Note - thank you all so much for your follows, faves and reviews - I've been overwhelmed. Thanks also for the story ideas. I've been thinking about this for weeks and have a few things in mind, but they really help. I hope you like this - there's a little setting up needed before we can move on so I hope it's not boring. Enjoy!
Last time I was in Grey House for my internship interview, it was the middle of the day, and the lobby was much quieter. This morning it is bustling with people. Legions of immaculate women and sharply dressed men file through the security turnstiles towards the elevators. "I employ the best people and pay them well." Christian once told me. All these people seem to have a natural air of confidence, an arrogance that stems from this certain knowledge in their superior ability. Walk tall, try to fit in Steele.
I am to spend the day on an induction and company orientation session with the other new interns before I find out which department I have been assigned to. I feel I must fight the urge to be smiley and friendly. I need to discourage personal questions and banal chatter.
"Anastasia Steele? – I'm Miranda Field, HR Executive. I'll be leading the session today. Now you're here, we can start. This way please". What? I'm not late. Oh what a surprise, she's blonde and flawless in a sharp black suit and the ubiquitous five inch heels. Mm high heels and sandstone floors – I would be on my ass, skidding across the floor in seconds. Bet Miss Flawless never skidded on her ass in her life.
Miranda leads me into a large meeting room where three others, two females and three males, sit tapping away on tablets. Temporarily forgetting my all-new intimidating demeanor, I smile at them briefly and take the proffered tablet. I am instructed to fill in my bank details and in case of emergency contacts for the HR records. Yeah right, in case of emergency, just holler Christian…mm probably not even necessary, knowing his stalking capabilities, he'd be here long before the medics. Better put Ray.
I finish quickly and look around, taking in my surroundings and my companions. The room is clinical white and dazzling thanks to the glass wall overlooking Seattle. The view is not as arresting as that from the Escala Penthouse or from what I remember of my time in Christian's office somewhere 10 floors above me. But it is still stunning. The view inside the office was pretty hot too I recall, flushing and squirm in my seat as I remember the way Christian's eyes bored into me during that first encounter.
Too late, I remember how readily my face gives my thoughts away as I catch the two young women opposite looking at me speculatively. One is a redhead with a pretty face. The other is a brunette with a sleek bob. Both of them look the same age as me, but with a quiet, superior confidence that I suspect only an expensive education can buy.
I turn my attention to the guys. One of them looks kind of intense. I can see from his half-flattened hair that he's made an effort to look smart, but 'smart business' has not been a great success for him. Already his shirt is half out of his pants and a button had come undone on his cuff leaving one sleeve hanging open. I feel a pang of sympathy, I know what that feels like. But he is oblivious, concentrating intently on the tablet screen, clearly enthralled by some obscure function he's discovered on there.
The other two are good looking, all American boys. Handsome and preppy, probably their school football captains, they are smiling, at ease in their surroundings. Funny, but I'd have thought anyone like that was way out of my league two months ago. Before Christian. Now…I couldn't be less interested anyway. I wonder what he's doing.
During a break, the elegant Miranda finally leaves the room and everyone starts to talk at once.
"Can you believe this place? And he's not even 30" Dex, aka preppy guy number one looks around the table at us wide eyed.
"He's a billionaire – wow. I cannot believe I am here working for him. Hope I get to meet him" adds Andy, aka preppy guy number two. Ah, so he's heard that rumour too – he is most definitely not gay, no sir.
The girls – Amanda and Darcy – look at one another and laugh.
"I cannot believe how hot he is – and to think I'm working in the same building. What an opportunity" says the dark haired one, Amanda leaning forward to smack the table for emphasis.
Darcy looks around to check we are all listening to her: "Christian is a really private guy, keeps himself to himself. My family and the Grey family go way back. My mom is on several charity committees with his mom so we see him regularly at various annual events. My sister dated his brother Eliot for a while. I guess he'll be looking out for me once he knows I'm here." My heart sinks. Her tone is casual, conversational even, but she's staking her claim, setting out her rightful ownership as she sees it. I need to be careful around her, she won't miss a thing.
"I haven't met him in person, just seen pictures. D'you reckon he's gay?" Amanda tilts her head to one side, her dark bob moving with her effortlessly. I suspect she's more interested in the response than she's trying to look. Andy looks up sharply.
"Not sure about that. Never seen him with a guy – or a girl for that matter. But now I'm here, I will 'run into him' from time to time, remind him of our mutual friends and family members, how much we have in common" replies Darcy, finishing with what she probably thinks is a seductive chuckle. Bitch I think, uncharitably. Don't even think about it. He's mine.
I say nothing, trying to smile benignly as I look between them.
"A guy like Grey is not gonna mess on his own door step and fuck the staff is he? Anyway I hear he demands nothing less than total dedication from employees, pays them well but doesn't get friendly with any of them. Someone told me he actually fired someone for calling him by his first name. I mean…shit, that's harsh isn't it?" Dex's voice dropped low as if sharing a secret with us. I try to look suitably shocked just like I'm expected to. Christian's voice echoes in my mind 'only a few people call me by my given name, that's the way I like it' he told me. I shocked him by calling him Christian. And that's not the only way I've managed to shock him either.
Darcy's voice brings me sharply back to the present.
"So… how about the rest of you - Ana, have you met Christian?" Oh shit, perhaps I've been too quiet. I flush and look down at the desk. Judging by the tone, the only acceptable answer to that question is likely to be no, but then I remember my commitment not to lie.
"Er… I interviewed him for our student newspaper at WSU. My room mate had set it all up, but she was sick and I had to stand in at the last minute." Ok, so that's true. Sort of.
Darcy frowns briefly, but quickly covers it with a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes. I have trumped her on her prized 'I know Christian Grey' card and she is clearly pissed with me already. "Really? What was your impression of him?" she purrs.
Why just last night he made a real impression me – specifically on my wrists with his tie shortly before he fucked me senseless. Probably best I don't share that recollection… I take a moment as though I'm reflecting on her question while I desperately reach for a response that will kill this line of questioning. Shit, I should have prepared for this.
"He is…pretty intimidating". I fight the urge to smirk. You have no idea.
Andy comes to my rescue laughing. "All that money, a huge business success and we all go crazy for his looks too. Just unfair. I'm really hoping to meet him, see if I can pick up a few tips" We all laugh, perhaps a little too much to be genuine. Perhaps they are all nervous too? It's a welcome thought.
To my relief, Miranda re enters the room, effectively ending that line of questioning.
"Ok so you're all getting on well I see?" Miranda's tone indicates she doesn't think that's such a good thing. Jeez, has everyone here had a sense of humour bypass or what? I must ask Christian whether that's an essential requirement for all of his staff. Shit no, better not, he wouldn't see the funny side.
By the time we break for lunch, I've learned plenty about the GEH way of doing things, a little of the short yet meteoric growth of the company and not surprisingly the unshakeable requirement for absolute confidentiality in everything we do. As Miranda goes on to talk a little about Mr Grey himself, my heart sinks a little. Judging by the look in her eyes, and the way her voice becomes a little huskier as she mentions him by name, Miranda is yet another big fan. Is anyone immune to him?
"If or when you meet Mr Grey in person, please be aware that expected forms of address are Mr Grey or Sir. He demands this from everyone he works with, no matter who they are or how long they have worked for him. Mr Grey would consider any other form of address to be impertinent and highly inappropriate". She looks pointedly at Darcy at this point. Yep, she was definitely eavesdropping.
"One final point on housekeeping - the elevators. The last elevator on the right should only ever be used to access the twentieth floor – that is the Executive Offices and the security suite". Ah, Christian's office. Of course. I stifle a smile. I'll bet that one came directly from my Mr un-sociable 50 Shades himself to avoid having to make small talk with his staff. With a sinking heart I realize that it will also make sneaky visits to Christian's office trickier too. Gah.
"I have a question" Darcy's interruption is a statement of intent.
Miranda raises an eyebrow and looks at her expectantly.
"Just how involved is Mr Grey in the recruitment of interns at GEH?" I shift forward slightly in my seat. This should be interesting.
"Mr Grey directs the HR team to manage the recruitment, training and career development of interns. His aspirations are clear; he demands the very best, highest caliber candidates available. In return for your endeavors, you can expect to receive a generous salary and enviable career progression. GEH retains and develops only the very best people from the intern programme. Oh course, Mr Grey does not get involved directly in the recruitment of interns, but he maintains a keen and close interest in every area of his business. Rest assured, anyone performing well or indeed anyone performing below par will not go un-noticed by Mr Grey" she finishes with a sharp warning look at us all.
Darcy looks thoughtful. Yeah sorry, seems he didn't pick you out because of your family connection after all.
At lunchtime we decide to head out to find a nearby deli. Eagerly anticipating a few moments away from the austere atmosphere of Grey House, I feel myself starting to relax for what feels like the first time all day as we filter towards the security turnstiles. Damn it, my ID card won't scan. It would have to be mine wouldn't it? I look around for help and spot Ryan standing a few feet away. What's he doing here – I thought he was a member of Christian's close security team?
"My apologies but it seems your card is malfunctioning Ma'am. Please accompany me to the security suite and we'll get you on your way?" How odd, it was working earlier?
Feeling puzzled, I gesture to the others to go ahead without me, telling them I'll see them after lunch and trail behind Ryan. As we head towards the elevator, my confusion is quickly replaced by an unfurling excitement deep in my belly. I know what's going on here.