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


by E.L. James

"No. Go. Now. Say good-bye."

I glare at him, my blood boiling. Mr. Damned Control Freak. Angry is good. Angry is better than tearful.

I drag my gaze away from him and scan the room for Jose. He's talking to a group of young women. I stalk off toward him and away from Fifty. Just because he brought me here, I have to do as he says? Who the hell does he think he is?

The girls are hanging on Jose's every word. One of them gasps as I approach, no doubt recognizing me from the portraits.

"Jose."

"Ana. Excuse me, girls." Jose grins at them and puts his arm around me, and on some level I'm amused - Jose all smooth, impressing the ladies.

"You look mad," he says.

"I have to go," I mutter mulishly.

"You just got here."

"I know but Christian needs to get back. The pictures are fantastic, Jose - you're very talented."

He beams. "It was so cool seeing you."

Jose sweeps me into a big bear hug, spinning me so I can see Christian across the gallery. He's scowling, and I realize it's because I'm in Jose's arms. So in a very calculating move, I wrap my arms around Jose's neck. I think Christian is going to expire. His glare darkens to something quite sinister, and slowly he makes his way toward us.

"Thanks for the warning about the portraits of me," I mumble.

"Shit. Sorry, Ana. I should have told you. D'you like them?"

"Um... I don't know," I answer truthfully, momentarily knocked off balance by his question.

"Well, they're all sold, so somebody likes them. How cool is that? You're a poster girl." He hugs me tighter still as Christian reaches us, glowering at me now, though fortunately Jose doesn't see.

Jose releases me. "Don't be a stranger, Ana. Oh, Mr. Grey, good evening."

"Mr. Rodriguez, very impressive." Christian sounds icily polite. "I'm sorry we can't stay longer, but we need to head back to Seattle. Anastasia?" He subtly stresses we and takes my hand as he does so.

"Bye, Jose. Congratulations again." I give him a quick kiss on the cheek, and before I know it Christian is dragging me out of the building. I know he's boiling with silent wrath, but so am I.

He looks quickly up and down the street then heads left and suddenly sweeps me into a side alley, abruptly pushing me up against a wall. He grabs my face between his hands, forcing me to look up into his ardent determined eyes.

I gasp, and his mouth swoops down. He's kissing me, violently. Briefly our teeth clash, then his tongue is in my mouth.

Desire explodes like the Fourth of July throughout my body, and I'm kissing him back, matching his fervor, my hands knotting in his hair, pulling it, hard. He groans, a low sexy sound in the back of his throat that reverberates through me, and his hand moves down my body to the top of my thigh, his fingers digging into my flesh through the plum dress.

I pour all the angst and heartbreak of the last few days into our kiss, binding him to me, and it hits me - in this moment of blinding passion - he's doing the same, he feels the same.

He breaks off the kiss, panting. His eyes are luminous with desire, firing the already heated blood that is pounding through my body. My mouth is slack as I try to drag precious air into my lungs.

"You. Are. Mine," he snarls, emphasizing each word. He pushes away from me and bends, hands on his knees as if he's run a marathon. "For the love of God, Ana."

I lean against the wall, panting, trying to control the riotous reaction in my body, trying to find my equilibrium again.

"I'm sorry," I whisper once my breath has returned.

"You should be. I know what you were doing. Do you want the photographer, Anastasia? He obviously has feelings for you."

I flush and shake my head.

"No. He's just a friend."

"I have spent all my adult life trying to avoid any extreme emotion. Yet you... you bring out feelings in me that are completely alien. It's very..." He frowns, grasping for the word. "Unsettling.

"I like control, Ana, and around you that just" - he stands, his gaze intense -

"evaporates." He waves his hand vaguely, then runs it through his hair and takes a deep breath. He clasps my hand.

"Come, we need to talk, and you need to eat."

Chapter Two

He leads me into a small, intimate restaurant.

"This place will have to do," Christian grumbles. "We don't have much time."

The restaurant looks fine to me. Wooden chairs, linen tablecloths, and walls the same color as Christian's playroom - deep blood red - with small gilt mirrors randomly placed, white candles, and small vases of white roses. Ella Fitzgerald croons softly in the background about this thing called love. It's very romantic.

The waiter leads us to a table for two in a small alcove, and I sit, apprehensive and wondering what he's going to say.

"We don't have long," Christian says to the waiter as we sit. "So we'll each have sirloin steak cooked medium, bearnaise sauce if you have it, fries, and green vegetables, whatever the chef has; and bring me the wine list."

"Certainly, sir." The waiter, taken aback by Christian's cool, calm efficiency, scuttles off. Christian places his Blackberry on the table. Jeez, don't I get a choice?

"And if I don't like steak?"

He sighs. "Don't start, Anastasia."

"I am not a child, Christian."

"Well, stop acting like one."

It's as if he's slapped me. I blink at him. So this is how it will be, an agitated, fraught conversation, albeit in a very romantic setting but certainly no hearts and flowers.

"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.