Home > Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)(3)

Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)(3)
E.L. James

Holy cow... This beautiful man wants me back, and deep down inside me sweet joy slowly unfurls like a morning glory in the early dawn.

"Ana!" Jose distracts me, and I'm dragged back to the here and now. "I am so glad you came - listen, I should warn you - "

Suddenly, Miss Very Short Hair and Red Lipstick cuts him off. "Jose, the journalist from the Portland Printz is here to see you. Come on." She gives me a polite smile.

"How cool is this? The fame." He grins, and I can't help but grin back - he's so happy.

"Catch you later, Ana." He kisses my cheek, and I watch him stroll over to a young woman standing by a tall lanky photographer.

Jose's photographs are everywhere, and in some cases, blown up onto huge canvases.

There are both monochromes and colors. There's an ethereal beauty to many of the landscapes. In one taken out near the lake at Vancouver, it's early evening and pink clouds are reflected in the stillness of the water. Briefly, I'm transported by the tranquility and the peace. It's stunning.

Christian joins me, and I take a deep breath and swallow, trying to recover some of my earlier equilibrium. He hands me my glass of white wine.

"Does it come up to scratch?" My voice sounds more normal.

He looks quizzically at me.

"The wine."

"No. Rarely does at these kinds of events. The boy's quite talented, isn't he?" Christian is admiring the lake photo.

"Why else do you think I asked him to take your portrait?" I can't help the pride in my voice. His eyes glide impassively from the photograph to me.

"Christian Grey?" The photographer from the Portland Printz approaches Christian.

"Can I have a picture, sir?"

"Sure." Christian hides his scowl. I step back, but he grabs my hand and pulls me to his side. The photographer looks at both of us and can't hide his surprise.

"Mr. Grey, thank you." He snaps a couple of photos. "Miss... ?" he asks.

"Steele," I reply.

"Thank you, Miss Steele." He scurries off.

"I looked for pictures of you with dates on the Internet. There aren't any. That's why Kate thought you were gay."

Christian's mouth twitches with a smile. "That explains your inappropriate question.

No, I don't do dates, Anastasia - only with you. But you know that." His eyes burn with sincerity.

"So you never took your" - I glance around nervously to check no one can overhear us - "subs out?"

"Sometimes. Not on dates. Shopping, you know." He shrugs, his eyes not leaving mine.

Oh, so just in the playroom - his Red Room of Pain and his apartment. I don't know what to feel about that.

"Just you, Anastasia," he whispers.

I blush and stare down at my fingers. In his own way, he does care about me.

"Your friend here seems more of a landscape man, not portraits. Let's look round." He holds his hand out to me, and I take it.

We wander past a few more prints, and I notice a couple nodding at me, smiling broadly as if they know me. It must be because I'm with Christian, but one young man is blatantly staring. Odd.

We turn the corner, and I can see why I've been getting strange looks. Hanging on the far wall are seven huge portraits - of me.

I stare blankly at them, stupefied, the blood draining from my face. Me: pouting, laughing, scowling, serious, amused. All in super close up, all in black and white.

Holy crap! I remember Jose messing with the camera on a couple of occasions when he was visiting and when I'd been out with him as driver and photographer's assistant. He took snapshots, or so I thought. Not these invasive candids.

I glance up at Christian, who is staring, transfixed, at each of the pictures in turn.

"Seems I'm not the only one," he mutters cryptically, his mouth settling into a hard line.I think he's angry. Oh no.

"Excuse me," he says, pinning me with his bright gray gaze for a moment. He turns and heads to the reception desk.

What's his problem now? I watch mesmerized as he talks animatedly with Miss Very Short Hair and Red Lipstick. He fishes out his wallet and produces his credit card.

Shit. He must have bought one of them.

"Hey. You're the muse. These photographs are terrific." A young man with a shock of bright blond hair startles me. I feel a hand at my elbow and Christian is back.

"You're a lucky guy." Blond Shock smirks at Christian, who gives him a cold stare.

"That I am," he mutters darkly, as he pulls me over to one side.

"Did you just buy one of these?"

"One of these?" he snorts, not taking his eyes off them.

"You bought more than one?"

He rolls his eyes. "I bought them all, Anastasia. I don't want some stranger ogling you in the privacy of their home."

My first inclination is to laugh. "You'd rather it was you?" I scoff.

He glares down at me, caught off guard by my audacity, I think, but he's trying to hide his amusement.

"Frankly, yes."

"Pervert," I mouth at him and bite my lower lip to prevent my smile.

His mouth drops open, and now his amusement is obvious. He strokes his chin thoughtfully."Can't argue with that assessment, Anastasia." He shakes his head, and his eyes soften with humor.

"I'd discuss it further with you, but I've signed an NDA."

He sighs, gazing at me, and his eyes darken. "What I'd like to do to your smart mouth,"

he murmurs.

I gasp, knowing full well what he means. "You're very rude." I try to sound shocked and succeed. Does he have no boundaries?

He smirks at me, amused, and then he frowns.

"You look very relaxed in these photographs, Anastasia. I don't see you like that very often."

What? Whoa! Change of subject - talk about non sequitur - from playful to serious.

I flush and glance down at my fingers. He tilts my head back, and I inhale sharply at the contact with his long fingers.

"I want you that relaxed with me," he whispers. All trace of humor has gone.

Deep inside me that joy stirs again. But how can this be? We have issues.

"You have to stop intimidating me if you want that," I snap.

"You have to learn to communicate and tell me how you feel," he snaps back, eyes blazing.

I take a deep breath. "Christian, you wanted me as a submissive. That's where the problem lies. It's in the definition of a submissive - you e-mailed it to me once." I pause, trying to recall the wording. "I think the synonyms were, and I quote, 'compliant, pliant, amenable, passive, tractable, resigned, patient, docile, tame, subdued.' I wasn't supposed to look at you. Not talk to you unless you gave me permission to do so. What do you expect?"

I hiss at him.

He blinks, and his frown deepens as I continue.

"It's very confusing being with you. You don't want me to defy you, but then you like my 'smart mouth.' You want obedience, except when you don't, so you can punish me. I just don't know which way is up when I'm with you."

He narrows his eyes. "Good point well made, as usual, Miss Steele." His voice is frigid. "Come, let's go eat."

"We've only been here for half an hour."

"You've seen the photos; you've spoken to the boy."

"His name is Jose."

"You've spoken to Jose - the man who, the last time I met him, was trying to push his tongue into your reluctant mouth while you were drunk and ill," he snarls.

"He's never hit me," I spit at him.

Christian scowls at me, fury emanating from every pore. "That's a low blow, Anastasia," he whispers menacingly.

I flush, and Christian runs his hands through his hair, bristling with barely contained anger. I glare back at him.

"I'm taking you for something to eat. You're fading away in front of me. Find the boy, say good-bye."

"Please, can we stay longer?"

"No. Go. Now. Say good-bye."

I glare at him, my blood boiling. Mr. Damned Control Freak. Angry is good. Angry is better than tearful.

I drag my gaze away from him and scan the room for Jose. He's talking to a group of young women. I stalk off toward him and away from Fifty. Just because he brought me here, I have to do as he says? Who the hell does he think he is?

The girls are hanging on Jose's every word. One of them gasps as I approach, no doubt recognizing me from the portraits.

"Jose."

"Ana. Excuse me, girls." Jose grins at them and puts his arm around me, and on some level I'm amused - Jose all smooth, impressing the ladies.

"You look mad," he says.

"I have to go," I mutter mulishly.

"You just got here."

"I know but Christian needs to get back. The pictures are fantastic, Jose - you're very talented."

He beams. "It was so cool seeing you."

Jose sweeps me into a big bear hug, spinning me so I can see Christian across the gallery. He's scowling, and I realize it's because I'm in Jose's arms. So in a very calculating move, I wrap my arms around Jose's neck. I think Christian is going to expire. His glare darkens to something quite sinister, and slowly he makes his way toward us.

"Thanks for the warning about the portraits of me," I mumble.

"Shit. Sorry, Ana. I should have told you. D'you like them?"

"Um... I don't know," I answer truthfully, momentarily knocked off balance by his question.

"Well, they're all sold, so somebody likes them. How cool is that? You're a poster girl." He hugs me tighter still as Christian reaches us, glowering at me now, though fortunately Jose doesn't see.

Jose releases me. "Don't be a stranger, Ana. Oh, Mr. Grey, good evening."

"Mr. Rodriguez, very impressive." Christian sounds icily polite. "I'm sorry we can't stay longer, but we need to head back to Seattle. Anastasia?" He subtly stresses we and takes my hand as he does so.

"Bye, Jose. Congratulations again." I give him a quick kiss on the cheek, and before I know it Christian is dragging me out of the building. I know he's boiling with silent wrath, but so am I.

He looks quickly up and down the street then heads left and suddenly sweeps me into a side alley, abruptly pushing me up against a wall. He grabs my face between his hands, forcing me to look up into his ardent determined eyes.

I gasp, and his mouth swoops down. He's kissing me, violently. Briefly our teeth clash, then his tongue is in my mouth.

Desire explodes like the Fourth of July throughout my body, and I'm kissing him back, matching his fervor, my hands knotting in his hair, pulling it, hard. He groans, a low sexy sound in the back of his throat that reverberates through me, and his hand moves down my body to the top of my thigh, his fingers digging into my flesh through the plum dress.

I pour all the angst and heartbreak of the last few days into our kiss, binding him to me, and it hits me - in this moment of blinding passion - he's doing the same, he feels the same.

He breaks off the kiss, panting. His eyes are luminous with desire, firing the already heated blood that is pounding through my body. My mouth is slack as I try to drag precious air into my lungs.

"You. Are. Mine," he snarls, emphasizing each word. He pushes away from me and bends, hands on his knees as if he's run a marathon. "For the love of God, Ana."

I lean against the wall, panting, trying to control the riotous reaction in my body, trying to find my equilibrium again.

"I'm sorry," I whisper once my breath has returned.

"You should be. I know what you were doing. Do you want the photographer, Anastasia? He obviously has feelings for you."

I flush and shake my head.

"No. He's just a friend."

"I have spent all my adult life trying to avoid any extreme emotion. Yet you... you bring out feelings in me that are completely alien. It's very..." He frowns, grasping for the word. "Unsettling.

"I like control, Ana, and around you that just" - he stands, his gaze intense -

"evaporates." He waves his hand vaguely, then runs it through his hair and takes a deep breath. He clasps my hand.

"Come, we need to talk, and you need to eat."

Chapter Two

He leads me into a small, intimate restaurant.

"This place will have to do," Christian grumbles. "We don't have much time."

The restaurant looks fine to me. Wooden chairs, linen tablecloths, and walls the same color as Christian's playroom - deep blood red - with small gilt mirrors randomly placed, white candles, and small vases of white roses. Ella Fitzgerald croons softly in the background about this thing called love. It's very romantic.

The waiter leads us to a table for two in a small alcove, and I sit, apprehensive and wondering what he's going to say.

"We don't have long," Christian says to the waiter as we sit. "So we'll each have sirloin steak cooked medium, bearnaise sauce if you have it, fries, and green vegetables, whatever the chef has; and bring me the wine list."

"Certainly, sir." The waiter, taken aback by Christian's cool, calm efficiency, scuttles off. Christian places his Blackberry on the table. Jeez, don't I get a choice?

"And if I don't like steak?"

He sighs. "Don't start, Anastasia."

"I am not a child, Christian."

"Well, stop acting like one."

It's as if he's slapped me. I blink at him. So this is how it will be, an agitated, fraught conversation, albeit in a very romantic setting but certainly no hearts and flowers.

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