Authors: E L James
You know how she feels about Elena.
Everything was going so well.
Make this right, Grey.
“I’m sorry, Ana. I didn’t know she’d be here. She’s never here. She’s opened a new branch at the Bravern Center, and that’s where she’s normally based. Someone was sick today.”
Ana turns abruptly and storms to the door.
“We won’t need Franco, Greta,” I inform the receptionist, annoyed that she may have heard our exchange. Hastily, I go after Ana.
She wraps her arms around herself defensively and marches up the street with her head down. I’m forced to take longer strides to catch up with her.
Ana. Stop. You’re overreacting.
She simply doesn’t understand the nature of Elena’s and my relationship.
As I walk beside her, I’m floundering. What do I do? What do I say? Perhaps Elena is right.
Can I do this?
I’ve never tolerated this kind of behavior from any submissive; what’s more, none of them have been this petulant.
But I hate it when she’s angry with me.
“You used to take your subs there?” she asks, and I don’t know if it’s a rhetorical question or not. I chance a reply.
“Some of them, yes.”
“The place looks very new.”
“It’s been refurbished recently.”
“I see. So Mrs. Robinson met all your subs.”
“Did they know about her?”
Not in the way you’re thinking. They never knew about our D/s relationship. They just thought we were friends. “No. None of them did. Only you.”
“But I’m not your sub.”
“No, you most definitely are not.” Because I certainly wouldn’t indulge this behavior from anyone else.
She stops suddenly and whirls around to face me, her expression bleak. “Can you see how fucked up this is?” she says.
“Yes. I’m sorry.” I didn’t know she was going to be there.
“I want to get my hair cut, preferably somewhere where you haven’t fucked either the staff or the clientele.” Her voice is hoarse and she’s on the verge of tears.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She turns to go.
“You’re not running. Are you?” Panic starts to well inside me. This is it. She’s out before we’ve even had a second chance.
Grey, you’ve blown it.
“No,” she shouts, exasperated. “I just want a damn haircut. Somewhere I can close my eyes, have someone wash my hair, and I can forget about all this baggage that accompanies you.”
She’s not leaving me. I take a deep breath. “I can have Franco come to the apartment, or your place,” I offer.
“She’s very attractive.”
Christ. Not this.
“Yes, she is.” So what?
Give it up, Ana.
“Is she still married?”
“No. She got divorced about five years ago.”
“Why aren’t you with her?”
Ana! Let it go.
“Because that’s over between us. I’ve told you this.” How many times do I need to tell her? My phone vibrates in my jacket pocket. I hold my finger up to stop her tirade and answer my phone. The caller ID says it’s Welch. I wonder what he has to report.
“Three things. We’ve tracked Mrs. Leila Reed to Spokane, where she’d been living with a man named
Geoffrey Barry. He was killed in an auto accident on I-90.”
“Killed in a car crash? When?”
“Four weeks ago. Her husband, Russell Reed, knew about Barry but still won’t disclose where Mrs. Reed has gone.”
“That’s twice that bastard’s not been forthcoming. He must know. Does he have no feelings for her whatsoever?” I’m staggered that her ex could be so heartless.
“He has feelings for her, but they’re certainly not matrimonial.”
“This is beginning to make sense.”
“Did the psychiatrist give you anything to go on?” Welch asks.
“Could she be suffering a kind of psychosis?”
I agree with Welch that this might be her condition, but it still doesn’t explain where she is, which is what I really want to know. I look around.
Where are you, Leila?
“She’s here. She’s watching us,” I mutter.
“Mr. Grey, we’re close. We’ll find her.” Welch tries to reassure me and asks if I’m at Escala.
“No.” I wish Ana and I weren’t so exposed here on the street.
“I’m considering how many people you need for your close protection team.”
“Two or four, twenty-four-seven.”
“Okay, Mr. Grey. Have you told Anastasia?”
“I haven’t broached that yet.” Ana’s watching me, listening. Her expression is intense but inscrutable.
“You should. There’s something else. Mrs. Reed has obtained a concealed-weapons license.”
“What?” Fear grips my heart.
“The details came up in our search this morning.”
“I see. When?”
“It’s dated yesterday.”
“That recently? But how?”
“She forged the papers.”
“No background checks?”
“All the forms are faked. She’s using a different name.”
“I see. E-mail the name, address, and photos if you have them.”
“Will do. And I’ll organize the additional security.”
“Twenty-four-seven, from this afternoon. Establish liaison with Taylor.” I hang up. This is serious.
“Well?” Ana asks.
“That was Welch.”
“My security adviser.”
“Okay. So, what’s happened?”
“Leila left her husband about three months ago and ran off with a guy who was killed in a car accident four weeks ago.”
“The asshole shrink should have found that out. Grief, that’s what this is.”
Damn. That hospital could have done a better job.
“Come.” I hold out my hand and Ana takes it without thinking. Then, just as abruptly, she snatches her hand away.
“Wait a minute. We were in the middle of a discussion about ‘us.’ About her, your Mrs. Robinson.”
“She’s not my Mrs. Robinson. We can talk about it at my place.”
“I don’t want to go to your place. I want to get my hair cut!” she yells.
I take my phone and call the salon. Greta answers immediately.
“Greta, Christian Grey. I want Franco at my place in an hour. Ask Mrs. Lincoln.”
“Yes, Mr. Grey.” She puts me on hold for a nanosecond. “That’s fine. He can be there at one.”
“Good.” I hang up. “He’s coming at one.”
“Christian!” Ana glares at me.
“Anastasia, Leila is obviously suffering a psychotic break. I don’t know if it’s you or me she’s after, or what lengths she’s prepared to go to. We’ll go to your place, pick up your things, and you can stay with me until we’ve tracked her down.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“So I can keep you safe.”
Give me strength.
“You are coming back to my apartment if I have to drag you there by your hair.”
“I think you’re overreacting.”
“I don’t. We can continue our discussion back at my place. Come.”
She glowers at me. Intractable. “No,” she says.
“You can walk or I can carry you. I don’t mind either way, Anastasia.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Oh, baby, we both know that if you throw down the gauntlet, I’ll be only too happy to pick it up.”
She narrows her eyes.
Ana. You give me no choice.
I scoop her up and throw her over my shoulder, ignoring the startled look of a couple walking past us.
“Put me down!” she rages, and starts to struggle. I tighten my hold on her and slap her behind.
“Christian!” she screeches. She’s mad. But I don’t give a fuck. An alarmed man—a father, I presume—pulls his young children out of our path.
“I’ll walk! I’ll walk,” she shrieks, and I put her down immediately. She whirls around so fast her hair hits my shoulder. She stomps off in the direction of her apartment and I follow, but I keep watch. Everywhere.
Where are you, Leila?
Behind a parked car? A tree?
What do you want?
Ana comes to a sudden stop. “What’s happened?” she demands.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve told you.”
“No, you haven’t. There’s something else. You didn’t insist that I go to your place yesterday. So what’s happened?”
Perceptive, Miss Steele.
“Christian! Tell me!”
“She managed to obtain a
concealed-weapons permit yesterday.”
Her whole demeanor changes. Anger turns to fear. “That means she can just buy a gun,” she whispers, horrified.
“Ana.” I pull her into my arms. “I don’t think she’ll do anything stupid, but I just don’t want to take that risk with you.”
“Not me. What about you?” she says, her voice filled with anguish. She wraps her arms around me and hugs me hard. She’s scared for me.
And a moment ago I thought she was leaving.
This is unreal.
“Let’s get back.” I kiss her hair. As we move on, I extend my arm around her shoulders and pull her to my side to protect her. She slips her hand into the belt loop of my jeans, holding me close, her fingers curled around my hip.
This…proximity is new. I could get used to it.
We walk back to her apartment and I keep an eye out for Leila.
I CONTEMPLATE THE RANGE
of emotions I’ve experienced since waking as I watch Ana pack a small suitcase. In the alley the other day I tried to articulate how I felt. The best I could do was “unsettled.” And that still describes my psyche right now. Ana is not the mild woman I remember—she’s far more audacious and volatile.
Has she changed so much since she left me?
Or have I?
It doesn’t help that there’s a whole new level of disquiet because of Leila. For the first time in a long time, I’m fearful. What if something were to happen to Ana because of my association with Leila? That whole situation is out of my control. And I don’t like it.
Ana, for her part, is solemn and unusually quiet. She folds the balloon into her backpack.
’s coming, too?” I tease.
She nods and gives me a tepid smile. She’s either scared or still mad about Elena. Or she’s pissed for being hoisted over my shoulder in the street. Or maybe it’s the twenty-four thousand dollars.
Damn, there’s a great deal to choose from. I wish I knew what she was thinking.
“Ethan is back Tuesday,” she says.
“Kate’s brother. He’s staying here until he finds a place in Seattle.”
Ah, the other Kavanagh progeny. The beach bum. I met him at her graduation. He had his hands all over Ana. “Well, it’s good that you’ll be staying with me. Give him more room.”
“I don’t know that he’s got keys. I’ll need to be back then. That’s everything,” she says.
Taking her case, I have a quick look around before we lock up. I note with displeasure that the apartment has no intruder alarm.
THE AUDI IS PARKED
out back where Taylor said it would be. I open the passenger door for Ana, but she stays rooted to the ground, staring at me.
“Are you getting in?” I ask, confused.
“I thought I was driving.”
“No. I’ll drive.”
“Something wrong with my driving?” she asks, and there’s that tone again. “Don’t tell me you know what I scored on my driving test. I wouldn’t be surprised, with your stalking tendencies.”
“Get in the car, Anastasia.” My patience is running thin.
Enough. You’re making me crazy. I want you home where you’ll be safe.
“Okay,” she huffs, and climbs in. She doesn’t live far from me, so our ride shouldn’t take long. Normally I would enjoy driving the small Audi. It’s nimble in Seattle’s traffic. But I’m distracted by every pedestrian. One of them could be Leila.
“Were all your submissives brunettes?” Ana asks out of nowhere.
“Yes.” But I don’t really want to discuss this. Our fledgling relationship is moving into dangerous territory.
“I just wondered.” She’s fidgeting with a tassel on her backpack; fidgeting means she’s apprehensive.
Put her at ease, Grey.
“I told you. I prefer brunettes.”
“Mrs. Robinson isn’t a brunette.”
“That’s probably why. She put me off blondes forever.”
“You’re kidding.” Ana’s disbelief is obvious.
“Yes. I’m kidding.” Do we really have to talk about this? My anxiety multiplies. If she keeps digging, I’ll confess my darkest secret.
I can never tell her. She’ll leave me.
Without a backward glance.
And I recall watching her walk up the street and into the garage at The Heathman after our first coffee.
She never looked back.
If I hadn’t contacted her about the photographer’s show…I wouldn’t be with her now.
Ana’s strong. If she says good-bye, she means it.
“Tell me about her,” Ana interrupts my thoughts.
Is she talking about Elena? Again? “What do you want to know?” More information about Mrs. Lincoln will only worsen her mood.
“Tell me about your business arrangement.”
Well, that’s easy enough. “I’m a silent partner. I’m not particularly interested in the beauty business, but she’s built it into a successful venture. I just invested and helped get her started.”
“I owed it to her.”
“When I dropped out of Harvard, she loaned me a hundred grand to start my business.”
“You dropped out?”
“It wasn’t my thing. I did two years. Unfortunately, my parents were not so understanding.”
“You’re what?” Grace scowls at me, her expression apoplectic.
“I want to leave. I’m going to start my own company.”
“Christian, what do you know about investments? You need to finish college.”
“Mom, I have a plan. I think I can do this.”
“Look, son, this is a huge step that could affect your entire future.”
“I know, Dad, but I can’t do it anymore. I don’t want to live in Cambridge for another two years.”
“Transfer. Come back to Seattle.”
“Mom, it’s not the place.”
“You just haven’t found your niche.”