here are the keys.” I place her keys on the dresser.

“That’s not what I meant!”

“End of discussion, Anastasia. Don’t push me.”

The look she’s giving me now says it all. If I were dry tinder I would burst into flame, and not in a good way. She’s mad. Really mad. Suddenly she narrows her eyes and gives me a wicked smile. Taking the envelope, she holds it aloft and, in a rather theatrical manner, rips it in half, and in half again. She drops the contents in her trash basket and gives me a victorious fuck-you look.

Oh. Game on, Ana.

“You are, as ever, challenging, Miss Steele.” I echo the words she used yesterday and turn on my heel and head into the kitchen.

Now I’m pissed. Fucking pissed.

How dare she?

I find my phone and call Andrea.

“Good morning, Mr. Grey.” She sounds a little breathless when she answers.

“Hi, Andrea.”

In the background, on her side of the call, I hear a woman shouting, “Doesn’t he realize you’re getting married today, Andrea?” Andrea’s voice comes through, “Excuse me, Mr. Grey.”


There’s the sound of muffled fumbling. “Mom, be quiet. It’s my boss.” The muffling ceases. “What can I do for you, Mr. Grey?” she says.

“You’re getting married?”

“Yes, sir.”


“Yes. What is it you want me to do?”

“I wanted you to deposit twenty-four thousand dollars into Anastasia Steele’s bank account.”

“Twenty-four thousand?”

“Yes, twenty-four thousand dollars. Directly.”

“I’ll take care of it. It will be in her account on Monday.”


“Yes, sir.”


“Anything else, sir?”

“No, that’s all, Andrea.”

I hang up, aggravated that I’ve disturbed her on her wedding day and more aggravated that she didn’t tell me she was getting married.

Why wouldn’t she tell me? Is she pregnant?

Will I have to find a new PA?

I turn to Miss Steele, who is fuming on the threshold.

“Deposited in your bank account Monday. Don’t play games with me.”

“Twenty-four thousand dollars!” she shouts. “And how do you know my account number?”

“I know everything about you, Anastasia,” I reply, trying to keep my cool.

“There’s no way my car was worth twenty-four thousand dollars,” she counters.

“I would agree with you, but it’s about knowing your market, whether you’re buying or selling. Some lunatic out there wanted that deathtrap and was willing to pay that amount of money. Apparently, it’s a classic. Ask Taylor if you don’t believe me.”

We glower at each other.

Impossible woman.

Impossible. Impossible.

Her lips part. She’s breathless, her pupils dilated. Drinking me in. Consuming me.


Her tongue licks her lower lip.

And it’s there in the air between us.

Our attraction, a living force. Building. Building.


I grab her and push her against the door, my lips seeking and finding hers. I claim her mouth, kissing her greedily, my fingers closing around the nape of her neck, holding her. Her fingers are in my hair. Pulling. Directing me while she kisses me back, her tongue in my mouth. Taking. Everything. I cup her behind and pull her against my erection and grind my body into hers. I want her. Again.

“Why, why do you defy me?” I say out loud as I kiss her neckline. She tilts her head back to give me full access to her throat.

“Because I can,” she whispers.

Ah. She stole my line.

I’m panting when I lean my forehead against hers.

“Lord, I want to take you now, but I’m out of condoms. I can never get enough of you. You’re a maddening, maddening woman.”

“And you make me mad,” she breathes. “In every way.”

I take a deep breath and look down into dark, hungry eyes that promise me the world, and I shake my head.

Steady, Grey.

“Come. Let’s go out for breakfast. And I know a place you can get your hair cut.”

“Okay.” She smiles.

And we fight no more.

hand up Vine Street and turn right on First Avenue. I wonder how normal it is to go from seething at each other to this casual calm I feel as we walk through the streets. Maybe most couples are like this. I look down at Ana beside me. “This feels so normal,” I tell her. “I love it.”

“Christian, I think Dr. Flynn would agree that you are anything but normal. Exceptional, maybe.” She squeezes my hand.


“It’s a beautiful day,” she adds.

“It is.”

She briefly closes her eyes and turns her face to the morning sun.

“Come, I know a great place for brunch.”

One of my favorite cafés is only a couple of blocks from Ana’s on First. When we get there I open the door for Ana and pause to inhale the smell of fresh bread.

“What a charming place,” she says when we sit down at a table. “I love the art on the walls.”

“They support a different artist every month. I found Trouton here.”

“Raising the ordinary to extraordinary,” Ana says.

“You remembered.”

“There’s very little I could forget about you, Mr. Grey.”

And I you, Miss Steele. You are extraordinary.

I chuckle and hand her a menu.

Ana grabs the check before I do. “You have to be quick around here, Grey.”

“You’re right, I do,” I grumble. Someone who owes more than fifty thousand dollars in student-loan debt should not be paying for my breakfast.

“Don’t look so cross. I’m twenty-four thousand dollars richer than I was this morning. I can afford—” She inspects the bill. “Twenty-two dollars and sixty-seven cents for breakfast.”

Short of wrestling the check from her, there’s little I can do. “Thank you,” I mutter.

“Where to now?” she asks.

“You really want your hair cut?”

“Yes, look at it.”

Dark tendrils have escaped from her ponytail, framing her beautiful face. “You look lovely to me. You always do.”

“There’s your father’s function this evening.”

I remind her that it’s black tie and at my parents’ home. “They have a tent. You know, the works.”

“What’s the charity?”

“It’s a drug-rehab program for parents with young kids called Coping Together.” I hold my breath, hoping that she doesn’t start to ask me about the Grey connection to this cause. It’s personal and I don’t need her pity. I’ve told her all I want to tell her about that time in my life.

“Sounds like a good cause,” she says with compassion, and thankfully leaves it there.

“Come, let’s go.” I stand and hold out my hand, ending the conversation.

“Where are we going?” she asks, as we continue our walk down First Avenue.


I can’t tell her it’s Elena’s place. I know she’ll freak. From our conversation in Savannah, I know the mere mention of her name is a hot button for Ana. It’s Saturday and Elena doesn’t work on weekends, and when she does work it’s at the salon in the Bravern Center.

“Here we are.” I open the door at Esclava and usher Ana in. I haven’t been here for a couple of months; the last time was with Susannah.

“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” Greta greets us.

“Hello, Greta.”

“Is this the usual, sir?” she asks politely.

“No.” I give Ana a nervous look. “Miss Steele will tell you what she wants.”

Ana’s eyes are on me, burning with insight. “Why here?” she demands.

“I own this place, and three more like it.”

“You own it?”

“Yes. It’s a sideline. Anyway—whatever you want, you can have it here, on the house.” I run through all the spa treatments available. “All that stuff that women like—everything. It’s done here.”


For a split second I think about recommending the chocolate wax for her pubic hair, but given our détente, I keep my suggestion to myself. “Yes, waxing, too…everywhere.”

Ana blushes.

How will I ever convince her that penetrative sex would be more pleasurable for her without the hair?

One step at a time, Grey.

“I’d like a haircut, please,” she says to Greta.

“Certainly, Miss Steele.”

Greta concentrates on her computer and punches a few keys. “Franco is free in five minutes.”

“Franco’s fine,” I confirm, but notice Ana’s demeanor has suddenly changed. I’m about to ask what’s wrong when I glance up and see Elena walking out of the back office.

Hell. What’s she doing here?

Elena has a quick word with one of her employees, then she spies me and lights up like Christmas, her expression one of wicked delight.


“Excuse me,” I say to Ana, and hurry to meet Elena before she makes her way to us.

“Well, this is an unexpected pleasure,” Elena purrs in greeting as she kisses me on both cheeks.

“Good morning, Ma’am. I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

“My aesthetician called in sick. So, you
been avoiding me.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“I can see. Is that someone new?”

“That is Anastasia Steele.”

Elena beams at Ana, who is watching us intently. She knows that we’re talking about her, and she responds with a lukewarm smile.


“Your little southern belle?” Elena asks.

“She’s not southern.”

“I thought you went to Georgia to see her.”

“Her mom lives there.”

“I see. She certainly looks like your type.”

Let’s not go there.

“Are you going to introduce me?”

Ana is talking to Greta—grilling her, I think.
What’s she asking?

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Elena looks disappointed. “Why not?”

“She’s named you Mrs. Robinson.”

“Oh, really? That’s funny. Though I’m surprised someone that young knows the reference.” Elena’s tone is wry. “I’m also astonished you told her about us. What happened to confidentiality?” She taps a scarlet fingernail against her lips.

“She’s not going to talk.”

“I hope so. Look, don’t worry. I’ll back off.” She holds her hands up in surrender.

“Thank you.”

“But is this a good idea, Christian? She’s hurt you once already.” Elena’s face is etched with concern.

“I don’t know. I missed her. She missed me. I’ve decided I’m going to try it her way. She’s willing.”

“Her way? Are you sure you can? Are you sure you want to?”

Ana is still staring at us. She’s alarmed.

“Time will tell,” I answer.

“Well, I’m here if you need me. Good luck.” She gives me a soft but calculated smile. “Don’t be a stranger.”

“Thanks. Are you going to my parents’ soirée this evening?”

“I don’t think so.”

“That’s probably a good idea.”

She looks momentarily surprised, but says, “Let’s catch up later this week when we can talk more freely.”


She squeezes my arm and I head back to Ana, who is still waiting by the reception desk. Her face is pinched and her arms are folded across her body as she radiates her displeasure.

This is not good.

“Are you okay?” I ask, knowing full well that she isn’t.

“Not really. You didn’t want to introduce me?” she replies, in a tone that’s both sarcastic and indignant.

She knows it’s Elena. How? “But I thought—”

Ana interrupts me. “For a bright man, sometimes—” She stops midsentence, too angry to continue. “I’d like to go, please.” She taps her foot against the marble floor.


“You know why,” she snaps, and rolls her eyes as if I’m the biggest idiot she’s ever met.

the biggest idiot she’s ever met, Grey.

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