I sit at my desk holding Linc's card. It has been a week since I talked to him at the bar. Things with my father still haven't really changed. He did manage to get the bank to give him a month to come up with the money. Don't know how he swung that, but at least that gives him a little more time.
The extension gives me some time as well. I've been going through my conversation with Linc over and over for the past week working out if I really want to help him. You would think that my dad getting extra time would give me some hope, but I have this feeling in my gut that the extra time won't matter. In a month my father's shop will be gone and he'll be devastated. In my hand I may hold the solution to all our troubles. Mr. Lincoln has probably forgotten about me by now. I mean it's been a whole week and like he said he's a busy man.
Maybe I should call him. Just make sure he hasn't forgotten… he did tell me to take some time and think it over. I'm still not fully sure I want to help, but he never really finished telling me what he needed me for. The least I could do is finish hearing him out…
I pick up my phone and dial his office number. I nervously tap my finger on my desk waiting for it to pick up. If it goes to voicemail I'll take it as a sign and forget about everything. Never look back, and forget all about the shady Linc Lincoln.
"Linc Lincoln's office, Taylor speaking How may I help you?" says a woman's voice, assistant most likely.
"Uh… Hi. My name is Ana Steele, from Seattle Independent Publishing. I'm calling for a Linc Lincoln."
"Is Mr. Lincoln expecting your call Ms. Steele?" she asks
"Yes, I believe he is Taylor." I hope he is…
"One minute Ms. Steele I'll put you through."
God I hope he remembers. He probably was drunk and has no clue who I am. I should just hang up. I doubt he will call back, him being busy and all.
"Linc Lincoln speaking"
Crap it's him!
"… Hello?" Shit Steele! Say something.
"Hi Mr. Lincoln! It's Ana, from the bar the other night." Well, that came out a little too enthusiastic.
"Why Hello Ana. How are you?" I can hear a smile through the phone. OK… maybe he does remember me after all.
"I'm alright Mr. Lincoln, and yourself?"
"Please Ana, call me Linc. To answer your question I am doing alright as well."
"That's great to hear Linc." I start to relax a little, as I settle back into my chair.
"So to what do I owe this phone call Ms. Steele?" Cutting to the chase I see. Wish he would have done that the other night.
"Well Linc, I'm calling to further discuss this "favor" of yours."
"Ah so you have given it some thought?" His voice sounds a bit surprised. I guess the week I've spent leaving him hanging had discouraged him.
"Yes, I have. However, we never really finished discussing what was needed from me."
"Well, I would love to finish our conversation. How about you join me for another drink? Say 6' o clock?"
"Six works for me, where should I meet you?"
"Same place if that works for you Ana" I go to fifties quite often so I am comfortable with that location. Doesn't stay as busy as other bars either so we will have some form of privacy I suppose.
"That's fine Linc, I'll see you then."
"You to Ms. Steele" He says before hanging up.
I look at the time on my computer seeing that I have three hours till I meet with Linc. Guess I should actually do some work today, help pass the time. I get to work on some manuscripts as I anxiously wait for five thirty to get here.
I'm sitting in a booth towards the back of the bar. There's a couple of guys sitting in the front of the bar drinking a few beers, but that's about it. The place is pretty dead since it's only around six. I've been sitting here for the past twenty five minutes nervously waiting for his arrival. I choose water as my drink of choice. If I decide to help Linc I don't want my decision to be influenced by alcohol. I want my mind clear and focused.
I'm swirling the tip of my finger around the top of my glass, when I hear the door of the bar opening. I look up and see Linc searching for me. Just then he spots me and walks over to the bartender requesting his drink before he joins me at the booth.
"Ana" he says with a smile sitting down.
"Linc" I give him a small smile back.
The bartender walks over to our booth setting his bourbon down. Linc ignores him and immediately gets down to business.
"Ms. Steele, I would first like to say how much I appreciate you considering my offer and giving me a call this afternoon. I had grown apprehensive about whether or not you would respond."
"To be honest Linc, when we first spoke last week I wasn't sure I would respond at all. Like I have said before, I don't feel comfortable taking money from others or involving myself in people's personal affairs. However, after giving it some thought I figured I could at least finish hearing you out before I made my decision a definite no." I take a drink of water trying to settle my stomach. I don't know why I feel so nervous.
"Once again I appreciate that. I admire your honesty, Ana."
"Thank you, Linc. Now, saying I say yes to your favor… what exactly would I be required to do?" I ask him; trying to avoid him repeating himself and just get to what I really want to know.
"Well, Ana what I want from you is quite simple." He takes a drink of his bourbon. "I want you to get me a key."
"A key?" I say disappointed. The man is gonna give me six thousand dollars just to get him a dang key.
"Yes Ana, a key. I know to you that may sound silly, but I can assure it is of great importance to me."
"What is the key to?" I ask curiously.
"If you agree to help me Ms. Steele I am positive you will find out on your own."
"Why can't you just tell me?"
"Until I have your cooperation, I'm afraid that piece information cannot be divulged."
So he wants me to get him a key. A key that he won't tell what is to, but I will find out if I help him…
"How would I get this key? Assuming I just can't go to a store a buy it."
He chuckles. "You're correct. The key cannot be bought in a store. The key belongs to the boy my ex-wife had relations with. The only way to get the key is through him."
Oh okay, I see now. That's what he meant when he said he would need my help to reach him.
"Who is the guy?"
His smile fades as he answers my question. "Christian Grey"
The name sounds so familiar, like I have heard it before. I think Kate brought him up a couple weeks ago talking about some kind of interview. Apparently, he's some young, super rich guy. CEO of a major company.
"The billionaire CEO?" I ask him, making sure I got the right guy.
"That's him." He takes a long drink of his bourbon finishing it off.
"I don't know much about billionaires, but he is a pretty rich guy. One who I am sure has security which would make it impossible to get anywhere near him." I point out.
"That is true, he does have security. Getting to him shouldn't be that difficult though. There is an event tomorrow and he will be there. So will many others high in society. I have a friend Daniel Peters, who is coincidently in need of a date. If you agree to help, I would like you to accompany him. Everyone mixes and mingles at these events. This will get you the opportunity to at least run into Mr. Grey."
I guess that would solve the issue of getting to him. Don't know how comfortable I would be going with a stranger, but I wouldn't necessarily be there to socialize with him.
"Even if I do meet this Christian guy Mr. Lincoln, I don't believe he is just going to give me this secret key."
"Ana, what I am asking of you is simple. Get me the key. How you go about getting it is completely up to you. However, I would suggest befriending him. Gain his trust, capture his interest."
He wants me to have a relationship with the guy? That's insane! I've never been in a relationship in my life… I'm a virgin for crying out loud. I don't know the first thing about being with a guy, let alone capturing their interest.
"Mr. Lincoln I am afraid you have the wrong girl." I say looking down, twiddling with my fingers. "I don't think I can befriend him or even come close to capturing a centimeter of this man's interest."
He shakes his head grinning. "Ana, you are a beautiful girl, and intelligent as well. I fully believe that you will have no problems getting his attention. Keeping it long enough to get what I want is going to be the challenge."
"Exactly and I won't be able to do that!" Not me, not mousy Anastasia Steele… "I doubt I'm even remarkably close to any woman he would be interested in."
"Trust me; you are exactly what he would be interested in." He says assuredly, smirking to himself like I'm missing out on a private joke.
"How long does your father have to come up with the money for his shop?" he asks me
I drink my water clearing my throat before I answer. "The bank gave him an extension." I answer. "He has a month"
Linc nods his head. "Perfect, that would give you plenty of enough time." He crosses his arms on the table, straightening his back in business stature. "Ana, I wouldn't be asking you this favor if I didn't believe you had the ability to do it. You have all the tools and the determination needed. Confidence is the key Ms. Steele."
We sit there silently for a few minutes as I think this over. Linc seems to be positive that I'm capable of such an act. Could I use someone like that? If Ray found he would be extremely disappointed in me. Then again he doesn't have to find out. I can get Linc this stupid key and while I'm doing that I can figure out a lie about how I got the money. What Ray doesn't know won't hurt… in fact it will save him.
As far as this Christian guy goes, he doesn't seem like the best guy in the world. Sleeping with another man's wife and taking his money won't win an award for most stand-up guy in anybody's book.
"Do we have an agreement Ms. Steele? Will you help me?" Linc asks, there is sort of desperation in his eyes.
"If I get you this key, you'll give me my dad's money and I'll never have to hear from you again? No one will get hurt?" I ask him. I need to make sure he won't pop up again asking for anything else… like maybe the lock to whatever this key is to. I need to also make sure that everyone involved is going to walk away unharmed. The last thing I want to do is play a hand in hurting someone.
"You have my word Ana. You get me the key and the money is yours. No one will be harmed and you will never have to see me again."
Can I trust him? He sounds sincere, but I'm not sure. I hope I can trust this guy because if it turns out I can't… I don't know what I would do.
I take a deep breath, running everything through my head one more time. I reassure myself it's for Ray, that's it's my only option. He would do anything for me; I should do the same for him.
"Okay, I'll do it." I tell him, looking up from my hands, to see him. At first his expression is of one who is shocked. You could tell he wasn't expecting my answer to be yes. Then a huge grin becomes plastered across his face, one of victory.
"Fantastic Ms. Steele." He says. "Tomorrow I will have a dress, shoes, and all the works sent to you. It is a masquerade, so a mask will be included. I will make sure to let Daniel know you have graciously accepted the offer to accompany him tomorrow. Be ready by seven for him to pick you up. Remember to be confident, the secret to keeping a man's interest is to always leave them wanting more." He winks at me. "You can do this Ana."
"I'll be ready tomorrow night for Daniel. As far as the confidence thing goes, I can only assure you that I will try to do my best." I tell him. He may have trust in my abilities, but I know it's a waste of time.
"That's all I ask Ana. You should head home now." He tells me in a nice way that sounds like a demand. "Tomorrow will be a big day for you and it is best you are well rested."
I don't see how I am going to be able to sleep, but he's right. I'm gonna be a wreck tomorrow as it is… I don't need to add sleep deprivation to all the things that's going to be wrong with me.
I nod to him in agreement as we both get up to leave. Then, I remember one question left to ask him. He said if I went along with him I would get an answer.
"Wait, one more question Mr. Lincoln." I tell him, grabbing his arm. "What is the key to?"
He purses his lips for second before answering me, as if thinking what exactly to tell me.
"The key is to a room." He says. "A special room."
A room? He wants me to go through all this trouble for a room?
"What's so special about it?"
"Assuming tomorrow will go as well as I hope Ms. Steele… you will surely find out." He answers, and then just like that he leaves.
I stand there for a few more seconds before I head out the bar. A small part of me is telling me everything will be ok, yet a bigger part is telling me I just made a deal with the devil.
Its six thirty, and I am finishing up the last of my makeup. I kept it simple and as natural as possible. I figure since I'll be wearing a mask the makeup shouldn't be too much. I put the rest of my mascara on before I tie the mask into place.
The mask is white with an antique crackle finish and authentic silver leaf and Italian lace. It's beautiful. Everything that arrived this morning was beautiful. The dress I'm wearing is a blush pink jersey knit dress with a halter neck closure. It has a plunging V-neck back by sheer organza to match the nude sheer backside detailing which is adorned in crystal, silver stones and beading. It fits like a glove and hugs me in all the right places. I don't how Linc knew what size dress I wore, but I have to say he did an amazing job. I actually look pretty nice. My crystal blue eyes stand out dramatically in the mask, and my brown hair is curled and pinned, with a few stray strands hanging down to show off the low cut back. Maybe trying to be confident won't be that difficult tonight.
I took the liberty earlier today to borrow Kate's laptop and look up this Christian guy. She is in Barbados with her family for a while so I'm sure she won't mind. I am actually glad she isn't here; I don't want to have to face the Kavanagh inquisition tonight.
I looked at his pictures on Google for a while. I would be lying if I said he wasn't absolutely breathtaking, and those eyes… even in a screen I feel like they are looking straight into my soul.
I hear a door knock at my door and know that it must be Daniel. I grab my clutch and head towards the door to answer. I open it and there he is. He is tall, about a little over six feet. He has a solid build, so he probably works out. His dark hair contrasts perfectly with his green eyes. He looks handsome in his black tuxedo and black bowtie. I guess being on his arm tonight won't be too bad after all.
"Hello Mr. Peters." I say give him a shy smile. He looks a little taken back by me, eyeing me up and down.
"Hello, Ms. Steele." He says gaining back some composure. "You look absolutely stunning"
"Thank you" I say feeling the blush rise in my cheeks, "And please call me Ana." I walk out the apartment locking the door as we head down to his car.
I see a limousine that I can only assume is for us, waiting outside my apartment. A man in uniform opens the door and Daniel and I both climb inside.
"Thank you for agreeing to accompany me tonight Ana." Daniel says breaking the silence as we drive to the event.
"It is my pleasure Daniel" I tell him, he seems like a pretty nice guy.
"When Linc called telling me he had found me a date for tonight I was a little worried," He admits. "blind dates really aren't my thing."
I let out a small laugh, "I completely understand. I would have never agreed to go on a blind date, but Linc is a friend and I am doing him a favor. I can honestly say that I have no regrets so far…" I smile at him, and he does the same.
Overall it takes us about thirty minutes till we pull into the drive way of a huge mansion. I see many cars parked everywhere. There are tons of hanging lanterns, illuminating the scenery beautifully.
My heart takes off pounding as I see Daniel placing his mask on and the door to the limousine opening. I try to control my breathing as the nerves settle in. Daniel extends his hand and I grasp it tightly, stepping out of limo onto a long green carpet that leads to a huge white tent. Flashes from cameras go off blinding for a second.
Daniel and I make our way down the long green path, stopping every now and then to take a picture. By this point my heart feels like it about to explode into a million pieces. I focus on trying not to fall as we approach the large tent.
"The key is confidence" keeps replaying inside of my head as I try to calm myself. I can do this, I can do this.
"You ready?" Daniel asks, offering me his arm.
I take a deep breath and wrap my arm through his as we enter the big tent.
Here goes nothing…