Read Darker Online

Authors: E L James

Darker (35 page)

“I work for you.”

Oh yes! “So you do.”

“Maybe Claude can teach me to kickbox,” Ana says, but she’s grinning like a fool, too.

Clearly she wants to improve her odds against me. Now, this could be interesting. “Bring it on, Miss Steele.”

Ana takes a bite of her pancake and glances behind her. “You put the lid of the piano back up.”

“I closed it last night so as not to disturb you. Guess it didn’t work, but I’m glad it didn’t.”

Ana blushes.

Yes. There’s a lot to be said for piano sex. And sex first thing in the morning. It’s great for my mood.

Mrs. Jones interrupts our moment. She leans over and places a paper bag with Ana’s lunch inside in front of her. “For later, Ana. Tuna, okay?”

“Oh yes. Thank you, Mrs. Jones.” Ana gives her a broad smile, which Gail reciprocates, and then Gail leaves the room to give us some privacy. This is new to Gail, too. It’s unusual for me to have anyone here during the week. The only other time has been with Ana.

“Can I ask you something?” Ana interrupts my thoughts.

“Of course.”

“And you won’t be angry?”

“Is it about Elena?”

“No.”

“Then I won’t be angry.”

“But I now have a supplementary question.”

“Oh?”

“Which is about her.”

My sense of humor evaporates. “What?”

“Why do you get so mad when I ask you about her?”

“Honestly?” I ask.

“I thought you were always honest with me.”

“I endeavor to be.”

“That sounds like a very evasive answer.”

“I am always honest with you, Ana. I don’t want to play games. Well, not those sorts of games,” I add.

“What sort of games do you want to play?” Ana blinks, pretending to be clueless.

“Miss Steele, you are so easily distracted.”

She laughs, and the sight and sound of her doing so restore my good humor. “Mr. Grey, you are distracting on so many levels.”

“My favorite sound in the whole world is your giggle, Anastasia. Now—what was your original question?”

“Oh yes. You only saw your subs on the weekends?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”
Where is she going with this?

“So no sex during the week.” She glances at the living room entrance; she’s checking that no one can hear.

I laugh. “Oh, that’s where we’re going with this. Why do you think I work out every weekday?”

Today is different. Sex on a workday. Before breakfast. The last time that happened was on a desk in my study with you, Anastasia.

“You look very pleased with yourself, Miss Steele.”

“I am, Mr. Grey.”

“You should be. Now eat your breakfast.”

WE RIDE DOWN IN
the elevator with Taylor and Sawyer, and our collective good mood continues in the car. Taylor and Sawyer are up front when we set off for SIP.

Yes, I could definitely get used to this.

Ana is buoyant. She steals glances at me, or is it me who’s stealing glances at her?

“Didn’t you say your roommate’s brother was arriving today?” I ask her.

“Oh, Ethan,” she exclaims. “I forgot. Oh, Christian, thank you for reminding me. I’ll have to go back to the apartment.”

“What time?”

“I’m not sure what time he’s arriving.”

“I don’t want you going anywhere on your own.”

She gives me a pained look. “I know,” she says. “Will Sawyer be spying, um, patrolling today?”

“Yes.” I stress the word.

Leila’s still out there.

“If I were driving the Saab it would be easier,” she mutters, sounding sullen.

“Sawyer will have a car, and he can drive you to your apartment, depending on what time.” I glance at Taylor in the rearview mirror. He nods.

Ana sighs. “Okay. I think Ethan will probably contact me during the day. I’ll let you know what the plans are then.”

This arrangement leaves a great deal to chance.

But I don’t want an argument.

I’m having too good a day.

“Okay. Nowhere on your own. Do you understand?” I waggle a finger at her.

“Yes, dear,” she says, each word dripping with sarcasm.

Oh, what I’d give to spank her right now.

“And maybe you should just use your BlackBerry—I’ll e-mail you on it. That should prevent my IT guy having a thoroughly interesting morning, okay?”

“Yes, Christian.” She rolls her eyes.

“Why, Miss Steele, I do believe you’re making my palm twitch.”

“Ah, Mr. Grey, your perpetually twitching palm. What are we going to do with that?”

I laugh. She’s funny.

My phone vibrates.

Shit.
It’s Elena.

“What is it?”

“Christian. Hi. It’s me. I’m sorry to disturb you. I wanted to make sure you didn’t call your guy. That note was from Isaac.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Yes. This is so embarrassing. It was for a scene.”

“For a scene.”

“Yes. And he didn’t mean five thousand in cash.”

I laugh. “When did he tell you this?”

“This morning. I called him first thing. I told him I’d been to see you. Oh, Christian, I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t worry. You don’t have to apologize. I’m glad there’s a logical explanation. It did seem a ridiculously low amount of money.”

“I’m mortified.”

“I have no doubt you’ve something evil and creative planned for your revenge. Poor Isaac.”

“Actually, he’s furious with me. So I may have to make it up to him.”

“Good.”

“Anyway. Thank you for listening yesterday. Talk soon.”

“Good-bye.” I hang up and turn to Ana, who’s watching me.

“Who was that?” she asks.

“You really want to know?”

She shakes her head and stares out the window, the corners of her mouth turning down. “Hey.” I take her hand and kiss each knuckle, then take her little finger, slip it into my mouth, and suck it. Hard. Then bite down gently.

She wriggles beside me and gives a nervous look to Taylor and Sawyer in the front seat. I have her attention.

“Don’t sweat it, Anastasia. She’s in the past.” I plant a kiss in the center of her palm and release her hand. She opens the door and I watch her stride into SIP.

“Mr. Grey, I’d like to do a sweep of Miss Steele’s apartment if she’s returning there today,” Taylor says, and I agree it’s a good idea.

ANDREA GIVES ME A
broad smile when I step out of the elevator at Grey House. A mousy-looking young woman stands beside her.

“Good morning, Mr. Grey. This is Sarah Hunter. She’ll be interning with us.”

Sarah looks me squarely in the eye and holds out her hand. “Good morning, Mr. Grey. Pleased to meet you.”

“Hello, Sarah. Welcome.” We exchange firm handshakes.

Her grip is surprising.

Not so mousy, then.

I extract my hand.

“Could I see you in my office, Andrea?”

“Of course. Would you like Sarah to make you a coffee?”

“Yes. Black. Please.”

Sarah sashays off toward the kitchen with an enthusiasm that I hope I won’t find irritating, and I hold the door to my office open for Andrea. Once she’s inside, I close the door.

“Andrea—”

“Mr. Grey—”

We both stop talking.

“Go,” I say.

“Mr. Grey, I just wanted to say thank you for the suite. It was gorgeous. You really didn’t—”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were getting married?” I sit down at my desk.

Andrea blushes. This I do not see often, and she seems at a loss for what to say.

“Andrea?”

“Well. Um. There’s a
non-fraternization clause in my contract.”

“You married someone who works here!”

How the hell did she keep that to herself?

“Yes, sir.”

“Who’s the lucky guy?”

“Damon Parker; he works in engineering.”

“The Australian.”

“He needs a green card. He’s on an
H1 visa at the moment.”

“I see.” A marriage of convenience. For some strange reason, I’m disappointed for and in her. She sees the censure on my face and hurries on.

“That’s not the reason I married him. I love him,” she says in a most uncharacteristic way, and she blushes. The stain on her cheeks restores my faith in her.

“Well, congratulations. Here you go.” I hand her the “happily ever after” card I signed yesterday and hope she doesn’t open it in front of me. “How’s married life so far?” I ask, to prevent her from doing just that.

“I recommend it, sir.” She’s glowing. I recognize that look. It’s how I feel myself. And now I’m at a loss as to what to say.

Andrea shifts back into work mode. “Shall we go through your schedule?” she asks.

“Please.”

MARRIAGE.
I CONTEMPLATE THE
institution when Andrea leaves. It obviously agrees with her. It’s what most women want. Isn’t it? I wonder what Ana would do if I asked her to marry me. I shake my head, feeling ambushed by the thought.

Don’t be ridiculous, Grey.

In my mind I replay this morning. I could wake up every day beside Anastasia Steele and I could close my eyes beside her every night.

You’re smitten, Grey.

You’ve got it bad.

Enjoy this while it lasts.

I e-mail her.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
Sunrise

Date:
June 14 2011 09:23

To:
Anastasia Steele

I love waking up with you in the morning.

Christian Grey

Completely & Utterly Smitten CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I grin when I press send.

I hope she’ll read this on her BlackBerry.

Sarah brings me my coffee and I open the latest draft of the SIP agreement and start to read.

My phone buzzes. It’s a text from Elena.

ELENA

Thank you for being so understanding.

I ignore it and go back to my document. When I look up, there’s a response from Ana. I take a swig of coffee.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Sundown

Date:
June 14 2011 09:35

To:
Christian Grey

Dear Completely & Utterly Smitten

I love waking up with you, too. But I love being in bed with you and in elevators and on pianos and billiard tables and boats and desks and showers and bathtubs and strange wooden crosses with shackles and four-poster beds with red satin sheets and boathouses and childhood bedrooms.

Yours

Sex Mad and Insatiable xx

Shit.
Laughing and choking at the same time, I spit coffee onto my keyboard at “Sex Mad and Insatiable.” I can’t believe she’s written that in an e-mail. Fortunately, I have tissues left over from yesterday’s coffee fiasco.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
Wet Hardware

Date:
June 14 2011 09:37

To:
Anastasia Steele

Dear Sex Mad and Insatiable

I’ve just spat coffee all over my keyboard.

I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before.

I do admire a woman who concentrates on geography.

Am I to infer you just want me for my body?

Christian Grey

Completely & Utterly Shocked CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I continue my read of the SIP agreement but don’t get very far before there’s a new e-mail from her.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Giggling—and wet too

Date:
June 14 2011 09:42

To:
Christian Grey

Dear Completely & Utterly Shocked

Always.

I have work to do.

Stop bothering me.

SM&I xx

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
Do I have to?

Date:
June 14 2011 09:50

To:
Anastasia Steele

Dear SM&I

As ever, your wish is my command.

Love that you are giggling and wet.

Laters, baby.

x

Christian Grey

Completely & Utterly Smitten, Shocked, and Spellbound CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

LATER, I’M IN MY
monthly meeting with Ros and Marco—my M&A guy—and his team. We’re going through a list of companies that Marco’s people have identified as potential targets for takeovers.

He is discussing the last on the list. “They are floundering, but they have four patents pending, which might be useful in the fiber-optic division.”

“Has Fred reviewed them?” I ask.

“He’s excited,” Marco replies with an avaricious grin.

“Let’s do it.”

My phone buzzes and Ana’s name flashes on my screen.

“Excuse me,” I say as I pick up the phone. “Anastasia.”

“Christian, Jack has asked me to get his lunch.”

“Lazy bastard.”

“So I’m going to get it. It might be handy if you gave me Sawyer’s number, so I don’t have to bother you.”

“It’s no bother, baby.”

“Are you on your own?”

I look around the table. “No. There are six people staring at me right now wondering who the hell I’m talking to.” Everyone looks away.

“Really?” she squeaks.

“Yes. Really,” I pause. “My girlfriend.” I tell the room. Ros shakes her head.

“They probably all thought you were gay, you know.”

I laugh as Ros and Marco exchange a look. “Yeah, probably.”

“Er—I’d better go.”

“I’ll let Sawyer know.” I laugh at the reactions around the table. “Have you heard from your friend?”

“Not yet. You’ll be the first to know, Mr. Grey.”

“Good. Laters, baby.”

“Bye, Christian.”

I get up. “I just need to make a quick call.”

Outside the boardroom, I call Sawyer.

“Mr. Grey.”

“Ana’s leaving to get some lunch. Please stick close.”

“Yes, sir.”

Back in the room, the meeting is wrapping up. Ros approaches me.

“Your private merger?” she says with a curious look.

“The very same.”

“No wonder you’re so upbeat. I approve,” she says.

I grin, feeling smug.

BASTILLE IS ON FIRE.
He’s knocked me down three fucking times. “So Dante told me you brought a beautiful girl into the bar. This why you’re soft today, Grey?”

“Maybe.” I grin. “And she needs a trainer.”

“Your PA spoke to me this morning. I can’t wait to meet her.”

“She wants to learn to kickbox.”

“Keep your ass in line?”

“Yeah. Something like that.” I lunge for him, but he feints left, his dreads flying, and he knocks me down with a swift roundhouse kick.

Shit.
I’m on the floor again.

Bastille’s pumped up. “She’ll have no trouble punishing your sorry ass if you fight like this, Grey,” he crows.

Enough is enough. He’s going down.

I RETURN TO MY
office showered after my bout with Bastille, and Andrea is waiting for me.

“Mr. Grey. Thank you. You really are too generous.”

I dismiss her gratitude with a wave as I head into my office. “You’re welcome, Andrea. If you use it for a proper honeymoon, make sure I’m away, too.” She gives me a rare smile and I close my office door.

I notice a new e-mail from Ana when I sit down at my desk.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Visitors from Sunny Climes.

Date:
June 14 2011 14:55

To:
Christian Grey

Dearest Completely & Utterly SS&S

Ethan is back, and he’s coming here to collect keys to the apartment.

I’d really like to make sure he’s settled in okay.

Why don’t you pick me up after work? We can go to the apartment, then we can ALL go out for a meal maybe?

My treat?

Your

Ana x

Still SM&I

Anastasia Steele

Assistant to Jack Hyde, Editor, SIP

She’s still using her work computer.

Damn it. Ana.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
Dinner Out

Date:
June 14 2011 15:05

To:
Anastasia Steele

I approve of your plan. Except the part about you paying!

My treat.

I’ll pick you up at 6:00.

x

P.S.: Why aren’t you using your BlackBerry!!!

Christian Grey

Completely and Utterly Annoyed, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Bossiness

Date:
June 14 2011 15:11

To:
Christian Grey

Oh, don’t be so crusty and cross.

It’s all in code.

I’ll see you at 6:00.

Ana x

Anastasia Steele

Assistant to Jack Hyde, Editor, SIP

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
Maddening Woman

Date:
June 14 2011 15:18

To:
Anastasia Steele

Crusty and cross!

I’ll give you crusty and cross.

And look forward to it.

Christian Grey

Completely and Utterly More Annoyed, but Smiling for Some Unknown Reason, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Promises. Promises.

Date:
June 14 2011 15:23

To:
Christian Grey

Bring it on, Mr. Grey

I look forward to it too. ;D

Ana x

Anastasia Steele

Assistant to Jack Hyde, Editor, SIP

Andrea buzzes me. “I have
Professor Choudury on the phone from WSU.” The professor is the head of the
environmental sciences department. It’s rare that he calls. “Put him through.”

“Mr. Grey. I wanted to give you some good news.”

“Please, go ahead.”


Professor Gravett and her team have made a breakthrough with regard to the microbes that are responsible for nitrogen fixation. I wanted to give you a heads-up because she’ll be presenting her findings to you on Friday.”

“That sounds impressive.”

“As you know, our research has been directed at making soils more productive. And this is a game-changer.”

“I’m pleased to hear it.”

“It’s thanks to you, Mr. Grey, and the funding from GEH.”

“I look forward to hearing more about it on Friday.”

“Good day, sir.”

AT 5:55 P.M. I’M
outside SIP’s offices, in the back of the Audi, looking forward to seeing Ana.

I call her.

“Crusty and Cross here.”

“Well, this is Sex Mad and Insatiable. I take it you’re outside?” she answers.

“I am indeed, Miss Steele. Looking forward to seeing you.”

“Ditto, Mr. Grey. I’ll be right out.”

I sit and wait, reading a report on the fiber-optic patents Marco was talking about earlier today.

Ana appears a few minutes later. Her hair, shining in the late-afternoon sun, bounces in thick waves over her shoulders as she walks toward me. My spirits lift, and I’m completely under her spell.

She’s everything to me.

I climb out of the car to open the door for her. “Miss Steele, you look as captivating as you did this morning.” Embracing her, I plant a kiss on her lips.

“Mr. Grey, so do you.”

“Let’s go get your friend.”

I open her door and, as she climbs in, I acknowledge Sawyer, who’s standing outside the SIP office, unseen by Ana. He nods and heads to the SIP parking lot.

TAYLOR STOPS OUTSIDE ANA’S
apartment and I reach for the door handle of the Q7, but I’m stopped by the buzz of my phone.

“Grey,” I answer, as Ana reaches for the door.

“Christian.”

“Ros, what is it?”

“Something’s come up.”

“I’ll go and get Ethan. I’ll be two minutes,” Ana mouths to me as she exits the car.

“Hold on a moment, Ros.” I watch Ana as she presses the entry phone and speaks to Ethan. The door buzzes and in she goes.

“What is it, Ros?”

“It’s Woods.”

“Woods?”

“Lucas Woods.”

“Oh yes. The idiot who ran his fiber-optic company into the ground and then blamed everyone else.”

“The same. He’s doing some rather negative press.”

“And?”

“Sam is concerned about the PR fallout. Woods has gone public about the takeover. How we came in and didn’t let him continue to run the company the way he wanted.”

I snort my derision. “There’s a good reason for that. He’d be bankrupt by now if he’d continued the way he was going.”

“True.”

“Tell Sam that I know Woods sounds convincing to those who don’t know his story, but those who know him realize that he reached a level beyond his ability and made some really bad decisions. He’s got no one to blame but himself.”

“So you’re not worried.”

“About him? No. He’s a pretentious asshole. The community knows.”

“We could go after him for defamation, and he’s breached his NDA.”

“Why would we do that? He’s the kind that feeds off publicity. He’s been given enough rope to hang himself. Though he should grow some balls and let it go.”

“I thought you’d say that. Sam is agitated.”

“Sam just needs some perspective. He always overreacts to bad press.”

As I glance out of the window, there’s a young man with a duffel bag walking with purpose toward the apartment door.

Ros is continuing to talk, but I ignore her. The man looks familiar. He’s sporting the beach-bum look: long blond hair, tanned. Recognition and apprehension hit me at once.

It’s Ethan Kavanagh.

Shit.
Who let Ana into the apartment?

“Ros, I have to go,” I bark into the phone as fear grips my chest.

Ana.

I fly out of the car. “Taylor, follow me,” I shout, and we rush toward Ethan Kavanagh, who’s about to put the key in the lock. He turns in alarm to see us barreling toward him.

“Kavanagh. I’m Christian Grey. Ana’s upstairs with someone who could be armed. Wait here.” There’s a spark of recognition in his expression, but wordlessly—confused I think—he relinquishes hold of the key. I’m through the door and running up the stairs, taking two steps at a time.

I burst into the apartment and there they are.

A face-off.

Ana and Leila.

And Leila’s holding a gun.

No. No. No. A fucking gun.

And Ana is here. Alone. Vulnerable. Panic and fury burst inside me.

I want to lunge at Leila. Take the gun. Bring her down. But I freeze and check Ana. Her eyes are wide with fright and something I can’t name. Compassion, maybe? But to my relief, she’s unharmed.

The sight of Leila is a shock. Not only does she have her fingers wrapped around a gun, but she’s lost so much weight. She’s filthy. Her clothes are in tatters and her clouded brown eyes are expressionless. A lump forms in my throat and I don’t know if it’s fear or empathy.

But my biggest concern is that she’s still holding a gun with Ana in the room.

Does she mean to harm her?

Does she mean to harm me?

Leila’s eyes are on me. Her stare intensifies, no longer lifeless. She’s drinking in every detail, as if she can’t believe I’m real. It’s unnerving. But I stand my ground and return her look.

Her eyelashes flutter as she collects herself. But her grip tightens around the gun.

Shit.

I wait. Ready to pounce. My heart thumping, the metallic taste of fear in my mouth.

What are you going to do, Leila?

What are you going to do with that gun?

She stills and lowers her head a fraction, but her eyes stay on me, gazing at me through her dark lashes.

I sense a movement behind me.

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