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I wake suddenly with a sweet scent invading my mind. It’s Ana. She’s fast asleep beside me. I lie back and stare at the ceiling. When have I ever slept in this room? Never. The thought is unnerving, and for some unfathomable reason it makes me uneasy. What’s going on, Grey? I sit up carefully, not wanting to disturb her, and stare down at her sleeping form. I know what it is —I’m unsettled because I’m in here with her. I climb out of bed, leaving her to sleep, and head back to the playroom. There I collect the used cable tie and condoms and stash them in my pocket, where I find Ana’s panties. With the crop, her clothes, and her shoes in hand, I leave and lock the door. Back in her room, I hang her dress on the closet door, place her shoes beneath the chair, and lay her bra on top. I take her panties from my pocket—and a wicked idea comes to mind. I head for my bathroom. I need a shower before we head to dinner with my family. I’ll let Ana sleep awhile longer. The piping-hot water cascades over me, washing away all the anxiety and unease that I’d felt earlier. As first times go, that was not bad, for either of us. And I’d thought that a relationship with Ana was impossible, but now the future now seems full of possibility. I make a mental note to call Caroline Acton in the morning to dress my girl. After a productive hour in my study, catching up on my reading for work, I decide that Ana has had enough sleep. It’s dusk outside, and we have to leave in forty-five minutes for dinner at my parents’. It’s been easier to concentrate on my work, knowing that she’s upstairs in her bedroom. Weird. Well, I know she’s safe up there. From the refrigerator I take a carton of cranberry juice and a bottle of sparkling water. I mix them in a glass and head upstairs. She’s still fast asleep, curled up where I left her. I don’t think she’s moved at all. Her lips are parted as she breathes softly. Her hair is tousled, tendrils escaping from her braid. I sit on the edge of the bed beside her, lean down, and kiss her temple. She mumbles a protest in her sleep. “Anastasia, wake up.” My voice is gentle as I coax her awake. “No,” she grumbles, hugging her pillow. “We have to leave in half an hour for dinner at my parents’.” Her eyes flicker open and focus on me. “Come on, sleepyhead. Get up.” I kiss her temple again. “I’ve brought you a drink. I’ll be downstairs. Don’t go back to sleep, or you’ll be in trouble,” I warn as she stretches her arms. I kiss her once more and with a glance at the chair, where she won’t find her panties, I saunter back downstairs, unable to suppress my grin. Playtime, Grey. While I’m waiting for Miss Steele I press a button on the iPod remote and the music springs to life on random shuffle. Restless, I wander over to the balcony doors and stare out at the early evening sky, listening to Talking Heads’ “And She Was.”

E l james grey  

Fifty Shades of Grey