Read Darker Online

Authors: E L James

Darker (6 page)

I wake, momentarily disoriented, my heart thudding like a klaxon, and I don’t know if it’s fear or excitement. I’m in the back of the Q7 and Ana is curled up asleep in my lap.

Ana.

She’s mine once more. And for a moment I feel giddy. A stupid grin splits my face and I shake my head. Have I ever felt like this? I’m excited for the future. I’m excited to see where our relationship will go. What new things we’ll try. There are so many possibilities.

I kiss her hair and rest my chin on her head. When I glance out of the window I notice that we’ve reached Seattle. Taylor’s eyes meet mine in the rearview mirror.

“Are we heading to Escala, sir?”

“No, Miss Steele’s.”

The corners of his eyes crinkle. “We’ll be there in five minutes,” he says.

Whoa. We’re nearly home.

“Thank you, Taylor.” I’ve slept longer than I thought possible in the back of a car. I wonder what time it is, but I don’t want to move my arm to check my watch as I’m holding her. I gaze down at my sleeping beauty. Her lips are gently parted, her dark lashes fanned out, shadowing her face. And I remember watching her sleep at The Heathman, that first time. She looked so peaceful then; she looks peaceful now. I’m reluctant to disturb her.

“Wake up, baby.” I kiss her hair. Her eyelashes flutter and she opens her eyes. “Hey,” I murmur in greeting.

“Sorry,” she mumbles as she sits up.

“I could watch you sleep forever, Ana.” No need to apologize.

“Did I say anything?” She looks worried.

“No,” I reassure her. “We’re nearly at your place.”

“We’re not going to yours?” She sounds surprised.

“No.”

She sits up straight and glares at me. “Why not?”

“Because you have work tomorrow.”

“Oh.” Her pout says all I need to know about her disappointment. I want to laugh out loud.

“Why, did you have something in mind?” I tease her.

She squirms in my lap.

Ow.

I still her with my hands.

“Well, maybe,” she says, looking anywhere but at me and sounding a little shy. I can’t help my laugh. She’s courageous in so many ways, and yet still so coy in others. And as I watch her, I realize that I’ve got to get her to open up about sex. If we’re going to be honest with each other, she has to tell me how she feels. Tell me what she needs. I want her to be confident enough to express her desires. All of them.

“Anastasia, I am not going to touch you again, not until you beg me to.”

“What!” She sounds a little upset.

“So that you’ll start communicating with me. Next time we make love, you’re going to have to tell me exactly what you want in fine detail.”

That will give you something to think about, Miss Steele.

I lift her off my lap when Taylor pulls up at the curb beside her apartment. I climb out of the car, walk to her door, and open it for her. She looks sleepy and adorable as she struggles out of the car.

“I have something for you.”

This is it.
Will she accept my gift? This is the final stage of my campaign to win her back. Opening the trunk, I grab the gift box that contains her Mac, her phone, and an iPad. She looks from the box to me with suspicion. “Open it when you get inside.”

“You’re not coming in?”

“No, Anastasia.” As much as I’d like to. We both need to sleep.

“So when will I see you?”

“Tomorrow?”

“My boss wants me to go for a drink with him tomorrow.”

What the hell does that fucker want? I must chase Welch for his report on Hyde. There’s something off about him that isn’t reflected in his employee records. I don’t trust him one bit. “Does he, now?” I try to sound nonchalant.

“To celebrate my first week,” she says, quickly.

“Where?”

“I don’t know.”

“I could pick you up from there.”

“Okay. I’ll e-mail or text you.”

“Good.”

We walk to the lobby door together and I watch, amused, as she rummages around in her purse for her keys. She unlocks the door and turns to say good-bye—and I can’t resist her any longer. Leaning down, I cup her chin in my fingers. I want to kiss her hard, but I hold back and trace soft kisses from her temple to her mouth. She moans and the sweet sound travels straight to my cock.

“Until tomorrow,” I say, failing to keep the desire out of my voice.

“Good night, Christian,” she whispers, and her longing echoes my own.

Oh, baby. Tomorrow. Not now.

“In you go,” I order, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: letting her leave knowing that she’s mine for the taking. My body ignores my noble gesture and stiffens in anticipation. I shake my head, amazed as ever by my lust for Ana.

“Laters, baby,” I call after her and, turning toward the street I head to the car, determined not to look back. Once I’m inside the car, I allow myself to look. She’s still there, standing on the doorstep, watching me.

Good.

Go to bed, Ana,
I will her. As if she hears me, she closes the door, and Taylor starts the car to head home to Escala.

I lean back in my seat.

What a difference a day makes.

I grin. She’s mine, once more.

I imagine her in her apartment, opening the box. Will she be pissed? Or will she be delighted?

She’ll be pissed.

She never took kindly to gifts.

Shit. Was it a step too far?

Taylor heads into the garage at Escala and we pull into the vacant parking space next to Ana’s A3. “Taylor, will you deliver Miss Steele’s Audi to her place tomorrow?” I hope she will accept the car, too.

“Yes, Mr. Grey.”

I leave him in the garage, doing whatever he does, and head for the elevator. Once inside, I check my phone to see if she has anything to say about the gifts. Just as the elevator doors open and I step into my apartment, there’s an e-mail.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
iPad

Date:
June 9 2011 23:56

To:
Christian Grey

You’ve made me cry again.

I love the iPad.

I love the songs.

I love the British Library app.

I love you.

Thank you.

Good night.

Ana xx

I grin at the screen.
Happy tears
,
great!

She loves it.

She loves me.

F
RIDAY
, J
UNE
10, 2011

S
he loves me.

It’s taken a three-hour car ride for me not to flinch at this thought. But then again, she doesn’t really know me. She doesn’t know what I’m capable of, or why I do what I do. No one can love a monster, no matter how compassionate they are.

I put the thought out of my mind because I don’t want to dwell on the negative.

Flynn would be proud.

Quickly, I type a response to her e-mail.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
iPad

Date:
June 10 2011 00:03

To:
Anastasia Steele

I’m glad you like it. I bought one for myself.

Now, if I were there, I would kiss away your tears.

But I’m not—so go to sleep.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I want her well rested for tomorrow. I stretch, feeling a contentment that’s entirely unfamiliar, and wander into my bedroom. Looking forward to collapsing into bed, I put my phone on the nightstand and notice there’s another e-mail from her.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Mr. Grumpy

Date:
June 10 2011 00:07

To:
Christian Grey

You sound your usual bossy and possibly tense, possibly grumpy self, Mr. Grey.

I know something that could ease that. But then, you’re not here—you wouldn’t let me stay, and you expect me to beg…

Dream on, Sir.

Ana xx

P.S.: I also note that you included the Stalker’s Anthem, “Every Breath You Take.” I do enjoy your sense of humor, but does Dr. Flynn know?

And there it is. The Anastasia Steele wit. I have missed it. I sit down on the edge of the bed and compose my reply.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
Zen-Like Calm

Date:
June 10 2011 00:10

To:
Anastasia Steele

My Dearest Miss Steele

Spanking occurs in vanilla relationships, too, you know. Usually consensually and in a sexual context…but I am more than happy to make an exception.

You’ll be relieved to know that Dr. Flynn also enjoys my sense of humor.

Now, please go to sleep, as you won’t get much tomorrow.

Incidentally—you will beg, trust me. And I look forward to it.

Christian Grey

Tense CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I watch my phone, waiting for her reply. I know that she won’t let this go. And, sure enough, her response appears.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Good Night, Sweet Dreams

Date:
June 10 2011 00:12

To:
Christian Grey

Well, since you ask so nicely, and I like your delicious threat, I shall curl up with the iPad that you have so kindly given me and fall asleep browsing in the British Library, listening to the music that says it for you.

A xxx

She likes my threat? Lord, she’s confusing. Then I remember her squirming in the car while we talked of spanking.

Oh, baby, it’s not a threat. It’s a promise.

I get up and wander into my closet to take off my jacket while I think of something to say.

She wants a softer approach; surely I can think of something.

And then it comes to me.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
One more request

Date:
June 10 2011 00:15

To:
Anastasia Steele

Dream of me.

x

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

Yes. Dream of me. I want to be the only one in her head. Not that photographer. Not her boss. Just me. I change quickly into PJ bottoms and brush my teeth.

As I slip into bed, I check my phone once more, but there’s nothing from Miss Steele. She must be asleep. When I close my eyes it occurs to me that I’ve not thought about Leila all evening. Anastasia has been so diverting, beautiful, funny…

THE RADIO ALARM WAKES
me for the first time since she left me. I’ve slept a soundless and dreamless sleep and I awake refreshed. My first thought is of Ana. How is she this morning? Has she changed her mind?

No. Stay positive.

Okay.

I wonder what her morning routine is?

Better.

And I get to see her this evening. I bound out of bed and into my sweats. My run will take me on my usual route to check on her building. But this time, I won’t linger. I’m a stalker no more.

MY FEET POUND THE
pavement. The sun is peeping through the buildings as I make my way to Ana’s street. It’s still quiet, but I have the Foo Fighters turned up loud and proud as I run. I wonder if I should be listening to something that’s more in sync with my mood. Maybe “Feeling Good.” Nina Simone’s version.

Too sappy, Grey. Keep running.

I dash past Ana’s building, and I don’t have to stop. I’ll see her later today. All of her. Feeling particularly pleased with myself, I wonder if perhaps we’ll end up here tonight.

Whatever we do, it will be up to Ana. We’re doing this her way.

I run up Wall Street, back home to begin my day.

“GOOD MORNING, GAIL.”
Even to my own ears I sound unusually hearty. Gail stops in her tracks in front of the stove and stares at me as if I’ve grown three heads. “I’ll have scrambled eggs and toast this morning,” I add, and wink at her as I head toward my study. Her chin drops, but she says nothing.

Ah, speechless Mrs. Jones. This is novel.

In my study, I check e-mails on my computer and there’s nothing that can’t wait until I get into the office. My thoughts stray to Ana and I wonder if she’s had breakfast.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
So Help Me…

Date:
June 10 2011 08:05

To:
Anastasia Steele

I do hope you’ve had breakfast.

I missed you last night.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

In the car, on the way to the office, I get a response.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Old books…

Date:
June 10 2011 08:33

To:
Christian Grey

I am eating a banana as I type. I have not had breakfast for several days, so it is a step forward. I love the British Library app—I started rereading
Robinson Crusoe
…and, of course, I love you.

Now leave me alone—I am trying to work.

Anastasia Steele

Assistant to Jack Hyde, Editor, SIP

Robinson Crusoe?
A man alone, stranded on a deserted island. Is she trying to tell me something?

And she loves me.

Loves. Me. And I’m surprised that those words are getting easier to hear…but not
that
easy.

So I shift my focus to what irritates me most about her e-mail.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
Is that all you’ve eaten?

Date:
June 10 2011 08:36

To:
Anastasia Steele

You can do better than that. You’re going to need your energy for begging.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

Taylor pulls up at the curb in front of
Grey House.

“Sir, I’ll take the Audi to Miss Steele’s this morning.”

“Great. Until later, Taylor. Thank you.”

“Good day, sir.”

In the elevator at Grey House, I read her response.

From:
Anastasia Steele

Subject:
Pest

Date:
June 10 2011 08:39

To:
Christian Grey

Mr. Grey—I am trying to work for a living—and it’s you who will be begging.

Anastasia Steele

Assistant to Jack Hyde, Editor, SIP

Ha! I don’t think so.

“Good morning, Andrea.” I give her a friendly nod as I stride past her desk.

“Um,” she stalls, but recovers quickly, because she’s ever the adept PA. “Good morning, Mr. Grey. Coffee?”

“Please. Black.” I close my office door, and when seated at my desk respond to Ana.

From:
Christian Grey

Subject:
Bring It On!

Date:
June 10 2011 08:42

To:
Anastasia Steele

Why, Miss Steele, I love a challenge…

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I LOVE THAT SHE’S
so feisty over e-mail. Life is never boring with Ana. I lean back in my chair with my hands behind my head, trying to understand my effervescent mood. When have I ever felt this cheerful? It’s frightening. She has the power to give me hope, and the power to make me despair. I know which I prefer. There’s a blank space on my office wall; perhaps one of her portraits should fill the void. Before I can brood on this further, there’s a knock on the door. Andrea enters, carrying my coffee.

“Mr. Grey, may I have a word?”

“Of course.”

She perches on the chair opposite me, looking nervous. “Do you remember I’m not here this afternoon and I’m not in on Monday?”

I stare at her, completely blank.
What the hell?
I don’t remember this. I hate it when she’s not here.

“I thought I should remind you,” she adds.

“Do you have someone covering for you?”

“Yes. HR is sending someone from another department. Her name is
Montana Brooks.”

“Okay.”

“It’s only a day and a half, sir.”

I laugh. “Do I look that worried?”

Andrea gives me a rare smile. “Yes, Mr. Grey, you do.”

“Well, whatever you’re up to, I hope it’s fun.”

She stands. “Thank you, sir.”

“Do I have anything scheduled for this weekend?”

“You have golf tomorrow with Mr.
Bastille.”

“Cancel it.” I’d rather have fun with Ana.

“Will do. You also have the masquerade ball at your parents’ place for
Coping Together,” Andrea reminds me.

“Oh. Damn.”

“It’s been in the schedule for months.”

“Yes. I know. Leave that.”

I wonder if Ana will come as my date?

“Okay, sir.”

“Did you find someone to replace
Senator Blandino’s daughter?”

“Yes, sir. Her name is Sarah Hunter. She starts on Tuesday when I’m back.”

“Good.”

“You have a nine o’clock with
Miss Bailey.”

“Thanks, Andrea. Get me Welch on the line.”

“Yes, Mr. Grey.”

ROS IS CONCLUDING HER
report on the Darfur airdrop. “Everything has gone as scheduled and early reports from the NGOs on the ground are that it’s come at the right time and to the right place,” Ros says. “Frankly, it’s been a huge success. We’re going to help so many people.”

“Great. Perhaps we should do it every year where it’s needed.”

“It’s expensive, Christian.”

“I know. But it’s the right thing to do. And it’s only money.”

She gives me a slightly exasperated look.

“Are we done?” I ask.

“For now, yes.”

“Good.”

She continues to regard me with curiosity.

What?

“I’m glad you’re back with us,” she says.

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean.” She gets up and gathers her papers. “You’ve been absent, Christian.” Her eyes narrow.

“I was here.”

“No, you weren’t. But I’m glad you’re back and focused, and you seem happier.” She gives me a broad smile and heads for the door.

Is it that obvious?

“I saw the photo in the paper this morning.”

“Photo?”

“Yes. You and a young woman at a photo exhibition.”

“Oh, yes.” I can’t hide my smile.

Ros nods. “I’ll see you later this afternoon for the meeting with Marco.”

“Sure.”

She leaves, and I’m left wondering how the rest of my staff will react to me today.

BARNEY, MY TECH WIZARD
and senior engineer, has produced three prototypes of the solar tablet. It’s a product I hope we’ll sell at a premium globally, and also underwrite philanthropically in the developing world. Democratizing technology is one of my passions—making it cheap, functional, and available in the poorest nations to help bring these countries out of poverty.

Later that morning we’re gathered in the lab discussing the prototypes that are scattered over the workbench. Fred, the VP of our telecom division, is making a pitch to incorporate the solar cells into the rear casing of each device.

“Why can’t we incorporate them into the entire casing of the tablet, even into the screen?” I ask.

Seven heads turn my way in unison.

“Not the screen, but a cover…maybe?” says Fred.

“Expense?” Barney pipes up at the same time.

“This is blue sky, people. Don’t concern yourselves with the economics,” I answer. “We’ll sell it as a premium brand here and practically give it away in the third world. That’s the point.”

The room erupts in creativity and two hours later we have three ideas about how to cover the device in solar cells.

“…Of course we’ll make it WiMAX-enabled for the home market,” Fred states.

“And incorporate the capability for satellite Internet access for Africa and India,” Barney adds. “Provided we can get access.” He looks quizzically toward me.

“That’s a little down the line. I’m hoping we can piggyback on the EU GPS system Galileo.” I know this will take a while to negotiate, but we have time. “Marco’s team is looking into it.”

“Tomorrow’s technology today,” Barney states proudly.

“Excellent.” I nod in approval. I turn to my VP of procurement. “Vanessa, where are we with the conflict mineral issue? How are you dealing with it?”

Other books
The Last Song of Orpheus by Robert Silverberg
La condesa sangrienta by Alejandra Pizarnik, Santiago Caruso
The Bargain by Vanessa Riley
A Change of Pace by JM Cartwright
Strangers in Paradise by Heather Graham