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Yep. I rub my chin as I formulate a plan, and moments later I’m in my closet, retrieving my tie.

That tie.

This deal isn’t dead yet. From my messenger bag I take some condoms and slide them into the back pocket of my pants, then grab my jacket and a bottle of white wine from the minibar. Damn, it’s a chardonnay—but it will have to do. Snatching my room key, I close the door and head toward the elevator to collect my car from the valet.

AS I PULL UP in the R8 outside the apartment she shares with Kavanagh, I wonder if this is a wise move. I’ve never visited any of my previous submissives at their homes—they always came to me. I’m pushing all the boundaries that I’ve set for myself. Opening the door of the car and climbing out, I’m uneasy; it’s reckless and too presumptuous of me to come here. Then again, I’ve already been here twice, though for only a few minutes. If she does agree, I’ll have to manage her expectations. This won’t happen again.

Getting ahead of yourself, Grey.

You’re here because you think it’s a “no.”

Kavanagh answers when I knock at the door. She’s surprised to see me. “Hi, Christian. Ana didn’t say you were coming over.” She stands aside to let me enter. “She’s in her room. I’ll call her.”

“No. I’d like to surprise her.” I give her my most earnest and endearing look and in response she blinks a couple of times. Whoa. That was easy. Who would have thought? How gratifying. “Where’s her room?”

“Through there, the first door.” She points to a door off the empty living room.


Leaving my jacket and the chilled wine on one of the packing crates, I open the door to find a small hallway with a couple of rooms off it. I assume one is a bathroom, so I knock on the other door. After a beat, I open it and there’s Ana, sitting at a small desk, reading what looks like the contract. She has her earbuds in as she idly drums her fingers to an unheard beat. Standing there for a moment, I watch her. Her face is scrunched in concentration; her hair is braided and she’s wearing sweats. Perhaps she’s been for a run this evening…perhaps she’s suffering from excess energy, too. The thought is pleasing. Her room is small, neat, and girlish: all whites, creams, and baby blues, and bathed in the soft glow of her bedside lamp. It’s also a little empty, but I spy a closed packing crate with Ana’s room scrawled on the top. At least she has a double bed—with a white wrought-iron bedstead. Yes. That has possibilities.

Ana suddenly jumps, startled by my presence.

Yes. I’m here because of your e-mail.

She pulls out her earbuds and the sound of tinny music fills the silence between us.

“Good evening, Anastasia.”

She stares at me dumbfounded, her eyes widening.

“I felt that your e-mail warranted a reply in person.” I try to keep my voice neutral. Her mouth opens and closes, but she remains mute.

Miss Steele is speechless. This I like. “May I sit?”

She nods, continuing to stare in disbelief as I perch on her bed.

“I wondered what your bedroom would look like,” I offer as an icebreaker, though chitchat is not my area of expertise. She scans her room as if seeing it for the first time. “It’s very serene and peaceful in here,” I add, though I feel anything but serene or peaceful right now. I want to know why she’s said no to my proposal with no discussion whatsoever.

“How…?” she whispers, but she stops, her disbelief still evident in her quiet tone.

“I’m still at The Heathman.” She knows this.

“Would you like a drink?” she squeaks.

“No thank you, Anastasia.” Good. She’s found her manners. But I want to get on with the business at hand: her alarming e-mail. “So, it was nice knowing me?” I emphasize the word that offends me most in that sentence.

Nice? Really?

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