Page 25

“I know nothing about wine, Christian. I’m sure it will be fine.” She sounds subdued.

Shit. This isn’t going well. Is she overwhelmed? Is that it?

I pour two glasses and walk to where she stands in the middle of my living room, looking every bit the sacrificial lamb. Gone is the disarming woman. She looks lost.

Like me…

“Here.” I hand her the glass, and she immediately takes a sip, closing her eyes in obvious appreciation of the wine. When she lowers the glass her lips are moist.

Good choice, Grey.

“You’re very quiet, and you’re not even blushing. In fact, I think this is the palest I’ve ever seen you, Anastasia. Are you hungry?”

She shakes her head and takes another sip. Maybe she’s in need of some liquid courage, too. “It’s a very big place you have here,” she says, her voice timid.



“It’s big.” There’s no arguing with that; it is more than ten thousand square feet.

“Do you play?” She looks at the piano.




“Of course you do. Is there anything you can’t do well?”

“Yes…a few things.”


Tell jokes.

Make free and easy conversation with a woman I’m attracted to.

Be touched…

“Do you want to sit?” I gesture toward the sofa. A brisk nod tells me that she does. Taking her hand, I lead her there, and she sits down, giving me an impish look.

“What’s so amusing?” I ask, as I take a seat beside her.

“Why did you give me Tess of the d’Urbervilles, specifically?”

Oh. Where is this going? “Well, you said you liked Thomas Hardy.”

“Is that the only reason?”

I don’t want to tell her that she has my first edition, and that it was a better choice than Jude the Obscure. “It seemed appropriate. I could hold you to some impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase you completely like Alec d’Urberville.” My answer is truthful enough and has a certain irony to it. What I’m about to propose I suspect will be very far from her expectations.

“If there are only two choices, I’ll take the debasement,” she whispers.

Damn. Isn’t that what you want, Grey?

“Anastasia, stop biting your lip, please. It’s very distracting. You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“That’s why I’m here,” she says, her teeth leaving little indentations on a bottom lip moist with wine.

And there she is: disarming once more, surprising me at every turn. My cock concurs.

We are cutting to the chase on this deal, but before we explore the details, I need her to sign the NDA. I excuse myself and head into my study. The contract and NDA are ready on the printer. Leaving the contract on my desk—I don’t know if we’ll ever get to it—I staple the NDA together and take it back to Ana.

“This is a nondisclosure agreement.” I place it on the coffee table in front of her. She looks confused and surprised. “My lawyer insists on it,” I add. “If you’re going for option two, debasement, you’ll need to sign this.”

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