Author's note: Hello all! This story is very different from Slow and Steady. If you have issues with BDSM or with Ana being a sub, then this is not the story for you. The love comes down the road but there's a bit of grit first.

The dimly lit sign above the door was the same shade of purple it had always been, the Latin word 'Imperium' spelling out exactly what he was looking for tonight. It had been at least a year since he'd walked through the doors here; his last experience not exactly one he wanted to remember. But here he was, hoping to find someone to take into one of the private rooms for the night. Work had been one hell of a bitch lately as had the nightmares that haunted him so after his third sleepless night in a week, he'd caved and given Taylor the night off so that he could escape reality with a nameless, faceless brunette.

It had been months since he'd told Chloe that he wasn't interested in continuing the contract; a good three months since he'd bent her over his desk, fucked her so hard it hurt his pelvis and then told her to get out. Running into her or any of his previous subs was always a risk when he came here but it was time to find someone new so here he was, dressed like the billionaire he was, hand in his pocket, mint in his mouth, sex on his mind.

The door swung open before he reached it, his well-known face giving him immediate clearance into the private and very exclusive club. The doorman was new since last time but that was no matter, he'd have been given a look book of the most prestigious clients and no matter where he went, Christian Grey was considered prestigious.

"Mr. Kennedy, what a pleasant surprise," the hostess said smoothly on her way over to him, her own interest peaked to a level that was strictly forbidden by employees. The man was hot. Beyond hot actually. He gave her a disinterested half smile and strode into the main room as if he owned the place.

Arrogant wasn't exactly his problem, it was more hard earned confidence mixed in with a good dash of 'I don't give a fuck' and Hollywood good looks that had both men and women afraid to look at him and unable to take their eyes off of him at the same time. It had been that way since he could remember. Junior High had been torture, the girls all giggling and throwing themselves at him until they realized he was a grade A asshole who was never going to give them the time of day no matter how much tit they showed.

High school had been marginally better, the word out that Christian Grey was either gay or asexual had done wonders to keep people away from him. Sure there were a few who thought they could break through that tough, isolated exterior but there wasn't a girl in his life who he'd allow near him. He'd looked of course, thought of a few of them alone at night in between bouts of sleep and nightmares but never, not once, did he touch.

"Mr. Kennedy, a pleasure," the older woman crooned, her red manicured nails reaching for his hand while the other flicked her dismissal to the hostess who was still staring at the copper haired god.

"Ms. Monroe, you look lovely as usual," he graced back, kissing the top of her hand with the briefest of grazes.

"A drink?"

"Not tonight. I don't mean to be unpleasant but I'm not in the mood for chit chat or walks down memory lane." Raquel Monroe smiled and tipped her head slightly forward, fluttering her lashes as she did so. Dominatrix or not, she'd happily play the role of submissive if it meant fucking Christian Grey. As the owner of Imperium she'd had the pleasure of learning directly from his subs just how...talented he was with mouth, fingers, toys and cock. Iron control was the phrase closely associated with his reputation and she, along with every other woman in here, would love to be the first to rattle him given the chance.

"Then let us not waste any more of your time. Same rules, same protocols as always." He handed her the $5k in cash without so much as a glance her way. "I'll reserve a room for you right away. Would you prefer a bedroom set up or a dungeon?"

"Dungeon," was his quick reply.

And with that she disappeared, slinking to the back in her skin tight black leather dress to an area unseen to the Doms and submissives that loitered in the cavernous space.

There were shows in the back rooms; he could hear the tell-tale snap of a distant whip, the murmurs of appreciation as one scene ended, the scrape of wood on the floor as another scene was set. The lights were dim around him, a layer of anonymity in a place that took privacy as seriously as they took their sex. Conversations were minimal, drinks were fancy and women were plentiful. He was no fool though, he knew he'd garnered a reputation in the community and he knew that not everybody was as careful in using alias's. Certainly there were people in the room who knew who he was by sight alone but here, where everybody has a secret, he could act out the needs that festered inside of him.

When he'd first been brought here he'd been put on display as punishment. He had flown home from Harvard in first class as usual but this time there had been a girl in the seat next to him, a brunette no older than he was and while he wasn't exactly friendly, he hadn't been rude to her either. So when they departed the plane and she handed him her number he'd done the polite thing and pocketed it until she was out of sight and then he'd thrown it away.

But she'd seen it and that had been enough. For two days she denied him a physical release and instead had paraded him around her house in nothing but a steel cock cage, unlocking it only when he slept. His parents had expected him home on Friday, a small lie he had told so that he'd have two uninterrupted days with his mentor and Domme before being forced into Thanksgiving at his parents' vacation home in Montana.

By the end of the second day he wished he'd just flown straight to Bozeman but he'd see this punishment through just as he had all of the prior ones. No matter how many times she whipped him, caned him or flogged him he didn't break. Wouldn't break. Emotion was something he'd never share with anyone. But to bring him to the brink of orgasm over 20 times only to stop at the very last second was too much to bear even for a man with his resolve. He'd been on the brink of begging when she had him dress and then had ordered him in the car. At first he thought his torture was over. But he had been wrong.

As the coup de grace of his punishment, she had brought him here. Her playground when he was away she'd said, the sting of jealousy burning in his gut. It was in the room all the way to the left in the back that she'd splayed him over a wooden horse, ankles and wrists tied to the posts so that he was exposed to everyone around him. It was no accident that she'd only invited men to watch knowing that for Christian, there were few things more humiliating but he had said nothing. No safe word, no slow word, nothing. He would never beg her or anyone for anything.

She'd milked him four times in less than an hour and while the first few times had been sweet relief by the end he was as close to tears as he'd been since childhood. Around him the spectators laughed at his sweaty, trembling body, the jerky involuntary movements as embarrassing as they were painful with each swipe of her hand over his dick.

He'd been 19. She had been 41.

After that it took four years and an actual act of God before he'd set foot in the place again and that was only out of desperation. Every time he came here it was out of desperation. After things had ended with Elena he'd joined an underground club that catered exclusively to Doms and subs in training, a program so rigorous and satisfying that he finished it in half the time, graduating to a coveted $100k a year Dominant membership to Imperium.

It had taken him another three months with a sub who couldn't fuck for shit before he'd given up and strolled in. Nobody had recognized him and if they had, they hadn't mentioned it. His confidence in the club restored he chose a girl tethered to the left wall and without a word led her to a private room.

She had been ideal. His type to a T. Petite, thin, fair skinned and brunette. He'd had all types of women before, Elena had made sure that he'd tried every age, race and size but he always chose the small brunettes when he had his way.

Her name had been Leigh and she'd been perfect. Quiet, blank faced and impressed by his skill and his size she gave him full access to her body. The next week she was there again and again he brought her into a private room. For six Saturdays in a row he met her at the club, hardly a word exchanged between them but still finding their unorthodox relationship the most satisfying thing he'd had since Elena.

So satisfying that after the sixth weekend he'd cancelled his meetings for the following week and worked with the club's acquisitions director to secure the equipment and designer that he wanted. In less than five working days he had his own playroom put into his brand new apartment with every piece of equipment and every type of implement imaginable. The following Saturday he offered Leigh a contract to which she signed immediately without even looking at it, her eagerness betraying the cool exterior she strived for. He should have known then that theirs was not an arrangement without emotions.

They'd spent close to five months together, each weekend the same until one day he'd arrived home on a Friday to find her still dressed and sitting on the couch waiting for him. He'd known this was coming. He'd known for weeks now but he had ignored it and pulled back more, their conversations going from friendly to nonexistent. He'd become harsher with her, less interested in her pleasure and more aloof during their interactions. So when she told him she'd fallen in love with him it had been easy to terminate the contract on the spot. Love had no place in his life which meant she had no place in his life.

His only regret? He hadn't fucked her before he'd tossed her out, a problem easily rectified when he went to Imperium the following night and to chose another brunette to take into one of the back rooms.

For five years it had continued like that; one sub after another, some lasting a few months, some a little longer but none, not one, able to get past sex with a side of disconnect. It made no difference that he'd handpicked each one or that they were all successful in their own right with a lot to offer. It didn't cross his mind to engage his emotions with any of them. Why bother?

Yes, he was good to them even going so far as to learn a bit about each of their families so that he could be sensitive to their personal issues but that was all part of being a good Dom.

And Christian Grey was the best. Just ask the fifteen long term subs he'd had or the countless trainees he'd spent time with. Nobody came close to what he had to offer. Money, power, experience, competence and a dick that would make a seasoned porn star blush.

So while he preferred the safety and consistency of a dedicated submissive, he recognized that Imperium was a means to an end and embraced it as such. It's existence was singular. Connect people that wanted to dominate with those who wanted to submit.

Dominate. Just the word had him puffing up his chest. Nobody had noticed him yet since he'd stayed to the edge of the room, preferring to observe for a bit before making a decision. But it was time to move, his dick was begging for some female attention and his hands were begging for a whip.

Around him the air shifted as he walked into the belly of the room, his gaze not lingering on anything or anyone in particular. This was part of the game, acting aloof and unconcerned but to Christian, this wasn't a game, this was his reality. His name may not be on the deed to the club but he owned this place the same as he owned anywhere he went.

Doms nodded in quiet acknowledgement at his presence while subs, the ones not collared at least, trained their eyes to the floor in the hope that he'd notice them. He didn't. Not really.

And then…he did.

She stood at the bar, her face turned towards the woman talking in low tones as they sipped their drinks, her hair sleek to the center of her back. She wore a simple black skirt and black tank top. On her feet were heels but not the stilettos he was used to seeing in places like this. He watched her speak quietly with the bartender and the woman who appeared to be a friend, willing her to turn around so that he could see her face but she didn't move except for the slight wave of a hand or shift of her feet while she spoke.

She may not have moved towards him but she felt him, knew she was being watched, knew it was a Dom just by the sense of authority she felt fall over her. Such a welcome feeling and one she hadn't experienced for quite some time now. She continued to listen to her friend Amy go on about her latest Domme and nodded sympathetically when she was supposed to but her attention was behind her. On him. A force unseen but felt. God please let him be attractive.

As if thunder were about to clap she felt the air tighten around her, felt the buzz of energy on her skin right before a storm starts. He was closer, she could feel him inside, could feel the swirl of something dark and unbidden come to the surface of her dying libido. When Amy stopped talking and looked down she stilled, all thoughts centering on what she would see when she turned around. Because if this force between them was an apparition, she was going home and giving up.

One black heel crossed in front of the other, her slim body and her face turning towards him, his heart rate kicking up at the way her hips moved, the way her hair swayed. And then she was there. Looking at him briefly before lowering her gaze to his shoes and holy shit what the sight of her did to his cock was crazy.

"You may look at me," he said demonstratively, boxing her in so that her only option to get away from him was through her friend who was making a hasty exit without needing to be told. Good girl. When she met his eyes the thunder clapped, the force of it like a bolt to his chest. What the fuck? He wondered, his index finger tapping on the cold tumbler in his hand the only indication that something had thrown him off his game. "Your name?"

He watched her lips part, imagined them closing around his cock and then held his breath when her tongue quickly licked them before retreating into what was, undoubtably, a very lovely mouth. He'd be sure to fuck it tonight.

"Stasia, Sir." Stasia. How beautiful. And unique. Much like her eyes, muted in the darkness of the room but still hinting at something amazing.

"Stasia. Your real name?" She hesitated, looking back at her shoes to keep from biting her lip and giving away her trepidation.

"A nickname but one I use here at the club."

She exhaled. Somehow she'd managed to answer him without stuttering. He was gorgeous. Not just gorgeous, drop dead, unbelievably perfect, Greek god status gorgeous. She did a quick inventory. Waxed from underarm to ankle? Check. Lotioned and smooth? Check. Nails done? Check. Flawless minimal makeup? Check. Sexy lace thongs? Check.

Be confident, she chided herself. You are beautiful and smart, interesting and driven. He is just a man. A very very very good looking man but a man nonetheless. But when he reached out one finger and ran it along the side of her face and into her hair to tug a few strands she almost buckled because just a man or not, he had her on fire.

No collar. His hopes soared along with the swelling of his dick but he pushed both down. Hope was for the weak and he was anything but weak. What he wanted he got. No hope necessary. And right now, he wanted this woman in one of those rooms.

"Are you here with anyone?"

"No, Sir." He relaxed then, the nerves that had frayed in the last three minutes falling back into place as he composed himself.

"Please, sit." She did as he asked, her legs crossing demurely so that her skirt rode up a bit higher. Creamy silken skin. Her spread legs would look so good against the crimson sheets in his playroom. "Wine?" She nodded and bit her lip and damn if that wasn't the biggest turn on for some reason. "Noir or Merlot?"

"Malbec actually. Please, Sir," was her hushed answer. Oh he liked this one. All sweet and soft, those eyes so hidden by the darkness still cutting towards him even though she tried to keep them down. He wanted them on him, looking at him, wanting him the way he knew his eyes wanted her.

"Look at me, Stasia." She did and before he could filter it the thought, no the absolute awareness that his life would be forever changed lodged itself deep inside his chest. He recovered before she saw the shock of panic that whipped through him at the unexpected onslaught of connection between them. "I want you to always look at me unless we're in scene together."

She raised her brows a bit and he laughed, "You think there's a question as to whether or not we'll see this to the end?" He tsked her and handed her the wine she'd requested. "Unless you're with someone, which you have already stated you are not, or you're into women, which I know you're not based on the way you look at me, then we will wind up scening." He took a long sip of his scotch and Drambuie. "Tonight."

At that she bit her tongue. She was aching for it. Desperate for a good session that would draw out the pleasurable pain she'd come to love so much. But this man, though good looking and obviously wealthy judging by the suit he wore, was dangerous. She knew it. And Anastasia Steele wasn't looking to get hurt. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not a year from now. But still she didn't refuse him or tell him no.

"You don't come here often," she said softly, her boldness somehow adorable even though it should have been upsetting. "I'd remember you."

He couldn't help it. Her admission thrilled him.

"I do not. I usually have long term submissives and we get together at my place. Imperium is where I come for the occasional session when I'm in between subs or when I'm looking to get a new one." Which was, for the most part true. He'd come here looking for one night of fun but sitting across from this woman who sipped her wine with plum colored lips and long black eyelashes made him want to rethink that whole, no long term sub thing he'd promised himself on the way here.

He was too busy right now, too overwhelmed with the takeover of four factories in Mexico and six more in Cambodia. As it was he was barely home now, his weekends spent in foreign countries so that he could close these deals and move on to the next but this one, this slight of a girl here in front of him, she just may be worth skipping a trip or two.

"And you? What are you looking for tonight?" She looked up at him then, that bolt to his chest rumbling deeper still. He was so fucked and he knew it but he didn't care so long as he could have her bend to his will.

"I'm not a one time girl." She shrugged as if embarrassed but damn did that please the shit out of him for some reason. "I did it a few times, two to be exact and while it was satisfying at the time, the after effect it had on me was not worth repeating."

Guilt. Shame. Feelings of inadequacy had plagued her both times enough so that she swore off scening without a long term Dom again. Amy had told her to hang up her hang ups but Ana, no matter how long she was in the lifestyle, couldn't shake the emotions that followed her after those quick hook ups.

There was such a vulnerability in being a submissive, such a deep level of trust required that it had been emotionally taxing to give that to someone for just one night. They had both been good Doms and she had found pleasure and release both physically and emotionally during her hours with them but the next day, instead of feeling refreshed and sated, she'd felt exposed and raw.

"Do you struggle with it then? The lifestyle?" He asked casually but waited on her answer as if she had the cure for cancer.

"No. I'm comfortable with my choice and I enjoy it. If I weren't in the lifestyle I still don't think I'd be comfortable as a one night kind of girl. It's just not for me. Hard limit." That he could understand and appreciate. So long as her sexuality wasn't shameful to her, he could work with her.

They sat in silence, both drinking from crystal glasses until they were empty. Inside she churned with longing, wanting so badly to know what this man looked like when he came. What he sounded like when he thrust. Just where his tipping point was, his point of no return.

He took one last swallow, his throat bobbing up and down as he drank. It turned her on more than anything she had ever seen in her entire life. Screw the morning after feelings, she wasn't about to let a man like this get away from her. Amy was right, she needed to hang up her hang ups.

"Christian Grey," he said suddenly, extending his hand to her. "Mr. Kennedy as far as this club goes." She took his hand, large, warm and smooth in her own. There was no way he didn't feel the line of connection there, no way he didn't feel the shiver that ran through her at the small contact. She recovered herself and giggled a bit, the sound somehow sweet in his ear. God she was 16 all over again.

"I hate that they make the Doms take the name of presidents and world leaders here. It's so…strange." She relaxed a bit then, perhaps knowing his name had given her reason to trust him.

"Yes," he finally countered. "But in this lifestyle, privacy is paramount. Do you know who I am Ms…?"

"Steele. Anastasia Steele. Stasia is the name that I use here. And yes, I know who you are. But only by name since your office building is a few blocks from mine. I'd heard rumors that you were a Dom," at this she looked down briefly, "just in the club here but gossip is usually based on lies so…" Oh he liked her a lot.

"Yes, well, in this case, the gossip is true. I am a Dom, a good one and I want to scene with you. I've reserved a room in the back." There, he'd put it out there just as a Dom would. Some seduce, some say nothing and just take the lead but not Christian Grey. He said what he wanted and everyone did it, all he had to do was seal the deal. In this case, he needed her in that room so that the power dynamic would shift to his advantage because right now, she held all the power. He wasn't worried. He always got what he wanted. And what he wanted was for his cum to coat her mouth before he bent her over and took her hard.

So imagine his shock when she knitted her brows together and pursed her lips.

"I'm not a one night girl, Mr. Grey and I'm sorry if I led you to believe otherwise." She stood, her knee brushing against his thigh. "I shouldn't take up any more of your time, it's already late."

What? What the hell just happened? She was going? Saying no to him?

"Anastasia, if you're not a one night girl than we will agree to more than that. Frankly I have no intention of letting you go and after meeting you, I would be quite upset should you find someone else to share your submission with."

Her face flamed, her sex dampened. But he spelled heartbreak and there was no way she could do that again. She hadn't even loved Dominick but he'd crushed her nonetheless. But this one? This man with the gray eyes that held so many secrets? She knew he'd take everything she had and at this point, she didn't have all that much anymore.

"I'm not as experienced as the other women here and I'm certainly not as open as them. I have quite a few hard limits, some of them deal breakers for most Doms." That part was true but her excuse rang thin even in her ears, "A man like yourself needs a submissive who can give herself totally to him and I'm not that woman, Sir."

He didn't give up, not when she stood in front of him, no more than a foot away worrying her lip between her teeth. The first thing he was going to do to her was bite that lip himself. And then he'd have her suck him so he could watch it glide over his dick. She took a careful step back, her small hand smoothing the front of her skirt.

Her movement brought him back to the moment. "Would you be willing to meet again? Perhaps for dinner so that we can go over each other's limits? See if we can work something out?" He'd do anything, anything to have her even if it meant bringing her back to his apartment, something he only did after contracts and at least three good sessions here.

She shifted her feet again and he reached out, grasping her wrist so that one thumb ran over the pulse on the soft underside. God she was lovely. And spirited. He liked that.

"Dinner? You want to go out for dinner?" Well no, he didn't want to go out for dinner but it was a means to getting his cock inside of her so dinner was a small price to pay as far as he was concerned. It would give him a good hour to look at her too and that was well worth drifting from his normal routine.

"Yes. My place. Here is my card." On the back he jotted down the building and the code to the elevator in the garage. "Tomorrow, six sharp. You'll park in one of the slots labeled penthouse. Is there anything you don't care for?" She blinked, completely shocked at this turn of events.

"I…I'm not a fan of slimy shell fish." He smiled and laughed just a bit. "You know, oysters, clams, that kind of thing. And I think carrots are vile." He laughed then, the sound of it jarring in an otherwise quiet room.

"No slimy seafood and no carrots. Got it. Six o'clock, Ms. Steele, I'm looking forward to it."

Air rushed through her lungs then, relief at the opportunity to see him again, fear at what that could bring. The bouncer walked her to her car, the smell of new leather welcoming and familiar. For a minute she sat there, anxiety building in her that he hadn't left at the same time. If he was serious about getting to know her a bit so that they could pursue this, then why was he still in the club? Would he find someone to scene with tonight?

You're being ridiculous, Ana. You just met him and you told him you were inexperienced and a prude. Why wouldn't he see what else was available?

But just as she began to tirade against herself the door swung open and out walked sex on legs himself, a smirk on his pretty face. He pointed his key at a black Audi Spyder and climbed inside, the smirk now a small smile.

Trouble, she said again to herself. That man is trouble for you. And though she knew she should walk away now, knew she should forget he spoke to her, forget the way he touched her, forget how damp her panties were just by his proximity, she knew she'd be there tomorrow because he'd told her to be there. And though there were no contracts yet, no rules or guidelines or emotional safe guards in place she also knew one thing was certain. She wanted to be his.