“Fuck—” By some miracle I catch her as she passes out in the middle of the bar. I’m tempted to haul her over my shoulder, but we’d be too conspicuous, so I pick her up once more, cradling her against my chest, and take her outside to the car.
“Christ,” I mutter as I fish the key out of my jeans and hold her at the same time. Amazingly, I manage to get her into the front seat and strap her in.
“Ana.” I give her a little shake, because she’s worryingly quiet. “Ana!”
She mumbles something incoherent and I know she’s still conscious. I know I should take her home, but it’s a long drive to Vancouver, and I don’t know if she’ll be sick again. I don’t relish the idea of my Audi reeking of vomit. The smell emanating from her clothes is already noticeable.
I head to The Heathman, telling myself that I’m doing this for her sake.
Yeah, tell yourself that, Grey.
SHE SLEEPS IN MY arms as we travel up in the elevator from the garage. I need to get her out of her jeans and her shoes. The stale stench of vomit pervades the space. I’d really like to give her a bath, but that would be stepping beyond the bounds of propriety.
And this isn’t?
In my suite, I drop her purse on the sofa, then carry her into the bedroom and lay her down on the bed. She mumbles once more but doesn’t wake.
Briskly I remove her shoes and socks and put them in the plastic laundry bag provided by the hotel. Then I unzip her jeans and pull them off, check the pockets before stuffing the jeans in the laundry bag. She falls back on the bed, splayed out like a starfish, all pale arms and legs, and for a moment I picture those legs wrapped around my waist as her wrists are bound to my Saint Andrew’s cross. There’s a fading bruise on her knee and I wonder if that’s from the fall she took in my office.
She’s been marked since then…like me.
I sit her up and she opens her eyes.
“Hello, Ana,” I whisper, as I remove her jacket slowly and without her cooperation.
“Grey. Lips,” she mutters.
“Yes, sweetheart.” I ease her down onto the bed. She closes her eyes again and rolls onto her side, but this time huddles into a ball, looking small and vulnerable. I pull the covers over her and plant a kiss in her hair. Now that her filthy clothes have gone, a trace of her scent has reappeared. Apples, fall, fresh, delicious…Ana. Her lips are parted, eyelashes fanning out over pale cheeks, and her skin looks flawless. One more touch is all I allow myself as I stroke her cheek with the back of my index finger.
“Sleep well,” I murmur, and then head into the living room to complete the laundry list. When it’s done, I place the offending bag outside my suite so the contents will be collected and laundered.
Before I check my e-mails I text Welch, asking him to see if José Rodriguez has any police records. I’m curious. I want to know if he preys on drunk young women. Then I address the issue of clothes for Miss Steele: I send a quick e-mail to Taylor.
From: Christian Grey
RE: Miss Anastasia Steele
Date: May 20, 2011 23:46
To: J B Taylor
Can you please find the following items for Miss Steele and have them delivered to my usual room before 10:00.
Jeans: Blue Denim Size 4
Blouse: Blue. Pretty. Size 4
Converse: Black Size 7
Socks: Size 7
Lingerie: Underwear—Size Small. Bra—Estimate 34C.