Chapter Sixteen of the book Fifty Shades Freed

“Do you want me to send her away?” Hannah asks, alarmed at my expression.

“Um, no. Where is she?”

“In reception. She’s not alone. She’s accompanied by another young woman.”

Oh!

“And Miss Prescott wants to talk to you,” Hannah adds.

I’m sure she does. “Send her in.”

Hannah stands aside, and Prescott enters my office. She’s on a mission, bristling with professional efficiency.

“Give me a moment, Hannah. Prescott, take a seat.”

Hannah closes the door, leaving Prescott and me alone.

“Mrs. Grey, Leila Williams is on your proscribed list of visitors.”

“What?” I have a proscribed list?

“On our watch list, ma’am. Taylor and Welch have been quite specific about not letting her come into contact with you.”

I frown, not understanding. “Is she dangerous?”

“I can’t say, ma’am.”

“Why do I even know that she’s here?”

Prescott swallows and for a moment looks awkward. “I was on a restroom break. She came in, spoke directly to Claire, and Claire called Hannah.”

“Oh. I see.” I realize that even Prescott has to pee, and I laugh. “Oh dear.”

“Yes ma’am.” Prescott gives me an embarrassed grin, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a chink in her armor. She has a lovely smile.

“I need to talk to Claire about protocol, again,” she says, her tone weary.

“Sure. Does Taylor know she’s here?” I cross my fingers unconsciously, hoping she hasn’t told Christian.

“I left a brief voice message for him.”

Oh. “Then I only have a short time. I’d like to know what she wants.”

Prescott gazes at me for a moment. “I must advise against it, ma’am.”

“She’s here to see me for a reason.”

“I’m supposed to prevent that, ma’am.” Her voice is soft but resigned.

“I really want to hear what she has to say.” My tone is more forceful than I intend.

Prescott stifles her sigh. “I’d like to search them both before you do.”

“Okay. Can you do that?”

“I’m here to protect you, Mrs. Grey, so yes, I can. I’d also like to stay with you while you talk.”

“Okay.” I’ll grant her this concession. Besides, last time I met Leila, she was armed. “Go ahead.”

Prescott rises.

“Hannah,” I call.

Hannah opens the door too quickly. She must have been hovering outside.

“Can you check to see if the meeting room is free, please?”

“I already have, and it’s good to go.”

“Prescott, can you search them in there? Is it private enough?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes, then. Hannah, show Leila Williams and whomever she’s with into the meeting room.”

“Will do.” Hannah looks anxiously from Prescott to me. “Shall I cancel your next meeting? It’s at four, but it’s across town.”

“Yes,” I murmur, distracted. Hannah nods then leaves.

What the hell does Leila want? I don’t think she’s here to do me any harm.

She didn’t in the past when she had the opportunity. Christian is going to go nuts.

My subconscious purses her lips, primly crosses her legs, and nods. I need to tell him that I am doing this. I type a quick e-mail, then pause, checking the time. I feel a momentary pang of regret. We’ve been getting along so well since Aspen. I press send.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Visitors

Date: September 6, 2011 15:27

To: Christian Grey

Christian

Leila is here to see me. I will see her with Prescott.

I’ll use my newly acquired slapping skills with my now healed hand, should I need to.

Try, and I mean try, not to worry.

I am a big girl.

Will call once we’ve spoken.

A x

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, SIP

Hurriedly, I hide my BlackBerry in my desk drawer. I stand, smoothing my gray pencil skirt over my hips, pinch my cheeks to give them some color, and undo the next button on my gray silk blouse. Okay, I’m ready. After taking a deep breath, I head out of my office to meet the infamous Leila ignoring “Your Love is King” humming gently from inside my desk.

Leila looks much better. More than better—she’s very attractive. There’s a rosy bloom to her cheeks, and her brown eyes are bright, her hair clean and shiny.

She’s dressed in a pale pink blouse and white pants. She stands as soon as I enter the meeting room, as does her friend—another dark-haired young woman with soft brown eyes, the color of brandy. Prescott hovers in the corner, not taking her eyes off Leila.

“Mrs. Grey, thank you so much for seeing me.” Leila’s voice is soft but clear.

“Um . . . Sorry about the security,” I mutter because I cannot think what else to say. I wave a hand distractedly at Prescott.

“This is my friend, Susi.”

“Hi.” I nod at Susi. She looks like Leila. She looks like me. Oh, no. Another one.

“Yes,” Leila says, as if reading my thoughts. “Susi knows Mr. Grey, too.”

What the hell am I supposed to say to that? I give her a polite smile.

“Please, sit,” I murmur.

There’s a knock on the door. It’s Hannah. I motion her in, knowing full well why she’s disturbing us.

“Sorry to interrupt, Ana. I have Mr. Grey on the line?”

“Tell him I’m busy.”

“He was quite insistent,” she says fearfully.

“I am sure he was. Would you apologize to him, and say I’ll call him back very shortly?”

Hannah hesitates.

“Hannah, please.”

She nods and scurries out of the room. I turn back to the two women sitting in front of me. They are both staring at me in awe. It’s uncomfortable.

“What can I do for you?” I ask.

Susi speaks. “I know this is all kinds of weird, but I wanted to meet you, too.

The woman who captured Chris—”

I hold up my hand, stopping her in mid-sentence. I do not want to hear this.

“Um . . . I get the picture,” I mutter.

“We call ourselves the sub club.” She grins at me, her eyes shining with mirth.

Oh my God.

Leila gasps and gapes at Susi, at once amused and appalled. Susi winces. I suspect Leila’s kicked her under the table.

What the hell am I supposed to say to that? I glance nervously at Prescott, who remains impassive, her eyes never leaving Leila.

Susi seems to remember herself. She blushes, then nods and stands. “I’ll wait in reception. This is Lulu’s show.” I can tell she’s embarrassed.

Lulu?

“You’ll be okay?” she asks Leila, who smiles up at her. Susi gives me a large, open, genuine smile and exits the room.

Susi and Christian . . . it’s not a thought I wish to dwell on. Prescott takes her phone out of her pocket and answers it. I didn’t hear it ring.

“Mr. Grey,” she says. Leila and I turn to look at her. Prescott closes her eyes as if in pain.

“Yes, sir,” she says, stepping forward, and hands me the phone.

I roll my eyes. “Christian,” I murmur, trying to contain my exasperation. I stand and stride briskly out of the room.

“What the fuck are you playing at?” he shouts. He’s seething.

“Don’t shout at me.”

“What do you mean don’t shout at you?” he shouts, louder this time. “I gave specific instructions which you have completely disregarded—again. Hell, Ana, I am fucking furious.”

“When you are calmer, we will talk about this.”

“Don’t you hang up on me,” he hisses.

“Good-bye, Christian.” I hang up and switch off Prescott’s phone.

Holy shit. I don’t have long with Leila. Taking a deep breath, I reenter the meeting room. Both Leila and Prescott look up at me expectantly, and I hand Prescott her phone.

“Where were we?” I ask Leila as I sit back down opposite her. Her eyes widen slightly.

Yes. Apparently, I handle him, I want to say to her. But I don’t think she wants to hear that.

Leila fiddles nervously with the ends of her hair. “First, I wanted to apologize,” she says softly.

Oh . . .

She glances up and registers my surprise. “Yes,” she says quickly. “And to thank you for not pressing charges. You know—for your car and in your apartment.”

“I know you weren’t . . . um, well,” I murmur, reeling. I hadn’t expected an apology.

“No, I wasn’t.”

“You’re feeling better now?” I ask gently.

“Much. Thank you.”

“Does your doctor know you’re here?”

She shakes her head.

Oh.

She looks suitably guilty. “I know I’ll have to deal with the fallout for this later. But I had to get some things, and I wanted to see Susi, and you, and . . . Mr.

Grey.”

“You want to see Christian?” My stomach free-falls to the floor. That’s why she’s here.

“Yes. I wanted to ask you if that would be okay.”

Holy fuck. I gape at her, and I want to tell her that it’s not okay. I don’t want her anywhere near my husband. Why is she here? To assess the opposition? To unsettle me? Or perhaps she needs this as some sort of closure?

“Leila.” I flounder, exasperated. “It’s not up to me, it’s up to Christian.

You’ll need to ask him. He doesn’t need my permission. He’s a grown man . . . most of the time.”

She gazes at me for a fraction of a beat as if surprised by my reaction then laughs softly, nervously twiddling the end of her hair.

“He’s repeatedly refused all my requests to see him,” she says quietly.

Oh shit. I’m in more trouble than I thought.

“Why is it so important for you to see him?” I ask gently.

“To thank him. I’d be rotting in a stinking prison psychiatric facility if it wasn’t for him. I know that.” She glances down and runs her finger along the edge of the table. “I suffered a serious psychotic episode, and without Mr. Grey and John—Dr. Flynn . . .” She shrugs and gazes at me once more, her face full of gratitude.

Once again I’m speechless. What does she expect me to say? Surely she should be saying these things to Christian, not me.

“And for art school. I can’t thank him enough for that.”

I knew it! Christian is funding her classes. I remain expressionless, tentatively exploring my feelings for this woman now that she’s confirmed my suspicions about Christian’s generosity. To my surprise, I feel no ill will toward her. It’s a revelation, and I’m glad she’s better. Now, hopefully, she can move on with her life and out of ours.

“Are you missing classes right now?” I ask, because I’m interested.

“Only two. I head home tomorrow.”

Oh good. “What are your plans, while you’re here?”

“Pick up my belongings from Susi, return to Hamden. Continue painting and learning. Mr. Grey already has a couple of my paintings.”

What the hell! My stomach plunges into the basement once more. Are they hanging in my living room? I bridle at the thought.

“What sort of painting do you do?”

“Abstracts, mainly.”

“I see.” My mind flits through the now-familiar paintings in the great room.

Two by his ex-sub . . . possibly. Jeez.

“Mrs. Grey, can I speak frankly?” she asks, completely oblivious to my warring emotions.

“By all means,” I mutter, glancing at Prescott, who looks like she’s relaxed a little. Leila leans forward as if to impart a long-held secret.

“I loved Geoff, my boyfriend who died earlier this year.” Her voice drops to a sad whisper.

Holy shit, she’s getting personal.

“I’m so sorry,” I mutter automatically, but she continues as if she hasn’t heard me.

“I loved my husband . . . and one other,” she murmurs.

“My husband.” The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.

“Yes.” She mouths the word.

This is not news to me. When she lifts her brown eyes to mine, they are wide with conflicting emotions, and the overriding one seems to be apprehension . . . of my reaction, perhaps? But my overwhelming response to this poor young woman is compassion. Mentally I run through all the classical literature I can think of that deals with unrequited love. Swallowing hard, I clutch the moral high ground.

“I know. He’s very easy to love,” I whisper.

Her wide eyes widen further in surprise, and she smiles. “Yes. He is—was.”

She corrects herself quickly and blushes. Then she giggles so sweetly that I can’t help myself. I giggle, too. Yes, Christian Grey makes us giggly. My subconscious rolls her eyes at me in despair and goes back to reading her dog-eared copy of Jane Eyre. I glance at my watch. Deep down I know Christian will be here soon.

“You’ll get your chance to see Christian.”

“I thought I would. I know how protective he can be.” She smiles.

So this is her scheme. She’s very shrewd. Or manipulative, whispers my subconscious. “This is why you’re here to see me?”

“Yes.”

“I see.” And Christian is playing right into her hands. Reluctantly, I have to acknowledge that she knows him well.

“He seemed very happy. With you,” she says.

What? “How would you know?”

“From when I was in the apartment.” She adds cautiously.

Oh hell . . . how could I forget that?

“Were you there often?”

“No. But he was very different with you.”

Do I want to hear this? A shudder runs through me. My scalp prickles as I recall my fear when she was the unseen shadow in our apartment.

“You know it’s against the law. Trespassing.”

She nods, gazing down at the table. She runs a fingernail along the edge. “It was only a few times, and I was lucky not to get caught. Again, I need to thank Mr. Grey for that. He could have had me thrown in jail.”

“I don’t think he’d do that,” I murmur.

Suddenly there is a flurry of activity outside the meeting room, and instinctively I know that Christian is in the building. A moment later he bursts through the door, and before he closes it, I catch Taylor’s eye as he stands patiently outside. Taylor’s mouth is set in a grim line, and he doesn’t return my tight smile. Oh hell, even he’s mad at me.

Christian’s burning gray gaze pins first me then Leila to our chairs. His demeanor is quietly determined, but I know better, and I suspect Leila does, too. The menacing cool glint in his eyes reveals the truth—he’s emanating rage, though he hides it well. In his gray suit, with his dark tie loosened and the top button of his white shirt undone, he looks at once businesslike and casual . . . and hot. His hair is in disarray—no doubt because he’s been running his hands through it in exasperation.

Leila looks nervously down at the edge of the table, running her index finger along the edge again as Christian looks from me to her and then to Prescott.

“You,” he says to Prescott in a soft tone. “You’re fired. Get out now.”

I blanch. Oh no—this isn’t fair.

“Christian—” I make to stand up.

He holds his index finger up at me in warning. “Don’t,” he says. His voice so ominously quiet that I’m immediately silenced and rooted to my seat. Bowing her head, Prescott walks briskly out of the room to join Taylor. Christian shuts the door behind her and walks to the edge of the table. Crap! Crap! Crap! That was my fault. Christian stands opposite Leila, and placing both hands on the wooden surface, he leans forward.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” he growls at her.

“Christian!” I gasp. He ignores me.

“Well?” he demands.

Leila peeks up at him through long lashes, her eyes wide, her face ashen, her rosy glow gone.

“I wanted to see you, and you wouldn’t let me,” she whispers.

“So you came here to harass my wife?” His voice is quiet. Too quiet.

Leila looks down at the table again.

He stands, glowering at her. “Leila, if you come anywhere near my wife again, I will cut off all support. Doctors, art school, medical insurance—all of it—gone. Do you understand?”

“Christian—” I try again. But he silences me with a chilling look. Why is he being so unreasonable? My compassion for this sad woman blooms.

“Yes,” she says, her voice just audible.

“What’s Susannah doing in reception?”

“She came with me.”

He runs a hand through his hair, glaring at her.

“Christian, please,” I beg him. “Leila just wants to say thank you. That’s all.”

He ignores me, concentrating his wrath on Leila. “Did you stay with Susannah while you were sick?”

“Yes.”

“Did she know what you were doing while you were staying with her?”

“No. She was away on vacation.”

He strokes his index finger over his lower lip. “Why do you need to see me?

You know you should send any requests through Flynn. Do you need something?”

His tone has softened, maybe by a fraction.

Leila runs her finger along the edge of the table again.

Stop bullying her, Christian!

“I had to know.” And for the first time she looks up directly at him.

“Had to know what?” he snaps.

“That you’re okay.”

He gapes at her. “That I’m okay?” he scoffs, disbelieving.

“Yes.”

“I’m fine. There, question answered. Now Taylor will run you to Sea-Tac so you can go back to the East Coast. And if you take one step west of the Missis-sippi, it’s all gone. Understand?”

Holy fuck . . . Christian! I gape at him. What the fuck is eating him? He cannot confine her to one side of the country.

“Yes. I understand,” Leila says quietly.

“Good.” Christian’s tone is more conciliatory.

“It might not be convenient for Leila to go back now. She has plans,” I object, outraged on her behalf.

Christian glares at me. “Anastasia,” he warns, his voice icy, “this does not concern you.”

I scowl at him. Of course it concerns me. She’s in my office. There must be more to this than I know. He’s not being rational.

Fifty Shades, my subconscious hisses at me.

“Leila came to see me, not you,” I murmur petulantly.

Leila turns to me, her eyes impossibly wide.

“I had my instructions, Mrs. Grey. I disobeyed them.” She glances nervously at my husband, then back at me.

“This is the Christian Grey I know,” she says, her tone sad and wistful. Christian frowns at her, while all the breath evaporates from my lungs. I can’t breathe.

Was Christian like this with her all the time? Was he like this with me, at first? I find it hard to remember. Giving me a forlorn smile, Leila rises from the table.

“I’d like to stay until tomorrow. My flight is at noon,” she says quietly to Christian.

“I’ll have someone collect you at ten to take you to the airport.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re at Susannah’s?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.”

I glare at Christian. He can’t dictate to her like this . . . and how does he know where Susannah lives?

“Good-bye, Mrs. Grey. Thank you for seeing me.”

I stand and hold out my hand. She takes it gratefully and we shake.

“Um . . . good-bye. Good luck,” I mutter, because I’m not sure what the protocol is for saying farewell to my husband’s ex-submissive.

She nods and turns to him. “Good-bye, Christian.”

Christian’s eyes soften a little. “Good-bye, Leila.” His is voice low. “Dr.

Flynn, remember.”

“Yes, Sir.”

He opens the door to usher her out, but she halts in front of him and looks up.

He stills, watching her warily.

“I’m glad you’re happy. You deserve to be,” she says and leaves before he can reply. He frowns after her, then nods to Taylor, who follows Leila toward the reception area. Closing the door, Christian gazes uncertainly at me.

“Don’t even think about being angry with me,” I hiss. “Call Claude Bastille and kick the shit out of him or go see Flynn.”

His mouth drops open; he’s so surprised by my outburst, and his brow creases once more.

“You promised you wouldn’t do this.” Now his tone is accusatory.

“Do what?”

“Defy me.”

“No I didn’t. I said I’d be more considerate. I told you she was here. I had Prescott search her, and your other little friend, too. Prescott was with me the entire time. Now you’ve fired the poor woman, when she was only doing what I asked. I told you not to worry, yet here you are. I don’t remember receiving your papal bull decreeing that I couldn’t see Leila. I didn’t know that my visitors were subject to a proscribed list.” My voice rises with indignation as I warm to my cause. Christian regards me, his expression unreadable. After a moment his mouth twists.

“Papal bull?” he says, amused, and he visibly relaxes. I wasn’t aiming to lighten our conversation, yet here he is smirking at me, and that makes me madder. The exchange between him and his ex was painful to witness. How could he be so cold with her?

“What?” he asks, exasperated, as my face remains resolutely straight.

“You. Why were you so callous toward her?”

He sighs and shifts, stepping toward me and perching on the table.

“Anastasia,” he says as if to a child. “You don’t understand. Leila, Susannah—all of them—they were a pleasant, diverting pastime. But that’s all. You are the center of my universe. And the last time you two were in a room together, she had you at gunpoint. I don’t want her anywhere near you.”

“But, Christian, she was ill.”

“I know that, and I know she’s better now, but I’m not giving her the benefit of the doubt anymore. What she did was unforgivable.”

“But you’ve just played right into her hands. She wanted to see you again, and she knew you’d come running if she came to see me.”

Christian shrugs as if he doesn’t care. “I don’t want you tainted with my old life.”

What?

“Christian . . . you are who you are because of your old life, your new life, whatever. What touches you, touches me. I accepted that when I agreed to marry you, because I love you.”

He stills. I know he finds it hard to hear this.

“She didn’t hurt me. She loves you, too.”

“I don’t give a fuck.”

I gape at him, shocked. And I’m shocked that he still has the capacity to shock me. This is the Christian Grey I know. Leila’s words rattle around my head.

His reaction to her was so cold, so much at odds with the man I’ve come to know and love. I frown, recalling the remorse he felt when she had her breakdown, when he thought he might in some way be responsible for her pain. I swallow, remembering, too, that he bathed her. My stomach twists painfully at the thought, and bile rises in my throat. How can he say he doesn’t care about her? He did back then. What’s changed? Sometimes, like now, I just don’t understand him. He operates on a level far, far removed from mine.

“Why are you championing her cause all of a sudden?” he asks, mystified and irritable.

“Look, Christian, I don’t think Leila and I will be swapping recipes and knit-ting patterns anytime soon. But I didn’t think you’d be so heartless to her.”

His eyes frost. “I told you once, I don’t have a heart,” he mutters.

I roll my eyes—oh, now he is being adolescent.

“That’s just not true, Christian. You’re being ridiculous. You do care about her. You wouldn’t be paying for art classes and the rest of that stuff if you didn’t.”

Suddenly, it’s my lifetime ambition to make him realize this. It’s painstak-ingly obvious that he cares. Why does he deny it? It’s like his feelings for his birth mother. Oh shit—of course. His feelings for Leila and his other submissives are tangled up with his feelings for his mother . I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore. No wonder he’s so mad. I sigh and shake my head. Paging Dr. Flynn, please. How can he not see this?

My heart swells for him momentarily. My lost boy . . . Why is it so hard for him to get back in touch with the humanity, the compassion he showed Leila when she had her breakdown?

He glares at me, his eyes glittering with anger. “This discussion is over. Let’s go home.”

I glance at my watch. It’s four twenty-three. I have work to do. “It’s too early,” I mutter.

“Home,” he insists.

“Christian.” My voice is weary. “I’m tired of having the same argument with you.”

He frowns as if he doesn’t understand.

“You know,” I elucidate, “I do something you don’t like, and you think of some way to get back at me. Usually involving some of your kinky fuckery, which is either mind-blowing or cruel.” I shrug, resigned. This is exhausting and confusing.

“Mind-blowing?” he asks.

What?

“Usually, yes.”

“What was mind-blowing?” he asks, his eyes now shimmering with amused sensual curiosity. And I know he’s trying to distract me.

Crap! I do not want to discuss this in SIP’s meeting room. My subconscious examines her finely manicured nails with disdain. Shouldn’t have brought the subject up, then.

“You know.” I blush, irritated with both him and myself.

“I can guess,” he whispers.

Holy crap. I’m trying to castigate him and he’s confounding me. “Christian, I—”

“I like to please you.” He delicately traces his thumb over my bottom lip.

“You do,” I acknowledge, my voice a whisper.

“I know,” he says softly. He leans forward and whispers in my ear, “It’s the one thing I do know.” Oh, he smells good. He leans back and gazes down at me, his lips curled in an arrogant, I-so-own-you smile.

Pursing my lips, I strive to appear unaffected by his touch. He is so artful at diverting me from anything painful, or anything he doesn’t want to address. And you let him, my subconscious pipes up unhelpfully, gazing over her copy of Jane Eyre.

“What was mind-blowing, Anastasia?” he prompts, a wicked gleam in his eye.

“You want the list?” I ask.

“There’s a list?” He’s pleased.

Oh, this man is exhausting. “Well, the handcuffs,” I mumble, my mind catapulted back to our honeymoon.

He furrows his brow and grasps my hand, tracing the pulse point on my wrist with his thumb.

“I don’t want to mark you.”

Oh . . .

His lips curl in a slow carnal smile. “Come home.” His tone is seductive.

“I have work to do.”

“Home,” he says, more insistent.

We gaze at each other, molten gray into bewildered blue, testing each other, testing our boundaries and our wills. I search his eyes for some understanding, trying to fathom how this man can go from raging control freak to seductive lover in one breath. His eyes grow larger and darker, his intention clear. Softly, he caresses my cheek.

“We could stay here.” His is voice low and husky.

Oh no. My inner goddess gazes longingly down at the wooden table. No. No.

No. Not in the office. “Christian, I don’t want to have sex here. Your mistress has just been in this room.”

“She was never my mistress,” he growls, his mouth flattening into a grim line.

“That’s just semantics, Christian.”

He frowns, his expression puzzled. The seductive lover has gone. “Don’t overthink this, Ana. She’s history,” he says dismissively.

I sigh . . . maybe he’s right. I just want him to admit to himself that he cares for her. A chill grips my heart. Oh no. This is why it’s important to me. Suppose I do something unforgivable. Suppose I don’t conform. Will I be history, too? If he can turn like this, when he was so concerned and upset when Leila was ill . . .

could he turn against me? I gasp, recalling the fragments of a dream: gilt mirrors and the sound of his heels clicking on the marbled floor as he leaves me standing alone in opulent splendor.

“No . . .” The words are out of my mouth in whispered horror before I can stop them.

“Yes,” he says, and grasping my chin, he leans down and plants a tender kiss on my lips.

“Oh, Christian, you scare me sometimes.” I grasp his head in my hands, twist my fingers into his hair, and pull his lips to mine. He stills for a moment as his arms fold around me.

“Why?”

“You could turn away from her so easily . . .”

He frowns. “And you think I might turn away from you, Ana? Why the hell would you think that? What’s brought this on?”

“Nothing. Kiss me. Take me home,” I plead. And as his lips touch mine, I am lost.

“Oh please,” I beg, as Christian blows gently on my sex.

“All in good time,” he murmurs.

I pull on my restraints and groan loudly in protest from his carnal assault. I’m trussed up in soft leather cuffs, each elbow bound to each knee, and Christian’s head bobs and weaves between my legs, his masterful tongue teasing me, relentless. I open my eyes and gaze unseeing at our bedroom ceiling bathed in the soft late afternoon light. His tongue moves round and round, swirling and curling over and around the center of my universe. I want to straighten my legs and struggle in a vain attempt to control the pleasure. But I can’t. My fingers fist in his hair and I tug hard to fight his sublime torture.

“Don’t come,” he murmurs in warning against me, his soft breath on my warm, wet flesh as he resists my fingers. “I will spank you if you come.”

I moan.

“Control, Ana. It’s all about control.” His tongue renews its erotic incursion.

Oh, he knows what he’s doing. I am helpless to resist or stop my slavish reaction, and I try—really try—but my body detonates under his merciless ministra-tions, and his tongue doesn’t stop as he wrings every last ounce of debilitating pleasure from me.

“Oh, Ana,” he scolds. “You came.” His voice is soft with his triumphant reprimand. He flips me onto my front, and I shakily support myself on my forearms.

He smacks me hard on my behind.

“Ah!” I cry out.

“Control,” he admonishes, and grabbing my hips he thrusts himself into me. I cry out again, my flesh still quivering from the aftershocks of my orgasm. He stills while deep inside me and, leaning over, unclips first one, then the second cuff. He wraps his arm around me and pulls me into his lap, his front to my back, and his hand curls beneath my chin around my throat. I revel in the feeling of fullness.

“Move,” he orders.

I moan and rise up and down on his lap.

“Faster,” he whispers.

And I move faster and faster. He groans and his hand tips my head back as he nibbles my neck. His other hand travels leisurely across my body, from my hip, down to my sex, down to my clitoris . . . still sensitive from his earlier lavish attention. I whimper as his fingers close around me, teasing me once more.

“Yes, Ana,” he rasps softly in my ear. “You are mine. Only you.”

“Yes,” I breathe as my body tightens again, closing around him, cradling him in the most intimate way.

“Come for me,” he demands.

And I let go, my body obediently following his command. He holds me still as my climax rips through me and I call out his name.

“Oh, Ana, I love you,” he groans and follows my lead as he bucks into me, finding his own release.

He kisses my shoulder and smoothes my hair from my face. “Does that make the list, Mrs. Grey?” he murmurs. I am lying, barely conscious, flat on my belly on our bed. Christian gently kneads my backside. He’s propped up beside me on one elbow.

“Hmm.”

“Is that a yes?”

“Hmm.” I smile.

He grins and kisses me again, and reluctantly I roll on my side to face him.

“Well?” he asks.

“Yes. It makes the list. But it’s a long list.”

His face nearly splits in two, and he leans forward to kiss me gently. “Good.

Shall we have dinner?” His eyes glow with love and humor.

I nod. I am famished. I reach over to gently pull the little hairs on his chest. “I want you to tell me something,” I whisper.

“What?”

“Don’t get mad.”

“What is it, Ana?”

“You do care.”

His eyes widen, and all trace of his good humor vanishes.

“I want you to admit that you care. Because the Christian I know and love would care.”

He stills, his eyes not leaving mine, and I’m witness to his internal struggle as if he’s about to make the judgment of Solomon. He opens his mouth to say something then closes it again as some fleeting emotion crosses his face . . . pain, maybe.

Say it, I will him.

“Yes. Yes, I care. Happy?” His voice is barely a whisper.

Oh, thank fuck for that. It’s a relief. “Yes. Very.”

He frowns. “I can’t believe I’m talking to you now, here in our bed, about—”

I put my finger to his lips. “We’re not. Let’s eat. I’m hungry.”

He sighs and shakes his head. “You beguile and bewilder me, Mrs. Grey.”

“Good.” I lean up and kiss him.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: The List

Date: September 9, 2011 09:33

To: Christian Grey

That’s definitely at the top.

😀

A x

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, SIP

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Tell Me Something New

Date: September 9, 2011 09:42

To: Anastasia Grey

You’ve said that for the last three days.

Make your mind up.Or . . . we could try something else.

😉

Christian Grey

CEO, Enjoying this Game, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

I grin at my screen. The last few evenings have been . . . entertaining. We have relaxed again, Leila’s brief interruption forgotten. I haven’t quite worked up the courage to ask if any of her paintings hang on the walls—and frankly, I don’t really care. My BlackBerry buzzes and I answer, expecting Christian.

“Ana?”

“Yes?”

“Ana, honey. It’s José Senior.”

“Mr. Rodriguez! Hi!” My scalp prickles. What does José’s dad want with me?

“Honey, I’m sorry to call you at work. It’s Ray.” His voice falters.

“What is it? What’s happened?” My heart leaps into my throat.

“Ray’s been in an accident.”

Oh, no. Daddy. I stop breathing.

“He’s in the hospital. You’d better get here quick.”

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