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Hell. I shuffle in my seat. I hope she agrees to sign the NDA and to take what I have to offer.

When we join I-5 I get another call.

It’s Elliot.

“Hi, Christian, d’you get laid?”

Oh…smooth, dude, smooth.

“Hello, Elliot—I’m on speakerphone, and I’m not alone in the car.”

“Who’s with you?”

“Anastasia Steele.”

“Hi, Ana!”

“Hello, Elliot,” she says, animated.

“Heard a lot about you,” Elliot says.

Shit. What has he heard?

“Don’t believe a word Kate says,” she responds good-naturedly.

Elliot laughs.

“I’m dropping Anastasia off now. Shall I pick you up?” I interject.

There’s no doubt Elliot will want to make a quick getaway.


“See you shortly.” I hang up.

“Why do you insist on calling me Anastasia?” she asks.

“Because it’s your name.”

“I prefer Ana.”

“Do you, now?”

“Ana” is too everyday and ordinary for her. And too familiar. Those three letters have the power to wound…

And in that moment I know that her rejection, when it comes, will be hard to take. It’s happened before, but I’ve never felt this…invested. I don’t even know this girl, but I want to know her, all of her. Maybe it’s because I’ve never chased a woman.

Grey, get control of yourself and follow the rules, otherwise this will all go to shit.

“Anastasia,” I say, ignoring her disapproving look. “What happened in the elevator—it won’t happen again—well, not unless it’s premeditated.”

That keeps her quiet as I park outside her apartment. Before she can answer me I climb out of the car, walk around and open her door.

As she steps onto the sidewalk, she gives me a fleeting glance. “I liked what happened in the elevator,” she says.

You did? Her confession halts me in my tracks. I’m pleasantly surprised again by little Miss Steele. As she walks up the steps to the front door, I have to scramble to keep up with her.

Elliot and Kate look up when we enter. They’re sitting at a dining table in a sparsely furnished room, befitting a couple of students. There are a few packing boxes beside a bookshelf. Elliot looks relaxed and not in a hurry to leave, which surprises me.

Kavanagh jumps up and gives me a critical once-over as she hugs Ana.

What did she think I was going to do to the girl?

I know what I’d like to do to her…

As Kavanagh holds her at arm’s length I’m reassured; maybe she does care for Ana, too.

“Good morning, Christian,” she says, her tone cool and condescending.

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