Chapter Nine of the book Fifty Shades Freed

When I wake before the alarm the following morning, Christian is wrapped around me like ivy, his head on my chest, his arm around my waist, and his leg between mine. And he’s on my side of the bed. It’s always the same, if we argue the night before, this is how he ends up, coiled around me, making me hot and bothered.

Oh, Fifty. He is so needy on some level. Who would have thought? The familiar vision of Christian as a dirty, wretched little boy haunts me. Gently, I stroke his shorter hair and my melancholy recedes. He stirs, and his sleepy eyes meet mine. He blinks a couple of times as he wakes.

“Hi,” he murmurs and smiles.

“Hi.” I love waking to that smile.

He nuzzles my breasts and hums appreciatively deep in his throat. His hand travels down from my waist, skimming over the cool satin of my nightgown.

“What a tempting morsel you are,” he mutters. “But, tempting though you are,” he glances at the alarm, “I have to get up.” He stretches out, untangles himself from me, and rises.

I lie back, put my hands behind my head, and enjoy the show—Christian stripping for his shower. He is perfect. I wouldn’t change a hair on his head.

“Admiring the view, Mrs. Grey?” Christian arches a sardonic brow at me.

“It’s a mighty fine view, Mr. Grey.”

He grins and throws his pajama pants at me so they almost land on my face, but I catch them in time, giggling like a schoolgirl. With a wicked grin, he pulls the duvet off, puts one knee on the bed, grabs my ankles, and drags me toward him so that my nightdress rides up. I squeal, and he crawls up my body, trailing little kisses on my knee, my thigh . . . my . . . oh . . . Christian!

“Good morning, Mrs. Grey,” Mrs. Jones greets me. I flush, embarrassed remembering her tryst with Taylor the night before.

“Good morning,” I respond as she hands me a cup of tea. I sit on the bar stool beside my husband, who just looks radiant: freshly showered, his hair damp, wearing a crisp white shirt and that silver-gray tie. My favorite tie. I have fond memories of that tie.

“How are you, Mrs. Grey?” he asks, his eyes warm.

“I think you know, Mr. Grey.” I gaze up at him through my lashes.

He smirks. “Eat,” he orders. “You didn’t eat yesterday.”

Oh, bossy Fifty!

“That’s because you were being an arse.”

Mrs. Jones drops something that clatters into the sink, making me jump.

Christian seems oblivious to the noise. Ignoring her, he stares at me impassively.

“Arse or not—eat.” His tone is serious. No arguing with him.

“Okay! Picking up spoon, eating granola,” I mutter like a petulant teenager. I reach for the Greek yoghurt and spoon some onto my cereal, followed by a handful of blueberries. I glance at Mrs. Jones and she catches my eye. I smile, and she responds with a warm smile of her own. She has provided me with my breakfast of choice introduced to me on our honeymoon.

“I may have to go to New York later in the week.” Christian’s announcement interrupts my reverie.

“Oh.”

“It’ll mean an overnight. I want you to come with me.”

“Christian, I won’t get the time off.”

He gives me his oh-really-but-I’m-the-boss-stare.

I sigh. “I know you own the company, but I’ve been away for three weeks.

Please. How can you expect me to run the business if I’m never there? I’ll be fine here. I’m assuming you’ll take Taylor with you, but Sawyer and Ryan will be here—” I stop, because Christian is grinning at me. “What?” I snap.

“Nothing. Just you,” he says.

I frown. Is he laughing at me? Then a nasty thought pops into my mind.

“How are you getting to New York?”

“The company jet, why?”

“I just wanted to check if you were taking Charlie Tango.” My voice is quiet, and a shiver runs down my spine. I remember the last time he flew his helicopter.

A wave of nausea hits me as I recall the anxious hours I spent waiting for news.

That was possibly the lowest point in my life. I notice Mrs. Jones has stilled, too. I try to dismiss the idea.

“I wouldn’t fly to New York in Charlie Tango. She doesn’t have that kind of range. Besides, she won’t be back from the engineers for another two weeks.”

Thank heavens. My smile is partly from relief, but also the knowledge that the demise of Charlie Tango has occupied a great deal of Christian’s thoughts and time over the last few weeks.

“Well I’m glad she’s nearly fixed, but—” I stop. Can I tell him how nervous I’ll be when he flies next time?

“What?” he asks as he finishes his omelet.

I shrug.

“Ana?” he says, more sternly.

“I just . . . you know. Last time you flew in her . . . I thought, we thought, you’d—” I can’t finish the sentence, and Christian’s expression softens.

“Hey.” He caresses my face with the back of his knuckles. “That was sabotage.” A dark expression crosses his face, and for a moment I wonder if he knows who was responsible.

“I couldn’t bear to lose you,” I murmur.

“Five people have been fired because of that, Ana. It won’t happen again.”

“Five?”

He nods, his face serious.

Holy crap!

“That reminds me. There’s a gun in your desk.”

He frowns at my non sequitur and probably at my accusatory tone, though I don’t mean it that way. “It’s Leila’s,” he says finally.

“It’s fully loaded.”

“How do you know?” His frown deepens.

“I checked it yesterday.”

He scowls at me. “I don’t want you messing with guns. I hope you put the safety back on.”

I blink at him, momentarily stupefied. “Christian, there’s no safety on that revolver. Don’t you know anything about guns?”

His eyes widen. “Um . . . no.”

Taylor coughs discreetly from the entrance. Christian nods at him.

“We have to go,” Christian says. He stands, distracted, and slips on his gray jacket. I follow him into the hallway.

He has Leila’s gun. I am stunned by this news and briefly wonder what’s happened to her. Is she still in—where is it? East somewhere. New Hampshire? I can’t remember.

“Good morning, Taylor,” Christian says.

“Good morning, Mr. Grey, Mrs. Grey.” He nods at us both, but he’s careful not to look me in the eye. I’m grateful, recalling my state of undress when we bumped into each other last night.

“I am just going to brush my teeth,” I mutter. Christian always brushes his teeth before breakfast. I don’t understand why.

“You should ask Taylor to teach you how to shoot,” I say as we travel down in the elevator. Christian gazes down at me, amused.

“Should I now?” he says dryly.

“Yes.”

“Anastasia, I despise guns. My mom has patched up too many victims of gun crime, and my dad is vehemently antigun. I grew up with their ethos. I support at least two gun control initiatives here in Washington.”

“Oh. Does Taylor carry a gun?”

Christian’s mouth thins.

“Sometimes.”

“You don’t approve?” I ask, as Christian ushers me out of the elevator on the ground floor.

“No,” he says, tight-lipped. “Let’s just say that Taylor and I hold very different views with regard to gun control.” I’m with Taylor on this.

Christian holds the foyer door open for me and I head out to the car. He has not let me drive alone to SIP since he found out that Charlie Tango was sabotaged. Sawyer smiles pleasantly, holding the door open for me as Christian and I climb into the car.

“Please.” I reach across and grasp Christian’s hand.

“Please what?”

“Learn how to shoot.”

He rolls his eyes at me. “No. End of discussion, Anastasia.”

And I am a child again to be scolded. I open my mouth to say something cutting, but decide I don’t want to start my workday in a bad mood. I fold my arms instead and glimpse Taylor regarding me in the rearview mirror. He looks away, concentrating on the road in front, but shakes his head a little, in obvious frustration.

Hmm . . . Christian drives him crazy, too, sometimes. The thought makes me smile, and my mood is saved.

“Where is Leila?” I ask as Christian gazes out of his window.

“I told you. She’s in Connecticut with her folks.” He glances at me.

“Did you check? After all, she does have long hair. It could have been her driving the Dodge.”

“Yes, I checked. She’s enrolled in an art school in Hamden. She started this week.”

“You’ve spoken to her?” I whisper, all the blood draining from my face.

Christian whips his head around at the tone of my voice.

“No. Flynn has.” He searches my face for a clue to my thoughts.

“I see,” I murmur, relieved.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Christian sighs. “Ana. What is it?”

I shrug, not wanting to admit to my irrational jealousy.

Christian continues, “I’m keeping tabs on her, checking that she stays on her side of the continent. She’s better, Ana. Flynn has referred her to a shrink in New Haven, and all the reports are very positive. She’s always been interested in art, so . . .” He stops, his face still searching mine. And in that moment I suspect that he is paying for her art classes. Do I want to know? Should I ask him? I mean it’s not as if he can’t afford it, but why does he feel the obligation? I sigh. Christian’s baggage hardly compares to Bradley Kent from biology class and his half-assed attempts to kiss me. Christian reaches for my hand.

“Don’t sweat this, Anastasia,” he murmurs, and I return his reassuring squeeze. I know he’s doing what he thinks is right.

Midmorning I have a break in meetings. As I pick up the phone to call Kate, I notice an e-mail from Christian.

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Flattery

Date: August 23, 2011 09:54

To: Anastasia Grey

Mrs. Grey

I have received three compliments on my new haircut. Compliments from my staff are new. It must be the ridiculous smile I’m wearing whenever I think about last night. You are indeed a wonderful, talented, beautiful woman.

And all mine.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

I melt reading it.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Trying to concentrate here.

Date: August 23, 2011 10:48

To: Christian Grey

Mr. Grey

I am trying to work and don’t want to be distracted by delicious memories.

Is now the time to confess that I used to cut Ray’s hair regularly? I had no idea it would be such useful training.

And yes, I am yours and you, my dear overbearing husband who refuses to exercise his constitutional right under the second amendment to bear arms, are mine. But don’t worry because I shall protect you. Always.

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, SIP

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Annie Oakley

Date: August 23, 2011 10:53

To: Anastasia Grey

Mrs. Grey

I am delighted to see you have spoken to the IT dept and changed your name. 😀

I shall sleep safe in my bed knowing that my gun-toting wife sleeps beside me.

Christian Grey

CEO & Hoplophobe, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

Hoplophobe? What the hell is that?

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Long words

Date: August 23, 2011 10:58

To: Christian Grey

Mr. Grey

Once more you dazzle me with your linguistic prowess.

In fact, your prowess in general, and I think you know what I’m referring to.

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, SIP

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Gasp!

Date: August 23, 2011 11:01

To: Anastasia Grey

Mrs. Grey

Are you flirting with me?

Christian Grey

Shocked CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Would you rather . . .

Date: August 23, 2011 11:04

To: Christian Grey

I flirted with someone else?

Anastasia Grey

Brave Commissioning Editor, SIP

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Grrrrr

Date: August 23, 2011 11:09

To: Anastasia Grey

NO!

Christian Grey

Possessive CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Wow . . .

Date: August 23, 2011 11:14

To: Christian Grey

Are you growling at me? ‘Cause that’s kinda hot.

Anastasia Grey

Squirming (in a good way) Commissioning Editor, SIP

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Beware

Date: August 23, 2011 11:16

To: Anastasia Grey

Flirting and toying with me, Mrs. Grey?

I may pay you a visit this afternoon.

Christian Grey

Priapic CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Oh No!

Date: August 23, 2011 11:20

To: Christian Grey

I’ll behave. I wouldn’t want my boss’s boss’s boss getting on top of me at work. 😉 Now let me get on with my job. My boss’s boss’s boss may fire my ass.

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, SIP

From: Christian Grey

Subject: &%$&&*

Date: August 23, 2011 11:23

To: Anastasia Grey

Believe me when I say there are a great many things he’d like to do to your ass right now. Firing you is not one of them.

Christian Grey

CEO & Ass man, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

His response makes me giggle.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Go Away!

Date: August 23, 2011 11:26

To: Christian Grey

Don’t you have an empire to run?

Stop bothering me.

My next appointment is here.

I thought you were a breast man . . .

Think about my ass, and I’ll think about yours . . .

ILY x

Anastasia Grey

Now Moist Commissioning Editor, SIP

I cannot help my despondent mood as Sawyer drives me to the office on Thursday. Christian’s threatened business trip to New York has happened, and though he’s only been gone a few hours, I miss him already. I fire up my computer, and there’s an email waiting for me. My mood lifts immediately.

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Miss you already

Date: August 25, 2011 04:32

To: Anastasia Grey

Mrs. Grey

You were adorable this morning.

Behave while I’m away.

I love you.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

This will be the first night we’ve slept apart since our wedding. I intend to have a few cocktails with Kate—that should help me sleep. Impulsively, I e-mail him back, although I know that he’s still flying.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Behave Yourself!

Date: August 25, 2011 09:03

To: Christian Grey

Let me know when you land—I’ll worry until you do.

And I shall behave. I mean how much trouble can I get into with Kate?

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, SIP

I hit send and sip my latte, courtesy of Hannah. Who knew I’d grow to love coffee? Despite the fact that I’m going out this evening with Kate, I feel like a chunk of me is missing. At the moment, it’s thirty-five thousand feet somewhere above the Midwest en route to New York. I didn’t know I would feel this unsettled and anxious just because Christian’s away. Surely over time I won’t feel this loss and uncertainty, will I? I let out a heavy sigh and continue with my work.

Around lunchtime, I start manically checking my e-mail and my BlackBerry for a text. Where is he? Has he landed safely? Hannah asks if I want lunch, but I’m too apprehensive and wave her away. I know it’s irrational, but I need to be sure he’s arrived safely.

My office phone rings, startling me. “Ana St—Grey.”

“Hi.” Christian’s voice is warm with a trace of amusement. Relief floods through me.

“Hi.” I’m grinning from ear to ear. “How was your flight?”

“Long. What are you doing with Kate?”

Oh no. “We’re just going out for a quiet drink.”

Christian says nothing.

“Sawyer and the new woman—Prescott—are coming to watch over us,” I offer, trying to placate him.

“I thought Kate was coming to the apartment.”

“She is after a quick drink.” Please let me go out!

Christian sighs heavily. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he says quietly. Too quietly.

I mentally kick myself. “Christian, we’ll be fine. I have Ryan, Sawyer, and Prescott here. It’s only a quick drink.”

Christian remains resolutely silent, and I know he’s not happy. “I’ve only seen her a few times since you and I met. Please. She’s my best friend.”

“Ana, I don’t want to keep you from your friends. But I thought she was coming back to the apartment.”

“Okay,” I acquiesce. “We’ll stay in.”

“Only while this lunatic is out there. Please.”

“I’ve said okay,” I mutter in exasperation, rolling my eyes.

Christian snorts softly down the phone. “I always know when you’re rolling your eyes at me.”

I scowl at the receiver. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you. I’ll tell Kate.”

“Good,” he breathes, his relief evident. I feel guilty for worrying him.

“Where are you?”

“On the tarmac at JFK.”

“Oh, so you just landed.”

“Yes. You asked me to call the moment I landed.”

I smile. My subconscious glares at me. See? He does what he says he’s going to do.

“Well, Mr. Grey, I’m glad one of us is punctilious.”

He laughs. “Mrs. Grey, your gift for hyperbole knows no bounds. What am I going to do with you?”

“I am sure you’ll think of something imaginative. You usually do.”

“Are you flirting with me?”

“Yes.”

I sense his grin. “I’d better go. Ana, do as you’re told, please. The security team knows what they’re doing.”

“Yes, Christian, I will.” I sound exasperated again. Jeez, I get the message.

“I’ll see you tomorrow evening. I’ll call you later.”

“To check up on me?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, Christian!” I scold him.

“Au revoir, Mrs. Grey.”

“Au revoir, Christian. I love you.”

He inhales sharply. “And I you, Ana.”

Neither of us hangs up.

“Hang up, Christian,” I whisper.

“You’re a bossy little thing, aren’t you?”

“Your bossy little thing.”

“Mine,” he breathes. “Do as you’re told. Hang up.”

“Yes, Sir.” I hang up and grin stupidly at the phone.

A few moments later, an e-mail appears in my inbox.

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Twitching Palms

Date: August 25, 2011 13:42 EDT

To: Anastasia Grey

Mrs. Grey

You are as entertaining as ever on the phone.

I mean it. Do as you’re told.

I need to know you’re safe.

I love you.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

Honestly, he’s the bossy one. But one phone call and all my anxiety has disappeared. He’s arrived safely and he’s fussing about me as usual. I hug myself momentarily. God, I love that man. Hannah knocks on my door, distracting me, and brings me back to the now.

Kate looks gorgeous. In her tight white jeans and red camisole, she’s ready to rock the town. She’s chatting animatedly with Claire in reception when I make my entrance.

“Ana!” she cries, scooping me up in a Kate hug. She holds me at arm’s length.

“Don’t you look the mogul’s wife? Who would have thought, little Ana Steele? You look so . . . sophisticated!” She grins. I roll my eyes at her. I’m wearing a pale cream shift dress with a navy belt and navy pumps.

“It’s good to see you, Kate.” I hug her back.

“So, where are we going?”

“Christian wants us to go back to the apartment.”

“Aw, really? Can’t we sneak a quick cocktail at the Zig Zag Cafe? I’ve booked us a table.”

I open my mouth to protest.

“Please?” she whines and pouts prettily. She must be picking this up from Mia. She never pouts normally. I’d really like a cocktail at the Zig Zag. We had such fun the last time we went there, and it’s close to Kate’s apartment.

I hold up my index finger. “One.”

She grins. “One” She links her arm in mine, and we stroll out to the car, which is parked at the curb with Sawyer at the wheel. We’re followed by Miss Samantha Prescott who’s new to the security team—a tall African-American with a no-nonsense attitude. I’ve yet to warm to her, maybe because she’s too cool and professional. The jury’s definitely out, but like the rest of the team, she’s been hand-picked by Taylor. She’s dressed like Sawyer in a dark somber pantsuit.

“Can you take us to the Zig Zag, please, Sawyer?”

Sawyer turns to look at me, and I know he wants to say something. He’s obviously been given his orders. He hesitates.

“The Zig Zag Café. We’ll only have one.”

I give Kate a sideways glance, and she’s glaring at Sawyer. Poor man.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Mr. Grey requested you go back to the apartment,” Prescott pipes up.

“Mr. Grey isn’t here,” I snap. “The Zig Zag, please.”

“Ma’am,” Sawyer replies with a sideways glance at Prescott, who wisely holds her tongue.

Kate gapes at me as if she can’t believe her eyes and ears. I purse my lips and shrug. Okay, so I’m a little more assertive than I used to be. Kate nods as Sawyer pulls out into the early evening traffic.

“You know the additional security is driving Grace and Mia crazy,” Kate says casually.

I gawk at her, baffled.

“You didn’t know?” She seems incredulous.

“Know what?”

“Security for all of the Greys has been tripled. Gazillioned, even.”

“Really?”

“He hasn’t told you?”

I flush. “No.” Damn it, Christian! “Do you know why?”

“Jack Hyde.”

“What about Jack? I thought he was just after Christian.” I gasp. Jeez. Why hasn’t he told me?

“Since Monday,” Kate says.

Last Monday? Hmm . . . we identified Jack on Sunday. But why all the Greys?

“How do you know all this?”

“Elliot.”

Of course.

“Christian hasn’t told you any of this, has he?”

I flush once more. “No.”

“Oh, Ana, how annoying.”

I sigh. As ever, Kate has hit the nail squarely on the head in her usual sledge-hammer style. “Do you know why?” If Christian’s not going to tell me, then maybe Kate will.

“Elliot said it’s something to do with information stored on Jack Hyde’s computer when he was at SIP.”

Holy crap. “You’re kidding.” A surge of anger pulses through me. How does Kate know about this when I don’t?

I glance up to see Sawyer eyeing me from the rearview mirror. The red light turns to green and he surges forward, focusing on the road ahead. I hold my finger up to my lips and Kate nods. I bet Sawyer knows, too, and I don’t.

“How’s Elliot?” I ask to change the subject.

Kate grins stupidly, telling me all I need to know.

Sawyer pulls up at the end of the passageway that leads down to the Zig Zag Café, and Prescott opens my door. I scoot out and Kate slides out after me. We link arms and meander down the passage, followed by Prescott, who’s wearing a thunderous expression on her face. Oh, for heaven’s sake, it’s just a drink. Sawyer drives off to park the car.

“So how does Elliot know Gia?” I ask, taking a sip of my second strawberry mojito. The bar is intimate and cozy, and I don’t want to leave. Kate and I have not stopped talking. I had forgotten how much I like hanging with her. It’s liberating to be out, relaxing, enjoying Kate’s company. I contemplate texting Christian then dismiss the idea. He’ll just be mad and make me go home like an errant child.

“Don’t talk to me about that bitch!” Kate splutters.

Kate’s reaction makes me laugh.

“What’s so funny, Steele?” she snaps, but not seriously.

“I feel the same way.”

“You do?”

“Yes. She was all over Christian.”

“She had a fling with Elliot.” Kate pouts.

“No!”

She nods, her lips pressed together in the patented Katherine Kavanagh scowl.

“It was brief. Last year, I think. She’s a social climber. No wonder she has her sights set on Christian.”

“Christian is taken. I told her to leave him alone or I would fire her.”

Kate gapes at me once more, stunned. I nod proudly, and she lifts her glass to salute me, impressed and beaming.

“Mrs. Anastasia Grey! Way to go!” We clink.

“Does Elliot own a gun?”

“No. He’s very antigun.” Kate stirs her third drink.

“Christian, too. I think it was Grace and Carrick’s influence,” I mutter. I’m feeling a little tipsy.

“Carrick’s a good man.” Kate nods.

“He wanted a prenup,” I mutter sadly.

“Oh, Ana.” She reaches across and grasps my arm. “He was only looking out for his boy. As we both know, you have gold-digger tattooed on your forehead.”

She smiles at me, and I poke my tongue out at her then giggle.

“Mature, Mrs. Grey,” she says grinning. She sounds like Christian. “You’ll do the same for your son one day.”

“My son?” I gape at her. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that my kids will be rich. Holy crap. They’ll want for nothing. I mean . . . nothing. This needs further thought—but not right now. I glance at Prescott and Sawyer seated nearby, watching us and the evening crowd from a side table while they each nurse a glass of sparkling mineral water.

“Do you think we should eat?” I ask.

“No. We should drink,” Kate says.

“Why are you in such a drinking mood?”

“Because I don’t see enough of you anymore. I didn’t know you’d up and marry the first guy who turned your head.” She pouts again. “Honestly, you married so quickly that I thought you were pregnant.”

I giggle. “Everyone thought I was pregnant,” I mutter. “Let’s not rehash that conversation again. Please! And I have to use the restroom.”

Prescott accompanies me. She says nothing. She doesn’t have to. Disapproval radiates off her like a lethal isotope.

“I haven’t been out on my own since I got married,” I mutter wordlessly at the closed toilet door. I make a face, knowing that she’s standing on the other side of the door, waiting while I pee. What precisely is Hyde going to do in a bar anyway? Christian is just overreacting as usual.

“Kate, it’s late. We should go.”

It’s ten fifteen, and I have downed my fourth strawberry mojito. I am definitely feeling the effects of the alcohol, warm and fuzzy. Christian will be fine.

Eventually.

“Sure, Ana. It’s been so good to see you. You just seem so much more, I don’t know . . . confident. Marriage obviously agrees with you.”

My face warms. Coming from Miss Katherine Kavanagh, this is indeed a compliment.

“It does,” I whisper, and because I’ve probably had too much to drink, tears prick the back of my eyes. Could I be any happier? In spite of all his baggage, his nature, his Fiftyness, I have met and married the man of my dreams. I quickly change the subject to stem my sentimental thoughts, because I know I will cry otherwise.

“I have really enjoyed this evening.” I grasp Kate’s hand. “Thank you for dragging me out!” We hug. As she releases me, I nod at Sawyer and he hands Prescott the keys to the car.

“I’m sure Miss Goody-Two-Shoes Prescott has told Christian I’m not at home. He’ll be mad,” I mutter to Kate. And maybe he’ll think of some delicious way to punish me . . . hopefully.

“Why are you grinning like a loon, Ana? You like making Christian mad?”

“No. Not really. But it’s easily done. He’s very controlling sometimes.” Most of the time.

“I’ve noticed,” Kate says wryly.

We pull up outside Kate’s apartment. She hugs me hard.

“Don’t be a stranger,” she whispers and kisses my cheek. Then she’s out of the car. I wave, feeling strangely homesick. I have missed girl talk. It’s fun and relaxing, and reminds me that I’m still young. I must make more of an effort to see Kate, but the truth is, I love being in my bubble with Christian. Last night we attended a charity dinner together. There were so many men in suits and well-groomed elegant women talking about real estate prices and the failing economy and the plunging stock markets. I mean, it was dull, really dull. So it’s refreshing to let my hair down with someone my own age.

My stomach rumbles. Jeez, I still haven’t eaten. Shit—Christian! I scramble through my purse and fish out my BlackBerry. Holy crap—five missed calls! One text . . .

WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?

And one e-mail.

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Angry. You’ve not seen angry Date: August 26, 2011 00:42 EST

To: Anastasia Grey

Anastasia

Sawyer tells me that you are drinking cocktails in a bar when you said you wouldn’t.

Do you have any idea how mad I am at the moment?

I’ll see you tomorrow.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

My heart sinks. Oh shit! I really am in trouble. My subconscious glares at me, then shrugs, wearing her you-made-your-bed-you-lie-in-it face. What did I expect? I contemplate calling him, but it’s late and he’s probably asleep . . . or pacing. I decide a quick text may be enough.

I’M STILL IN ONE PIECE. I HAD A NICE TIME. MISSING YOU—PLEASE DON’T BE MAD

I gaze at my BlackBerry, willing him to respond, but it’s ominously silent. I sigh.

Prescott pulls up outside Escala and Sawyer gets out to hold the door open for me. As we stand waiting for the elevator, I take the opportunity to quiz him.

“What time did Christian call you?”

Sawyer flushes. “About nine thirty, ma’am.”

“Why didn’t you interrupt my conversation with Kate so I could speak with him?”

“Mr. Grey told me not to.”

I purse my lips. The elevator arrives, and we ride up in silence. I’m suddenly grateful that Christian has a whole night to recover from his snit-fit, and that he’s on the other side of the country. It gives me some time. On the other hand . . . I miss him.

The doors to the elevator open, and for a split second I stare at the foyer table.

What is wrong with this picture?

The vase of flowers lies smashed into fragments all over the floor of the foyer, water and flowers and chunks of china are strewn everywhere, and the table is overturned. My scalp prickles and Sawyer grabs my arm and pulls me back into the elevator.

“Stay there,” he hisses, drawing a gun. He steps into the foyer and disappears from my field of vision.

I cower in the back of the elevator.

“Luke!” I hear Ryan call from inside the great room. “Code blue!”

Code blue?

“You have the perp?” Sawyer calls back. “Jesus H. Christ!”

I flatten myself against the elevator wall. What the hell is going on? Adrenaline spikes through my body, and my heart leaps into my throat. I hear soft voices, and a moment later Sawyer reappears in the foyer, standing in the puddle of water. He holsters his gun.

“You can come in, Mrs. Grey,” he says gently.

“What’s happened, Luke?” My voice is barely a whisper.

“We’ve had a visitor.” He takes my elbow, and I’m grateful for the support—my legs have turned to jelly. I walk with him through the open double doors.

Ryan is standing at the entrance of the great room. A cut above his eye is bleeding, and there’s another on his mouth. He looks roughed up, his clothes disheveled. But what’s more shocking is Jack Hyde slumped at his feet.

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