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Authors: E L James

Darker (11 page)

BOOK: Darker
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My favorite fragrance.

“Do you know how much you mean to me?” I whisper into her ear as her head is thrown back in ecstasy.

“No,” she breathes.

I gently wrap my fingers around her jaw and throat, stilling her.

“Yes, you do. I’m not going to let you go.”

Never.

I love you.

“You are mine, Anastasia.”

“Yes, yours.”

“I take care of what’s mine,” I whisper, and my teeth graze her earlobe.

She cries out.

“That’s right, baby, I want to hear you.”

I want to take care of you.

I curl my arm around her waist, holding her against me while I grasp her hip with my other hand. And I continue to thrust inside her. She rises and falls with me, crying out, moaning, groaning.
Sweat beads on my back, on my forehead, and on my chest, so we’re slipping and sliding against each other as she rides me. She fists her hands and stops moving, her legs braced around me, her eyes closed as she lets out a silent cry.

“Come on, baby,” I growl through clenched teeth, and she comes, screaming a garbled version of my name. I let go, coming inside her and losing all sense of self.

We sink onto the bed and I wrap her in my arms as we lie in a sticky, sugary, panting mess together. I take a deep breath as her hair brushes against my lips.

Will it always be this way?

Mind-blowing.

I close my eyes and enjoy this lucid, quiet moment of peace.

After a while she stirs. “What I feel for you frightens me,” she says, a little hoarse.

“Me, too, baby.” More than you know.

“What if you leave me?”

What?
Why would I leave her? I’ve been lost without her. “I’m not going anywhere. I don’t think I could ever have my fill of you, Anastasia.”

She turns in my arms and studies me, her eyes dark and intense, and I have no idea what she’s thinking. She leans up and kisses me, a soft, tender kiss.

What the hell is she thinking?

I tuck a wisp of hair behind her ear. I have to make her believe I’m here for the long haul, for as long as she’ll have me. “I’ve never felt the way I felt when you left, Anastasia. I would move heaven and earth to avoid feeling like that again.”

The nightmares. The guilt. The despair sucking me into the abyss, drowning me.

Shit. Pull yourself together, Grey.

No. I never want to feel like that again.

She kisses me once more, a gentle, beseeching kiss, comforting me.

Don’t think about it, Grey.
Think about something else
.

I remember my parents’ summer ball. “Will you come with me to my father’s summer party tomorrow? It’s an annual charity thing. I said I’d go.” I hold my breath.

This is a date.

A real date.

“Of course I’ll come.” Ana’s face lights up but then falls.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Tell me,” I insist.

“I have nothing to wear.”

Yes. You do.
“Don’t be mad, but I still have all those clothes for you at home. I’m sure there are a couple of dresses in there.”

“Do you, now?” She purses her lips.

“I couldn’t get rid of them.”

“Why?”

You know why, Ana. I caress her hair, willing her to understand. I wanted you back and I kept them for you.

She shakes her head, resigned. “You are, as ever, challenging, Mr. Grey.”

I laugh because it’s true and also because it’s something I might say to her. Her expression lightens. “I’m gooey. I need a shower.”

“We both do.”

“Sadly, there’s no room for two. You go and I’ll change this bedding.”

HER BATHROOM IS THE
size of my shower, and this has to be the smallest shower cubicle I’ve ever been in; I’m practically face to face with the showerhead. However, I discover the source of her fragrant hair. Green apple shampoo. As the water trickles over me, I open the lid and, closing my eyes, take a long sniff.

Ana.

I may have to add this to Mrs. Jones’s shopping list. When I open my eyes, Ana is staring at me, hands on hips. To my disappointment, she’s wearing her robe.

“This shower is small,” I complain.

“I told you. Were you smelling my shampoo?”

“Maybe.” I grin.

She laughs and hands me a towel that is designed with the spines of classic books. Ana is ever the bibliophile. I wrap it around my waist and give her a swift kiss. “Don’t be long. That’s not a request.”

Lying in her bed, waiting for her return, I look around her room. It doesn’t feel lived in. Three walls are stark exposed brick, the fourth smooth concrete, but there’s nothing on them. Ana’s not had time to make this place home. She’s been too miserable to unpack. And that’s my fault.

I close my eyes.

I want her happy.

Happy Ana.

I smile.

S
ATURDAY
, J
UNE
11, 2011

Ana is beside me. Radiant. Lovely. Mine. She’s dressed in a white satin robe. We’re in
Charlie Tango,
chasing the dawn. Chasing the dusk. Chasing the dawn. The dusk. High above the clouds we fly. Night a dark shroud arching over us. Ana’s hair is burnished, titian, bright from the setting sun. We have the world at our feet and I want to give her the world. She’s entranced. I do a wingover and we’re in my glider. See the world, Ana. I want to show you the world. She laughs. Giggling. Happy. Her braids pointing to the ground when she’s upside down. Again, she calls. And I oblige. We roll and roll and roll. But this time she starts screaming. She’s staring at me in horror. Her face contorted. Horrified. Disgusted. At me.

Me?

No.

No.

She screams.

I WAKE AND MY
heart is pounding. Ana is tossing and turning beside me, making an eerie, unworldly sound that rouses every hair follicle on my body. In the glow of the ambient streetlight I see she’s still asleep. I sit up and shake her gently.

“Jesus, Ana.”

She wakes suddenly. Gasping. Eyes wild. Terrified.

“Baby, are you okay? You were having a bad dream.”

“Oh,” she whispers, as she focuses on me, her lashes fluttering like the wings of a hummingbird. I reach over her and switch on her lamp. She squints in the half-light. “The girl,” she says, her eyes searching mine.

“What is it? What girl?” I resist the urge to gather her in my arms and kiss away her nightmares.

She blinks once more, and her voice is clearer, less fearful. “There was a girl outside SIP when I left this evening. She looked like me, but not really.”

My scalp tingles.

Leila.

“When was this?” I ask, sitting upright.

“When I left work this evening.” She’s shaken. “Do you know who she is?”

“Yes.” What the hell is Leila doing confronting Ana?

“Who?” Ana asks.

I should call Welch. During our update this morning, he had nothing to report on Leila’s whereabouts. His team is still trying to find her.

“Who?” Ana persists.

Damn.
I know she won’t stop until she has some answers. Why the hell didn’t she tell me earlier?

“It’s Leila.”

Her frown deepens. “The girl who put ‘Toxic’ on your iPod?”

“Yes. Did she say anything?”

“She said, ‘What do you have that I don’t?’ and when I asked who she was, she said, ‘I’m nobody.’ ”

Christ, Leila, what are you playing at?
I have to call Welch.

I stumble out of bed and slip on my jeans.

In the living room, I retrieve my phone from my jacket pocket. Welch answers in two rings and any hesitation I had about calling him at five in the morning disappears. He must have been awake.

“Mr. Grey,” he says, his voice hoarse as usual.

“I’m sorry to call you so early.” I begin pacing what space I have in the kitchen.

“Sleep’s not really my thing, Mr. Grey.”

“I figured. It’s Leila. She accosted my girlfriend, Anastasia Steele.”

“Was it at her office? Or at her apartment? When did it happen?”

“Yes. Outside SIP. Yesterday. Early evening.” I turn, and Ana, dressed only in my shirt, is standing by the kitchen counter, watching me. I study her as I continue my conversation, her expression a mixture of curious and haunted. She looks beautiful.

“What time, exactly?” Welch asks.

I repeat the question to Ana.

“About ten to six?” she says.

“Did you get that?” I ask Welch.

“No.”

“Ten to six,” I repeat.

“So she’s tracked Miss Steele to her work.”

“Find out how.”

“There are press photographs of the two of you together.”

“Yes.”

Ana tilts her head to one side and tosses her hair over her shoulder as she listens to my side of the conversation.

“Do you think we should be concerned for Miss Steele’s safety?” Welch inquires.

“I wouldn’t have said so, but then I wouldn’t have thought she could do this.”

“I think you should consider additional security for her, sir.”

“I don’t know how that will go down.” I look at Ana as she folds her arms, accentuating the outline of her breasts as they strain against the white cotton of my shirt.

“I’d like to increase your security, too, sir. Will you talk to Anastasia? Tell her of the danger she might be in?”

“Yes, I’ll talk to her.”

Ana bites her lip. I wish she’d stop. It’s distracting.

Welch continues, “I’ll brief Mr. Taylor and Mrs. Jones at a more reasonable hour.”

“Yes.”

“In the meantime, I’m going to need more personnel on the ground.”

“I know.” I sigh.

“We’ll start with the stores in the vicinity of SIP. See if anyone saw anything. This could be the lead we’ve been waiting for.”

“Follow it up and let me know. Just find her, Welch. She’s in trouble. Find her.” I hang up and look at Ana. Her tangled hair tumbles over her shoulders; her long legs are pale in the dim light from the hallway. I imagine them wrapped around me.

“Do you want some tea?” she asks.

“Actually, I’d like to go back to bed.” And forget all this crap about Leila.

“Well, I need some tea. Would you like to join me for a cup?” She moves to the stove, picks up the kettle, and begins to fill it with water.

I don’t want fucking tea. I want to bury myself in you and forget about Leila.

Ana gives me a pointed look and I realize she’s waiting for an answer about tea.

“Yes. Please.” Even to my own ears I sound surly.

What does Leila want with Ana?

And why the hell hasn’t Welch found her?

“What is it?” Ana asks a few minutes later. She’s holding a familiar-looking teacup.

Ana. Please. I don’t want you to worry about this.

“You’re not going to tell me?” she persists.

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because it shouldn’t concern you. I don’t want you tangled up in this.”

“It shouldn’t concern me, but it does. She found me and accosted me outside my office. How does she know about me? How does she know where I work? I think I have a right to know what’s going on.”

She has an answer for everything.

“Please?” she presses.

Oh, Ana. Ana. Ana. Why do you do this?

Her bright blue eyes beseech me.

Fuck. I can’t say no to that look.

“Okay.” You win. “I have no idea how she found you. Maybe the photograph of us in Portland, I don’t know.” With some reluctance I continue, “While I was with you in Georgia, Leila turned up at my apartment unannounced and made a scene in front of Gail.”

“Gail?”

“Mrs. Jones.”

“What do you mean made a scene?”

I shake my head.

“Tell me.” She puts her hands on her hips. “You’re keeping something back.”

“Ana, I—” Why is she so mad? I don’t want her mixed up in this. She doesn’t understand that Leila’s shame is my shame. Leila chose to attempt suicide in
my
apartment and I wasn’t there to help her; she cried out to me for a reason.

“Please?” Ana prompts again.

She won’t give up. I sigh with exasperation and tell her that Leila made a haphazard attempt at suicide.

“Oh no!”

“Gail got her to the hospital. But Leila discharged herself before I could get there. The shrink who saw her called it a typical cry for help. He didn’t believe her to be truly at risk—one step from suicidal ideation, he called it. But I’m not convinced. I’ve been trying to track her down since then to get her some help.”

“Did she say anything to Mrs. Jones?”

“Not much.”

“You can’t find her? What about her family?”

“They don’t know where she is. Neither does her husband.”

“Husband?” she exclaims.

“Yes.”
That lying asshole.
“She’s been married for about two years.”

“So she was with you while she was married?”

“No! Good God, no. She was with me nearly three years ago. Then she left and married this guy shortly afterward.”
I told you, baby, I don’t share.
I’ve only tangled with one married woman and that didn’t end well.

“So why is she trying to get your attention now?”

“I don’t know. All we’ve managed to find out is that she ran out on her husband about four months ago.”

Ana picks up a teaspoon and waves it as she talks. “Let me get this straight. She hasn’t been your submissive for three years?”

“About two and a half years.”

“And she wanted more.”

“Yes.”

“But you didn’t?”

“You know this.”

“So she left you.”

“Yes.”

“So why is she coming to you now?”

“I don’t know.” She wanted more, but I couldn’t give her that. Maybe she’s seen me with you?

“But you suspect—”

“I suspect it has something to do with you.” But I could be wrong.

Now can we go back to bed?

Ana studies me, surveying my chest. But I ignore her scrutiny and ask the question that’s been nagging me since she told me she’d seen Leila. “Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?”

Ana has the grace to look guilty. “I forgot about her. You know, drinks after work, at the end of my first week. You turning up at the bar and your testosterone rush with Jack.” She gives me a shy smile. “And then when we were here. It slipped my mind. You have a habit of making me forget things.”

I’d like to forget this now. Let’s go back to bed.

“Testosterone rush?” I repeat, amused.

“Yes. The pissing contest.”

“I’ll show you a testosterone rush.” My voice is low.

“Wouldn’t you rather have a cup of tea?” She offers me a cup.

“No, Anastasia, I wouldn’t.”
I want you. Now.
“Forget about her. Come.” I hold out my hand. She sets the teacup back on the counter and puts her hand in mine.

Back in her bedroom, I slide my shirt over her head. “I like you wearing my clothes,” I whisper.

“I like wearing them. They smell of you.”

I grasp her head between my hands and kiss her.

I want to make her forget about Leila.

I want to forget about Leila.

I pick her up and walk her to the concrete wall.

“Wrap your legs around me, baby,” I order.

WHEN I OPEN MY
eyes the room is bathed with light and Ana is awake beside me, tucked in the crook of my arm. “Hi,” she says, grinning as if she’s up to some mischief.

“Hi,” I respond, cautiously. Something is off. “What are you doing?”

“Looking at you.” She skims her hand down my belly. And my body comes to life.

Whoa!

I grab her hand.

Surely she’s sore after yesterday.

She licks her lips and her guilty grin is replaced with a knowledgeable, carnal smile.

Maybe not.

Waking up beside Anastasia Steele has definite advantages. Rolling on top of her, I grab her hands and pin her to the bed as she wriggles beneath me. “I think you’re up to no good, Miss Steele.”

“I like being up to no good near you.”

She may as well be addressing my groin directly.

“You do?” I give her a quick peck on the lips. She nods.

Oh, you beautiful girl.
“Sex or breakfast?”

She tilts her hips to meet me and it takes all my self-control not to take what she’s offering straightaway.

No. Make her wait.

“Good choice.” I kiss her throat, her clavicle, her sternum, her breast.

“Ah,” she breathes.

WE LIE IN THE
afterglow.

I don’t remember moments like this before Ana. I didn’t lie in bed just…being. I nuzzle her hair. All that’s changed.

She opens her eyes.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“Are you sore?” I ask.

Her cheeks pink. “No. Tired.”

I stroke her cheek. “You didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“Neither did you.” Her smile is one hundred percent coy Miss Steele, but her eyes cloud. “I haven’t been sleeping well, recently.”

Remorse—swift and ugly, flares in my gut. “I’m sorry,” I reply.

“Don’t apologize. It was my—”

I place my finger on her mouth. “Hush.”

She purses her lips to kiss my finger.

“If it’s any consolation,” I confess, “I haven’t slept well this past week, either.”

“Oh, Christian,” she says, and, taking my hand, kisses each knuckle in turn. It’s an affectionate, humble gesture. My throat constricts as my heart expands. I’m on the edge of something unknown, a plain where the horizon disappears and the territory is new and unexplored.

It’s terrifying.

It’s confusing.

It’s exciting.

What are you doing to me, Ana?

Where are you leading me?

I take a deep breath and focus on the woman beside me. She gives me a sexy smile and I can see us spending the entire day in bed, but I realize I’m hungry. “Breakfast?” I ask.

“Are you offering to make breakfast or demanding to be fed, Mr. Grey?” she teases.

“Neither. I’ll buy you breakfast. I’m no good in the kitchen, as I demonstrated last night.”

“You have other qualities,” she says with a playful smirk.

“Why, Miss Steele, whatever do you mean?”

She narrows her eyes. “I think you know.” She’s teasing me. She sits up slowly, swinging her legs out of bed. “You can shower in Kate’s bathroom. It’s bigger than mine.”

Of course it is.

“I’ll use yours. I like being in your space.”

“I like you being in my space, too.” She winks, gets up, and struts out of the bedroom.

Brazen Ana.

WHEN I RETURN FROM
the cramped shower, I find Ana dressed in jeans and a tight T-shirt that leaves little to my imagination. She’s messing with her hair.

As I yank on my jeans I feel the Audi key in my pocket. I wonder how she’ll react when I give it back to her. She seemed to take the iPad well.

“How often do you work out?” she asks, and I realize she’s watching me in the mirror.

“Every weekday.”

“What do you do?”

BOOK: Darker
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