MONDAY, MAY 9, 2011
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I have three cars. They go fast across the floor. So fast. One is red. One is green. One is yellow. I like the green one. It’s the best. Mommy likes them, too. I like when Mommy plays with the cars and me. The red is her best. Today she sits on the couch staring at the wall. The green car flies into the rug. The red car follows. Then the yellow. Crash! But Mommy doesn’t see. I do it again. Crash! But Mommy doesn’t see. I aim the green car at her feet. But the green car goes under the couch. I can’t reach it. My hand is too big for the gap. Mommy doesn’t see. I want my green car. But Mommy stays on the couch staring at the wall. Mommy. My car. She doesn’t hear me. Mommy. I pull her hand and she lies back and closes her eyes. Not now, Maggot. Not now, she says. My green car stays under the couch. It’s always under the couch. I can see it. But I can’t reach it. My green car is fuzzy. Covered in gray fur and dirt. I want it back. But I can’t reach it. I can never reach it. My green car is lost. Lost. And I can never play with it again.
I open my eyes and my dream fades in the early-morning light. What the hell was that about? I grasp at the fragments as they recede, but fail to catch any of them.
Dismissing it, like I do most mornings, I climb out of bed and find some newly laundered sweats in my walk-in closet. Outside, a leaden sky promises rain, and I’m not in the mood to be rained on during my run today. I head upstairs to my gym, switch on the TV for the morning business news, and step onto the treadmill.
My thoughts stray to the day. I’ve nothing but meetings, though I’m seeing my personal trainer later for a workout at my office—Bastille is always a welcome challenge.
Maybe I should call Elena?
Yeah. Maybe. We can do dinner later this week.
I stop the treadmill, breathless, and head down to the shower to start another monotonous day.
“TOMORROW,” I MUTTER, DISMISSING Claude Bastille as he stands at the threshold of my office.
“Golf, this week, Grey.” Bastille grins with easy arrogance, knowing that his victory on the golf course is assured.
I scowl at him as he turns and leaves. His parting words rub salt into my wounds because, despite my heroic attempts during our workout today, my personal trainer has kicked my ass. Bastille is the only one who can beat me, and now he wants another pound of flesh on the golf course. I detest golf, but so much business is done on the fairways, I have to endure his lessons there, too…and though I hate to admit it, playing against Bastille does improve my game.
As I stare out the window at the Seattle skyline, the familiar ennui seeps unwelcome into my consciousness. My mood is as flat and gray as the weather. My days are blending together with no distinction, and I need some kind of diversion. I’ve worked all weekend, and now, in the continued confines of my office, I’m restless. I shouldn’t feel this way, not after several bouts with Bastille. But I do.
I frown. The sobering truth is that the only thing to capture my interest recently has been my decision to send two freighters of cargo to Sudan. This reminds me—Ros is supposed to come back to me with numbers and logistics. What the hell is keeping her? I check my schedule and reach for the phone.
Damn. I have to endure an interview with the persistent Miss Kavanagh for the WSU student newspaper. Why the hell did I agree to this? I loathe interviews—inane questions from ill-informed, envious people intent on probing my private life. And she’s a student. The phone buzzes.
“Yes,” I snap at Andrea, as if she’s to blame. At least I can keep this interview short.
“Miss Anastasia Steele is here to see you, Mr. Grey.”
“Steele? I was expecting Katherine Kavanagh.”
“It’s Miss Anastasia Steele who’s here, sir.”
I hate the unexpected. “Show her in.”
Well, well…Miss Kavanagh is unavailable. I know her father, Eamon, the owner of Kavanagh Media. We’ve done business together, and he seems like a shrewd operator and a rational human being. This interview is a favor to him—one that I mean to cash in on later when it suits me. And I have to admit I was vaguely curious about his daughter, interested to see if the apple has fallen far from the tree.
A commotion at the door brings me to my feet as a whirl of long chestnut hair, pale limbs, and brown boots dives headfirst into my office. Repressing my natural annoyance at such clumsiness, I hurry over to the girl who has landed on her hands and knees on the floor. Clasping slim shoulders, I help her to her feet.
Clear, embarrassed eyes meet mine and halt me in my tracks. They are the most extraordinary color, powder blue, and guileless, and for one awful moment, I think she can see right through me and I’m left…exposed. The thought is unnerving, so I dismiss it immediately.
She has a small, sweet face that is blushing now, an innocent pale rose. I wonder briefly if all her skin is like that—flawless—and what it would look like pink and warmed from the bite of a cane.
I stop my wayward thoughts, alarmed at their direction. What the hell are you thinking, Grey? This girl is much too young. She gapes at me, and I resist rolling my eyes. Yeah, yeah, baby, it’s just a face, and it’s only skin deep. I need to dispel that admiring look from those eyes but let’s have some fun in the process!
“Miss Kavanagh. I’m Christian Grey. Are you all right? Would you like to sit?”
There’s that blush again. In command once more, I study her. She’s quite attractive—slight, pale, with a mane of dark hair barely contained by a hair tie.
Yeah, she’s attractive. I extend my hand as she stutters the beginning of a mortified apology and places her hand in mine. Her skin is cool and soft, but her handshake surprisingly firm.
“Miss Kavanagh is indisposed, so she sent me. I hope you don’t mind, Mr. Grey.” Her voice is quiet with a hesitant musicality, and she blinks erratically, long lashes fluttering.
Unable to keep the amusement from my voice as I recall her less-than-elegant entrance into my office, I ask who she is.
“Anastasia Steele. I’m studying English literature with Kate, um…Katherine…um…Miss Kavanagh, at WSU Vancouver.”
A bashful, bookish type, eh? She looks it: poorly dressed, her slight frame hidden beneath a shapeless sweater, an A-line brown skirt, and utilitarian boots. Does she have any sense of style at all? She looks nervously around my office—everywhere but at me, I note, with amused irony.
How can this young woman be a journalist? She doesn’t have an assertive bone in her body. She’s flustered, meek…submissive. Bemused at my inappropriate thoughts, I shake my head and wonder if first impressions are reliable. Muttering some platitude, I ask her to sit, then notice her discerning gaze appraising my office paintings. Before I can stop myself, I find I’m explaining them. “A local artist. Trouton.”
“They’re lovely. Raising the ordinary to extraordinary,” she says dreamily, lost in the exquisite, fine artistry of Trouton’s work. Her profile is delicate—an upturned nose, soft, full lips—and in her words she has captured my sentiments exactly. Raising the ordinary to extraordinary. It’s a keen observation. Miss Steele is bright.
I agree and watch, fascinated, as that flush creeps slowly over her skin once more. As I sit down opposite her, I try to bridle my thoughts. She fishes some crumpled sheets of paper and a digital recorder out of her large bag. She’s all thumbs, dropping the damned thing twice on my Bauhaus coffee table. It’s obvious she’s never done this before, but for some reason I can’t fathom, I find it amusing. Under normal circumstances her maladroitness would irritate the hell out of me, but now I hide my smile beneath my index finger and resist the urge to set it up for her myself.
As she fumbles and grows more and more flustered, it occurs to me that I could refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop. Adeptly used, it can bring even the most skittish to heel. The errant thought makes me shift in my chair. She peeks up at me and bites down on her full bottom lip.
Fuck! How did I not notice how inviting that mouth is?
“S-Sorry, I’m not used to this.”
I can tell, baby, but right now I don’t give a damn because I can’t take my eyes off your mouth.
“Take all the time you need, Miss Steele.” I need another moment to marshal my wayward thoughts.
Grey…stop this, now.
“Do you mind if I record your answers?” she asks, her face candid and expectant.
I want to laugh. “After you’ve taken so much trouble to set up the recorder, you ask me now?”
She blinks, her eyes large and lost for a moment, and I’m overcome by an unfamiliar twinge of guilt.
Stop being such a shit, Grey. “No, I don’t mind.” I don’t want to be responsible for that look.
“Did Kate, I mean, Miss Kavanagh, explain what the interview was for?”
“Yes, to appear in the graduation issue of the student newspaper, as I shall be giving the commencement address at this year’s graduation ceremony.” Why the hell I’ve agreed to do that, I don’t know. Sam in PR tells me that WSU’s environmental sciences department needs the publicity in order to attract additional funding to match the grant I’ve given them, and Sam will go to any lengths for media exposure.