Home > Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)(4)

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)(4)
E.L. James

"I was in the area," he says by way of explanation. "I need to stock up on a few things.

It's a pleasure to see you again, Miss Steele." His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel... or something.

I shake my head to gather my wits. My heart is pounding a frantic tattoo, and for some reason I'm blushing furiously under his steady scrutiny. I am utterly thrown by the sight of him standing before me. My memories of him did not do him justice. He's not merely good-looking - he's the epitome of male beauty, breathtaking, and he's here. Here in Clayton's Hardware Store. Go figure. Finally my cognitive functions are restored and reconnected with the rest of my body.

"Ana. My name's Ana," I mutter. "What can I help you with, Mr. Grey?"

He smiles, and again it's like he's privy to some big secret. It is so disconcerting. Taking a deep breath, I put on my professional I've-worked-in-this-shop-for-years fa?ade. I can do this.

"There are a few items I need. To start with, I'd like some cable ties," he murmurs, his gray eyes cool but amused.

Cable ties?

"We stock various lengths. Shall I show you?" I mutter, my voice soft and wavery.

Get a grip, Steele. A slight frown mars Grey's rather lovely brow.

"Please. Lead the way, Miss Steele," he says. I try for nonchalance as I come out from behind the counter, but really I'm concentrating hard on not falling over my own feet - my legs are suddenly the consistency of Jell-O. I'm so glad I decided to wear my best jeans this morning.

"They're in with the electrical goods, aisle eight." My voice is a little too bright. I glance up at him and regret it almost immediately. Damn, he's handsome. I blush.

"After you," he murmurs, gesturing with his long-fingered, beautifully manicured hand.With my heart almost strangling me - because it's in my throat trying to escape from my mouth - I head down one of the aisles to the electrical section. Why is he in Portland?

Why is he here at Clayton's And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain - probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata where my subconscious dwells - comes the thought: he's here to see you. No way! I dismiss it immediately. Why would this beautiful, powerful, urbane man want to see meThe idea is preposterous, and I kick it out of my head.

"Are you in Portland on business?" I ask, and my voice is too high, like I've got my finger trapped in a door or something. Damn! Try to be cool Ana!

"I was visiting the WSU farming division. It's based at Vancouver. I'm currently funding some research there in crop rotation and soil science," he says matter-of-factly. See?

Not here to find you at all, my subconscious sneers at me, loud, proud, and pouty. I flush at my foolish wayward thoughts.

"All part of your feed-the-world plan?" I tease.

"Something like that," he acknowledges, and his lips quirk up in a half smile.

He gazes at the selection of cable ties we stock at Clayton's. What on Earth is he going to do with thoseI cannot picture him as a do-it-yourselfer at all. His fingers trail across the various packages displayed, and for some inexplicable reason, I have to look away. He bends and selects a packet.

"These will do," he says with his oh-so-secret smile, and I blush.

"Is there anything else?"

"I'd like some masking tape."

Masking tape?

"Are you redecorating?" The words are out before I can stop them. Surely he hires laborers or has staff to help him decorate?

"No, not redecorating," he says quickly then smirks, and I have the uncanny feeling that he's laughing at me.

Am I that funnyFunny looking?

"This way," I murmur embarrassed. "Masking tape is in the decorating aisle."

I glance behind me as he follows.

"Have you worked here long?" His voice is low, and he's gazing at me, gray eyes concentrating hard. I blush even more brightly. Why the hell does he have this effect on me?

I feel like I'm fourteen years old - gauche, as always, and out of place. Eyes front Steele!

"Four years," I mutter as we reach our goal. To distract myself, I reach down and select the two widths of masking tape that we stock.

"I'll take that one," Grey says softly pointing to the wider tape, which I pass to him.

Our fingers brush very briefly, and the current is there again, zapping through me like I've touched an exposed wire. I gasp involuntarily as I feel it, all the way down to somewhere dark and unexplored, deep in my belly. Desperately, I scrabble around for my equilibrium.

"Anything else?" My voice is husky and breathy. His eyes widen slightly.

"Some rope, I think." His voice mirrors mine, husky.

"This way." I duck my head down to hide my recurring blush and head for the aisle.

"What sort were you afterWe have synthetic and natural filament rope... twine...

cable cord... " I halt at his expression, his eyes darkening. Holy cow.

"I'll take five yards of the natural filament rope please."

Quickly, with trembling fingers, I measure out five yards against the fixed ruler, aware that his hot gray gaze is on me. I dare not look at him. Jeez, could I feel any more self-consciousTaking my Stanley knife from the back pocket of my jeans, I cut it then coil it neatly before tying it in a slipknot. By some miracle, I manage not to remove a finger with my knife.

"Were you a Girl Scout?" he asks, sculptured, sensual lips curled in amusement. Don't look at his mouth!

"Organized, group activities aren't really my thing, Mr. Grey."

He arches a brow.

"What is your thing, Anastasia?" he asks, his voice soft and his secret smile is back. I gaze at him unable to express myself. I'm on shifting tectonic plates. Try and be cool, Ana, my tortured subconscious begs on bended knee.

"Books," I whisper, but inside, my subconscious is screaming: You! You are my thing!

I slap it down instantly, mortified that my psyche is having ideas above its station.

"What kind of books?" He cocks his head to one side. Why is he so interested?

"Oh, you know. The usual. The classics. British literature, mainly."

He rubs his chin with his long index finger and thumb as he contemplates my answer.

Or perhaps he's just very bored and trying to hide it.

"Anything else you need?" I have to get off this subject - those fingers on that face are so beguiling.

"I don't know. What else would you recommend?"

What would I recommendI don't even know what you're doing.

"For a do-it-yourselfer?"

He nods, gray eyes alive with wicked humor. I flush, and my eyes stray of their own accord to his snug jeans.

"Coveralls," I reply, and I know I'm no longer screening what's coming out of my mouth.

He raises an eyebrow, amused, yet again.

"You wouldn't want to ruin your clothing," I gesture vaguely in the direction of his jeans.

"I could always take them off." He smirks.

"Um." I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of the communist manifesto. Stop talking. Stop talking NOW.

"I'll take some coveralls. Heaven forbid I should ruin any clothing," he says dryly.

I try and dismiss the unwelcome image of him without jeans.

"Do you need anything else?" I squeak as I hand him the blue coveralls.

He ignores my inquiry.

"How's the article coming along?"

He's finally asked me a normal question, away from all the innuendo and the confusing double talk... a question I can answer. I grasp it tightly with two hands as if were a life raft, and I go for honesty.

"I'm not writing it, Katherine is. Miss Kavanagh. My roommate, she's the writer.

She's very happy with it. She's the editor of the magazine, and she was devastated that she couldn't do the interview in person." I feel like I've come up for air - at last, a normal topic of conversation. "Her only concern is that she doesn't have any original photographs of you."

Grey raises an eyebrow.

"What sort of photographs does she want?"

Okay. I hadn't factored in this response. I shake my head, because I just don't know.

"Well, I'm around. Tomorrow, perhaps... " he trails off.

"You'd be willing to attend a photo shoot?" My voice is squeaky again. Kate will be in seventh heaven if I can pull this off. And you might see him again tomorrow, that dark place at the base of my brain whispers seductively at me. I dismiss the thought - of all the silly, ridiculous...

"Kate will be delighted - if we can find a photographer." I'm so pleased, I smile at him broadly. His lips part, like he's taking a sharp intake of breath, and he blinks. For a fraction of a second, he looks lost somehow, and the Earth shifts slightly on its axis, the tectonic plates sliding into a new position.

Oh my. Christian Grey's lost look.

"Let me know about tomorrow." Reaching into his back pocket, he pulls out his wallet. "My card. It has my cell number on it. You'll need to call before ten in the morning."

"Okay." I grin up at him. Kate is going to be thrilled.

"ANA!"

Paul has materialized at other the end of the aisle. He's Mr. Clayton's youngest brother. I'd heard he was home from Princeton, but I wasn't expecting to see him today.

"Er, excuse me for a moment, Mr. Grey." Grey frowns as I turn away from him.

Paul has always been a buddy, and in this strange moment that I'm having with the rich, powerful, awesomely off-the-scale attractive control-freak Grey, it's great to talk to someone who's normal. Paul hugs me hard taking me by surprise.

"Ana, hi, it's so good to see you!" he gushes.

"Hello Paul, how are youYou home for your brother's birthday?"

"Yep. You're looking well, Ana, really well." He grins as he examines me at arm's length. Then he releases me but keeps a possessive arm draped over my shoulder. I shuffle from foot to foot, embarrassed. It's good to see Paul, but he's always been over-familiar.

When I glance up at Christian Grey, he's watching us like a hawk, his gray eyes hooded and speculative, his mouth a hard impassive line. He's changed from the weirdly attentive customer to someone else - someone cold and distant.

"Paul, I'm with a customer. Someone you should meet," I say, trying to defuse the antagonism I see in Grey's eyes. I drag Paul over to meet him, and they weigh each other up. The atmosphere is suddenly arctic.

"Er, Paul, this is Christian Grey. Mr. Grey, this is Paul Clayton. His brother owns the place." And for some irrational reason, I feel I have to explain a bit more.

"I've known Paul ever since I've worked here, though we don't see each other that often. He's back from Princeton where he's studying business administration." I'm babbling... Stop, now!

"Mr. Clayton." Christian holds his hand out, his look unreadable.

"Mr. Grey," Paul returns his handshake. "Wait up - not the Christian GreyOf Grey Enterprises Holdings?" Paul goes from surly to awestruck in less than a nanosecond. Grey gives him a polite smile that doesn't reach his eyes.

"Wow - is there anything I can get you?"

"Anastasia has it covered, Mr. Clayton. She's been very attentive." His expression is impassive, but his words... it's like he's saying something else entirely. It's baffling.

"Cool," Paul responds. "Catch you later, Ana."

"Sure, Paul." I watch him disappear toward the stock room. "Anything else, Mr.

Grey?"

"Just these items." His tone is clipped and cool. Damn... have I offended himTaking a deep breath, I turn and head for the till. What is his problem

I ring up the rope, coveralls, masking tape, and cable ties at the till.

"That will be forty-three dollars, please." I glance up at Grey, and I wish I hadn't. He's watching me closely, his gray eyes intense and smoky. It's unnerving.

"Would you like a bag?" I ask as I take his credit card.

"Please, Anastasia." His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic.

I can hardly breathe. Hurriedly, I place his purchases in a plastic carrier.

"You'll call me if you want me to do the photo shoot?" He's all business once more. I nod, rendered speechless yet again, and hand back his credit card.

"Good. Until tomorrow perhaps." He turns to leave, then pauses. "Oh - and Anastasia, I'm glad Miss Kavanagh couldn't do the interview." He smiles, then strides with renewed purpose out of the store, slinging the plastic bag over his shoulder, leaving me a quivering mass of raging female hormones. I spend several minutes staring at the closed door through which he's just left before I return to planet Earth.

Okay - I like him. There, I've admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. I've never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive. But it's a lost cause, I know, and I sigh with bittersweet regret. It was just a coincidence, his coming here. But still, I can admire him from afar, surelyNo harm can come of that. And if I find a photographer, I can do some serious admiring tomorrow. I bite my lip in anticipation and find myself grinning like a schoolgirl. I need to phone Kate and organize a photo-shoot.

Chapter Three

Kate is ecstatic.

"But what was he doing at Clayton's?" Her curiosity oozes through the phone. I'm in the depths of the stock room, trying to keep my voice casual.

"He was in the area."

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