Meet Fifty Shades
Monday, May 9, 2011
“Tomorrow,” I mutter, dismissing Claude Bastille as he stands on the threshold of
“Golf, this week, Grey.” Bastille grins with easy arrogance, knowing that his
victory on the golf course is assured.
I scowl after him as he turns and leaves. His parting words rub salt into my
wounds because despite my heroic attempts in the gym this morning, my personal
trainer has kicked my ass. Bastille is the only one who can beat me, and now he
wants another pound of flesh on the golf course. I detest golf, but so much business
is done on the fairways I have to endure his lessons there too . . . and though
I hate to admit it, Bastille does go some way to improving my game.
As I stare out at the Seattle skyline, the familiar ennui seeps into my consciousness.
My mood is as flat and gray as the weather. My days are blending together
with no distinction, and I need some kind of diversion. I’ve worked all
weekend and now, in the continued confines of my office, I’m restless. I shouldn’t
feel this way, not after several bouts with Bastille. But I do.
I frown. The sobering truth is that the only thing to capture my interest recently
has been my decision to send two freighters of cargo to Sudan. This reminds
me—Ros is supposed to come back to me with numbers and logistics.
What the hell is keeping her? Intent on finding out what she’s playing at, I glance
at my schedule and reach for the phone.
Oh, Christ! I have to endure an interview with the persistent Miss Kavanagh
for the WSU student magazine. Why the fuck did I agree to this? I loathe interviews—
inane questions from inane, ill-informed, vacuous idiots. The phone
“Yes,” I snap at Andrea as if she’s to blame. At least I can keep this interview
“Miss Anastasia Steele is here to see you, Mr. Grey.”
“Steele? I was expecting Katherine Kavanagh.”
“It’s Miss Anastasia Steele who’s here, sir.”
I scowl. I hate the unexpected. “Show her in,” I mutter, aware that I sound
like a sulky teen but not giving a fuck.
Well, well . . . Miss Kavanagh is unavailable. I know her father, the owner of
Kavanagh Media. We’ve done business together, and he seems like a shrewd operator
and a rational human being. This interview is a favor to him—one that I
mean to cash in later when it suits me. And I have to admit I was vaguely curious
about his daughter, interested to see if the apple had fallen far from the tree.
A commotion at the door brings me to my feet as a whirl of long chestnut
hair, pale limbs, and brown boots dives head first into my office. I roll my eyes
and repress my natural annoyance at such clumsiness as I hurry over to the girl
who has landed on her hands and knees on the floor. Clasping her slim shoulders,
I help her to her feet.
Clear, bright-blue, embarrassed eyes meet mine and halt me in my tracks.
They are the most extraordinary color—guileless, powder-blue—and for one awful
moment, I think she can see right through me. I feel . . . exposed. The thought
is unnerving. She has a small, sweet face that is blushing now, an innocent pale
rose. I wonder briefly if all her skin is like that—flawless—and what it would
look like pink and warmed from the bite of a cane. Fuck. I stop my wayward
thoughts, alarmed at their direction. What the fuck are you thinking, Grey. This
girl is much too young. She gapes at me, and I almost roll my eyes again. Yeah,
yeah, baby, it’s just a face, and the beauty is only skin-deep. I want to dispel that
unguarded, admiring look from those big blue eyes.
Showtime, Grey. Let’s have some fun. “Miss Kavanagh? I’m Christian Grey.
Are you all right? Would you like to sit?”
There’s that blush again. In command once more, I study her. She’s quite attractive,
in a gauche way—slight, pale, with a mane of mahogany hair barely contained
by a hair tie. A brunette. Yeah, she’s attractive. I extend my hand, and she
stutters the beginning of a mortified apology and places her small hand in mine.
Her skin is cool and soft, but her handshake surprisingly firm.
“Miss Kavanagh is indisposed, so she sent me. I hope you don’t mind, Mr.
Grey.” Her voice is quiet with a hesitant musicality, and she blinks erratically,
long lashes fluttering over those big blue eyes.
Unable to keep the amusement from my voice as I recall her less-than-elegant
entrance into my office, I ask who she is.
“Anastasia Steele. I’m studying English Literature with Kate, um . . . Katherine
. . . um . . . Miss Kavanagh at Washington State.”
A nervous, bashful, bookish type, eh? She looks it; hideously dressed, hiding
her slight frame beneath a shapeless sweater and an A-line brown skirt. Christ,
does she have no dress sense at all? She looks nervously around my office—
everywhere but at me, I note with amused irony.
How can this young woman be a journalist? She doesn’t have an assertive
bone in her body. She’s all charmingly flustered, meek, mild . . . submissive. I
shake my head, bemused at where my inappropriate thoughts are going. Muttering
some platitude, I ask her to sit, then notice her discerning gaze appraising my
office paintings. Before I can stop myself, I find I’m explaining them. “A local
“They’re lovely. Raising the ordinary to extraordinary,” she says dreamily,
lost in the exquisite, fine artistry of my paintings. Her profile is delicate—an upturned
nose, soft, full lips—and in her words she has mirrored my sentiments exactly.
“The ordinary raised to extraordinary.” It’s a keen observation. Miss
Steele is bright.
I mutter my agreement and watch that flush creep slowly over her skin once
more. As I sit down opposite her, I try to bridle my thoughts.
She fishes a crumpled sheet of paper and a mini-disc recorder out of her
overly large bag. Mini-disc recorder? Didn’t those go out with VHS tapes?
Christ—she’s all thumbs, dropping the damned thing twice on my Bauhaus coffee
table. She’s obviously never done this before, but for some reason I can’t fathom,
I find it amusing. Normally this kind of fumbling maladroitness irritates the fuck
out of me, but now I hide my smile beneath my index finger and resist the urge to
set it up for her myself.
As she grows more and more flustered, it occurs to me that I could refine her
motor skills with the aid of a riding crop. Adeptly used it can bring even the most
skittish to heel. The errant thought makes me shift in my chair. She peeks up at
me and bites down on her full bottom lip. Fuck me! How did I not notice that
“Sorry, I’m not used to this.”
I can tell, baby—my thought is ironic—but right now I don’t give a fuck, because
I can’t take my eyes off your mouth.
“Take all the time you need, Miss Steele.” I need yet another moment to marshal
my wayward thoughts. Grey . . . stop this, now.
“Do you mind if I record your answers?” she asks, her face candid and
I want to laugh. Oh, thank Christ.
“After you’ve taken so much trouble to set up the recorder, you ask me
now?” She blinks, her eyes large and lost for a moment, and I feel an unfamiliar
twinge of guilt. Stop being such a shit, Grey.
“No, I don’t mind,” I mutter, not wanting to be responsible for that look.
“Did Kate—I mean Miss Kavanagh—explain what the interview was for?”
“Yes, to appear in the graduation issue of the student newspaper as I shall be
conferring the degrees at this year’s graduation ceremony.” Why the fuck I’ve
agreed to do that, I don’t know. Sam in PR tells me it’s an honor, and the environmental
science department in Vancouver needs the publicity in order to attract additional
funding to match the grant I’ve given them.
Miss Steele blinks, all big blue eyes once more, as if my words are a surprise
and fuck—she looks disapproving! Hasn’t she done any background work for this
interview? She should know this. The thought cools my blood. It’s . . . displeasing,
not what I expect from her or anyone I give my time to.
“Good. I have some questions, Mr. Grey.” She tucks a lock of hair behind her
ear, distracting me from my annoyance.
“I thought you might,” I mutter dryly. Let’s make her squirm. Obligingly she
squirms, then pulls herself together, sitting up straight and squaring her small
shoulders. Leaning forward she presses the start button on the mini-disc, and
frowns as she glances down at her crumpled notes.
“You’re very young to have amassed such an empire. To what do you owe
Oh Christ! Surely she can do better than this? What a fucking dull question.
Not one iota of originality. It’s disappointing. I trot out my usual response about
having exceptional people in the U.S. working for me. People I trust, insofar as I
trust anyone, and pay well—blah, blah, blah . . . But Miss Steele, the simple fact
is, I’m a fucking genius at what I do. For me it’s like falling off a log. Buying ailing,
mismanaged companies and fixing them, or if they’re really broken, stripping
their assets and selling them off to the highest bidder. It’s simply a question of
knowing the difference between the two, and invariably it comes down to the
people in charge. To succeed in business you need good people, and I can judge a
person, better than most.
“Maybe you’re just lucky,” she says quietly.
Lucky? A frisson of annoyance runs through me. Lucky? No fucking luck involved
here, Miss Steele. She looks unassuming and quiet, but this question? No
one has ever asked me if I was lucky. Hard work, bringing people with me, keeping
a close watch on them, second-guessing them if I need to; and if they aren’t up
to the task, ruthlessly ditching them. That’s what I do, and I do it well. It’s nothing
to do with luck! Well, fuck that. Flaunting my erudition, I quote the words of
my favorite American industrialist to her.
“You sound like a control freak,” she says, and she’s perfectly serious.
What the fuck?
Maybe those guileless eyes can see though me. Control is my middle name.
I glare at her. “Oh, I exercise control in all things, Miss Steele.” And I’d like
to exercise it over you, right here, right now.
Her eyes widen. That attractive blush steals across her face once more, and
she bites that lip again. I ramble on, trying to distract myself from her mouth.
“Besides, immense power is acquired by assuring yourself, in your secret reveries,
that you were born to control things.”
“Do you feel that you have immense power?” she asks in a soft soothing
voice, but she arches her delicate brow, revealing the censure in her eyes. My annoyance
grows. Is she deliberately trying to goad me? Is it her questions, her attitude,
or the fact that I find her attractive that’s pissing me off?
“I employ over forty thousand people, Miss Steele. That gives me a certain
sense of responsibility—power, if you will. If I were to decide I was no longer interested
in the telecommunications business and sell up, twenty thousand people
would struggle to make their mortgage payments after a month or so.”
Her mouth pops open at my response. That’s more like it. Suck it up, Miss
Steele. I feel my equilibrium returning.
“Don’t you have a board to answer to?”
“I own my company. I don’t answer to a board,” I respond sharply. She
should know this. I raise a questioning brow.
“And do you have any interests outside of your work?” she continues hastily,
correctly gauging my reaction. She knows I’m pissed, and for some inexplicable
reason this pleases me enormously.
“I have varied interests, Miss Steele. Very varied.” I smile. Images of her in
assorted positions in my playroom flash through my mind: shackled on the cross,
spread-eagle on the four-poster, splayed over the whipping bench. Fucking hell!
Where is this coming from? And behold—there’s that blush again. It’s like a defense
mechanism. Calm down, Grey.
“But if you work so hard, what do you do to chill out?”
“Chill out?” I grin, those words out of her smart mouth sound odd. Besides
when do I get time to chill out? Has she no idea of the number of companies I
control? But she looks at me with those ingenuous blue eyes, and to my surprise I
find myself considering her question. What do I do to chill out? Sailing, flying,
fucking . . . testing the limits of little brown-haired girls like her, and bringing
them to heel . . . The thought makes me shift in my seat, but I answer her
smoothly, omitting my two favorite hobbies.
“You invest in manufacturing. Why, specifically?”
Her question drags me rudely back to the present.
“I like to build things. I like to know how things work, what makes things
tick, how to construct and deconstruct. And I have a love of ships. What can I
say?” They distribute food around the planet—taking goods from the haves to the
have-nots and back again. What’s not to like?
“That sounds like your heart talking, rather than logic and facts.”
Heart? Me? Oh no, baby. My heart was savaged beyond recognition a long
time ago. “Possibly, though there are people who’d say I don’t have a heart.”
“Why would they say that?”
“Because they know me well.” I give her a wry smile. In fact no one knows
me that well, except maybe Elena. I wonder what she would make of little Miss
Steele here. The girl is a mass of contradictions: shy, uneasy, obviously bright,
and arousing as hell. Yes, okay, I admit it. She’s an alluring little piece.
She recites the next question by rote.
“Would your friends say you’re easy to get to know?”
“I’m a very private person, Miss Steele. I go a long way to protect my privacy.
I don’t often give interviews.” Doing what I do, living the life I’ve chosen, I
need my privacy.
“Why did you agree to do this one?”
“Because I’m a benefactor of the university, and for all intents and purposes,
I couldn’t get Miss Kavanagh off my back. She badgered and badgered my PR
people, and I admire that kind of tenacity.” But I’m glad it’s you who turned up
and not her.
“You also invest in farming technologies. Why are you interested in this
“We can’t eat money, Miss Steele, and there are too many people on this
planet who don’t have enough to eat.” I stare at her, poker-faced.
“That sounds very philanthropic. Is that something you feel passionately
about? Feeding the world’s poor?” She regards me with a quizzical expression as
if I’m some kind of conundrum for her to solve, but there is no way I want those
big blue eyes seeing into my dark soul. This is not an area open to discussion.
“It’s shrewd business.” I shrug, feigning boredom, and I imagine fucking her
smart mouth to distract myself from all thoughts of hunger. Yes, that mouth needs
training. Now that thought is appealing, and I let myself imagine her on her knees
“Do you have a philosophy? If so, what is it?” she recites by rote again.
“I don’t have a philosophy as such. Maybe a guiding principle, Carnegie’s ‘A
man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take
possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.’ I’m very singular, driven.
I like control . . . of myself and those around me.”
“So you want to possess things?” Her eyes widen.
Yes, baby. You, for one.
“I want to deserve to possess them, but yes, bottom line, I do.”
“You sound like the ultimate consumer.” Her voice is tinged with disapproval,
pissing me off again. She sounds like a rich kid who’s had all she ever wanted,
but as I take a closer look at her clothes—she’s dressed in Walmart, or Old Navy
possibly—I know that isn’t it. She hasn’t grown up in an affluent household.
I could really take care of you.
Shit, where the fuck did that come from? Although, now that I consider it, I
do need a new sub. It’s been, what—two months since Susannah? And here I am,
salivating over this brown-haired girl. I try a smile and agree with her. Nothing
wrong with consumption—after all, it drives what’s left of the American
“You were adopted. How far do you think that’s shaped the way you are?”
What the fuck does this have to do with the price of oil? I scowl at her. What
a ridiculous question. If I’d stayed with the crack whore, I’d probably be dead. I
blow her off with a non-answer, trying to keep my voice level, but she pushes me,
demanding to know my how old I was when I was adopted. Shut her down, Grey!
“That’s a matter of public record, Miss Steele.” My voice is arctic. She
should know this shit. Now she looks contrite. Good.
“You’ve had to sacrifice a family life for your work.”
“That’s not a question,” I snap.
She blushes again and bites down on that damned lip. But she has the grace
“Have you had to sacrifice a family life for your work?”
What do I want with a fucking family?
“I have a family. I have a brother and a sister and two loving parents. I’m not
interested in extending my family beyond that.”
“Are you gay, Mr. Grey?”
What the fuck! I cannot believe she’s said that out loud! The unspoken question
that my own family dares not ask, much to my amusement. How dare she! I
have to fight down the urge to drag her out of her seat, bend her across my knee,
and spank the living shit out of her, then fuck her over my desk with her hands
tied tightly behind her back. That would answer her question. How frustrating is
this female? I take a deep calming breath. To my vindictive delight, she appears to
be acutely embarrassed by her own question.
“No, Anastasia, I’m not.” I raise my eyebrows, but keep my expression impassive.
Anastasia. It is a lovely name. I like the way my tongue rolls around it.
“I apologize. It’s um . . . written here.” Nervously, she tucks her hair behind
She doesn’t know her own questions? Perhaps they’re not hers. I ask her, and
she pales. Fuck, she really is very attractive, in an understated sort of way. I
would even go so far as to say she is beautiful.
“Er . . . no. Kate—Miss Kavanagh—she compiled the questions.”
“Are you colleagues on the student paper?”
“No, she’s my roommate.”
No wonder she is all over the place. I scratch my chin, debating whether to
give her a really, really hard time.
“Did you volunteer to do this interview?” I ask, and I’m rewarded with her
submissive look: eyes large, nervous about my reaction. I like the effect I have on
“I was drafted. She’s not well,” she says softly.
“That explains a great deal.”
There’s a knock at the door, and Andrea appears. “Mr. Grey, forgive me for
interrupting, but your next meeting is in two minutes.”
“We’re not finished here, Andrea. Please cancel my next meeting.”
Andrea hesitates, gaping at me. I stare at her. Out! Now! I’m busy with Little
Miss Steele here. Andrea blushes scarlet, but recovers quickly.
“Very well, Mr. Grey,” she says, and turning on her heel, she leaves us.
I turn my attention back to the intriguing, frustrating creature on my couch.
“Where were we, Miss Steele?”
“Please don’t let me keep you from anything.”
Oh no, baby. It’s my turn now. I want to know if there are any secrets to uncover
behind those beautiful eyes.
“I want to know about you. I think that’s only fair.” As I lean back and press
my fingers to my lips, her eyes flick to my mouth and she swallows. Oh, yes—the
usual effect. And it is gratifying to know she isn’t completely oblivious to my
“There’s not much to know,” she says, her blush returning. I’m intimidating
“What are your plans after you graduate?”
She shrugs. “I haven’t made any plans, Mr. Grey. I just need to get through
my final exams.”
“We run an excellent internship program here.” Fuck. What possessed me to
say that? I’m breaking a golden rule—never, ever fuck the staff. But Grey, you’re
not fucking this girl. She looks surprised, and her teeth sink into that lip again.
Why is that so arousing?
“Oh. I’ll bear that in mind,” she mumbles. Then as an afterthought she says,
“Though I’m not sure I’d fit in here.”
Why the hell not? What’s wrong with my company?
“Why do you say that?” I ask.
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“Not to me.” I’m confounded by her response.
She’s flustered again as she reaches for the mini-disc recorder. Shit, she’s going.
Mentally I run through my schedule for that afternoon—there is nothing that
“Would you like me to show you around?”
“I’m sure you’re far too busy, Mr. Grey, and I do have a long drive.”“You’re
driving back to WSU in Vancouver?” I glance out the window. It’s one hell of a
drive, and it’s raining. Shit. She shouldn’t be driving in this weather, but I can’t
forbid her. The thought irritates me. “Well, you’d better drive carefully.” My
voice is sterner than I intend.
She fumbles with the mini-disc. She wants out of my office, and for some
reason I can’t explain, I don’t want her to go.
“Did you get everything you need?” I add in a transparent effort to prolong
“Yes, sir,” she says quietly.
Her response floors me—the way those words sound, coming out of that
smart mouth—and briefly I imagine that mouth at my beck and call.
“Thank you for the interview, Mr. Grey.”
“The pleasure’s been all mine,” I respond–truthfully, because I haven’t been
this fascinated by anyone in a long while. The thought is unsettling.
She stands and I extend my hand, eager to touch her.
“Until we meet again, Miss Steele.” My voice is low as she places her small
hand in mine. Yes, I want to flog and fuck this girl in my playroom. Have her
bound and wanting . . . needing me, trusting me. I swallow. It ain’t going to happen,
“Mr. Grey.” She nods and withdraws her hand quickly . . . too quickly.
Shit, I can’t let her go like this. It’s obvious she is desperate to leave. Irritation
and inspiration hit me simultaneously as I see her out.
“Just ensuring you make it through the door, Miss Steele.”
She blushes on cue, her delicious shade of pink.
“That’s very considerate, Mr. Grey,” she snaps.
Miss Steele has teeth! I grin behind her as she exits, and I follow in her wake.
Both Andrea and Olivia look up in shock. Yeah, yeah. I’m just seeing the girl out.
“Did you have a coat?” I ask.
I scowl at simpering Olivia, who immediately leaps up to retrieve a navy
coat. Taking it, I glare at her to sit down. Christ, Olivia is annoying—mooning
over me all the time.
Hmm. The coat is from Walmart. Miss Anastasia Steele should be better
dressed. I hold it up for her, and as I pull it over her slim shoulders, I touch the
skin at the base of her neck. She stills at the contact and pales. Yes! She is affected
by me. The knowledge is immensely pleasing. Strolling over to the elevator, I
press the call button while she stands fidgeting beside me.
Oh, I could so stop your fidgeting, baby.
The doors open and she scurries in then turns to face me.
“Anastasia,” I murmur, saying good-bye.
“Christian,” she whispers. And the elevator doors close, leaving my name
hanging in the air, sounding odd, unfamiliar, but sexy as hell.
Well, fuck me. What was that?
I need to know more about this girl. “Andrea,” I snap as I stalk back into my
office. “Get me Welch on the line, now.”
As I sit at my desk and wait for the call, I look at the paintings on the wall of
my office, and Miss Steele’s words drift back to me. “Raising the ordinary to extraordinary.”
She could so easily have been describing herself.
My phone buzzes.
“I have Mr. Welch on the line for you.”
“Put him through.”
“Welch, I need a background check.”
I pore over the executive summary for the hundredth time since I received it
two days ago, looking for some insight into the enigmatic Miss Anastasia Rose
Steele. I cannot get the damned woman out of my mind, and it’s seriously beginning
to piss me off. This past week, during particularly dull meetings, I’ve found
myself replaying the interview in my head. Her fumbling fingers on the recorder,
the way she tucked her hair behind her ear, the lip biting. Yes. The fucking lip biting
gets me every time.
And now, here I am, parked outside Clayton’s, the modest hardware store on
the outskirts of Portland where she works.
You’re a fool, Grey. Why are you here?
I knew it would lead to this. All week . . . I knew I’d have to see her again.
I’d known it since she uttered my name in the elevator and disappeared into the
depths of my building. I’d tried to resist. I’d waited five days, five fucking days to
see if I’d forget about her. And I don’t do waiting. I hate waiting . . . for anything.
I’ve never actively pursued a woman before. The women I’ve had understood
what I expected of them. My fear now is that Miss Steele is just too young and
that she won’t be interested in what I have to offer . . . will she? Will she even
make a good submissive? I shake my head. There’s only one way to find out . . .
so here I am, a fucking ass, sitting in a suburban parking lot in a dreary part of
Her background check has produced nothing remarkable—except the last
fact, which has been at the forefront of my mind. It’s the reason I’m here. Why no
boyfriend, Miss Steele? Sexual orientation unknown—perhaps she’s gay. I snort,
thinking that unlikely. I recall the question she asked during the interview, her
acute embarrassment, the way her skin flushed a pale rose . . . Shit. I’ve been suffering
from these ludicrous thoughts since I met her.
That’s why you’re here.
I’m itching to see her again—those blue eyes have haunted me, even in my
dreams. I haven’t mentioned her to Flynn, and I’m glad because I’m now behaving
like a stalker. Perhaps I should let him know. I roll my eyes—I don’t want
him hounding me about his latest solution-based shit. I just need a distraction . . .
and right now the only distraction I want is working as a salesclerk in a hardware
You’ve come all this way. Let’s see if little Miss Steele is as appealing as you
remember. Showtime, Grey. I climb out of the car and stroll across the lot to the
front door. A bell chimes a flat electronic note as I walk in.
The store is much bigger than it looks from the outside, and although it is almost
lunchtime the place is quiet, for a Saturday. There are aisles and aisles of the
usual crap you’d expect. I’d forgotten the possibilities that a hardware store could
present to someone like me. I mainly shop online for my needs, but while I’m
here, maybe I’ll stock up on a few items . . . Velcro, split rings—Yeah. I’ll find
the delectable Miss Steele and have some fun.
It takes me all of three seconds to spot her. She’s hunched over the counter,
staring intently at a computer screen and picking at her lunch—a bagel. Unthinking,
she wipes a crumb from the corner of her lips and into her mouth and sucks
on her finger. My cock twitches in response. Fuck! What am I, fourteen? My reaction
is fucking irritating. Maybe this adolescent response will stop if I fetter, fuck,
and flog her . . . and not necessarily in that order. Yeah. That’s what I need.
She is thoroughly absorbed in her task, and it gives me an opportunity to
study her. Salacious thoughts aside, she is attractive, seriously attractive. I’ve remembered
She glances up and freezes, pinning me with intelligent, discerning eyes—the
bluest of blue that seem to see right through me. It’s as unnerving as the first time
I met her. She just stares, shocked I think, and I don’t know if this is a good response
or a bad response.
“Miss Steele. What a pleasant surprise.”
“Mr. Grey,” she whispers, breathy and flustered. Ah . . . a good response.
“I was in the area. I need to stock up on a few things. It’s a pleasure to see
you again, Miss Steele.” A real pleasure. She’s dressed in tight T-shirt and jeans,
not the shapeless shit she was wearing earlier this week. She’s all long legs, small
waist, and perfect tits. She continues to gape, and I have to resist the urge to reach
out and tip her chin up to close her mouth. I’ve flown from Seattle just to see you,
and the way you look right now, it was worth the journey.
“Ana. My name’s Ana. What can I help you with, Mr. Grey?” She takes a
deep breath, squares her shoulders like she did in the interview, and gives me a
fake smile that I’m sure she reserves for customers.
Game on, Miss Steele.
“There are a few items I need. To start with, I’d like some cable ties.”
Her lips part as she inhales sharply.
You’d be amazed what I can do with a few cable ties, Miss Steele.
“We stock various lengths. Shall I show you?”
“Please. Lead the way, Miss Steele.”
She steps out from behind the counter and gestures toward one of the aisles.
She’s wearing chucks. Idly I wonder what she’d look like in skyscraper heels.
Laboutins . . . nothing but Laboutins.
“They’re in with the electrical goods, aisle eight.” Her voice wavers and she
blushes . . . again.
She is affected by me. Hope blooms in my chest. Not gay then. I smirk.
“After you,” I murmur, holding my hand out for her to lead the way. Letting
her walk ahead gives me the space and time to admire her fantastic ass. She really
is the whole package: sweet, polite, and beautiful with all the physical attributes I
value in a submissive. But the million-dollar question is, could she be a
submissive? She probably knows nothing of the lifestyle—my lifestyle—but I
very much want to introduce her to it. You are getting way ahead of yourself on
this deal, Grey.
“Are you in Portland on business?” she asks, interrupting my thoughts. Her
voice is high, trying to feign disinterest. It makes me want to laugh, which is refreshing.
Women rarely make me laugh.
“I was visiting the WSU farming division based in Vancouver.” I lie. Actually
I’m here to see you, Miss Steele.
She flushes, and I feel like a shit.
“I’m currently funding some research there in crop rotation and soil science.”
That, at least, is true.
“All part of your feed-the-world plan?” Her lips shift to a half-smile.
“Something like that.” I mutter. Is she laughing at me? Oh I’d love to put a
stop to that if she is. But how to start? Maybe with dinner, rather than the usual interview
. . . now that would be novel; taking a prospect out to dinner.
We arrive at the cable ties, which are arranged in an assortment of lengths
and colors. Absentmindedly my fingers trace over the packets. I could just ask her
out for dinner. Like on a date? Would she come? When I glance at her she’s examining
her knotted fingers. She can’t look at me . . . this is promising. I select
the longer ties. They are more flexible after all—they can accommodate two
ankles and two wrists at once.
“These will do,” I murmur, and she blushes, again.
“Is there anything else?” she says quickly—either she’s being super attentive
or she wants to get me out of the store, I don’t know which.
“I’d like some masking tape.”
“Are you redecorating?”
I suppress my snort. “No, not redecorating.” I haven’t held a paintbrush in a
long time. The thought makes me smile, I have people to do all that shit.
“This way,” she murmurs, looking chagrined. “Masking tape is in the decorating
Come on Grey. You don’t have long. Engage her in some conversation.
“Have you worked here long?” Of course, I already know the answer. Unlike
some people, I do my research. She blushes once more—Christ, this girl is shy. I
don’t have a hope in hell. She turns quickly and walks down the aisle toward the
section labeled DECORATING. I follow her eagerly. What am I, a fucking puppy?
“Four years,” she mumbles as we reach the masking tape. She bends down
and grasps two rolls, each a different width.
“I’ll take that one,” I say. The wider tape is much more effective as a gag. As
she passes it to me, the tips of our fingers touch, briefly. It resonates in my groin.
She pales. “Anything else?” Her voice is soft and husky.
Christ, I’m having the same effect on her that she has on me. Maybe . . .
“Some rope, I think.”
“This way.” She quickly scoots up the aisle, giving me another chance to appreciate
her fine ass.
“What sort were you after? We have synthetic and natural filament rope . . .
twine . . . cable cord . . .”
Shit—stop. I groan inwardly, trying to chase away the image of her suspended
from the ceiling in my playroom.
“I’ll take five yards of the natural filament rope, please.” It’s coarser and
chafes more if you struggle against it . . . my rope of choice.
A tremor runs through her fingers, but she efficiently measures out five
yards. Pulling a utility knife from her right pocket, she cuts the rope in one swift
gesture, coils it neatly, and ties it off with a slipknot. Impressive.
“Were you a Girl Scout?”
“Organized group activities aren’t really my thing, Mr. Grey.”
“What is your thing, Anastasia?” I catch her gaze, and her irises dilate as I
“Books,” she whispers.
“What kind of books?”
“Oh, you know. The usual. The classics. British literature, mainly.”
British literature? Bronte and Austen, I bet. All those romantic hearts and
flowers types. Fuck. That’s not good.
“Anything else you need?”
“I don’t know. What else would you recommend?” I want to see her reaction.
“For a do-it-yourselfer?” she asks, surprised.
I want to hoot with laughter. Oh baby, DIY is not my thing. I nod, stifling my
mirth. Her eyes flick down my body and I tense. She is checking me out! Fuck
“Coveralls,” she blurts out.
It’s the most unexpected thing I’ve heard out of her sweet, smart mouth since
the “are you gay” question.
“You wouldn’t want to ruin your clothing.” She gestures to my jeans, embarrassed
I can’t resist. “I could always take them off.”
“Um.” She flushes beet red and gazes down at the floor.
“I’ll take some coveralls. Heaven forbid I should ruin any clothing,” I murmur
to put her out of her misery. Without a word, she turns and walks briskly up
the aisle, and once again I follow in her enticing wake.
“Do you need anything else?” she says breathlessly, handing me a pair of
blue coveralls. She’s mortified, eyes still cast down, face flushed. Christ, she does
things to me.
“How’s the article coming along?” I ask in the hope she might relax a little.
She looks up and gives me a brief relieved smile. Finally. “I’m not writing it,
Katherine is. Miss Kavanagh. My roommate, she’s the writer. She’s very happy
with it. She’s the editor of the magazine, and she was devastated that she couldn’t
do the interview in person.”
It’s the longest sentence she’s addressed to me since we first met, and she’s
talking about someone else, not herself. Interesting.
Before I can comment, she adds, “Her only concern is that she doesn’t have
any original photographs of you.”
The tenacious Miss Kavanagh wants photographs. Publicity stills, eh? I can
do that. It will allow me to spend some more time with the delectable Miss Steele.
“What sort of photographs does she want?”
She gazes at me for a moment, then shakes her head.
“Well, I’m around. Tomorrow, perhaps . . .” I can stay in Portland. Work
from a hotel. A room at the Heathman, perhaps. I’ll need Taylor to come down,
bring my laptop and some clothes. Or Elliot—unless he’s screwing around, which
is his usual MO over the weekend.
“You’d be willing to attend a photo shoot?” She cannot contain her surprise.
I give her a brief nod. You’d be amazed what I’d do to spend more time with
you, Miss Steele . . . in fact, so am I.
“Kate will be delighted—if we can find a photographer.” She smiles and her
face lights up like a summer dawn. Christ, she’s breathtaking.
“Let me know about tomorrow.” I pull my card out of my wallet. “It has my
cell number on it. You’ll need to call before ten in the morning.” And if she
doesn’t, I’ll head on back to Seattle and forget about this stupid venture. The
thought depresses me.
“Okay.” She continues to grin.
“Ana!” We both turn as a young man, casually but expensively dressed, appears
at the far end of the aisle. He’s all fucking smiles for Miss Anastasia Steele.
Who the hell is this prick?
“Er . . . excuse me for a moment, Mr. Grey.” She walks toward him, and the
fucker engulfs her in a gorilla-like hug. My blood runs cold. It’s a primal response.
Get your motherfucking paws off her. I fist my hands and am only slightly
mollified when I see her make no move to hug him back.
They fall into a whispered conversation. Shit, maybe Welch’s facts were
wrong. Maybe this guy is her boyfriend. He looks the right age, and he can’t take
his greedy little eyes off her. He holds her for a moment at arm’s length, examining
her, then stands with his arm leisurely resting on her shoulder. It’s a seemingly
casual gesture, but I know he’s staking a claim and telling me to back off.
She seems embarrassed, shifting from foot to foot.
Shit. I should go. Then she says something else to him and moves out of his
reach, touching his arm, not his hand. It’s clear they aren’t close. Good.
“Er . . . Paul, this is Christian Grey. Mr. Grey, this is Paul Clayton. His brother
owns the place.” She gives me an odd look that I don’t understand and continues,
“I’ve known Paul ever since I’ve worked here, though we don’t see each other
that often. He’s back from Princeton where he’s studying business
The boss’s brother, not a boyfriend. The extent of the relief I feel is unexpected,
and it makes me frown. This woman has really gotten under my skin.
“Mr. Clayton.” My tone is deliberately clipped.
“Mr. Grey.” He shakes my hand limply. Wet fucker. “Wait up—not the
Christian Grey of Grey Enterprises Holdings?” In a heartbeat I watch him morph
from territorial to obsequious.
Yeah, that’s me, you prick.
“Wow—is there anything I can get you?”
“Anastasia has it covered, Mr. Clayton. She’s been very attentive.” Now fuck
“Cool,” he gushes all wide-eyed and deferential. “Catch you later, Ana.”
“Sure, Paul,” she says, and he ambles off, thank Christ. I watch him disappear
toward the back of the store.
“Anything else, Mr. Grey?”
“Just these items,” I mutter. Shit, I’m out of time, and I still don’t know if
I’m going to see her again. I have to know whether there’s a hope in hell she
might consider what I have in mind. How can I ask her? Am I ready to take on a
new submissive, one who knows nothing? Shit. She’s going to need substantial
training. I groan inwardly at all the interesting possibilities this presents . . .fuck
me, getting there is going to be half the fun. Will she even be interested? Or do I
have this all wrong?
She heads back to the cashier’s desk and rings up my purchases, all the while
keeping her gaze cast down. Look at me, dammit! I want to see her beautiful blue
eyes again and gauge what she’s thinking.
Finally she raises her head. “That will be forty-three dollars, please.”
Is that all?
“Would you like a bag?” she asks, slipping into salesclerk mode as I pass her
“Please, Anastasia.” Her name—a beautiful name for a beautiful girl—rolls
off my tongue.
She packs the items briskly and efficiently into the carrier. This is it. I have to
“You’ll call me if you want me to do the photo shoot?”
She nods as she hands back my charge card.
“Good. Until tomorrow, perhaps.” I can’t just leave. I have to let her know
I’m interested. “Oh, and Anastasia? I’m glad Miss Kavanagh couldn’t do the interview.”
Delighting in her stunned expression, I sling the bag over my shoulder
and saunter out of the store.
Yes, against my better judgment, I want her. Now I have to wait . . . fucking
wait . . . again.