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“Did he now?” I remark.

What does the photographer want?

“I thought we might have lunch together, but I can see you have other plans, and I don’t want to interrupt your day.” Grace stands, and for once I’m grateful that she’s intuitive and can read a situation. She offers me her cheek again. I kiss her good-bye.

“I have to drive Anastasia back to Portland.”

“Of course, darling.” Grace turns her bright—and if I’m not mistaken, grateful—smile on Ana.

It’s irritating.

“Anastasia, it’s been such a pleasure.” Grace beams and takes Ana’s hand. “I do hope we meet again.”

“Mrs. Grey?” Taylor appears on the threshold of the room.

“Thank you, Taylor,” Grace responds, and he escorts her from the room and through the double doors to the foyer.

Well, that was interesting.

My mother’s always thought I was gay. But as she’s always respected my boundaries, she’s never asked me.

Well, now she knows.

Ana is worrying her bottom lip, radiating anxiety…as she should be.

“So the photographer called?” I sound gruff.


“What did he want?”

“Just to apologize, you know—for Friday.”

“I see.” Maybe he wants another shot at her. The thought is displeasing.

Taylor clears his throat. “Mr. Grey, there’s an issue with the Darfur shipment.”

Shit. This is what I get for not checking my e-mail this morning. I’ve been too preoccupied with Ana.

“Charlie Tango back at Boeing Field?” I ask Taylor.

“Yes, sir.”

Taylor acknowledges Ana with a nod. “Miss Steele.”

She gives him a broad smile and he leaves.

“Does he live here? Taylor?” Ana asks.


Heading into the kitchen, I pick up my phone and quickly check my e-mail. There’s a flagged message from Ros and a couple of texts. I call her immediately.

“Ros, what’s the issue?”

“Christian, hi. The report back from Darfur is not good. They can’t guarantee the safety of the shipments or road crew, and the State Department isn’t willing to sanction the relief without the NGO’s backing.”

Fuck this.

“I’m not having either crew put at risk.” Ros knows this.

“We could try and pull in mercenaries,” she says.

“No, cancel—”

“But the cost,” she protests.

“We’ll air-drop instead.”

“I knew that’s what you’d say, Christian. I have a plan in the works. It will be costly. In the meantime, the containers can go to Rotterdam out of Philly and we can take it from there. That’s it.”

“Good.” I hang up. More support from the State Department would be helpful. I resolve to call Blandino to discuss this further.

My attention reverts to Miss Steele, who’s standing in my living room, regarding me warily. I need to get us back on track.

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