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Maya Banks. Beautiful Bastard. Christina Lauren. The Hunger Games: Special Edition. The Rosie Project. Graeme Simsion. The Hunger Games Trilogy. The Best of Me. Nicholas Sparks. Entwined with You. The Girl in the Spider's Web. David Lagercrantz. Written in My Own Heart's Blood. Diana Gabaldon. After You. Jojo Moyes. See Me. The Casual Vacancy. The Help. Kathryn Stockett. Destined to Play. Indigo Bloome. Big Little Lies. Marie Adeline. Those in Peril.
Wilbur Smith. The Storyteller. Jodi Picoult. Hearts at Stake. Alyxandra Harvey. Me Before You. And the Mountains Echoed. Khaled Hosseini. Walking Disaster. All the Light We Cannot See. Anthony Doerr. The Marriage Mistake. Leaving Time with bonus novella Larger Than Life. I've Got Your Number. Sophie Kinsella. The Cuckoo's Calling. Robert Galbraith. Release Me. Her Last Letter.
Nancy C. Beautiful Stranger. The Longest Ride. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. Helen Fielding. The Marriage Trap. Gray Mountain. John Grisham. Claim Me. Safe Haven. The Goldfinch.
Donna Tartt. Wedding Night. The Girl in the Ice. Robert Bryndza. City of Heavenly Fire. Cassandra Clare. Complete Me. Beautiful Bitch. Guilty Wives. James Patterson. The Light Between Oceans. Sycamore Row. Where We Belong.
Emily Giffin. The Liar. Nora Roberts. Playing for Keeps. The Nightingale. Kristin Hannah. Beautiful Player. Cheryl Strayed. The Racketeer. The Book of Life. Deborah Harkness. The Lake House.
Kate Morton. Will it be a reunion? Or am I just the free ride to Portland? I check my watch again. Why does time move so slowly? Leaning back, I run through her recent emails in my mind.
Maybe I am the free ride. I dismiss the thought and stare at the doorway, willing her to appear. The door opens and my heart soars into overdrive but then quickly stutters with disappointment. She has always kept me waiting. Tess… I wonder if she still has them.
She wanted to give them back to me; she wanted to give them to a charity. The memory is unwelcome. I made her that miserable. I took everything too far, too quickly. And it fills me with a despair that has become all too familiar since she left. Damn it, Grey. Stay positive. All is not lost. Your plans are in place. You are going to win her back. More people leave the building, but still no Ana. Taylor is pacing outside and glancing toward the front door.
Christ, he looks as nervous as I feel. What the hell is it to him? My watch says Raking my hand through my hair, I try to dismiss my doubts, but they continue to plague me. Am I just a free ride to her? Will she have missed me?
Will she want me back? Is there someone else? I have no idea. This is worse than waiting for her in the Marble Bar, and the irony is not lost on me. Nothing turns out as I expect with Miss Anastasia Steele. Panic knots my stomach once more.
Today, I have to negotiate a bigger deal. I want her back. She said she loved me… My heart rate spikes in response to the adrenaline that floods my body. Calm down, Grey. Shock sucks the breath from my body like a kick to the solar plexus.
Her hair, burnished by the early-evening sun, sways in the breeze as she moves. Her face is pale, almost translucent. Guilt lances through me. My concern at her appearance turns to anger. She glances at some random guy behind her and he gives her a broad smile. Their carefree exchange only fuels my rage. He watches her with blatant male appreciation as she walks toward the car, and my wrath increases with each of her steps. Taylor opens the door and offers her his hand to help her climb inside.
And suddenly she is sitting beside me. Her blue eyes peer up at me, stripping me bare and leaving me as raw as they did the first time I met her. Answer me. I try, really try, to keep a rein on my temper. Taylor pulls away from the curb, and Ana waves to the prick who followed her out of the building.
I recall the employee details I flipped through this morning: from Detroit, scholarship to Princeton, worked his way up at a publishing firm in New York but has moved on every few years, working his way across the country. Focus on the matter at hand, Grey. Your last meal? Tell me. She sighs in frustration and rolls her eyes to piss me off. And I see it—a soft smile pulling at the corner of her mouth. I find myself mirroring her, and I try to mask my smile.
Jesus H. What do I do with her? She looks down, examining her hands, her face paler and sadder than it was before. And I drink her in, trying to fathom what to do. An unwelcome emotion blooms in my chest, threatening to overwhelm me but I push it aside.
As I study her it becomes achingly clear that my biggest fear is unfounded. The thought is at once comforting and distressing. I did this to her. How can I ever win her back?
My task suddenly feels too daunting. She will never want me back. Get a grip, Grey. I damp down my fear and make a plea. Please eat, Anastasia. What else can I say? She sits still, lost in her own thoughts, staring straight ahead, and I have time to study her profile. I want to reach out and stroke her cheek.
I turn my body toward her, itching to touch her. But her words give me a modicum of hope. Encouraged, I cling to that thought. I miss you. Her hand feels small and ice-cold engulfed in the warmth of mine. We need to talk. Oh, the feel of her. Laughter at home. Bright eyes, full of humor and mischief…and desire. My sweet, sweet Ana. Emboldened, I take a risk and, closing my eyes, I kiss her hair.
But I must be careful. I hold her, enjoying the feel of her in my arms and this simple moment of tranquility. It would take at least three hours to drive. Taylor opens her door and I climb out on my side. Damn right. Handkerchiefs are my business, not his. Flashes of her vomiting on the ground, me holding back her hair, run through my head.
I gave her my handkerchief then. I never got it back. And later that night I watched her sleep beside me. Perhaps she still has it. Perhaps she still uses it. Taking her hand—the chill has gone, but her hand is still cool—I lead her into the building. As we reach the elevator, I recall our encounter at The Heathman. That first kiss. The thought wakes my body. But the doors open, distracting me, and reluctantly I release her to usher her inside. But I sense her.
All of her. I swallow. Darkening eyes look up at mine. Oh, Ana. Her proximity is arousing. She inhales sharply and looks at the floor. She looks up at me, her fathomless eyes clouding with desire. I want her. She bites her lip. Will I always want her like this? I want to kiss her, press her into the elevator wall like I did during our first kiss. I want to fuck her here, and make her mine again. She blinks, her lips gently parted, and I suppress a groan.
How does she do this? Derail me with a look? The doors slide open and the rush of cold air brings me back to the now. Anastasia shivers beside me. I wrap my arm around her and she huddles in to my side.
She feels too slight, but her petite frame fits perfectly under my arm. We fit together so well, Ana. We head out onto the helipad toward Charlie Tango. Stephan, my pilot, runs toward us.
We shake hands, and I keep Anastasia tucked under my arm. Safe flight to Portland. We duck down under the rotors and I open the door, taking her hand to help her climb aboard.
As I strap her into the seat, her breath hitches. The sound travels straight to my groin. I run the back of my index finger down her cheek, tracing the line of her blush. Lord, I want this woman. I hand her some headphones, take my seat, and buckle up. I run through my preflight checks.
All instruments are in the green with no advisory lights. It all looks good. I don my headphones, switch on the radios, and check the rotor rpm. Once I have permission to take off, I check the oil temperature and the rest of the gauges.
Oh, I love this. Feeling a little more confident as we gain altitude, I glance at Miss Steele beside me. Time to dazzle her. Showtime, Grey. Now the dusk. Hope stirs in my chest. I have her here when I thought all was lost and she seems happier now than when she walked out of her office. Flynn would be proud. I can do this. I can win her back. Baby steps, Grey. Boeing there—and you can just see the Space Needle. We can eat there. That is not what I want to hear, but I try not to overreact.
I can still take you there. And feed you. Thank you. Keep her talking, Grey. Has he tried anything with her? I will fire his ass if he has. I like that she mocks and teases me. Concentrate, Grey. She looks away, concealing her smile, and stares down at the suburbs passing beneath us while I check the heading. Her face is lit with curiosity and wonder as she gazes out at the landscape below and the opal sky. Her cheeks are soft and glowing in the evening light.
How could I have let her walk out of my life? What was I thinking? While we race above the clouds in our bubble, high in the sky, my optimism grows and the turmoil of the last week recedes.
I could get used to this. But as we near our destination my confidence falters. I hope to God that my plan works. I need to take her somewhere private. To dinner, maybe. I should have booked a table somewhere. She needs feeding. These last few days have shown me that I need someone—I need her. I want her, but will she have me? Can I convince her to give me a second chance? Time will tell, Grey—just take it easy. But will it be enough for her? Will it be enough for me? Talk to her, Grey.
As ever, she smells good. Her eyes meet mine in a furtive glance—revealing an inappropriate thought? What exactly is she thinking? Joe, the manager of the helipad, is waiting to greet us.
Nothing escapes his notice. His eyes light up as he gives me a craggy smile. A pleasing vision of them hooked over my shoulders springs to mind. Putting my arm around her waist, I pull her to my side and we descend the stairs. The man who, last time I saw him, was trying to push his tongue into her mouth.
Perhaps this is a long-anticipated rendezvous between them. Since when? Since she stripped me of all my armor and I discovered that I needed her. She stares at me and my stomach tightens.
Fuck this. I want you back, and I want you healthy. We pull up at the gallery and I have no time to explain before the show. She looks mad as she climbs out. Where you want to be. The space is brightly lit and airy.
A young woman greets us. Look elsewhere. She shakes her head and her frown deepens. I shrug. Well, this is Portland. For his part, he looks really fucking interested in her. Too interested. Anger flares in my chest. He wants more. Red or white? Tuning him out, I glance at Ana.
She looks sensational. Her hair frames her face and falls in a lush cascade to curl at her breasts. Her dress, looser than I remember, still hugs her curves. She might have worn it deliberately. Hot dress, hot boots… Fuck—control yourself, Grey. She nods at something he says and gives him a warm, carefree smile. He leans down and kisses her cheek. I glare at the bartender. Hurry up, man. At least Rodriguez has left her alone. She glances up at me with a guarded expression as I hand her a glass.
I take a quick sip from mine. Rarely does at these kinds of events. It irks me. She admires him and takes an interest in his success because she cares about him. She cares about him too much. An ugly emotion with a bitter sting rises in my chest. I want to tell him to fuck off but decide to be polite. The photographer takes a few snaps. Grey, thank you. She peers at me. Are you gay, Mr. And my annoyance. That seems so long ago. I shake my head and continue.
But you know that. Not on dates. Shopping, you know. However, the gallery is too public a setting. Her cheeks turn that delicious pink that I love, and she stares down at her hands. I need to get her out of here and on her own. Then we can talk seriously and eat. We stroll through the gallery, stopping briefly at each photograph. We turn the corner—and stop. There she is. Seven full-blown portraits of Anastasia Steele. She looks jaw-droppingly beautiful, natural, and relaxed—laughing, scowling, pouting, pensive, amused, and in one of them, wistful and sad.
As I scrutinize the detail in each photograph, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he wants to be much more than her friend. Ana is staring at them in stunned silence, as surprised as I am to see them. I want the pictures. Stunning work. When I return to Ana, I find a blond dude chatting with her, trying his luck. I place a territorial hand on her elbow and give him my best fuck-off-now glare. Are you serious? Her lips part in astonishment, and I try not to let it distract me. I glance back at the pictures.
She gasps as my fingers make contact with her chin. Again, that sound; I feel it in my groin. Too hopeful. Shit, are we doing this here, now?
I want to do this in private. She clears her throat and draws herself up to full height. Not talk to you, unless you gave me permission to do so. What do you expect? Why is she doing this here? We need to leave.
What the hell? She does want to do this now. She fucking asked me how bad it could get! Anger erupts like Mount St. Helens deep in my chest.
I run my hands through my hair to prevent myself from grabbing her and dragging her outside so we can continue this discussion in private. I take a deep breath. Find the boy, say goodbye. Say good-bye. I recognize that stubborn, mulish set to her mouth.
We are leaving if I have to pick her up and carry her. She gives me a withering look and turns with a sharp spin, her hair flying so that it hits my shoulder. She stalks off to find him. As she moves away I struggle to recover my equilibrium. What is it about her that presses all my buttons? I want to scold her, spank her, and fuck her. And in that order.
I scan the room. The boy—no, Rodriguez—is standing with a flock of female admirers. He listens intently to everything she has to say, then sweeps her into his arms, spinning her around.
Get your fat paws off my girl. She glances at me, then weaves her hands into his hair and presses her cheek to his and whispers something in his ear. They continue talking. His arms around her. Fortunately for him, he releases her as I approach. Oh, Mr. Rodriguez, very impressive. Congratulations again. It takes all my self-control not to haul her over my shoulder.
Instead I drag her by the hand to the front door and out onto the street. Right now. I grab her face between my hands, pinning her body with mine as rage and desire mix in a heady, explosive cocktail. I capture her lips with mine and our teeth clash, but then my tongue is in her mouth. She tastes of cheap wine and delicious, sweet, sweet Ana.
Oh, this mouth. I have missed this mouth. She ignites around me. Her fingers are in my hair, pulling hard. Her hunger is unexpected. Desire bursts through my body, like a forest fire licking through dry tinder. She wants this, too. I groan in response, undone. With one hand, I hold her at the nape of her neck as we kiss. My free hand travels down her body, and I reacquaint myself with her curves: her breast, her waist, her ass, her thigh.
She moans as my fingers find the hem of her dress and start tugging it higher. My goal is to pull it up, fuck her here. Make her mine, again. The feel of her. In the distance and through the fog of my lust, I hear a police siren wail.
Not like this. Get a grip. Has anyone ever affected me like this? I nearly fucked her in a back alley. This is jealousy. This is what it feels like: my insides gutted and raw, my self-control absent. Do you want the photographer, Anastasia? He obviously has feelings for you. Yet you…you bring out feelings in me that are completely alien. I cannot find the vocabulary to describe how I feel. See how I am around you, Ana. I run my hand through my hair, taking deep, thought-clearing breaths.
I grab her hand. I open the door for her. Ana purses her lips, annoyed. What now? You should be embarrassed. Even I can see that. Leading me on? Power over me. The waiter returns with the wine list, giving me a chance to regain my cool.
The selection is average: only one drinkable wine on the menu. I know that look. Perhaps she wanted to select her own meal. Oh, tit for tat, Miss Steele.
I realize our bickering will get us nowhere. That word, indeed. I remember I last used it while discussing our arrangement on Saturday morning. The day my world fell apart.
Man up, Grey. Tell her what you want. Oh no. She swallows and takes a steadying breath. Perhaps my behavior over the last hour has finally driven her away. I tense. I behaved stupidly, and you—so did you. This has haunted me. She wilts in her seat. But before I recover, words tumble from her mouth.
I was trying to be what you wanted me to be, trying to deal with the pain, and it went out of my mind. I clutch the table for something to anchor me to the now as I let this alarming information register.
Did I remind her of her safe words? The e-mail that she sent me the first time I spanked her comes to mind. I should have reminded her. She knows she has safe words. I remember telling her more than once. And I want to reiterate we have safe words, okay? She hesitates. Or I will fuck it with you on your knees. Do you understand? What kind of relationship is that?
My spirits sink. I should never have chased her. The waiter arrives with the wine as we stare with incredulity at each other. Maybe I should have done a better job of explaining it to her. Eliminate the negative. The irritating prick takes too much time opening the bottle. Is he trying to entertain us?
Or is it just Ana he wants to impress? He finally pops the cork and pours a taste for me. I take a quick sip.
He fills our glasses and leaves. Each trying to discern what the other is thinking. When she opens them, I see her despair. Is she done with me? Is there no hope? Oh, thank God. I thought it was over. I feel like the sun has set and not risen for five days, Ana. It made me relax. Her open and honest compassion is written all over her lovely face as she reaches for her wine. This is my chance. Ask her, Grey. I need to know. Can she? I want to stop thinking about that right now, and with impeccable timing, the waiter returns with our meal.
The woman needs feeding. She examines the contents of her plate with distaste. And it will have nothing to do with my sexual gratification.