Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)(14)


by E.L. James

There are just the shoppers, the traffic, and the trees.

"She's here," Christian continues. "She's watching us... Yes... No. Two or four, twenty-four seven... I haven't broached that yet." Christian looks at me directly.

Broached what? I frown, at him and he regards me warily.

"What... ," he whispers and pales, his eyes widening. "I see. When?... That recently? But how?... No background checks?... I see. E-mail the name, address, and photos if you have them... twenty-four seven, from this afternoon. Liaise with Taylor." Christian hangs up.

"Well?" I ask, exasperated. Is he going to tell me?

"That was Welch."

"Who's Welch?"

"My security advisor."

"Okay. So what's happened?"

"Leila left her husband about three months ago and ran off with a guy who was killed in a car accident four weeks ago."

"Oh."

"The ass**le shrink should have found that out," he says angrily. "Grief, that's what this is. Come." He holds out his hand, and I automatically place mine in his before I snatch it away again.

"Wait a minute. We were in the middle of a discussion, about us. About her, your Mrs.

Robinson."

Christian's face hardens. "She's not my Mrs. Robinson. We can talk about it at my place."

"I don't want to go to your place. I want to get my hair cut!" I shout. If I can just focus on this one thing...

He grabs his Blackberry from his pocket again and dials a number. "Greta, Christian Grey. I want Franco at my place in an hour. Ask Mrs. Lincoln... Good." He puts his phone away. "He's coming at one."

"Christian... !" I splutter, exasperated.

"Anastasia, Leila is obviously suffering a psychotic break. I don't know if it's you or me she's after, or what lengths she's prepared to go to. We'll go to your place, pick up your things, and you can stay with me until we've tracked her down."

"Why would I want to do that?"

"So I can keep you safe."

"But - "

He glares at me. "You are coming back to my apartment if I have to drag you there by your hair."

I gape at him... this is beyond belief. Fifty Shades in Glorious Technicolor.

"I think you're overreacting."

"I don't. We can continue our discussion back at my place. Come."

I fold my arms and glare at him. This has gone too far.

"No," I state stubbornly. I have to make a stand.

"You can walk or I can carry you. I don't mind either way, Anastasia."

"You wouldn't dare." I scowl at him. Surely he wouldn't make a scene on Second Avenue?

He half smiles at me, but the smile doesn't reach his eyes.

"Oh, baby, we both know that if you throw down the gauntlet I'll be only too happy to pick it up."

We glare at each other - and abruptly he sweeps down, clasps me round my thighs, and lifts me. Before I know it, I am over his shoulder.

"Put me down!" I scream. Oh, it feels good to scream.

He starts striding along Second Avenue, ignoring me. Clasping his arm firmly around my thighs, he swats my behind with his free hand.

"Christian!" I shout. People are staring. Could this be any more humiliating? "I'll walk! I'll walk."

He puts me down, and before he's even stood upright, I stomp off in the direction of my apartment, seething, ignoring him. Of course, he's by my side in moments, but I continue to ignore him. What am I going to do? I am so angry, but I'm not even sure what I am angry about - there's so much.

As I stalk back home, I make a mental list:

1. Shoulder carrying - unacceptable for anyone over the age of six.

2. Taking me to the salon that he owns with his ex-lover - how stupid can he be?

3. The same place he took his submissives - same stupidity at work here.

4. Not even realizing that this was a bad idea - and he's supposed to be a bright guy.

5. Having crazy ex-girlfriends. Can I blame him for that? I am so furious; yes, I can.

6. Knowing my bank account number - that's just too stalkery by half.

7. Buying SIP - he's got more money than sense.

8. Insisting I stay with him - the threat from Leila must be worse than he feared...

he didn't mention that yesterday.

Oh no, realization dawns. Something's changed. What could that be? I halt, and Christian halts with me. "What's happened?" I demand.

He knits his brow. "What do you mean?"

"With Leila."

"I've told you."

"No, you haven't. There's something else. You didn't insist that I go to your place yesterday. So what's happened?"

He shifts uncomfortably.

"Christian! Tell me!" I snap.

"She managed to obtain a concealed weapons permit yesterday."

Oh shit. I gaze at him, blinking, and feel the blood draining from my face as I absorb this news. I may faint. Suppose she wants to kill him? No.

"That means she can just buy a gun," I whisper.

"Ana," he says, his voice full of concern. He places his hands on my shoulders, pulling me close to him. "I don't think she'll do anything stupid, but - I just don't want to take that risk with you."

"Not me... what about you?" I whisper.

He frowns down at me, and I wrap my arms around him and hug him hard, my face against his chest. He doesn't seem to mind.

"Let's get back," he murmurs, and he reaches down and kisses my hair, and that's it.

All my fury is gone, but not forgotten. Dissipated under the threat of some harm coming to Christian. The thought is unbearable.

Solemnly I pack a small case and place my Mac, the Blackberry, my iPad, and Charlie Tango in my backpack.

"Charlie Tango's coming, too?" Christian asks.

I nod and he gives me a small, indulgent smile.

"Ethan is back Tuesday," I mutter.

"Ethan?"

"Kate's brother. He's staying here until he finds a place in Seattle."

Christian gazes at me blankly, but I notice the frostiness creep into his eyes.

"Well, it's good that you'll be staying with me. Give him more room," he says quietly.

"I don't know that he's got keys. I'll need to be back then."

Christian gazes at me impassively but says nothing.

"That's everything."

He grabs my case, and we head out the door. As we walk around to the back of the building to the parking lot, I'm aware that I am looking over my shoulder. I don't know if my paranoia has taken over or if someone really is watching me. Christian opens the passenger door of the Audi and looks at me expectantly.

"Are you getting in?" he asks.

"I thought I was driving."

"No. I'll drive."

"Something wrong with my driving? Don't tell me you know what I scored on my driving test... I wouldn't be surprised with your stalking tendencies." Maybe he knows that I just scraped through the written test.

"Get in the car, Anastasia," he snaps angrily.

"Okay." I hastily climb in. Honestly, chill, will you?

Perhaps he has the same uneasy feeling, too. Some dark sentinel watching us - well, a pale brunette with brown eyes who has an uncanny resemblance to yours truly and quite possibly a concealed firearm.

Christian sets off into the traffic.

"Were all your submissives brunettes?"

He frowns and glances at me quickly. "Yes," he mutters. He sounds uncertain, and I imagine him thinking, where's she going with this?

"I just wondered."

"I told you. I prefer brunettes."

"Mrs. Robinson isn't a brunette."

"That's probably why," he mutters. "She put me off blondes forever."

"You're kidding," I gasp.

"Yes. I'm kidding," he replies, exasperated.

I stare impassively out the window, spying brunettes everywhere, none of them Leila, though.

So, he only likes brunettes. I wonder why? Did Mrs. Extraordinarily-Glamorous-In-Spite-Of-Being-Old Robinson really put him off blondes? I shake my head - Christian Mindfuck Grey.

"Tell me about her."

"What do you want to know?" Christian's brow furrows, and his tone of voice tries to warn me off.

"Tell me about your business arrangement."

He visibly relaxes, happy to talk about work. "I am a silent partner. I'm not particularly interested in the beauty business, but she's built it into a successful venture. I just invested and helped get her started."

"Why?"

"I owed it to her."

"Oh?"

"When I dropped out of Harvard, she lent me a hundred grand to start my business."

Holy f**k... she's rich, too.

"You dropped out?"

"It wasn't my thing. I did two years. Unfortunately, my parents were not so understanding."I frown. Mr. Grey and Dr. Grace Trevelyan disapproving, I can't picture it.

"You don't seem to have done too badly dropping out. What was your major?"

"Politics and Economics."

Hmm... figures.

"So she's rich?" I murmur.

"She was a bored trophy wife, Anastasia. Her husband was wealthy - big in timber."

He smirks. "He wouldn't let her work. You know, he was controlling. Some men are like that." He gives me a quick sideways grin.

"Really? A controlling man, surely a mythical creature?" I don't think I can squeeze any more sarcasm into my response.

Christian's grin gets bigger.

"She lent you her husband's money?"

He nods and a small mischievous smile appears on his lips.

"That's terrible."

"He got his own back," Christian says darkly as he pulls into the underground garage at Escala.

Oh?

"How?"

Christian shakes his head as if recalling a particularly sour memory and parks beside the Audi Quattro SUV. "Come - Franco will be here shortly."

In the elevator Christian peers down at me. "Still mad at me?" he asks matter-of-factly.

"Very."

He nods. "Okay," he says, and stares straight ahead.

Taylor is waiting for us when we arrive in the foyer. How does he always know? He takes my case.

"Has Welch been in touch?" Christian asks.

"Yes, sir."

"And?"

"Everything's arranged."

"Excellent. How's your daughter?"

"She's fine, thank you, sir."

"Good. We have a hairdresser arriving at one - Franco De Luca."

"Miss Steele," Taylor nods at me.

"Hi, Taylor. You have a daughter?"

"Yes ma'am."

"How old is she?"

"She's seven."

Christian gazes at me impatiently.

"She lives with her mother," Taylor clarifies.

"Oh, I see."

Taylor smiles at me. This is unexpected. Taylor's a father? I follow Christian into the great room, intrigued by this information.

I glance around. I haven't been here since I walked out.

"Are you hungry?"

I shake my head. Christian gazes at me for a beat and decides not to argue.

"I have to make a few calls. Make yourself at home."

"Okay."

Christian disappears into his study, leaving me standing in the huge art gallery he calls home and wondering what to do with myself.

Clothes! Picking up my backpack, I wander upstairs to my bedroom and check out the walk-in closet. It's still full of clothes - all brand new with price tags still attached. Three long evening dresses, three cocktail dresses, and three more for everyday wear. All this must have cost a fortune.