Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian(6)


by E.L. James

“Um—we’d like to go ahead with the photo shoot for the article. Tomorrow, if that’s okay. Where would be convenient for you, sir?”

In my room. Just you, me, and the cable ties.

“I’m staying at The Heathman in Portland. Shall we say nine thirty tomorrow morning?”

“Okay, we’ll see you there,” she gushes, unable to hide the relief and delight in her voice.

“I look forward to it, Miss Steele.” I hang up before she senses my excitement and how pleased I am. Leaning back in my chair, I gaze at the darkening skyline and run both my hands through my hair.

How the hell am I going to close this deal?

SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2011

* * *

With Moby blasting in my ears I run down Southwest Salmon Street toward the Willamette River. It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m trying to clear my head. Last night I dreamed of her. Blue eyes, breathy voice…her sentences ending with “sir” as she knelt before me. Since I’ve met her, my dreams have been a welcome change from the occasional nightmare. I wonder what Flynn would make of that. The thought is disconcerting, so I ignore it and concentrate on pushing my body to its limits along the bank of the Willamette. As my feet pound the walkway, sunshine breaks through the clouds and it gives me hope.

TWO HOURS LATER AS I jog back to the hotel I pass a coffee shop. Maybe I should take her for coffee.

Like a date?

Well. No. Not a date. I laugh at the ridiculous thought. Just a chat—an interview of sorts. Then I can find out a little more about this enigmatic woman and if she’s interested, or if I’m on a wild-goose chase. I’m alone in the elevator as I stretch out. Finishing my stretches in my hotel suite, I’m centered and calm for the first time since I arrived in Portland. Breakfast has been delivered and I’m famished. It’s not a feeling I tolerate—ever. Sitting down to breakfast in my sweats, I decide to eat before I shower.

THERE’S A BRISK KNOCK on the door. I open it and Taylor stands on the threshold.

“Good morning, Mr. Grey.”

“Morning. They ready for me?”

“Yes, sir. They’re set up in room 601.”

“I’ll be right down.” I close the door and tuck my shirt into my gray pants. My hair is wet from my shower, but I don’t give a shit. One glance at the louche fucker in the mirror and I exit to follow Taylor to the elevator.

Room 601 is crowded with people, lights, and camera boxes, but I spot her immediately. She’s standing to the side. Her hair is loose: a lush, glossy mane that falls beneath her breasts. She’s wearing tight jeans and chucks with a short-sleeved navy jacket and a white T-shirt beneath. Are jeans and chucks her signature look? While not very convenient, they do flatter her shapely legs. Her eyes, disarming as ever, widen as I approach.

“Miss Steele, we meet again.” She takes my extended hand and for a moment I want to squeeze hers and raise it to my lips.

Don’t be absurd, Grey.

She turns her delicious pink and waves in the direction of her friend, who is standing too close, waiting for my attention.

“Mr. Grey, this is Katherine Kavanagh,” she says. With reluctance I release her and turn to the persistent Miss Kavanagh. She’s tall, striking, and well groomed, like her father, but she has her mother’s eyes, and I have her to thank for my introduction to the delightful Miss Steele. That thought makes me feel a little more benevolent toward her.

“The tenacious Miss Kavanagh. How do you do? I trust you’re feeling better? Anastasia said you were unwell last week.”

“I’m fine, thank you, Mr. Grey.”

She has a firm, confident handshake, and I doubt she’s ever faced a day of hardship in her privileged life. I wonder why these women are friends. They have nothing in common.

“Thank you for taking the time to do this,” Katherine says.

“It’s a pleasure,” I reply, and glance at Anastasia, who rewards me with her telltale flush.

Is it just me who makes her blush? The thought pleases me.

“This is José Rodriguez, our photographer,” Anastasia says, and her face lights up as she introduces him.

Shit. Is this the boyfriend?

Rodriguez blooms under Ana’s sweet smile.

Are they fucking?

“Mr. Grey.” Rodriguez gives me a dark look as we shake hands. It’s a warning. He’s telling me to back off. He likes her. He likes her a lot.

Well, game on, kid.

“Mr. Rodriguez, where would you like me?” My tone is a challenge, and he hears it, but Katherine intervenes and waves me toward a chair. Ah. She likes to be in charge. The thought amuses me as I sit. Another young man who appears to be working with Rodriguez switches on the lights, and momentarily I’m blinded.

Hell!

As the glare recedes I search out the lovely Miss Steele. She’s standing at the back of the room, observing the proceedings. Does she always shy away like this? Maybe that’s why she and Kavanagh are friends; she’s content to be in the background and let Katherine take center stage.

Hmm…a natural submissive.

The photographer appears professional enough and absorbed in the job he’s been assigned to do. I regard Miss Steele as she watches both of us. Our eyes meet; hers are honest and innocent, and for a moment I reconsider my plan. But then she bites her lip and my breath catches in my throat.

Back down, Anastasia. I will her to stop staring, and as if she can hear me, she’s the first to look away.

Good girl.

Katherine asks me to stand as Rodriguez continues to take snaps. Then we’re done and this is my chance.

“Thank you again, Mr. Grey.” Katherine surges forward and shakes my hand, followed by the photographer, who regards me with ill-concealed disapproval. His antagonism makes me smile.

Oh, man…you have no idea.

“I look forward to reading the article, Miss Kavanagh,” I say, giving her a brief polite nod. It’s Ana I want to talk to. “Will you walk with me, Miss Steele?” I ask, when I reach her by the door.

“Sure,” she says with surprise.

Seize the day, Grey.

I mutter some platitude to those still in the room and usher her out the door, wanting to put some distance between her and Rodriguez. In the corridor she stands fiddling with her hair, then her fingers, as Taylor follows me out.

“I’ll call you, Taylor,” I say, and when he’s almost out of earshot I ask Ana to join me for coffee, my breath held for her response.

Her long lashes flicker over her eyes. “I have to drive everyone home,” she says with dismay.

“Taylor,” I call after him, making her jump. I must make her nervous and I don’t know if this is good or bad. And she can’t stop fidgeting. Thinking about all the ways I could make her stop is distracting.

“Are they based at the university?” She nods and I ask Taylor to take her friends home.

“There. Now can you join me for coffee?”

“Um—Mr. Grey, er—this really…” She stops.

Shit. It’s a “no.” I’m going to lose this deal. She looks directly at me, eyes bright. “Look, Taylor doesn’t have to drive them home. I’ll swap vehicles with Kate, if you give me a moment.”

My relief is tangible and I grin.

I have a date!

Opening the door, I let her back into the room as Taylor conceals his puzzled look.

“Can you grab my jacket, Taylor?”

“Certainly, sir.”

He turns on his heel, his lips twitching as he heads up the corridor. I watch him with narrowed eyes as he disappears into the elevator while I lean against the wall and wait for Miss Steele.

What the hell am I going to say to her?

“How would you like to be my submissive?”

No. Steady, Grey. Let’s take this one stage at a time.

Taylor is back within a couple of minutes, holding my jacket.

“Will that be all, sir?”

“Yes. Thanks.”

He gives it to me and leaves me standing like an idiot in the corridor.

How long is Anastasia going to be? I check my watch. She must be negotiating the car swap with Katherine. Or she’s talking to Rodriguez, explaining that she’s just going for coffee to placate me and keep me sweet for the article. My thoughts darken. Maybe she’s kissing him good-bye.

Damn.

She emerges a moment later, and I’m pleased. She doesn’t look like she’s just been kissed.

“Okay,” she says with resolve. “Let’s do coffee.” But her reddening cheeks somewhat undermine her effort to look confident.

“After you, Miss Steele.” I conceal my delight as she falls into step ahead of me. As I catch up with her my curiosity is piqued about her relationship with Katherine, specifically their compatibility. I ask her how long they’ve known each other.

“Since our freshman year. She’s a good friend.” Her voice is full of warmth. Ana is clearly devoted. She came all the way to Seattle to interview me when Katherine was ill, and I find myself hoping that Miss Kavanagh treats her with the same loyalty and respect.

At the elevators I press the call button and almost immediately the doors open. A couple in a passionate embrace spring apart, embarrassed to be caught. Ignoring them, we step into the elevator, but I catch Anastasia’s impish smile.