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beautiful evening; it’s been a beautiful day. I’m glad Ana’s met my family. Why haven’t I done this before? Because I’ve never wanted to. I squeeze Ana’s hand, and she gives me a shy look and an oh-so-sweet smile. In my other hand I hold her shoes, and at the stone steps I bend down to fasten each of her sandals in turn. “There,” I announce when I’m done. “Why, thank you, Mr. Grey,” she says. “The pleasure is, and was, all mine.” “I’m well aware of that, Sir,” she teases. “Oh, you two are sooo sweet!” Mia coos as we head into the kitchen. Ana gives me a sideways look. Back in the hallway, Kavanagh and Elliot are about to leave. Ana hugs Kate, but then pulls her aside to have a heated private conversation. What the hell is that about? Elliot takes Kavanagh’s arm and my parents wave them off as they climb into Elliot’s pickup. “We should go, too—you have interviews tomorrow.” We have to drive her back to her new apartment and it’s nearly 11:00. “We never thought he’d find anyone!” Mia gushes as she hugs Ana, hard. Oh, for fuck’s sake… “Take care of yourself, Ana dear,” Grace says, smiling warmly at my girl. I pull Ana to my side. “Let’s not frighten her away or spoil her with too much affection.” “Christian, stop teasing,” Grace chastises me in her usual manner. “Mom.” I give her a quick peck. Thank you for inviting Ana. It’s been a revelation. Ana says good-bye to my dad, and we head to the Audi, where Taylor waits, holding the rear passenger door open for her. “Well, it seems my family likes you, too,” I observe when I’ve joined Ana in the back. Her eyes reflect the light from my parents’ porch, but I can’t tell what she’s thinking. Shadows shroud her face as Taylor drives smoothly out onto the road. I catch her staring at me under the flicker of a street lamp. She’s anxious. Something’s wrong. “What?” I ask. She is quiet at first, and when she speaks there’s an emptiness in her voice. “I think that you felt trapped into bringing me to meet your parents. If Elliot hadn’t asked Kate, you’d never have asked me.” Damn. She doesn’t understand. It was a first for me. I was nervous. Surely she knows by now that if I didn’t want her here, she wouldn’t be here. As we pass from light to shadow under the street lamps, she looks distant and upset. Grey, this will not do. “Anastasia, I’m delighted that you’ve met my parents. Why are you so filled with self-doubt? It never ceases to amaze me. You’re such a strong, self-contained young woman, but you have such negative thoughts about yourself. If I hadn’t wanted you to meet them, you wouldn’t be here. Is that how you were feeling the whole time you were there?” I shake my head, reach for her hand, and give it

E l james grey  

Fifty Shades of Grey