Home > Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)(7)

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)(7)
E.L. James

He cocks his head to one side, running his index finger across his lower lip... oh my.

"Because?"

I blink rapidly. Concentrate, Steele.

"It's the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontsisters, Thomas Hardy. I'd like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books."

All this talk of literary greats reminds me that I should be studying. I glance at my watch.

"I'd better go. I have to study."

"For your exams?"

"Yes. They start Tuesday."

"Where's Miss Kavanagh's car?"

"In the hotel parking lot."

"I'll walk you back."

"Thank you for the tea, Mr. Grey."

He smiles his odd I've got a whopping big secret smile.

"You're welcome, Anastasia. It's my pleasure. Come," he commands, and holds his hand out to me. I take it, bemused, and follow him out of the coffee shop.

We stroll back to the hotel, and I'd like to say it's in companionable silence. He at least looks his usual calm, collected self. As for me, I'm desperately trying to gauge how our little coffee morning has gone. I feel like I've been interviewed for a position, but I'm not sure what it is.

"Do you always wear jeans?" he asks out of the blue.

"Mostly."

He nods. We're back at the intersection, across the road from the hotel. My mind is reeling. What an odd question... And I'm aware that our time together is limited. This is it. This was it, and I've completely blown it, I know. Perhaps he has someone.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" I blurt out. Holy crap - I just said that out loud?

His lips quirk up in a half-smile, and he looks down at me.

"No, Anastasia. I don't do the girlfriend thing," he says softly.

Oh... what does that mean He's not gayOh, maybe he is - crap! He must have lied to me in his interview. And for a moment, I think he's going to follow on with some explanation, some clue to this cryptic statement - but he doesn't. I have to go. I have to try to reassemble my thoughts. I have to get away from him. I walk forward, and I trip, stumbling headlong onto the road.

"Shit, Ana!" Grey cries. He tugs the hand that he's holding so hard that I fall back against him just as a cyclist whips past, narrowly missing me, heading the wrong way up this one-way street.

It all happens so fast - one minute I'm falling, the next I'm in his arms, and he's holding me tightly against his chest. .I inhale his clean, vital scent. He smells of fresh laundered linen and some expensive body-wash. Oh my, it's intoxicating. I inhale deeply.

"Are you okay?" he whispers. He has one arm around me, clasping me to him, while the fingers of his other hand softly trace my face, gently probing, examining me. His thumb brushes my lower lip, and I hear his breath hitch. He's staring into my eyes, and I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment or maybe it's forever... but eventually, my attention is drawn to his beautiful mouth. Oh my. And for the first time in twenty-one years, I want to be kissed. I want to feel his mouth on me.

Chapter Four

Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can't move. I'm paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him. I'm staring at Christian Grey's exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized, and he's looking down at me, his gaze hooded, his eyes darkening.

He's breathing harder than usual, and I've stopped breathing altogether. I'm in your arms.

Kiss me, please. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and gives me a small shake of his head as if in answer to my silent question. When he opens his eyes again, it's with some new purpose, a steely resolve.

"Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I'm not the man for you," he whispers.

WhatWhere is this coming from Surely I should be the judge of that. I frown up at him, and my head swims with rejection.

"Breathe, Anastasia, breathe. I'm going to stand you up and let you go," he says quietly, and he gently pushes me away.

Adrenaline has spiked through my body, from the near miss with the cyclist or the heady proximity to Christian, leaving me wired and weak. NO! My psyche screams as he pulls away, leaving me bereft. He has his hands on my shoulders, holding me at arm's length, watching my reactions carefully. And the only thing I can think is that I wanted to be kissed, made it pretty damned obvious, and he didn't do it. He doesn't want me. He really doesn't want me. I have royally screwed up the coffee morning.

"I've got this," I breathe, finding my voice. "Thank you," I mutter awash with humiliation. How could I have misread the situation between us so utterlyI need to get away from him.

"For what?" he frowns. He hasn't taken his hands off me.

"For saving me," I whisper.

"That idiot was riding the wrong way. I'm glad I was here. I shudder to think what could have happened to you. Do you want to come and sit down in the hotel for a moment?" He releases me, his hands by his sides, and I'm standing in front of him feeling like a fool.

With a shake, I clear my head. I just want to go. All my vague, unarticulated hopes have been dashed. He doesn't want me. What was I thinking I scold myself. What would Christian Grey want with you My subconscious mocks me. I wrap my arms around myself and turn to face the road and note with relief that the green man has appeared. I quickly make my way across, conscious that Grey is behind me. Outside the hotel, I turn briefly to face him but cannot look him in the eye.

"Thanks for the tea and doing the photo shoot," I murmur.

"Anastasia... I... " He stops, and the anguish in his voice demands my attention, so I peer unwillingly up at him. His gray eyes are bleak as he runs his hand through his hair.

He looks torn, frustrated, his expression stark, all his careful control has evaporated.

"What, Christian?" I snap irritably after he says - nothing. I just want to go. I need to take my fragile, wounded pride away and somehow nurse it back to health.

"Good luck with your exams," he murmurs.

Huh This is why he looks so desolateThis is the big send offJust to wish me luck in my exams?

"Thanks." I can't disguise the sarcasm in my voice. "Goodbye, Mr. Grey." I turn on my heel, vaguely amazed that I don't trip, and without giving him a second glance, I disappear down the sidewalk toward the underground garage.

Once underneath the dark, cold concrete of the garage with its bleak fluorescent light, I lean against the wall and put my head in my hands. What was I thinkingUnbidden and unwelcome tears pool in my eyes. Why am I crying I sink to the ground, angry at myself for this senseless reaction. Drawing up my knees, I fold in on myself. I want to make myself as small as possible. Perhaps this nonsensical pain will be smaller the smaller I am.

Placing my head on my knees, I let the irrational tears fall unrestrained. I am crying over the loss of something I never had. How ridiculous. Mourning something that never was -

my dashed hopes, dashed dreams, and my soured expectations.

I have never been on the receiving end of rejection. Okay... so I was always one of the last to be picked for basketball or volleyball - but I understood that - running and doing something else at the same time like bouncing or throwing a ball is not my thing. I am a serious liability in any sporting field.

Romantically, though, I've never put myself out there, ever. A lifetime of insecurity

- I'm too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on. So I have always been the one to rebuff any would be admirers. There was that guy in my chemistry class who liked me, but no one has ever sparked my interest - no one except Christian damn Grey. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of Paul Clayton and Jose Rodriguez, though I'm sure neither of them have been found sobbing alone in dark places.

Perhaps I just need a good cry.

Stop! Stop Now! - My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration. Get in the car, go home, do your studying. Forget about him... Now! And stop all this self-pitying, wallowing crap.

I take a deep, steadying breath and stand up. Get it together Steele. I head for Kate's car, wiping the tears off my face as I do. I will not think of him again. I can just chalk this incident up to experience and concentrate on my exams.

Kate is sitting at the dining table at her laptop when I arrive. Her welcoming smile fades when she sees me.

"Ana what's wrong?"

Oh no... not the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition. I shake my head at her in a back-off now Kavanagh way - but I might as well be dealing with a blind, deaf mute.

"You've been crying," she has an exceptional gift for stating the damned obvious sometimes. "What did that bastard do to you?" she growls, and her face - jeez, she's scary.

"Nothing Kate." That's actually the problem. The thought brings a wry smile to my face."Then why have you been cryingYou never cry," she says, her voice softening. She stands, her green eyes brimming with concern. She puts her arms around me and hugs me.

I need to say something just to get her to back off.

"I was nearly knocked over by a cyclist." It's the best that I can do, but it distracts her momentarily from... him.

"Jeez Ana - are you okayWere you hurt?" She holds me at arm's length and does a quick visual check-up on me.

"No. Christian saved me," I whisper. "But I was quite shaken."

"I'm not surprised. How was coffeeI know you hate coffee."

"I had tea. It was fine, nothing to report really. I don't know why he asked me."

"He likes you Ana." She drops her arms.

"Not anymore. I won't be seeing him again." Yes, I manage to sound matter of fact.

"Oh?"

Crap. She's intrigued. I head into the kitchen so that she can't see my face.

"Yeah... he's a little out of my league Kate," I say as dryly as I can manage.

"What do you mean?"

"Oh Kate, it's obvious." I whirl round and face her as she stands in the kitchen doorway."Not to me," she says. "Okay, he's got more money than you, but then he has more money than most people in America!"

"Kate he's - " I shrug.

"Ana! For heaven's sake - how many times must I tell youYou're a total babe," she interrupts me. Oh no. She's off on this tirade again.

"Kate, please. I need to study." I cut her short. She frowns.

"Do you want to see the articleIt's finished. Jose took some great pictures."

Do I need a visual reminder of the beautiful Christian I-don't-want-you Grey?

"Sure," I magic a smile on to my face and stroll over to the laptop. And there he is, staring at me in black and white, staring at me and finding me lacking.

I pretend to read the article, all the time meeting his steady gray gaze, searching the photo for some clue as to why he's not the man for me - his own words to me. And it's suddenly, blindingly obvious. He's too gloriously good-looking. We are poles apart and from two very different worlds. I have a vision of myself as Icarus flying too close to the sun and crashing and burning as a result. His words make sense. He's not the man for me.

This is what he meant, and it makes his rejection easier to accept... almost. I can live with this. I understand.

"Very good Kate," I manage. "I'm going to study." I am not going to think about him again for now, I vow to myself, and opening my revision notes, I start to read.

It's only when I'm in bed, trying to sleep, that I allow my thoughts to drift through my strange morning. I keep coming back to the 'I don't do the girlfriend thing' quote, and I'm angry that I didn't pounce on this information sooner, when I was in his arms mentally begging him with every fiber of my being to kiss me. He'd said it there and then. He didn't want me as a girlfriend. I turn on to my side. Idly, I wonder if perhaps he's celibateI close my eyes and begin to drift. Maybe he's saving himself. Well not for you, my sleepy subconscious has a final swipe at me before unleashing itself on my dreams.

And that night, I dream of gray eyes, leafy patterns in milk, and I'm running through dark places with eerie strip lighting, and I don't know if I'm running toward something or away from it... it's just not clear.

I put my pen down. Finished. My final exam is over. I feel the Cheshire cat grin spread over my face. It's probably the first time all week that I've smiled. It's Friday, and we shall be celebrating tonight, really celebrating. I might even get drunk! I've never been drunk before. I glance across the sports hall at Kate, and she's still scribbling furiously, five minutes to the end. This is it, the end of my academic career. I shall never have to sit in rows of anxious, isolated students again. Inside I'm doing graceful cartwheels around my head, knowing full well that's the only place I can do graceful cartwheels. Kate stops writing and puts her pen down. She glances across at me, and I catch her Cheshire cat smile too.

We head back to our apartment together in her Mercedes, refusing to discuss our final paper. Kate is more concerned about what she's going to wear to the bar this evening. I am busily fishing around in my purse for my keys.

"Ana, there's a package for you." Kate is standing on the steps up to the front door holding a brown paper parcel. Odd. I haven't ordered anything from Amazon recently.

Kate gives me the parcel and takes my keys to open the front door. It's addressed to Miss Anastasia Steele. There's no sender's address or name. Perhaps it's from my mom or Ray.

"It's probably from my folks."

"Open it!" Kate is excited as she heads into the kitchen for our 'Exams are finished hurrah Champagne'.

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