Home > Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)(4)

Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)(4)
E.L. James

"I'm a child because I don't like steak?" I mutter trying to conceal my hurt.

"For deliberately making me jealous. It's a childish thing to do. Have you no regard for your friend's feelings, leading him on like that?" Christian presses his lips together in a thin line and scowls as the waiter returns with the wine list.

I blush - I hadn't thought of that. Poor Jose - I certainly don't want to encourage him.

Suddenly, I'm mortified. Christian has a point; it was a thoughtless thing to do. He glances at the wine list.

"Would you like to choose the wine?" he asks, raising his eyebrows at me expectantly, arrogance personified. He knows I know nothing about wine.

"You choose," I answer, sullen but chastened.

"Two glasses of the Barossa Valley Shiraz, please."

"Er... we only sell that wine by the bottle, sir."

"A bottle then," Christian snaps.

"Sir." He retreats, subdued, and I don't blame him. I frown at Fifty. What's eating him?

Oh, me probably, and somewhere in the depths of my psyche, my inner goddess rises sleepily, stretches, and smiles. She's been asleep for a while.

"You're very grumpy."

He gazes at me impassively. "I wonder why that is?"

"Well, it's good to set the right tone for an intimate and honest discussion about the future, wouldn't you say?" I smile at him sweetly.

His mouth presses into a hard line, but then, almost reluctantly, his lips lift, and I know he's trying to stifle his smile.

"I'm sorry," he says.

"Apology accepted, and I'm pleased to inform you I haven't decided to become a veg-etarian since we last ate."

"Since that was the last time you ate, I think that's a moot point."

"There's that word again, moot."

"Moot," he mouths and his eyes soften with humor. He runs his hand through his hair, and he's serious again. "Ana, the last time we spoke, you left me. I'm a little nervous. I've told you I want you back, and you've said... nothing." His gaze is intense and expectant while his candor is totally disarming. What the hell do I say to this?

"I've missed you... really missed you, Christian. The past few days have been...

difficult." I swallow, and a lump in my throat swells as I recall my desperate anguish since I left him.

This last week has been the worst in my life, the pain almost indescribable. Nothing has come close. But reality hits home, winding me.

"Nothing's changed. I can't be what you want me to be." I squeeze the words out past the lump in my throat.

"You are what I want you to be," he says, his soft voice emphatic.

"No, Christian, I'm not."

"You're upset because of what happened last time. I behaved stupidly, and you... So did you. Why didn't you safe word, Anastasia?" His tone changes, becoming accusatory.

What? Whoa - change of direction. I flush, blinking at him.

"Answer me."

"I don't know. I was overwhelmed. I was trying to be what you wanted me to be, trying to deal with the pain, and it went out of my mind. You know... I forgot," I whisper ashamed, and I shrug apologetically.

Jeez, perhaps we could have avoided all this heartache.

"You forgot!" he gasps with horror, grabbing the sides of the table and glaring at me.

I wither under his stare.

Shit! He's furious again. My inner goddess glares at me, too. See, you brought all this on yourself!

"How can I trust you?" he says, his voice low. "Ever?"

The waiter arrives with our wine as we sit staring at each other, blue eyes to gray. Both of us filled with unspoken recriminations, while the waiter removes the cork with an un-necessary flourish and pours a little wine into Christian's glass. Automatically Christian reaches out and takes a sip.

"That's fine." His voice is curt.

Gingerly the waiter fills our glasses, placing the bottle on the table before beating a hasty retreat. Christian has not taken his eyes off me the whole time. I am the first to crack, breaking eye contact, picking up my glass and taking a large gulp. I barely taste it.

"I'm sorry," I whisper, suddenly feeling stupid. I left because I thought we were incompatible, but he's saying I could have stopped him?

"Sorry for what?" he says alarmed.

"Not using the safe word."

He closes his eyes, as if in relief.

"We might have avoided all this suffering," he mutters.

"You look fine." More than fine. You look like you.

"Appearances can be deceptive," he says quietly. "I'm anything but fine. I feel like the sun has set and not risen for five days, Ana. I'm in perpetual night here."

I'm winded by his admission. Oh my, like me.

"You said you'd never leave, yet the going gets tough and you're out the door."

"When did I say I'd never leave?"

"In your sleep. It was the most comforting thing I'd heard in so long, Anastasia. It made me relax."

My heart constricts and I reach for my wine.

"You said you loved me," he whispers. "Is that now in the past tense?" His voice is low, laced with anxiety.

"No, Christian, it's not."

He gazes at me, and he looks so vulnerable as he exhales. "Good," he murmurs.

I'm shocked by his admission. He's had a change of heart. When I told him I loved him before, he was horrified. The waiter is back. Briskly he places our plates in front of us and scuttles away.

Holy hell. Food.

"Eat," Christian commands.

Deep down I know I'm hungry, but right now, my stomach is in knots. Sitting across from the only man I have ever loved and debating our uncertain future does not promote a healthy appetite. I look dubiously at my food.

"So help me God, Anastasia, if you don't eat, I will take you across my knee here in this restaurant, and it will have nothing to do with my sexual gratification. Eat!"

Jeez, keep your hair on, Grey. My subconscious stares at me over her half-moon specs.

She is wholeheartedly in agreement with Fifty Shades.

"Okay, I'll eat. Stow your twitching palm, please."

He doesn't smile but continues to glare at me. Reluctantly I lift my knife and fork and slice into my steak. Oh, it's mouthwateringly good. I am hungry, really hungry. I chew and he visibly relaxes.

We eat our supper in silence. The music's changed. A soft-voiced woman sings in the background, her words echoing my thoughts.

I glance at Fifty. He's eating and watching me. Hunger, longing, anxiety combined in one hot look.

"Do you know who's singing?" I try for some normal conversation.

Christian pauses and listens. "No... but she's good, whoever she is."

"I like her, too."

Finally he smiles his private enigmatic smile. What's he planning?

"What?" I ask.

He shakes his head. "Eat up," he says mildly.

I have eaten half the food on my plate. I cannot eat any more. How can I negotiate this?

"I can't manage any more. Have I eaten enough for Sir?"

He stares at me impassively, not answering, then glances at his watch.

"I am really full," I add, taking a sip of the delicious wine.

"We have to go shortly. Taylor's here, and you have to be up for work in the morning."

"So do you."

"I function on a lot less sleep than you do, Anastasia. At least you've eaten something."

"Aren't we going back via Charlie Tango?"

"No, I thought I might have a drink. Taylor will collect us. Besides, this way I have you in the car all to myself for a few hours, at least. What can we do but talk?"

Oh, that's his plan.

Christian summons the waiter to ask for the check, then picks up his Blackberry and makes a call.

"We're at Le Picotin, South West Third Avenue." He hangs up.

Jeez, he's curt over the phone.

"You're very brusque with Taylor, in fact, with most people."

"I just get to the point quickly, Anastasia."

"You haven't gotten to the point this evening. Nothing's changed, Christian."

"I have a proposition for you."

"This started with a proposition."

"A different proposition."

The waiter returns, and Christian hands over his credit card without checking the bill.

He gazes at me speculatively while the waiter swipes his card. Christian's phone buzzes once, and he peers at it.

He has a proposition? What now? A couple of scenarios run through my mind: kidnap, working for him. No, nothing makes sense. Christian finishes paying.

"Come. Taylor's outside."

We stand and he takes my hand.

"I don't want to lose you, Anastasia." He kisses my knuckles tenderly, and the touch of his lips on my skin resonates throughout my body.

Outside the Audi is waiting. Christian opens my door. Climbing in, I sink into the plush leather. He heads to the driver's side, Taylor steps out of the car and they talk briefly.

This isn't their usual protocol. I'm curious. What are they talking about? Moments later, they both climb in, and I glance at Christian who's wearing his impassive face as he stares ahead.

I allow myself a brief moment to examine his godlike profile: straight nose, sculptured full lips, hair falling deliciously over his forehead. This divine man is surely not meant for me. Soft music suddenly fills the rear of the car, an orchestral piece that I don't know, and Taylor pulls into the light traffic, heading for the I-5 and Seattle.

Christian shifts to face me. "As I was saying, Anastasia, I have a proposition for you."

I glance nervously at Taylor.

"Taylor can't hear you," Christian reassures me.

"How?"

"Taylor," Christian calls. Taylor doesn't respond. He calls again, still no response.

Christian leans over and taps his shoulder. Taylor removes an ear bud I hadn't noticed.

"Yes, sir?"

"Thank you, Taylor. It's okay; resume your listening."

"Sir."

"Happy now? He's listening to his iPod. Puccini. Forget he's here. I do."

"Did you deliberately ask him to do that?"

"Yes."

Oh. "Okay, your proposition?"

Christian looks suddenly determined and businesslike. Holy shit. We're negotiating a deal. I listen attentively.

"Let me ask you something first. Do you want a regular vanilla relationship with no kinky fuckery at all?"

My mouth drops open. "Kinky fuckery?" I squeak.

"Kinky fuckery."

"I can't believe you said that." I glance nervously at Taylor.

"Well, I did. Answer me," he says calmly.

I flush. My inner goddess is down on bended knee with her hands clasped in supplication begging me.

"I like your kinky fuckery," I whisper.

"That's what I thought. So what don't you like?"

Not being able to touch you. You enjoying my pain, the bite of the belt...

"The threat of cruel and unusual punishment."

"What does that mean?"

"Well, you have all those canes and whips and stuff in your playroom, and they frighten the living daylights out of me. I don't want you to use them on me."

"Okay, so no whips or canes - or belts, for that matter," he says sardonically.

I gaze at him puzzled. "Are you attempting to redefine the hard limits?"

"Not as such, I'm just trying to understand you, get a clearer picture of what you do and don't like."

"Fundamentally, Christian, it's your joy in inflicting pain on me that's difficult for me to handle. And the idea that you'll do it because I have crossed some arbitrary line."

"But it's not arbitrary; the rules are written down."

"I don't want a set of rules."

"None at all?"

"No rules." I shake my head, but my heart is in my mouth. Where is he going with this?

"But you don't mind if I spank you?"

"Spank me with what?"

"This." He holds up his hand.

I squirm uncomfortably. "No, not really. Especially with those silver balls..." Thank heavens it's dark, my face is flaming and my voice trails off as I recall that night. Yeah...

I'd do that again.

He smirks at me. "Yes, that was fun."

"More than fun," I mutter.

"So you can deal with some pain."

I shrug. "Yes, I suppose." Oh, where is he going with this? My anxiety level has shot up several magnitudes on the Richter scale.

He strokes his chin, deep in thought. "Anastasia, I want to start again. Do the vanilla thing and then maybe, once you trust me more and I trust you to be honest and to communicate with me, we could move on and do some of the things that I like to do."

I stare at him, stunned, with no thoughts in my head at all - like a computer crash. He gazes at me anxiously, but I can't see him clearly, as we're shrouded in the Oregon darkness. It occurs to me, finally, this is it.

He wants the light, but can I ask him to do this for me? And don't I like the dark? Some dark, sometimes. Memories of the Thomas Tallis night drift invitingly through my mind.

"But what about punishments?"

"No punishments." He shakes his head. "None."

"And the rules?"

"No rules."

"None at all? But you have needs."

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