Home > Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)(3)

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)(3)
E.L. James

While cruising along the I-5, my mind continues to wander. I'm truly perplexed as to what makes someone so driven to succeed. Some of his answers were so cryptic - as if he had a hidden agenda. And Kate's questions - ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can't believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment. Damn Katherine Kavanagh!

I check the speedometer. I'm driving more cautiously than I would on any other occasion. And I know it's the memory of two penetrating gray eyes gazing at me, and a stern voice telling me to drive carefully. Shaking my head, I realize that Grey's more like a man double his age.

Forget it, Ana, I scold myself. I decide that all in all, it's been a very interesting experience, but I shouldn't dwell on it . Put it behind you. I never have to see him again. I'm immediately cheered by the thought. I switch on the MP3 player and turn the volume up loud, sit back, and listen to thumping indie rock music as I press down on the accelerator.

As I hit the 1-5, I realize I can drive as fast as I want.

We live in a small community of duplex apartments in Vancouver, Washington, close to the Vancouver campus of WSU. I'm lucky - Kate's parents bought the place for her, and I pay peanuts for rent. It's been home for four years now. As I pull up outside, I know Kate is going to want a blow-by-blow account, and she is tenacious. Well, at least she has the mini-disc. Hopefully I won't have to elaborate much beyond what was said during the interview.

"Ana! You're back." Kate sits in our living area, surrounded by books. She's clearly been studying for finals - though she's still in her pink flannel pajamas decorated with cute little rabbits, the ones she reserves for the aftermath of breaking up with boyfriends, for assorted illnesses, and for general moody depression. She bounds up to me and hugs me hard.

"I was beginning to worry. I expected you back sooner."

"Oh, I thought I made good time considering the interview ran over." I wave the mini-disc recorder at her.

"Ana, thank you so much for doing this. I owe you, I know. How was itWhat was he like?" Oh no - here we go, the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.

I struggle to answer her question. What can I say?

"I'm glad it's over, and I don't have to see him again. He was rather intimidating, you know." I shrug. "He's very focused, intense even - and young. Really young."

Kate gazes innocently at me. I frown at her.

"Don't you look so innocent. Why didn't you give me a biographyHe made me feel like such an idiot for skimping on basic research." Kate clamps a hand to her mouth.

"Jeez, Ana, I'm sorry - I didn't think."

I huff.

"Mostly he was courteous, formal, slightly stuffy - like he's old before his time. He doesn't talk like a man of twenty-something. How old is he anyway?"

"Twenty-seven. Jeez, Ana, I'm sorry. I should have briefed you, but I was in such a panic. Let me have the mini-disc, and I'll start transcribing the interview."

"You look better. Did you eat your soup?" I ask, keen to change the subject.

"Yes, and it was delicious as usual. I'm feeling much better." She smiles at me in gratitude. I check my watch.

"I have to run. I can still make my shift at Clayton's."

"Ana, you'll be exhausted."

"I'll be fine. I'll see you later."

I've worked at Clayton's since I started at WSU. It's the largest independent hardware store in the Portland area, and over the four years I've worked here, I've come to know a little bit about most everything we sell - although ironically, I'm crap at any DIY. I leave all that to my dad. I'm much more of a curl-up-with-a-book-in-a-comfy-chair-by-the-fire kind of girl. I'm glad I can make my shift as it gives me something to focus on that isn't Christian Grey. We're busy - it's the start of the summer season, and folks are redecorating their homes. Mrs. Clayton is pleased to see me.

"Ana! I thought you weren't going to make it today."

"My appointment didn't take as long as I thought. I can do a couple of hours."

"I'm real pleased to see you."

She sends me to the storeroom to start re-stocking shelves, and I'm soon absorbed in the task.

When I arrive home later, Katherine is wearing headphones and working on her laptop.

Her nose is still pink, but she has her teeth into a story, so she's concentrating and typing furiously. I'm thoroughly drained - exhausted by the long drive, the grueling interview, and by being rushed off my feet at Clayton's. I slump on to the couch, thinking about the essay I have to finish and all the studying I haven't done today because I was holed up with ... him.

"You've got some good stuff here, Ana. Well done. I can't believe you didn't take him up on his offer to show you around. He obviously wanted to spend more time with you."

She gives me a fleeting quizzical look.

I flush, and my heart rate inexplicably increases. That wasn't the reason, surelyHe just wanted to show me around so I could see that he was lord of all he surveyed. I realize I'm biting my lip, and I hope Kate doesn't notice. But she seems absorbed in her transcrip-tion."I hear what you mean about formal. Did you take any notes?" she asks.

"Um... no, I didn't."

"That's fine. I can still make a fine article with this. Shame we don't have some original stills. Good-looking son of a bitch, isn't he?"

I flush.

"I suppose so." I try hard to sound disinterested, and I think I succeed.

"Oh come on, Ana - even you can't be immune to his looks." She arches a perfect eyebrow at me.

Crap! I distract her with flattery, always a good ploy.

"You probably would have got a lot more out of him."

"I doubt that, Ana. Come on - he practically offered you a job. Given that I foisted this on you at the last minute, you did very well." She glances up at me speculatively. I make a hasty retreat into the kitchen.

"So what did you really think of him?" Damn, she's inquisitive. Why can't she just let this goThink of something - quick.

"He's very driven, controlling, arrogant - scary really, but very charismatic. I can understand the fascination," I add truthfully, as I peer round the door at her hoping this will shut her up once and for all.

"You, fascinated by a manThat's a first," she snorts.

I start gathering the makings of a sandwich so she can't see my face.

"Why did you want to know if he was gayIncidentally, that was the most embarrassing question. I was mortified, and he was pissed to be asked too." I scowl at the memory.

"Whenever he's in the society pages, he never has a date."

"It was embarrassing. The whole thing was embarrassing. I'm glad I'll never have to lay eyes on him again."

"Oh, Ana, it can't have been that bad. I think he sounds quite taken with you."

Taken with me Now Kate's being ridiculous.

"Would you like a sandwich?"

"Please."

We talk no more of Christian Grey that evening, much to my relief. Once we've eaten, I'm able to sit at the dining table with Kate and, while she works on her article, I work on my essay on Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Damn, but that woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong century. By the time I finish, it's midnight, and Kate has long since gone to bed. I make my way to my room, exhausted, but pleased that I've accomplished so much for a Monday.

I curl up in my white iron bed, wrapping my mother's quilt around me, close my eyes, and I'm instantly asleep. That night I dream of dark places, bleak white cold floors, and gray eyes.

For the rest of the week, I throw myself into my studies and my job at Clayton's. Kate is busy too, compiling her last edition of her student magazine before she has to relinquish it to the new editor while also cramming for her finals. By Wednesday, she's much better, and I no longer have to endure the sight of her pink-flannel-with-too-many-rabbits PJs. I call my mom in Georgia to check on her, but also so she can wish me luck for my final exams. She proceeds to tell me about her latest venture into candle making - my mother is all about new business ventures. Fundamentally she's bored and wants something to occupy her time, but she has the attention span of a goldfish. It'll be something new next week.

She worries me. I hope she hasn't mortgaged the house to finance this latest scheme. And I hope that Bob - her relatively new but much older husband - is keeping an eye on her now that I'm no longer there. He does seem a lot more grounded than Husband Number Three.

"How are things with you, Ana?"

For a moment, I hesitate, and I have Mom's full attention.

"I'm fine."

"AnaHave you met someone?" Wow... how does she do that The excitement in her voice is palpable.

"No, Mom, it's nothing. You'll be the first to know if I do."

"Ana, you really need to get out more, honey. You worry me."

"Mom, I'm fine. How's Bob?" As ever, distraction is the best policy.

Later that evening, I call Ray, my stepdad, Mom's Husband Number Two, the man I consider my father, and the man whose name I bear. It's a brief conversation. In fact, it's not so much a conversation as a one-sided series of grunts in response to my gentle coaxing. Ray is not a talker. But he's still alive, he's still watching soccer on TV, and going bowling and fly-fishing or making furniture when he's not. Ray is a skilled carpenter and the reason I know the difference between a hawk and a handsaw. All seems well with him.

Friday night, Kate and I are debating what to do with our evening - we want some time out from our studies, from our work, and from student newspapers - when the doorbell rings.

Standing on our doorstep is my good friend Jose, clutching a bottle of champagne.

"Jose! Great to see you!" I give him a quick hug. "Come in."

Jose is the first person I met when I arrived at WSU, looking as lost and lonely as I did.

We recognized a kindred spirit in each of us that day, and we've been friends ever since.

Not only do we share a sense of humor, but we discovered that both Ray and Jose Senior were in the same army unit together. As a result, our fathers have become firm friends too.

Jose is studying engineering and is the first in his family to make it to college. He's pretty damn bright, but his real passion is photography. Jose has a great eye for a good picture.

"I have news." He grins, his dark eyes twinkling.

"Don't tell me - you've managed not to get kicked out for another week," I tease, and he scowls playfully at me.

"The Portland Place Gallery is going to exhibit my photos next month."

"That's amazing - congratulations!" Delighted for him, I hug him again. Kate beams at him too.

"Way to go Jose! I should put this in the paper. Nothing like last minute editorial changes on a Friday evening." She grins.

"Let's celebrate. I want you to come to the opening." Jose looks intently at me. I flush.

"Both of you, of course," he adds, glancing nervously at Kate.

Jose and I are good friends, but I know deep down inside, he'd like to be more. He's cute and funny, but he's just not for me. He's more like the brother I never had. Katherine often teases me that I'm missing the need-a-boyfriend gene, but the truth is - I just haven't met anyone who... well, whom I'm attracted to, even though part of me longs for those trembling knees, heart-in-my-mouth, butterflies-in-my-belly, sleepless nights.

Sometimes I wonder if there's something wrong with me. Perhaps I've spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high. But in reality, nobody's ever made me feel like that.

Until very recently, the unwelcome, still small voice of my subconscious whispers.

NO! I banish the thought immediately. I am not going there, not after that painful interview. Are you gay, Mr. Grey I wince at the memory. I know I've dreamt about him most nights since then, but that's just to purge the awful experience from my system, surely?

I watch Jose open the bottle of champagne. He's tall, and in his jeans and t-shirt he's all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair and burning dark eyes. Yes, Jose's pretty hot, but I think he's finally getting the message: we're just friends. The cork makes its loud pop, and Jose looks up and smiles.

Saturday at the store is a nightmare. We are besieged by do-it-yourselfers wanting to spruce up their homes. Mr. and Mrs. Clayton, John and Patrick - the two other part-timers

- and I are all rushed off our feet. But there's a lull around lunchtime, and Mrs. Clayton asks me to check on some orders while I'm sitting behind the counter at the till discreetly eating my bagel. I'm engrossed in the task, checking catalogue numbers against the items we need and the items we've ordered, eyes flicking from the order book to the computer screen and back as I check the entries match. Then, for some reason, I glance up... and find myself locked in the bold gray gaze of Christian Grey who's standing at the counter, staring at me intently.

Heart failure.

"Miss Steele. What a pleasant surprise." His gaze is unwavering and intense.

Holy crap. What the hell is he doing here looking all tousled-hair and outdoorsy in his cream chunky-knit sweater, jeans, and walking bootsI think my mouth has popped open, and I can't locate my brain or my voice.

"Mr. Grey," I whisper, because that's all I can manage. There's a ghost of a smile on his lips and his eyes are alight with humor, as if he's enjoying some private joke.

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