Chapter Thirteen

The following day, I call my mom when I'm home from work. It's been a relatively peaceful day at the Clayton's, allowing me far too much time to think. I'm restless, nervous about my showdown with Mr. Control Freak tomorrow, and at the back of my mind, I'm worried that perhaps I've been too negative in my response to the contract. Perhaps he'll call the whole thing off.

My mom is oozing contrition, desperately sorry not to make my graduation. Bob has twisted some ligament which means he's hobbling all over the place. Honestly, he's as accident-prone as I am. He's expected to make a full recovery, but it means he's resting up, and my mother has to wait on him hand and sore foot.

"Ana honey, I'm so sorry," my mom whines down the phone.

"Mom, it's fine. Ray will be there."

"Ana, you sound distracted - are you okay, baby?"

"Yes, Mom," Oh if only you knew. There's an obscenely rich guy I've met and he wants some kind of strange kinky sexual relationship, in which I don't get a say in things.

"Have you met someone?"

"No, Mom." I am so not going there right now.

"Well, darling, I'll be thinking of you on Thursday. I love you... you know that honey?"I close my eyes, her precious words give me a warm glow inside.

"Love you too, Mom. Say hi to Bob, and I hope he gets better fast."

"Will do, honey. Bye."


I have strayed into my bedroom with the phone. Idly, I switch the mean machine on and fire up the email program. There's an email from Christian from late last night or very early this morning, depending on your point of view. My heart rate spikes instantly, and I hear the blood pumping in my ears. Holy crap... perhaps he's said no - that's it - maybe he's canceling dinner. The thought is so painful. I dismiss it quickly and open the email.

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Your Issues

Date: May 24 2011 01:27

To: Anastasia Steele

Dear Miss Steele

Following my more thorough examination of your issues, may I bring to your attention the definition of submissive.

submissive [s uhb-mis-iv] - adjective 1. inclined or ready to submit; unresistingly or humbly obedient: submissive servants.

2. marked by or indicating submission: a submissive reply.

Origin: 1580 - 90; submiss + -ive

Synonyms: 1. tractable, compliant, pliant, amenable. 2. passive, resigned, patient, docile, tame, subdued. Antonyms: 1. rebellious, disobedient.

Please bear this in mind for our meeting on Wednesday.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

My initial feeling is one of relief. He's willing to discuss my issues at least, and he still wants to meet tomorrow. After some thought, I reply.

From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: My Issues... What about Your Issues?

Date: May 24 2011 18:29

To: Christian Grey


Please note the date of origin: 1580-90. I would respectfully remind Sir that the year is 2011. We have come a long way since then.

May I offer a definition for you to consider for our meeting: compromise [kom-pr uh-mahyz] - noun

1. a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands. 2. the result of such a settlement. 3. something intermediate between different things: The split-level is a compromise between a ranch house and a multistoried house.

4. an endangering, esp. of reputation; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.: a compro-

mise of one's integrity.


From: Christian Grey

Subject: What about My Issues?

Date: May 24 2011 18:32

To: Anastasia Steele

Good point, well made, as ever, Miss Steele. I will collect you from your apartment at 7:00 tomorrow.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: 2011 - Women can drive

Date: May 24 2011 18:40

To: Christian Grey


I have a car. I can drive.

I would prefer to meet you somewhere.

Where shall I meet you?

At your hotel at 7:00?


From: Christian Grey

Subject: Stubborn Young Women

Date: May 24 2011 18:43

To: Anastasia Steele

Dear Miss Steele

I refer to my email dated May 24, 2011 sent at 1:27 and the definition contained therein.

Do you ever think you'll be able to do what you're told?

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: Intractable Men

Date: May 24 2011 18:49

To: Christian Grey

Mr. Grey

I would like to drive.



From: Christian Grey

Subject: Exasperated Men

Date: May 24 2011 18:52

To: Anastasia Steele


My hotel at 7:00.

I'll meet you in the Marble Bar.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

He's even grumpy by email. Doesn't he understand that I may need to make a quick get-awayNot that my Beetle is quick... but still - I need a means of escape.

From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: Not So Intractable Men

Date: May 24 2011 18:55

To: Christian Grey

Thank you.

Ana x

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Exasperating Women

Date: May 24 2011 18:59

To: Anastasia Steele

You're welcome.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

I call Ray, who is just about to watch the Sounders play some soccer team from Salt Lake City, so our conversation is mercifully brief. He's driving down on Thursday for graduation. He wants to take me out afterward for a meal. My heart swells talking to Ray, and a huge lump knots in my throat. He has been my constant through all mom's romantic ups and downs. We have a special bond that I treasure. Even though he's my stepdad, he's always treated me as his own, and I can't wait to see him. It's been too long. His quiet fortitude is what I need now, what I miss. Maybe I can channel my inner Ray for my meeting tomorrow.

Kate and I concentrate on packing, sharing a bottle of cheap red wine as we do. When I finally go to bed, having almost finished packing my room, I feel calmer. The physical activity of boxing everything up has been a welcome distraction, and I'm tired. I want a good night's sleep. I snuggle into my bed and am soon asleep.

Paul is back from Princeton before he sets off for New York to start an internship with a financing company. He follows me round the store all day asking me for a date. It's annoying.

"Paul, for the hundredth time, I have a date this evening."

"No, you don't, you're just saying that to avoid me. You're always avoiding me."

Yes... you'd think you'd take the hint.

"Paul, I never thought it was a good idea to date the boss's brother."

"You're finishing here on Friday. You're not working tomorrow."

"And I'll be in Seattle as of Saturday and you'll be in New York soon. We couldn't get much further apart if we tried. Besides, I do have a date this evening."

"With Jose?"


"Who then?"

"Paul... oh." My sigh is exasperated. He's not going to let this go. "Christian Grey." I cannot help the annoyance in my voice. But it does the trick. Paul's mouth falls open, and he gapes at me, struck dumb. Humph - even his name renders people speechless.

"You have a date with Christian Grey," he says finally, once he's over the shock. Disbelief is evident in his voice.


"I see." Paul looks positively crestfallen, stunned even, and a very small part resents that he should find this a surprise. My inner goddess does too. She makes a very vulgar and unattractive gesture at him with her fingers.

After that, he ignores me, and at five I am out of the door, pronto.

Kate has lent me two dresses and two pairs of shoes for tonight and for graduation tomorrow. I wish I could feel more enthused about clothes and make an extra effort, but clothes are just not my thing. What is your thing, Anastasia Christian's softly spoken question haunts me. Shaking my head and endeavoring to quell my nerves, I decide on the plum-colored sheath dress for this evening. It's demure and vaguely business-like - after all, I am negotiating a contract.

I shower, shave my legs and underarms, wash my hair, and then spend a good half-hour drying it so that it falls in soft waves to my breasts and down my back. I slip a comb in to keep one side off my face and apply mascara and some lip-gloss. I rarely wear make-up - it intimidates me. None of my literary heroines had to deal with make-up - maybe I'd know more about it if they had. I slip on the plum-colored stilettos that match the dress, and I'm ready by six-thirty.

"Well?" I ask Kate.

She grins.

"Boy, you scrub up well, Ana." She nods with approval. "You look hot."

"Hot! I'm aiming for demure and business-like."

"That too, but most of all, hot. The dress really suits you and your coloring. The way it clings." She smirks.

"Kate!" I scold.

"Just keeping it real, Ana. The whole package - looks good. Keep the dress. You'll have him eating out of your hand."

My mouth presses in a hard line. Oh, you so have that the wrong way round.

"Wish me luck."

"You need luck for a date?" Her brow furrows, puzzled.

"Yes, Kate."

"Well then - good luck." She hugs me, and I am out the front door.

I have to drive in my bare feet - Wanda, my sea-blue Beetle, wasn't built to be driven by stiletto-wearers. I pull up outside the Heathman at six-fifty-eight precisely and hand my car keys to the valet for parking. He looks askance at my Beetle, but I ignore him. Taking a deep breath and mentally girding my loins, I head into the hotel.

Christian is leaning casually against the bar, drinking a glass of white wine. He's dressed in his customary white linen shirt, black jeans, black tie, and black jacket. His hair is as tousled as ever. I sigh. Of course he looks gorgeous. I stand for a few seconds in the entrance of the bar, gazing at him, admiring the view. He is beyond beautiful. He glances, nervously I think, toward the entrance and stills when he sees me. Blinking a couple of times, he then smiles a slow, lazy, sexy smile that renders me speechless and all molten inside. Making a supreme effort not to bite my lip, I move forward aware that I, Anastasia Steele of Clumsyville, am in high stilettos. He walks gracefully over to meet me.

"You look stunning," he murmurs as he leans down to briefly kiss my cheek. "A dress, Miss Steele. I approve." Taking my arm, he leads me to a secluded booth and signals for the waiter.

"What would you like to drink?"

My lips quirk up in a quick, sly smile as I sit and slide into the booth - well, at least he's asking me.

"I'll have what you're having, please." See! I can play nice and behave myself.

Amused, he orders another glass of Sancerre and slides in opposite me.

"They have an excellent wine cellar here," he says, cocking his head to one side.

Putting his elbows on the table, he steeples his fingers in front of his beautiful mouth, his gray eyes alive with some unreadable emotion. And there it is... that familiar pull and charge from him, it connects somewhere deep inside me. I shift uncomfortably under his scrutiny, my heart palpitating. I must keep my cool.

"Are you nervous?" he asks softly.


He leans forward.

"Me too," he whispers conspiratorially. My eyes shoot up to meet his. Him. Nervous.

Never. I blink at him, and he smiles his adorable lopsided smile at me. The waiter arrives with my wine, a small dish of mixed nuts, and another of olives.

"So, how are we going to do this?" I ask. "Run through my points one by one?"

"Impatient as ever, Miss Steele."

"Well, I could ask you what you thought of the weather today?"

He smiles, and his long fingers reach down to collect an olive. He pops it in his mouth, and my eyes linger on his mouth, that mouth, that's been on me... all parts of me. I flush.

"I thought the weather was particularly unexceptional today," he smirks.

"Are you smirking at me, Mr. Grey?"

"I am, Miss Steele."

"You know this contract is legally unenforceable."

"I am fully aware of that, Miss Steele."

"Were you going to tell me that at any point?"

He frowns at me.

"You'd think I'd coerce you into something you don't want to do, and then pretend that I have a legal hold over you?"

"Well... yes."

"You don't think very highly of me at all, do you?"

"You haven't answered my question."

"Anastasia, it doesn't matter if it's legal or not. It represents an arrangement that I would like to make with you - what I would like from you and what you can expect from me. If you don't like it, then don't sign. If you do sign, and then decide you don't like it, there are enough get-out clauses so you can walk away. Even if it were legally binding, do you think I'd drag you through the courts if you did decide to run?"

I take a long draft of my wine. My subconscious taps me hard on the shoulder. You must keep your wits about you. Don't drink too much.

"Relationships like this are built on honesty and trust," he continues. "If you don't trust me - trust me to know how I'm affecting you, how far I can go with you, how far I can take you - if you can't be honest with me, then we really can't do this."

Oh my, we've cut to the chase quickly. How far he can take me. Holy shit. What does that mean?

"So it's quite simple, Anastasia. Do you trust me or not?" His eyes are burning, fervent."Did you have similar discussions with um... the fifteen?"


"Why not?"

"Because they were all established submissives. They knew what they wanted out of a relationship with me and generally what I expected. With them, it was just a question of fine-tuning the soft limits, details like that."

"Is there a store you go toSubmissives R Us?"

He laughs.

"Not exactly."

"Then how?"

"Is that what you want to discussOr shall we get down to the nitty-grittyYour issues, as you say."

I swallow. Do I trust him Is that what this all comes down to - trustSurely that should be a two-way thing. I remember his snit when I phoned Jose.

"Are you hungry?" he asks, distracting me from my thoughts.

Oh no... food.


"Have you eaten today?"

I stare at him. Honesty... Holy crap, he's not going to like my answer.

"No." My voice is small.

He narrows his eyes.

"You have to eat, Anastasia. We can eat down here or in my suite. What would you prefer?"

"I think we should stay in public, on neutral ground."

He smiles sardonically.

"Do you think that would stop me?" he says softly, a sensual warning.

My eyes widen, and I swallow again.

"I hope so."

"Come, I have a private dining room booked. No public." He smiles at me enigmati-cally and climbs out of the booth, holding his hand out to me.

"Bring your wine," he murmurs.

Placing my hand in his, I slide out and stand up beside him. He releases me, and his hand reaches for my elbow. He leads me back through the bar and up the grand stairs to a mezzanine floor. A young man in full Heathman livery approaches us.

"Mr. Grey, this way sir."

We follow him through a plush seating area to an intimate dining room. Just one secluded table. The room is small but sumptuous. Beneath a shimmering chandelier, the table is all starched linen, crystal glasses, silver cutlery, and white rose bouquet. An old-world, sophisticated charm pervades the wood-paneled room. The waiter pulls out my chair, and I sit. He places my napkin in my lap. Christian sits opposite me. I peek up at him."Don't bite your lip," he whispers.

I frown. Damn it. I don't even know that I'm doing it.

"I've ordered already. I hope you don't mind."

Frankly, I'm relieved, I'm not sure I can make any further decisions.

"No, that's fine," I acquiesce.

"It's good to know that you can be amenable. Now, where were we?"

"The nitty-gritty." I take another large sip of wine. It really is delicious. Christian Grey does wine well. I remember the last sip of wine he gave me, in my bed. I blush at the intrusive thought.

"Yes, your issues." He fishes into his inside jacket pocket and pulls out a piece of paper.

My email.

"Clause 2. Agreed. This is for the benefit of us both. I shall redraft."

I blink at him. Holy shit... we are going to go through each of these points one at a time. I just don't feel so brave face to face. He looks so earnest. I steel myself with another sip of my wine. Christian continues.

"My sexual health. Well, all of my previous partners have had blood tests, and I have regular tests every six months for all the health risks you mention. All my recent tests are clear. I have never taken drugs. In fact, I'm vehemently anti-drugs. I have a strict no-tolerance policy with regards to drugs for all my employees, and I insist on random drug testing."

Wow... control freakery gone mad. I blink at him shocked.

"I have never had any blood transfusions. Does that answer your question?"

I nod, impassive.

"Your next point I mentioned earlier. You can walk away any time, Anastasia. I won't stop you. If you go, however - that's it. Just so you know."

"Okay," I answer softly. If I go, that's it. The thought is surprisingly painful.

The waiter arrives with our first course. How can I possibly eatHoly Moses - he's ordered oysters on a bed of ice.

"I hope you like oysters," Christian's voice is soft.

"I've never had one." Ever.

"ReallyWell." He reaches for one. "All you do is tip and swallow. I think you can manage that." He gazes at me, and I know what he's referring to. I blush scarlet. He grins at me, squirts some lemon juice onto his oyster, and then tips it into his mouth.

"Hmm, delicious. Tastes of the sea," he grins at me. "Go on," he encourages.

"So, I don't chew it?"

"No, Anastasia, you don't." His eyes are alight with humor. He looks so young like this. I bite my lip, and his expression changes instantly. He looks sternly at me. I reach across and pick up my first ever oyster. Okay... here goes nothing. I squirt some lemon juice on it and tip it up. It slips down my throat, all seawater, salt, the sharp tang of citrus, and fleshiness... ooh. I lick my lips, and he's watching me intently, his eyes hooded.


"I'll have another," I say dryly.

"Good girl," he says proudly.

"Did you choose these deliberatelyAren't they known for their aphrodisiac qualities?""No, they are the first item on the menu. I don't need an aphrodisiac near you. I think you know that, and I think you react the same way near me," he says simply. "So where were we?" He glances at my email as I reach for another oyster.

He reacts the same way. I affect him... wow.

"Obey me in all things. Yes, I want you to do that. I need you to do that. Think of it as role-play Anastasia."

"But I'm worried you'll hurt me."

"Hurt you how?"

"Physically." And emotionally.

"Do you really think I would do thatGo beyond any limit you can't take?"

"You've said you've hurt someone before."

"Yes, I have. It was a long time ago."

"How did you hurt them?"

"I suspended them from my playroom ceiling. In fact, that's one of your questions.

Suspension - that's what the karabiners are for in the playroom. Rope play. One of the ropes was tied too tightly."

I hold my hand up begging him to stop.

"I don't need to know any more. So you won't suspend me then?"

"Not if you really don't want to. You can make that a hard limit."


"So obeying, do you think you can manage that?"

He stares at me, his gray eyes intense. The seconds tick by.

"I could try," I whisper.

"Good." He smiles. "Now term. One month instead of three is no time at all, especially if you want a weekend away from me each month. I don't think I'll be able to stay away from you for that length of time. I can barely manage it now," he pauses.

He can't stay away from meWhat?

"How about, one day over one weekend per month you get to yourself - but I get a midweek night that week?"


"And please, let's try it for three months. If it's not for you then, you can walk away anytime."

"Three months?" I'm feeling railroaded. I take another large sip of wine and treat myself to another oyster. I could learn to like these.

"The ownership thing, that's just terminology and goes back to the principle of obeying. It's to get you into the right frame of mind, to understand where I'm coming from.

And I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that and willingly. That's why you have to trust me.

I will fuck you, any time, any way, I want - anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me. But I know you've not done this before.

Initially, we'll take it slowly, and I will help you. We'll build up to various scenarios. I want you to trust me, but I know I have to earn your trust, and I will. The "or otherwise"

- again it's to help you get into the mindset, it means anything goes."

He's so passionate, mesmerizing. This is obviously his obsession, the way he is... I can't take my eyes off him. He really, really wants this. He stops talking and gazes at me.

"Still with me?" he whispers, his voice rich, warm and seductive. He takes a sip of his wine, his penetrating stare holding mine.

The waiter comes to the door, and Christian subtly nods permitting the waiter to clear our table.

"Would you like some more wine?"

"I have to drive."

"Some water then?"

I nod.

"Still or sparkling?"

"Sparkling, please."

The waiter leaves.

"You're very quiet," Christian whispers.

"You're very verbose."

He smiles.

"Discipline. There's a very fine line between pleasure and pain Anastasia. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other. I can show you how pleasurable pain can be. You don't believe me now, but this is what I mean about trust. There will be pain, but nothing that you can't handle. Again, it comes down to trust. Do you trust me, Ana?"


"Yes, I do." I respond spontaneously, not thinking... because it's true - I do trust him.

"Well then," he looks relieved. "The rest of this stuff is just details."

"Important details."

"Okay, let's talk through those."

My head is swimming with all his words. I should have brought Kate's mini disc player so I can listen back to this. There is so much information, so much to process. The waiter re-emerges with our entrees: black cod, asparagus, and crushed potatoes with a hol-landaise sauce. I have never felt less like food.

"I hope you like fish," Christian says mildly.

I make a stab at my food and take a long drink of my sparkling water. I vehemently wish it was wine.

"The rules. Let's talk about them. The food is a deal breaker?"


"Can I modify to say that you will eat at least three meals a day?"

"No." I am so not backing down on this. No one is going to dictate to me what I eat.

How I fuck, yes, but eat... no, no way.

He purses his lips.

"I need to know that you're not hungry."

I frown. Why?

"You'll have to trust me."

He gazes at me for a moment, and he relaxes.

"Touche, Miss Steele," he says quietly. "I concede the food and the sleep."

"Why can't I look at you?"

"That's a Dom/sub thing. You'll get used to it."

Will I?

"Why can't I touch you?"

"Because you can't."

His mouth sets in a mulish line.

"Is it because of Mrs. Robinson?"

He looks quizzically at me.

"Why would you think that?" And immediately he understands. "You think she trau-matized me?"

I nod.

"No Anastasia. She's not the reason. Besides, Mrs. Robinson wouldn't take any of that shit from me."

Oh... but I have to. I pout.

"So nothing to do with her."

"No. And I don't want you touching yourself, either."

What Ah yes, the no masturbation clause.

"Out of curiosity... why?"

"Because I want all your pleasure," his voice is husky, but determined.

Oh... I have no answer for that. On one level it's up there with, 'I want to bite that lip', on another, it's so selfish. I frown and take a bite of cod, trying to assess mentally what concessions I've gained. The food, the sleep, I can look him in the eye. He's going to take it slow, and we haven't discussed soft limits. But I'm not sure I can face that over food.

"I've given you a great deal to think about haven't I?"


"Do you want to go through the soft limits now too?"

"Not over dinner."

He smiles.


"Something like that."

"You've not eaten very much."

"I've had enough."

"Three oysters, four bites of cod, and one asparagus stalk, no potatoes, no nuts, no olives, and you've not eaten all day. You said I could trust you."

Jeez. He's kept an inventory.

"Christian, please, it's not every day I sit through conversations like this."

"I need you fit and healthy Anastasia."

"I know."

"And right now, I want to peel you out of that dress."

I swallow. Peel me out of Kate's dress. I feel the pull deep in my belly. Muscles that I'm now more acquainted with clench at his words. But I can't have this. His most potent weapon, used against me again. He's so good at sex - even I've figured this out.

"I don't think that's a good idea," I murmur quietly. "We haven't had dessert."

"You want dessert?" he snorts.


"You could be dessert," he murmurs suggestively.

"I'm not sure I'm sweet enough."

"Anastasia, you're deliciously sweet. I know."

"Christian. You use sex as a weapon. It really isn't fair," I whisper, staring down at my hands, and then looking directly at him. He raises his eyebrows, surprised, and I see he's considering my words. He strokes his chin thoughtfully.

"You're right. I do. In life you use what you know, Anastasia. Doesn't change how much I want you. Here. Now."

How can he seduce me solely with his voiceI'm panting already - my heated blood rushing through my veins, my nerves tingling.

"I'd like to try something," he breathes.

I frown. He's just given me a shit load of ideas to process and now this.

"If you were my sub, you wouldn't have to think about this. It would be easy." His voice is soft, seductive. "All those decisions - all the wearying thought processes behind them. The - is this the right thing to doShould this happen hereCan it happen now?

You wouldn't have to worry about any of that detail. That's what I'd do as your Dom. And right now, I know you want me, Anastasia."

My frown deepens. How can he tell?

"I can tell because... "

Holy shit he's answering my unspoken question. Is he psychic as well?

"... Your body gives you away. You're pressing your thighs together, you're flushed, and your breathing has changed."

O, this is too much.

"How do you know about my thighs?" My voice is low, disbelieving. They're under the table for heaven's sake.

"I felt the tablecloth move, and it's a calculated guess based on years of experience.

I'm right aren't I?"

I flush and stare down at my hands. That's what I'm hindered by in this game of seduction. He's the only one who knows and understands the rules. I'm just too na?ve and inexperienced. My only sphere of reference is Kate, and she doesn't take any shit from men. My other references are all fictional: Elizabeth Bennett would be outraged, Jane Eyre too frightened, and Tess would succumb, just as I have.

"I haven't finished my cod."

"You'd prefer cold cod to me?"

My head jerks up to glare at him, and his gray eyes burn molten silver, with compelling need.

"I thought you liked me clearing my plate."

"Right now, Miss Steele, I couldn't give a fuck about your food."

"Christian. You just don't fight fair."

"I know. I never have."

My inner goddess frowns at me. You can do this, she coaxes - play this sex god at his own game. Can I Okay. What to doMy inexperience is an albatross around my neck.

Picking up a spear of asparagus, I gaze at him and bite my lip. Then very slowly put the tip of my cold asparagus in my mouth and suck it.

Christian's eyes widen infinitesimally, but I notice.

"Anastasia. What are you doing?"

I bite off the tip.

"Eating my asparagus."

Christian shifts in his seat.

"I think you're toying with me, Miss Steele."

I feign innocence.

"I'm just finishing my food, Mr. Grey."

The waiter chooses this moment to knock and, unbidden, enter. He glances briefly at Christian, who frowns at him but then nods, so the waiter clears our plates. The waiter's arrival has broken the spell. And I grasp this precious moment of clarity. I have to go. Our meeting will only end one way if I stay, and I need some boundaries after such an intense conversation. As much as my body craves his touch, my mind is rebelling. I need some distance to think about all he's said. I still haven't made a decision, and his sexual allure and prowess doesn't make it any easier.

"Would you like some dessert?" Christian asks, ever the gentleman, but his eyes still blaze.

"No, thank you. I think I should go." I stare down at my hands.

"Go?" He can't hide his surprise.

The waiter leaves hastily.

"Yes." It's the right decision. If I stay here, in this room with him, he will fuck me. I stand, purposefully. "We both have the graduation ceremony tomorrow."

Christian stands automatically, revealing years of ingrained civility.

"I don't want you to go."

"Please... I have to."


"Because you've given me so much to consider... and I need some distance."

"I could make you stay," he threatens.

"Yes, you could easily, but I don't want you to."

He runs his hand through his hair, regarding me carefully.

"You know, when you fell into my office to interview me, you were all yes sir, no sir.

I thought you were a natural born submissive. But quite frankly, Anastasia, I'm not sure you have a submissive bone in your delectable body." He moves slowly toward me as his speaks, his voice tense.

"You may be right," I breathe.

"I want the chance to explore the possibility that you do," he murmurs, staring down at me. He reaches up and caresses my face, his thumb tracing my lower lip. "I don't know any other way, Anastasia. This is who I am."

"I know."

He leans down to kiss me, but pauses before his lips touch mine, his eyes searching mine, wanting, asking permission. I raise my lips to his, and he kisses me and because I don't know if I'll ever kiss him again, I let go - my hands moving of their own accord and twisting into his hair, pulling him to me, my mouth opening, my tongue stroking his. His hand grasps the nape of my neck as he deepens the kiss, responding to my ardor. His other hand slides down my back and flattens at the base of my spine as he pushes me against his body."I can't persuade you to stay?" he breathes between kisses.


"Spend the night with me."

"And not touch youNo."

He groans.

"You impossible girl." He pulls back, gazing down at me. "Why do I think you're telling me goodbye?"

"Because I'm leaving now."

"That's not what I mean, and you know it."

"Christian, I have to think about this. I don't know if I can have the kind of relationship you want."

He closes his eyes and presses his forehead against mine, giving us both the opportunity to slow our breathing. After a moment, he kisses my forehead, inhales deeply, his nose in my hair, and then he releases me, stepping back.

"As you wish, Miss Steele," he says, his face impassive. "I'll escort you to the lobby."

He holds out his hand. Leaning down, I grab my purse and place my hand in his. Holy crap, this could be it. I follow him meekly down the grand stairs and into the lobby, my scalp prickling, my blood pumping. This could be the last goodbye if I decide to say no.

My heart contracts painfully in my chest. What a turnaround. What a difference a moment of clarity can make to a girl.

"Do you have your valet ticket?"

I fish into my clutch purse and hand him the ticket, which he gives to the doorman. I peek up at him as we stand waiting.

"Thank you for dinner," I murmur.

"It's a pleasure as always, Miss Steele," he says politely, though he looks deep in thought, completely distracted.

As I peer up at him, I commit his beautiful profile to memory. The idea that I might not see him again haunts me, unwelcome and too painful to contemplate. He turns suddenly, staring down at me, his expression intense.

"You're moving this weekend to Seattle. If you make the right decision, can I see you on Sunday?" He sounds hesitant.

"We'll see. Maybe," I breathe. Momentarily, he looks relieved, and then he frowns.

"It's cooler now, don't you have a jacket?"


He shakes his head in irritation and takes off his jacket.

"Here. I don't want you catching cold."

I blink up at him as he holds it open, and as I hold my arms out behind me, I'm reminded of the time in his office when he slipped my coat onto my shoulders - the first time I met him - and the effect he had on me then. Nothing's changed, in fact, it's more intense.

His jacket is warm, far too big, and it smells of him. Oh my... delicious.

My car pulls up outside. Christian's mouth drops open.

"That's what you drive?" He's appalled. Taking my hand, he leads me outside. The valet jumps out and hands me my keys, and Christian coolly palms him some money.

"Is this roadworthy?" He's glaring at me now.


"Will it make it to Seattle?"

"Yes. She will."


"Yes," I snap, exasperated. "Okay she's old. But she's mine, and she's roadworthy.

My stepdad bought it for me."

"Oh, Anastasia, I think we can do better than this."

"What do you mean?" Realization dawns. "You are not buying me a car."

He glowers at me, his jaw tense.

"We'll see," he says tightly.

He grimaces as he opens the driver's door and helps me in. I take my shoes off and roll down the window. He's gazing at me, his expression unfathomable, eyes dark.

"Drive safely," he says quietly.

"Goodbye, Christian." My voice is hoarse from unbidden, unshed tears - jeez I'm not going to cry. I give him a small smile.

As I drive away, my chest constricts, my tears start to fall, and I choke back a sob.

Soon tears are streaming down my face, and I really don't understand why I'm crying. I was holding my own. He explained everything. He was clear. He wants me, but the truth is, I need more. I need him to want me like I want and need him, and deep down I know that's not possible. I am just overwhelmed.

I don't even know how to categorize him. If I do this thing... will he be my boyfriend?

Will I be able to introduce him to my friendsGo out to bars, the cinema, bowling even, with himThe truth is, I don't think I will. He won't let me touch him and he won't let me sleep with him. I know I've not had these things in my past, but I want them in my future.

And that's not the future he envisages.

What if I do say yes, and in three months' time he says no, he's had enough of trying to mold me into something I'm not. How will I feelI'll have emotionally invested three months, doing things that I'm not sure I want to do. And if he then says no, agreement over, how could I cope with that level of rejectionPerhaps it's best to back away now with what self-esteem I have reasonably intact.

But the thought of not seeing him again is agonizing. How has he gotten under my skin so quicklyIt can't just be the sex... can itI dash the tears from my eyes. I don't want to examine my feelings for him. I'm frightened what I'll uncover if I do. What am I going to do?

I park up outside our duplex. No lights on. Kate must be out. I'm relieved. I don't want her to catch me crying again. As I undress, I wake up the mean machine and sitting in my inbox is a message from Christian.

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Tonight

Date: May 25 2011 22:01

To: Anastasia Steele

I don't understand why you ran this evening. I sincerely hope I answered all your questions to your satisfaction. I know I have given you a great deal to contemplate, and I fervently hope that you will give my proposal your serious consideration. I really want to make this work. We will take it slow.

Trust me.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

His email makes me weep more. I am not a merger. I am not an acquisition. Reading this, I might as well be. I don't reply. I just don't know what to say to him. I fumble into my PJs, and wrapping his jacket around me. I climb into bed. As I lie staring into the darkness, I think of all the times he warned me to stay away.

'Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I'm not the man for you.'

'I don't do the girlfriend thing.'

'I'm not a hearts and flowers kind of guy.'

'I don't make love.''This is all I know.'

And as I weep into my pillow silently, it's this last idea I cling to. This is all I know, too.

Perhaps together we can chart a new course.

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