I was a week into my new job in the marketing department at Grey Enterprises. I was working as an admin, (focus on the past tense) at SIP Publishing, but my boss Jack Hyde, well he had hands that he couldn't keep to himself and I had knees that couldn't help but make contact with his groin. Turns out the "business trip" to New York was more about getting in my pants, then anything else. Needless to say, we parted ways quickly, very quickly. So quickly I that I jumped on a plane on my own and flew across the country back to Seattle, leaving Jack and his blue balls to fend for themselves.
So here I was six months out of college and out of work, and after weeks and weeks and weeks of looking for something in my field; I finally had to get back to reality and find a job, any job. My roommate Kate is rich, stinking rich. So not having my share of the rent was never a big deal but I had loans to pay, and I couldn't live off the immense kindness of my friends or my dwindling savings forever.
After weeks of offering, I finally gave in and Kate's father called in a favor. I had a job the next day, the caveat, it was not in my field nor was I qualified. But a job is a job and as my father always says you can't look a gift horse in the mouth. I was a quick study, I graduated in the top of my class, I could do this until something better came along.
So here I was my first week in, bored off my mind trapped in a cubicle, training with my new manager, Carla. She was an older woman, in her late forties, but she was a tall cool blonde, with razor sharp suits and sky high heels, she was one of those woman who floated when she walked. I was to be her assistant, answering calls, keeping her calendar, putting together marketing materials for an up coming Grey Enterprises charity event. Basically grunt work, but it was the same kind of thing I did for Hyde, only I didn't feel like Carla was undressing me with a dark brown, heavily lined eyes.
I didn't fit in here at Grey Enterprises. Everyone was so perfect and put together, even the interns had a better wardrobe then I did. I stuck out like a sore Filene's Basement thumb. Sure, I had borrowed a few things from Kate but I couldn't wear her plum dress everyday. She had given me access to the entirety of her wardrobe, but I couldn't bring myself to indulge in her kindness. The balance of our friendship always teetered on her side, and I never wanted her to feel used but her less fortunate friend.
I made a mental note to head to Marshalls over the weekend and see if I could find some good deals on some much needed basics. Not that a thirty dollar sweater would help me fit in, I was beyond that. Hell even a three hundred dollar sweater wouldn't help matters. Everyone carried a designer bag, wore the latest designer shoes. They talked about the places they went on vacation (Aspen, Tahoe, some island with the word Saint in front of it) or what swanky club or restaurant they went to on the weekend (Pulse and Maison Gris were the most popular). I spent my weekend, curled up with a cup of hot weak tea and Wuthering Heights.
So while I didn't hate my job at Grey Enterprises, it didn't inspire me, it wouldn't earn me any lasting friendships and it wouldn't land me my dream job. I took it for what it was, a much needed paycheck.
I had become a consummate clock watcher, always knowing then the clock struck one; lunch time was my refuge, the oasis in the desert of corporate doldrums. The much needed hour to myself. I found the atrium on the fifty sixth floor; a huge glass room overlooking the lush city, rainy stormy skies, and it was the one place in the building where I could be alone. I wasn't sure if it was because no one knew of its existence or because everyone went out for lunch. I didn't really care, I was just grateful for my secret place. I slipped off my shoes and curled up on one of the square modern black leather chairs, I had turned it slightly so that I could get the best view and for a few moments I watched the clouds change. The deep gray ominous one be replaced with lighter sun dappled tufts of white and yellow and blue.
I finally pulled out my salad I made from last nights dinner leftovers,( roasted chicken and sweet oven dried tomatoes) and a bottle of water. In a few minutes I was engrossed in the life and times of Heathcliff and Catherine. Only when I was I lost in their world was I able to breathe a sigh of relief in mine. While I loved to read about them, I never understood a love so complex, so consuming. A fire that burned destroying all that surrounded it. I didn't understand love on any level really. My parents, couldn't make it work. My mother married time and time again looking for something to last. Kate went through boys the way she did Vogue magazines, on a monthly basis. Her brother Ethan was even worse, to him women were more like Newsweek. Love seemed like a far off ideal, something that only existed between pages of a book or on the silver screen. In the reality of the world, I was not so sure.
The hour always went so quickly, my salad sat there dejected on the small glass table beside me when I heard a man clear his throat, breaking my attention, making my heart skip a beat. I turned my head slightly and slowly brought my eyes up, my breath hitched as they locked with his and my heart stopped all together.
He was tall, very tall and lean, his dark grey flannel suit perfectly tailored to the span of his shoulders, hugging every muscle. His white linen shirt, perfectly pressed and his pale grey silk tie matched his unreadable eyes perfectly. His rich copper hair sparkled under the lights, dazzling me. I was dazzled and I was not the kind of girl that dazzled easily.
"There are starving children that would kill for that salad." He crossed his arms against his chest and a small smile formed in the corner of his mouth.
"Uh… I will get to it eventually." I looked at the salad, sitting there abandoned and untouched, sinking in shame.
"You're new here." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. I lightly nodded my head, feeling nervous under his stare. This strange feeling began to take root in my chest, as my heart started to beat once again.
"I work in marketing." I was bareley able to get the words out, the longer he looked at me. The more I felt like it knew what I was thinking, like he was capable of reading my mind.
"Ah, I see marketing. That's on the fortieth floor. How did you find this place?" His eyes wandered around the room, finally breaking from mine, Giving me a much needed break to compose myself. I took a deep breath, and then another. What was happening right now…
"Oh, well a friend of mine interviewed the owner months ago. She got a tour and said this was the crown jewel of the building." He nodded in agreement and smiled, settling his eyes back on mine.
"She interviewed the owner?"
"Yes, Christian Grey."
"Ahhh, of course. And you have never met him? Christian Grey?" I had heard about him, the girls and some of the less then straight guys loved to gossip about the hot single billionaire. How they always hoped to run into him, in the hallway or on the elevator. How he was quiet and demanding, how he was always on his own. The rumors swirling. I had not an ounce of interest in that kind of man, rich and powerful. I had met a few through Kate's family and they always seemed so unhappy, despite all their wealth and blessings.
"Nope. Never." I looked at my watch, my lunch our was coming to a close and Carla did not stand for lateness. "Well, my time is up. Got to get back to the grind." I stood up quickly with too much adrenaline from this small encounter, I slipped my shoes back on, stumbling. I was known far and wide for my grace or should I say the lack there of. His hands came around my waist, and I felt it immediately. This strange heat burning inside of me, his body close to mine. I could feel the burn in my cheeks, the flush in my chest. My heartbeat quickening. His eyes bore into me, again I felt like he could read my mind. Every thought like words on paper. There was this second, where I thought he might kiss me, this look in his eye as he leaned in. He closed his eyes and then opened them again and the moment was gone.
"Uh, thanks." I whispered, my mouth dry licking my lips.
"It was my pleasure Miss…" His voice was a soft growl and it stirred something deep inside of me. My inner goddess was awakened, from a long deep slumber.
"Steele, Ana Steele." He finally released me and I stood up straight, still unsteady on my feet. I quickly collected my book and uneaten salad and turned to walk away. I could feel his eyes on me with every step. I turned around slowly. "I didn't catch your name. Mr.…" He opened his mouth to speak and then paused for a moment giving me this strange look.
"Chris, my name is Chris." He smiled as he said it, his perfect teeth blinding me.
"Well, thanks again Chris. It was nice to meet you." I flashed him a quick smile and made my way to the elevator, sinking in the corner, against the stainless steels bars; trying to collect not only my nerves but my hormones, telling my inner goddess to shut the fuck up.
It was Friday, the day was finally over and I was ready for the weekend. My first week at Grey Enterprises on the books, and god only knows how many more I would have to endure. I didn't want to seem ungrateful, I was happy to work. Happy to earn a paycheck. But when I think about how many positions I turned down to take the job at SIP, it makes my stomach turn. I called everyone of them only to find that Jack had black listed me. Telling everyone that I was unstable and a horrible assistant.
I walked out of The Grey offices, and got into my inner sanctum. My beetle. She was on her last legs, I had replaced every bit and piece of her, but I just couldn't let go. Every time I put the key in the ignition I said a little prayer that she would start. There were some cold Washington mornings, that she would start to purr and I was convinced it was divine intervention.
Kate and Jose were taking me out tonight to "celebrate" my new job. I wasn't much of a drinker, but after doing the same thing five hundred times this week I deserved a drink or three.
"Honey I am home!" Kate bounded thru the front door of our apartment. Well it's actually her apartment, her father bought it for her and we pay him "rent" to learn responsibility and the importance of paying things on time. "Are you ready to go get a buzz on?"
"I just need a minute." I was in my bedroom, changing in to jeans, and ballet flats. Heals plus Ana plus drinking equals disaster and skinned knees. She appeared in my door, and I was always taken aback by how amazing she always looked. Her low slung black skinny jeans and white button down shirt that was just tucked in the front, the four inch suede heeled booties and a black and gold Hermes belt. She always looked pulled together and expensive, but never in a showy look at what I have way. Kate wore the clothes the clothes did not wear her.
"Jose is already at the bar, let's get a move on Steele." She popped her head into my room, looked me up and down and frowned when she got to my feet. "Ana, put some heels on. You never know who you are going to meet tonight."
"Uh, no. I already stumbled once today thank you very much." Into the arms of mystery man Chris. My inner goddess yelled over, sitting poolside reading Cosmo.
Kate and I walked arm and arm up the street to what we called "our" bar. It was a small neighborhood place that had great wings and fifteen beers on tap. They knew us by name when we walked in; they also knew I liked my drinks weak with lots of ice. Like I said, not much of a drinker.
"There you guys are." Jose was sitting in our booth and stood when he saw us. Jose had become a complicated friendship since my graduation. I saw him as a brother but he saw me as something more. He tried to kiss me once, the night I graduated and I warded off his advances the best I could, by throwing up on his shoes. I was not lying when I said I couldn't hold my liquor.
The last few months I tried to steer him away, I even set him up once or twice but I could still feel his crush radiating off of him every time we hung out, which was often now that he dropped out of school. His art show in Portland was a huge success and he was pursuing it full time now, with a small grant from a buyer who loved his work. I was hoping that his crush would fade or he would find someone new before it effected our friendship. Our fathers were close friends, and for that we would always be in one another's lives, like family.
"Hi Jose!" Kate chirped up giving him a quick hug. I followed suit, I ignored the fact that our hug lingered a bit longer and we all slid back into the booth.
"So, how was your first week?" Jose took a long sip off his chocolate colored pint as he waved the waitress over.
"It was fine, I mean good. The place in really nice and the people well, there fine. I like it." I was a horrible liar, everything read across my face.
"You are so full of shit Steele, we all know you hate it. But no worries you will find another job soon. This is just a paycheck for now." Kate gave me a smile and patted my hand, she said it with such confidence, the confidence of a girl who always got what she wanted. A confidence I never would have, but admired.
The waitress appeared and Kate ordered for the both of us. A Vodka cranberry for me and Merlot for her, along with a plate of wings, an order of cheese fries and gravy. With our bellies full of crap and our third round I was feeling relaxed and happy.
"So I met a guy today." I blurted it out without thinking. My mind had been on Chris all night. His eyes mostly, this deep coal grey, with a hint of steely blue on the edges. In my life I have never responded to a man the way I responded to him. It was like every fiber of my being was attaching to his. And some how that feeling made me feel silly and stupid. He was older, by at least ten years, he was probably married and had a family. Although I didn't notice a ring, but some men didn't wear them. But a man like that didn't stay single for long. He was cut from the same cloth as Kate; He exuded money, power, strength. From the way he looked to the clothes he wore, they way he smelled. Everything about him was expensive, but it wasn't off putting. Again he wore the suit, the suit didn't wear him.
Kate let out a bone crushing , crystal glass breaking squeal and Jose looked slightly pissed. I was wishing I would have kept my mouth shut. Reason number three hundred and fifty four why Ana Steele shouldn't drink.
"Tell me tell me!" Kate put both of her hands on my shoulders and shook me with fury.
"Uh, well his name is Chris, he works in my building. I met him in the atrium you told me about." Kate beamed with pride from her suggestion, knocking her elbow into my arm.
"See I told ya that place was magic!"
"Anyway, it was just nice to talk to someone, he was really nice."
"So are you going to see him, you know again?" Jose asked me looking over his beer, unable to hide the worry in his voice.
"Uh, I guess not, I mean maybe." I shrugged my shoulders and took the last sip of my drink. "I think I am done guys, one more and you are going to have to carry me home."
Monday Came too quickly, and I dragged my ass out of bed. Hating on Jack Hyde. If not for him I would be working towards my dream job, making a place for myself in the world of publishing. Sure I was just his lowly assistant, but at least it was a start. All the crap, all the suggestions, all the eye fucking I had endured working for him and I didn't even have a reference. I could still hear his words in my head, his body pressing me against the hotel bed. His hot scotch laced breath on my face. I shuddered at the memory and pushed it from my head, shifting my focus to getting dressed for work.
I had gone shopping on Sunday and had managed to find a few things that looked much more expensive then they were (a gift I thankfully inherited from my mother, who was also named Carla).
A black pencil skirt, a red cardigan sweater, a grey silk shirt that reminded me of Chris's tie (the only reason I would spend ninety bucks on a shirt), a black fitted jacket, a new pair of jeans that made my butt look nice, and a crisp white shirt. That mixed with a few things I already had and some of the stuff from Kate's closet and I could maybe look the part.
Kate even loaned me one of her Michael Kors bags, I hesitated to take it, in case I ruined it but I finally give in. It was just too damn pretty. Black leather, gold chain and gold grommet details. There is only so much a poor girl can resist.
I wore the pencil skirt, the grey silk shirt and Kate's knee high black leather flat boots. She never worse flats, I think she bough them because I mentioned that I liked them, so she could "pass them on" to me later. I spent a few extra minutes on my hair and makeup and got in my VW Beetle with a new sense of purpose. I didn't want to admit it but Chris was that purpose.
I watched the clock until one, waiting for lunch to come, needing it to come. I grabbed my paper sack out of the community fridge and a bottle of water and made my way upstairs. My heart was racing, wondering if he would happen by again today. I took my usual seat, it was sunny today and the room was hotter then usual. I opened my bag and pulled out my PB&J. To distracted to read my book I took a bite, chewing slowly.
"Ahhh, she eats…" I smiled when I saw him, my body was ringing, humming, singing. He showed up. I wasn't sure if he would but he did. My inner goddess, pulled out her pom poms and did a little cheer. Go Ana, Chris came to see you Go, Ana!
"I eat… when I am hungry I eat." I scowled and took another bite just to prove my point. He sat across from me, he carried his body with such ease and grace as he crossed his legs and leaned back in his chair, unbuttoning his suit jacket.
"Did you have a good weekend Ana?" He propped his elbow on the arm of the chair, his chin in his hand. Fingers splayed across his lower lip. I literally had to fight this pressing urge to reach out and touch him.
"Uh… what…yeah…Yes, I did. I did some shopping." I was flustered by my own thoughts. "I cooked a little and I had drinks with Kate and Jose." He raised his eyebrows and I wished I had the ability to read minds. Wondering what was in that head of his.
"Is he your boyfriend?"
"Jose?" Chris nodded. "Uh, no just a friend, like a brother."
"A brother… so you don't have a boyfriend then?" Normally a question like that would have seemed like an intrusion but it kind of made me happy that he cared to know if I was single or not.
"No, do you have a girlfriend, a wife?" He chuckled at the word wife.
"No Ana, I don't do the girlfriend thing." He looked at me intently, I guess looking for my reaction. I could tell I was frowning and that my brow was furrowed. I was suddenly nervous and slightly disappointed. My biggest fear was that he had a wife. He didn't do the girlfriend thing… that could only mean one thing.
"Oh, gay?" I blurted it out before I could think, my cheeks burning bright fire engine red, bells ringing in my ear.
"No Ana, I am not gay." he smirked, and then he pointed to my sandwich. "Eat."
I was grateful for the reason not to speak and I took a third bite, bigger then I normally would giving me more time to chew.
"So, how did you come to work here at Grey?" I took a sip of water, the peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth.
"Well, I was working somewhere else, and it didn't work out. I left and applied here."
"Where were you working?"
"SIP. It's a small publishing house."
"Yes, I am aware. Why didn't it work out?" I took a moment deciding if I should lie or not. It wasn't my proudest moment, my dress torn, my lipstick smudged, kicking Jack Hyde in the balls, hightailing it out of NYC.
"Well, my boss had some issues…" Chris raised his eyebrows and leaned in towards me.
"Issues with what exactly?" His voice was a controlled growl, like he knew what I was going to say before I said it. Again, I was certain her could read my mind.
"Keeping his hands and other parts of his anatomy to himself." I barely got the words out, I still wondered if it was somehow my fault, that I gave Jack the wrong impression. I spent many hours trying to figure out what I had done or what I had missed. But realizing after much concentrated effort, that I had done nothing but my job. I didn't flirt, or coo, I didn't lead him on in anyway. I could see Chris's body change, anger taking over his face, his eyes on fire.
"I see." His hands clenched the arms of the chair, and I felt the need to change the subject quickly.
"So I left abruptly…Anyway, my friend Kate, her dad knew someone here and called in a favor. I needed a paycheck so here I am. What about you?" His blinked quickly, snapping him out of whatever he was thinking.
"I am in mergers and acquisitions. What was his name?"
"Who's name, my friends father?"
"No. Your boss at SIP?"
"Hyde, Jack Hyde." I hated saying his name out loud, and Chris sat there for a moment, looking at me intently. I finished half of my sandwich, and took a long sip of water, doing my best to ignore the awkward silence between us. "Uh, would you like the other half, I am full." I held out the wax paper wrapped package and he smiled broadly. He reached out taking it from me and his hand grazed mine. It happened again, that feeling that somehow we were connected. Like on a cellular level, I felt myself attaching to him and him to me. I looked into his eyes and I knew he could feel it too.
"Peanut butter and jelly?" I nodded, my eyes wide locked with his. "My favorite." He took a bite and I was never so jealous of a sandwich in all of my life.
"I am going away for a few days Ana but I would like to see you again. Do you have plans for Friday?" he said it so matter of fact, with no preamble or warning. My mouth went dry, my hands started to sweat. He was asking me out on a date, wait it was a date right?
"You mean like a date." Chris chuckled, and shook his head scolding me.
"Yes Ana, a date."
"I would like that Chris."
"Excellent. I will be back in the office on Friday. Why don't I meet you out front, by the security desk at five thirty."
A week never went slow, it was the longest four days of my life. Work dragged on and on, answering phone calls, collating folders, putting together promotional packages. The only thing I accomplished for the week was three paper cuts and a migraine.
I had changed five times that morning, the nerves about my impending date with Chris had me on edge. Kate was thrilled that I had a date, a real date. She kept saying that I was in the final days of a long dry spell. It was true, I had not been on a single date in almost two years. I had sworn them off after a particularly awful blind date with a college friend of Ethan's, Kate's older brother. The date started with me paying for everything, including gas for his car and ended with him drunk in a parking lot, and me in a cab home. After that I was done with guys. It seem like more trouble then it was worth.
"I think you should borrow my new black dress Ana, and then wear that red sweater you bought last week. A sexy secretary thing. We can put your hair up in like a twist. You will look so hot Chris from mergers and acquisitions wont know what to do with himself." The dress was perfect, black v-neck, small peplum. It hugged my curves like it was made for me. I swooned when Kate bought it a Bergdorf the month before.
"Kate, it still has the tags."
"So what, I insist that you wear it. It's a date Ana, with a man. Not some dip shit. You should look and feel amazing tonight. And you need to wear black pumps." I opened my mouth to object, but she raised her hand silencing me. "This is non negotiable Anastasia." I knew better then to argue with Kate. She was used to having her way and who was I to buck twenty two years of tradition.
An hour later I was sitting in my desk. My supervisor Carla had left a stack of leaflets on my desk, fresh from the printer. I glanced over it, it was the monthly news letter outlining the company on goings. New hires, events, all the usual company fodder. I flipped it over and for a second I didn't know what I was looking at. I mean, it was shocking. I was shocked, you could have knocked me over with a feather. It was Chris, holding one of those huge checks, donating a million dollars to a Big Brother/Big Sisters out reach program. I froze as I read on. Grey Enterprises CEO Christian Grey, presenting check to BB/BS president Arnie Wilson. I blinked and then read it again and then once more for good measure. Chris, my Chris was Christian fucking Grey!
I felt unbelievably stupid, my blood boiling. He must think I am an idiot and he was right to think that. I was an idiot. His words ringing in my head. "I don't do girlfriends…"
He was just like Jack Hyde, another boss using his influence and power, lying to try and get me into bed. Well that was not happening. No day, no way. I stood up from my desk, straightened my dress, uh Kate's dress and stomped my way to the elevator. I rode it all the way to the top floor, and marched up to his perfect Children of the Corn blonde secretary.
"Could you please tell Mr. Grey that Ana Steele is here to see him and that it is urgent." I did my best to control my seething. She looked at me like I had two heads and then finally, she picked up the phone. I could see the look of shock on her face when she was told to let me in.
She walked quickly, her heels clicking on the cold marble floors. I could feel her attitude with each and every step. She pushed the large door open, and extended her hand allowing me access. As soon as I crossed the thresh hold all of my bravado, escaped from my body like air from an untied balloon. The office was tremendous, large floor to ceiling windows, his large desk somehow managed to dominate the room. He was sitting behind it, brow furrowed. Looking amazing and sexy and all the thoughts I had had about him this week kept flooding back to me at once.
"Well… Hello Ana." His voice was neutral, not giving anything away. But I could see a twinge of concern in his eye, his own bravado slightly shaken.
"So you put it together, I see."
"Yeah, I did. I was a little late to the party but you know how it goes." I crossed my arms across my chest, as he stood and made his way towards me as the first line of defense from his, well from his everything. Even as pissed as I was, it was hard not to be an awe and wonder just looking at him.
"Ana, I assure you it was not my intention to mislead you…"I put my hand up, silencing him.
"Is that so… because I feel very mislead Mr. Grey."
"I only meant to misdirect you briefly, I fully intended to tell you who I was at dinner tonight. It was just nice for a minute, you not knowing."
"You know what else is nice, honesty. Honesty is really nice."
"I didn't lie Ana, I just omitted."
"Well, I am going to omit having plans for dinner tonight." My comeback made much more sense in my head, out loud it sounded still and petty. He smiled, and I could tell he wanted to laugh which only fueled my anger. "You have some nerve, leading me to believe one thing and then being something else entirely. If I would have known who you were I never in a million years would have agreed to go out with you." He was silent for a moment, and lowered his head to mine.
"Yes, I know. That is why I omitted that information. I like you Ana, very very much and I think you like me as well. I could tell that someone like you would be put off by my wealth…"
"Why because I don't look like all the drones that work here. I know I don't fit it Chris…uh… Mr. Grey. I get it. I have four hundred dollars in my saving account and most of my stuff is bought on sale. I bring my lunch to work in a brown bag and I have never been to… Aspen! I see how you would think I was just a silly and stupid girl that you could have your fun with. And maybe I would be dazzled by a little money long enough for you to get me into bed. Let me assure you that would not have happened." I was on a roll and he just stood there looking at me. "This is not my first time in the boss hits on me rodeo, I assure you. I have been down this road and I know where it leads. It's a good thing I don't plan to work here for long. Now if you would please excuse me I have envelopes to stuff."
I turned on my pump to leave, wobbling slightly. I wanted to kill Kate. His hands were quickly around my waist and I tried to ignore that feeling brewing in my chest, my heart racing like I had just run a marathon.
"Ana, this conversation is NOT over." The whole demeanor of his voice changed, it was commanding. I could not have left even if I wanted to. He pulled me back towards him, my body hitting his with a thud. He tightened his grip on my waist when I tried to wiggle free. He lowered his head so his mouth was level with my ear.
"Ana, the reason I didn't tell you is because I didn't want to scare you off. I wanted to get to know you with out all the Christian Grey baggage weighing me down, weighing us down." He just said us, as in there is an us. My inner goddess sang out in a mezzo soprano.
"I can't explain it Ana but there is something about you. Maybe because you don't look and act like all the other drones… is that what you called them… I find you unbelievably appealing and yes I want to take you to bed. In fact I will take you to bed, but that is not all I am looking for, I have many many things planned for you." He splayed his hand across my belly button and spun me around, locking my eyes with his. "Ana, if you don't stop biting your lip I am going to kiss you with or without your permission."
I released my lip immediately. My mind was racing, my heart was beating out of my chest, I came here pissed and angry and now I felt flushed and aroused. I had never wanted to be kissed so much.
"Breathe Ana, breathe." His voice was soothing. I inhaled slowly, trying to steady myself; swallowing the lump in my throat.
"I can't think when you are touching me." He smiled smugly.
"Good to know Miss Steele. Good to know."