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A/N: I'm back after a long break. Okay, so those of you who read my fanfic know that I wrote it to redeem Ana. Far too many romances follow the Cinderella tale too closely, putting the woman at a disadvantage to the male at every turn: poor, powerless, etc. to the man's affluence, power, and ability to radically change lives. I wanted Ana to be more of an equal to Christian, so I took scenes from the books and reimagined Ana.

But I ran out of things to change and I was busy working on my own novels—by the way, Complements is now available on Amazon Kindle if you're interested in Olivia and Daniel. The sequel, Inexplicable Reasons (formerly A Force of Nature), will be published next week.

So, now I'm writing a What If fanfic of my own. I actually began this one a while ago. It features Christian and Ana but the story is significantly different. Yes, they meet and have one night together but Ana is scared off by Christian's lifestyle. She gets a fellowship to pursue her Master's degree. Along the way, she accidentally violates the NDA she signed for Christian and he comes after her. Tell me what you think if you care to.

One Shady Character:

The whole thing was meant to be a joke.

I wrote the book as a Christmas gift for my closest friends: it was way too dirty to send to anyone else. My best buds believed it to be pure fiction—and why wouldn't they?— and that was exactly how I planned it all. How many of them would believe that the kinky man in my book was someone I had actually met, the man who took my virginity, who made me an indecent proposal, who wouldn't get out of my head no matter how hard I tried to kick him to the curb?

I had met Christian Grey, gorgeous tycoon-extraordinaire, by pure and accidental chance. At the time, I was in my last year of college, and my friend Mariah had helped me snag an excellent part-time job in an upscale boutique. Trying to get me ready for the job interview—me, the girl who shops at Target (pronouncing it Tar-jay to give it panache)—was a comedy of errors in and of itself.

"Okay," Mariah said, holding up a pair of platform patent-leather high heels, "what designer?"

"Jimmy Chow?"

"Choo. Jimmy Choo—Jimmy Chow's is a restaurant— and, no. They're Louboutins! For God's sake, Ana, pay attention. What about these?" She held up a pair of low, very pointy slingbacks.

"I know this," I yelled. "Those are Manolo Blahniks!"

"Right! There's hope for you yet. Okay, let's move on. What about this skirt?"

And it went on all evening. By the end of the night, I had my upscale designers down pat. Then it was time to try to score some pricey clothes on ebay. For the interview itself, Mariah lent me her Stella McCartney suit and I somehow managed to dupe the owner and snare the job. Woohoo.

It was on a Friday night, just before closing, when he walked in, commanding the small shop without even trying. I was at the register, collating the cash receipts, and filling out my timesheet when the door tinkled open and in strode the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. I had never heard of Christian Grey, new to Seattle as I was, so when he handed over his credit card to pay for the pricey necklace he hastily selected, I had no idea who he was. Didn't matter anyway.

He never asked the price but then, so many of our customers don't. Asking the price of items is gauche when you have money to fritter away. The cost of this particular necklace was astonishingly ridiculous at three thousand dollars for costume jewelry, but it was a designer piece. He'd honed right in on the jewelry as soon as he came in and pointed to three different pieces. "May I see those, please?"

Working in the pricey shop for the past two months, I'd managed to acquire some small amount of grace while in the company of affluent, important people . . . so why my knees were knocking together just because I was standing in front of this man was an enduring mystery.

He was wearing an espresso brown suit, so dark it was almost black and elegantly tailored, brown wingtips, crisp white shirt, and a silver tie. Mmm, edible was the first word that sprang to an inquiring mind.

"Yes, of course." I carefully removed each piece from its display, setting them side by side on a black velvet display tray. One was sterling set with onyx and the other two had amethyst stones. All three were very pretty and very expensive.

"Which one do you like?" he asked me, looking up from the jewelry to my face. Wow, his eyes were light and beautiful, fringed as they were by his lush dark lashes. Would he think me rude if I gripped him by the ears, dragged his face to mine, and made out with him over the counter? Shaking my head to dispel the image, I tried to answer his question intelligently, all the while staring at his lips.

"All three are quite stunning," I said, instead. "What color does your wife favor?"

"It's for my sister and she wears a lot of pinks and purples; I guess the amethyst then?"

"Probably a sure bet if purple's a favorite color."

"Yes, I think this one," he pointed to the nicer of the two. "Please giftwrap it; I'm running late and I almost forgot her birthday," he said as he handed me his credit card.

"Of course," I said, keeping my voice neutral when my body was imploding inward like a controlled demolition. I rang up the sale and he signed the slip quickly. I watched him closely: this guy was too damned gorgeous and he was near enough to me that I could smell his cologne or aftershave and it was, like, sublime. He was tall too, with thick, dark hair and light eyes. But never mind what he had; what he didn't have was a wedding band on his finger. Another woohoo.

Yeah, right, I told myself. Why would a man who looked like he did and could spend three grand without batting an eye have any interest in a mousy shop girl? I went to the other counter to wrap the box and selected the store's signature silver and white paper and finished it with a purple ribbon.

"Here you are, sir. I hope your sister enjoys the necklace."

He looked at me long and hard when I said that. Did I say something wrong?

"Thank you. I'm sure my sister will love it. I appreciate your assistance." He began to leave the store but just as he reached the door, he turned his head. "What's your name, by the way?"

My face got hot so I knew I was blushing to my hair roots. "Ana . . . Anastasia, actually. Anastasia Steele."

"Pretty name. Thank you again, Ms. Steele," he said, smiling for the first time and he sauntered off.

I wrote the book because it was fun; I wrote the book to exorcise him from my system; I wrote the book because I had no extra money for Christmas gifts for my friends. I didn't consider it a violation of the NDA he had me sign, first, because the book was written as fiction with no real names used, and second, the book was supposed to be read only by my friends, with no wider circulation than that one small circle of women.

What ended up happening was something I could never in a million years have predicted. I mean, come on: how could he hold that against me? But he very much was holding it against me and though I doubted he'd really drag me through court over it, he was planning on making me pay, one way or another.

He was the man who took my virginity. From the first moment I saw him in the shop—Archipelago—I wanted him. Badly. Still, I didn't believe I'd have a ghost of a chance. The man was perfection in every way: looks, grooming, voice, and wallet. I was vastly inferior with my wild hair, my designer knock-offs (for the most part), and my pathetic bank account. He had it all over me—just call me Cinderella.

Somehow, though, he was attracted to me. Before too long, I found myself in his penthouse apartment, hoping he'd try to seduce me. To say it didn't go as swimmingly as it did in my feverish imagination would be vastly understating the situation.

We were sitting in his ridiculously huge, luxuriously appointed room, more along the order of a freaking auditorium than a person's living room. The penthouse apartment sits high in the sky of Seattle, like a snow globe hovering in the clouds, looking down onto the city skyline. Well into my second glass of vino, I was already significantly tipsy—but it was all good, since he'd very recently had me sign a nondisclosure agreement and subsequently introduced me to his medieval torture chamber he charmingly called his playroom.

The evening had begun so well, too: the romantic helicopter ride to see Seattle by night, where I got to watch Christian as a competent and affable pilot; his gallant assurances that if I wanted to leave at any time, his chauffeur was on stand-by, ready to whisk me back home on a moment's notice; Christian playing the welcoming host, serving me wine and cheese and scintillating conversation. In my version of the play script, this is when he'd begin to seduce me and we'd end up in bed, having the most incredible, mindbending sex ever and, afterward, I'd officially be dating the most eligible bachelor, possibly on earth.

Instead I was sitting here, a tad intoxicated and a bit queasy, trying to digest his indecent proposal.

"And if I say no?"

"That's fine," he said, his face impassive.

"But we won't have any kind of relationship then?"

"Correct."

"Why?
"It's the only type of relationship I'm interested in."

"Why?" I persisted, possibly a bit drunkenly and definitely lots disappointed.

"I've just told you. It's how I'm made, Anastasia."

"I'd have to agree to all or most of these things on the list?" He'd shown me a paper enumerating a virtual cornucopia of deviant sex acts to approve or veto.

"Not all—just the ones you're comfortable doing."

"What if I don't know whether or not I'm comfortable? Can I change my mind mid-contract?"

"I'm sure you have an idea as to whether or not you are tolerant of a given act."

"Uh, not really, Christian."

"When you've had sex, were there things you didn't like doing?"

I don't answer but I feel the blush creeping up, insidious and unstoppable. Christian misinterprets it.

"If a relationship of this sort is to work, both parties must be completely honest. You have to tell me what you like and dislike, Anastasia."

"I really don't know, Christian. That's the problem."

"You don't know what you like or don't like during sex?"

Here goes: "I've never had sex so I haven't a clue."

The look of shock that descends over his face is priceless and nearly comical. Once the comprehension is complete, that shock begins to visibly morph into anger. "Are you telling me you're a virgin?" He's incredulous.

I nod.

"At twenty-one, nearly twenty-two, you're still a virgin?" Now he's yelling.
Again, I nod, cringing at his volume. What the hell is his problem?

"Why didn't you tell me, for God's sake?"

I shrugged nervously, growing panicked at his reaction. "It never came up. I don't normally go around talking about my sex life with everyone I meet."

"Well, you certainly know a lot more about mine now!" He stood and began pacing the floor in front of me, his hand fisting at the nape of his neck. I didn't like the look of his body language.

"Christian," I said, licking my lips nervously, "how the hell was I supposed to know what you were about to share with me? It's not everyday that one meets a man who gets his kicks tying up and hurting women. I'm sorry I didn't warn you off me . . . but you pursued me . . . and I liked you . . . and I came here tonight intending to spend the night with you." My voice trailed off pathetically.

When he turned to face me, I swore I could feel the heat of his ire. "First of all, I do not get my kicks hurting women: it's a lifestyle choice and the women who share it with me are of the same inclination. You are the first one I've ever propositioned who wasn't part of the lifestyle. Therein lies my mistake.

"But, Anastasia, may I ask how you managed to stay a virgin? You're beautiful, you're a consenting adult, you've spent the last four years around testosterone-fueled college boys—I don't get it. Was there no one who made you hot and bothered enough to pull up your dress?"

At least he thinks I'm beautiful, I thought with some small satisfaction, as I feel outright flames scorching my face—my cheeks must have been scarlet at that point. It was time to leave.

"Christian, I'm sorry if I've mislead you in any way; it wasn't intentional, I assure you. I suppose I should leave now." I reached for my bag at my feet and began to rise, unsure as to how I was going to get home. Did I really want his chauffeur to drive me?

As soon as I was vertical, he was right in front of me. "Don't go," he whispered. "I'd like you to stay."

"But you're angry with me . . . though I'm not sure why."

"I'm not angry with you, Anastasia; I'm angry at myself for making incorrect assumptions about you, predicated on nothing much." He ran his hand through his hair, a nervous habit of his, I'd noticed. "I want you to spend the night with me."

"But what about your medieval torture chamber?"

He smirked. "It's not a torture chamber and what about it?"

"Are you expecting me to go in there?"

"No, I'm asking you to spend the night with me, Ana. Just you," he said, opening the top button of my shirt, "me," and the next button, "and the bed. What do you say?"

"Yes," I said, my voice barely audible. I might as well admit it: I desperately wanted this man.

Seeing him without clothes made me pant even harder for him. The man was an exquisite specimen of the human male, from his head down to his feet. Instead of being nervous, I find myself eager to get the show on the road, but he's taking his time, ever so slowly removing my clothes first and only later his own. By the time he's actually there, between my legs, ready to take my long-prized virginity, I'm beyond coherence—and I'm pretty sure he knows it.

I wrote the book because it ended far too soon, when I refused to agree to his terms, to become essentially a slave to his every whim. I wanted him on my terms; he wanted me on his. Never the twain shall meet.

My book was jokingly called Three and a Half Weeks, after the movie Nine and a Half Weeks, but modified since that's how long our relationship limped along, propelled by nothing more than unadulterated lust. I briefly considered calling it The Story of A but that would have been too obvious, I think.