Home > Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian(8)

Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian(8)
E.L. James

Interesting.

She straightens her shoulders. “Tell me about your parents,” she demands, in an attempt to divert the conversation from her family. I don’t like talking about mine, so I give her the bare details.

“My dad’s a lawyer, my mom is a pediatrician. They live in Seattle.”

“What do your siblings do?”

She wants to go there? I give her the short answer that Elliot works in construction and Mia is at cooking school in Paris.

She listens, rapt. “I hear Paris is lovely,” she says with a dreamy expression.

“It’s beautiful. Have you been?”

“I’ve never left mainland USA.” The cadence in her voice falls, tinged with regret. I could take her there.

“Would you like to go?”

First Cabo, now Paris? Get a grip, Grey.

“To Paris? Of course. But it’s England that I’d really like to visit.”

Her face brightens with excitement. Miss Steele wants to travel. But why England? I ask her.

“It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.” It’s obvious this is her first love.

Books.

She said as much in Clayton’s yesterday. That means I’m competing with Darcy, Rochester, and Angel Clare: impossible romantic heroes. Here’s the proof I needed. She’s an incurable romantic, like her mother—and this isn’t going to work. To add insult to injury, she looks at her watch. She’s done.

I’ve blown this deal.

“I’d better go. I have to study,” she says.

I offer to walk her back to her friend’s car, which means I’ll have the walk back to the hotel to make my case.

But should I?

“Thank you for the tea, Mr. Grey,” she says.

“You’re welcome, Anastasia. It’s my pleasure.” As I say the words I realize that the last twenty minutes have been…enjoyable. Giving her my most dazzling smile, guaranteed to disarm, I offer her my hand. “Come,” I say. She takes my hand, and as we walk back to The Heathman I can’t shake how agreeable her hand feels in mine.

Maybe this could work.

“Do you always wear jeans?” I ask.

“Mostly,” she says, and it’s two strikes against her: incurable romantic who only wears jeans…I like my women in skirts. I like them accessible.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” she asks out of the blue, and it’s the third strike. I’m out of this fledgling deal. She wants romance, and I can’t offer her that.

“No, Anastasia. I don’t do the girlfriend thing.”

Stricken with a frown, she turns abruptly and stumbles into the road.

“Shit, Ana!” I shout, tugging her toward me to stop her from falling in the path of an idiot cyclist who’s flying the wrong way up the street. All of a sudden she’s in my arms clutching my biceps, staring up at me. Her eyes are startled, and for the first time I notice a darker ring of blue circling her irises; they’re beautiful, more beautiful this close. Her pupils dilate and I know I could fall into her gaze and never return. She takes a deep breath.

“Are you okay?” My voice sounds alien and distant, and I realize she’s touching me and I don’t care. My fingers caress her cheek. Her skin is soft and smooth, and as I brush my thumb against her lower lip, my breath catches in my throat. Her body is pressed against mine, and the feel of her breasts and her heat through my shirt is arousing. She has a fresh, wholesome fragrance that reminds me of my grandfather’s apple orchard. Closing my eyes, I inhale, committing her scent to memory. When I open them she’s still staring at me, entreating me, begging me, her eyes on my mouth.

Shit. She wants me to kiss her.

And I want to. Just once. Her lips are parted, ready, waiting. Her mouth felt welcoming beneath my thumb.

No. No. No. Don’t do this, Grey.

She’s not the girl for you.

She wants hearts and flowers, and you don’t do that shit.

I close my eyes to blot her out and fight the temptation, and when I open them again, my decision is made. “Anastasia,” I whisper, “you should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you.”

The little v forms between her brows, and I think she’s stopped breathing.

“Breathe, Anastasia, breathe.” I have to let her go before I do something stupid, but I’m surprised at my reluctance. I want to hold her for a moment longer. “I’m going to stand you up and let you go.” I step back and she releases her hold on me, yet weirdly, I don’t feel any relief. I slide my hands to her shoulders to ensure she can stand. Her expression clouds with humiliation. She’s mortified by my rebuff.

Hell. I didn’t mean to hurt you.

“I’ve got this,” she says, disappointment ringing in her clipped tone. She’s formal and distant, but she doesn’t move out of my hold. “Thank you,” she adds.

“For what?”

“For saving me.”

And I want to tell her that I’m saving her from me…that it’s a noble gesture, but that’s not what she wants to hear. “That idiot was riding the wrong way. I’m glad I was here. I shudder to think what could have happened to you.” Now it’s me that’s babbling, and I still can’t let her go. I offer to sit with her in the hotel, knowing it’s a ploy to prolong my time with her, and only then do I release her.

She shakes her head, her back ramrod stiff, and wraps her arms around herself in a protective gesture. A moment later she bolts across the street and I have to hurry to keep up with her.

When we reach the hotel, she turns and faces me once more, composed. “Thanks for the tea and doing the photo shoot.” She regards me dispassionately and regret flares in my gut.

“Anastasia…I…” I can’t think what to say, except that I’m sorry.

“What, Christian?” she snaps.

Whoa. She’s mad at me, pouring all the contempt she can into each syllable of my name. It’s novel. And she’s leaving. And I don’t want her to go. “Good luck with your exams.”

Her eyes flash with hurt and indignation. “Thanks,” she mutters, disdain in her tone. “Good-bye, Mr. Grey.” She turns away and strides up the street toward the underground garage. I watch her go, hoping that she’ll give me a second look, but she doesn’t. She disappears into the building, leaving in her wake a trace of regret, the memory of her beautiful blue eyes, and the scent of an apple orchard in the fall.

THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2011

* * *

No! My scream bounces off the bedroom walls and wakes me from my nightmare. I’m smothered in sweat, with the stench of stale beer, cigarettes, and poverty in my nostrils and a lingering dread of drunken violence. Sitting up, I put my head in my hands as I try to calm my escalated heart rate and erratic breathing. It’s been the same for the last four nights. Glancing at the clock, I see it’s 3:00 a.m.

I have two major meetings tomorrow…today…and I need a clear head and some sleep. Damn it, what I’d give for a good night’s sleep. And I have a round of fucking golf with Bastille. I should cancel the golf; the thought of playing and losing darkens my already bleak mood.

Clambering out of bed, I wander down the corridor and into the kitchen. There, I fill a glass with water and catch sight of myself, dressed only in pajama pants, reflected in the glass wall at the other side of the room. I turn away in disgust.

You turned her down.

She wanted you.

And you turned her down.

It was for her own good.

This has needled me for days now. Her beautiful face appears in my mind without warning, taunting me. If my shrink was back from his vacation in England I could call him. His psychobabble shit would stop me feeling this lousy.

Grey, she was just a pretty girl.

Perhaps I need a distraction; a new sub, maybe. It’s been too long since Susannah. I contemplate calling Elena in the morning. She always finds suitable candidates for me. But the truth is, I don’t want anyone new.

I want Ana.

Her disappointment, her wounded indignation, and her contempt remain with me. She walked away without a backward glance. Perhaps I raised her hopes by asking her out for coffee, only to disappoint her.

Maybe I should find some way to apologize, then I can forget about this whole sorry episode and get the girl out of my head. Leaving the glass in the sink for my housekeeper to wash, I trudge back to bed.

THE RADIO ALARM JOLTS to life at 5:45 as I’m staring at the ceiling. I haven’t slept and I’m exhausted.

Fuck! This is ridiculous.

The program on the radio is a welcome distraction until the second news item. It’s about the sale of a rare manuscript: an unfinished novel by Jane Austen called The Watsons that’s being auctioned in London.

“Books,” she said.

Christ. Even the news reminds me of little Miss Bookworm.

She’s an incurable romantic who loves the English classics. But then so do I, but for different reasons. I don’t have any Jane Austen first editions, or Brontës, for that matter…but I do have two Thomas Hardys.

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