Kate is ecstatic.
“But what was he doing at Clayton’s?” Her curiosity oozes through the phone. I’m in the depths of the stock room, trying to keep my voice casual.
“He was in the area.”
“I think that is one huge coincidence, Ana. You don’t think he was there to see you?”
she speculates. My heart lurches at the prospect, but it’s a short-lived joy. The dull, disappointing reality is that he was here on business.
“He was visiting the farming division of WSU. He’s funding some research,” I mutter.
“Oh yes. He’s given the department a $2.5 million grant.”
“How do you know this?”
“Ana, I’m a journalist, and I’ve written a profile on the guy. It’s my job to know this.”
“Okay, Carla Bernstein, keep your hair on. So do you want these photos?”
“Of course I do. The question is, who’s going to do them and where.”
“We could ask him where. He says he’s staying in the area.”
“You can contact him?”
“I have his cell phone number.”
“The richest, most elusive, most enigmatic bachelor in Washington State, just gave you his cell phone number.”
“Ana! He likes you. No doubt about it.” Her tone is emphatic.
“Kate, he’s just trying to be nice.” But even as I say the words, I know they’re not true
– Christian Grey doesn’t do nice. He does polite, maybe. And a small quiet voice whispers, perhaps Kate is right. My scalp prickles at the idea that maybe, just maybe, he might like me. After all, he did say he was glad Kate didn’t do the interview. I hug myself with quiet glee, rocking from side to side, entertaining the possibility that he might like me for one brief moment. Kate brings me back to the now.
“I don’t know who we’ll get to do the shoot. Levi, our regular photographer, can’t.
He’s home in Idaho Falls for the weekend. He’ll be pissed that he blew an opportunity to photo one of America’s leading entrepreneurs.”
“Hmm… What about Jose?”
“Great idea! You ask him – he’ll do anything for you. Then call Grey and find out where he wants us.” Kate is irritatingly cavalier about Jose.
“I think you should call him.”
“Who, Jose?” Kate scoffs.
“Ana, you’re the one with the relationship.”
“Relationship?” I squeak at her, my voice rising several octaves. “I barely know the guy.””At least you’ve met him,” she says bitterly. “And it looks like he wants to know you better. Ana, just call him,” she snaps and hangs up. She is so bossy sometimes. I frown at my cell, sticking my tongue out at it.
I’m just leaving a message for Jose when Paul enters the stock room looking for sand-paper.
“We’re kind of busy out there, Ana,” he says without acrimony.
“Yeah, um, sorry,” I mutter, turning to leave.
“So, how come you know Christian Grey?” Paul’s voice is unconvincingly nonchalant.
“I had to interview him for our student newspaper. Kate wasn’t well.” I shrug, trying to sound casual and doing no better than him.
“Christian Grey in Clayton’s. Go figure,” Paul snorts, amazed. He shakes his head as if to clear it. “Anyway, want to grab a drink or something this evening?”
Whenever he’s home he asks me on a date, and I always say no. It’s a ritual. I’ve never considered it a good idea to date the boss’s brother, and besides, Paul is cute in a whole-some all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised.
I slap her down.
“Don’t you have a family dinner or something for your brother?”
“Maybe some other time, Paul. I need to study tonight. I have my finals next week.”
“Ana, one of these days, you’ll say yes,” he smiles as I escape out to the store floor.
“But I do places, Ana, not people,” Jose groans.
“Jose, please?” I beg. Clutching my cell, I pace the living area of our apartment, staring out of the window at the fading evening light.
“Give me that phone.” Kate grabs the handset from me, tossing her silken red-blonde hair over her shoulder.
“Listen here, Jose Rodriquez, if you want our newspaper to cover the opening of your show, you’ll do this shoot for us tomorrow, capiche?” Kate can be awesomely tough.
“Good. Ana will call back with the location and the call time. We’ll see you tomorrow.” She snaps my cell phone shut.
“Sorted. All we need to do now is decide where and when. Call him.” She holds the phone out to me. My stomach twists.
“Call Grey, now!”
I scowl at her and reach into my back pocket for his business card. I take a deep, steadying breath, and with shaking fingers, I dial the number.
He answers on the second ring. His tone is clipped, calm and cold.
“Err… Mr. GreyIt’s Anastasia Steele.” I don’t recognize my own voice, I’m so nervous. There’s a brief pause. Inside I’m quaking.
“Miss Steele. How nice to hear from you.” His voice has changed. He’s surprised, I think, and he sounds so… warm – seductive even. My breath hitches, and I flush. I’m suddenly conscious that Katherine Kavanagh is staring at me, her mouth open, and I dart into the kitchen to avoid her unwanted scrutiny.
“Err – we’d like to go ahead with the photo-shoot for the article.” Breathe, Ana, breathe.
My lungs drag in a hasty breath. “Tomorrow, if that’s okay. Where would be convenient for you, sir?”
I can almost hear his sphinx-like smile through the phone.
“I’m staying at the Heathman in Portland. Shall we say, nine thirty tomorrow morning?””Okay, we’ll see you there.” I am all gushing and breathy – like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the State of Washington.
“I look forward to it, Miss Steele.” I visualize the wicked gleam in his gray eyes. How can he make seven little words hold so much tantalizing promise I hang up. Kate is in the kitchen, and she’s staring at me with a look of complete and utter consternation on her face.