“Do you want me to send her away?” Hannah asks, alarmed at my expression.
“Um, no. Where is she?”
“In reception. She’s not alone. She’s accompanied by another young woman.”
“And Miss Prescott wants to talk to you,” Hannah adds.
I’m sure she does. “Send her in.”
Hannah stands aside, and Prescott enters my office. She’s on a mission, bristling with professional efficiency.
“Give me a moment, Hannah. Prescott, take a seat.”
Hannah closes the door, leaving Prescott and me alone.
“Mrs. Grey, Leila Williams is on your proscribed list of visitors.”
“What?” I have a proscribed list?
“On our watch list, ma’am. Taylor and Welch have been quite specific about not letting her come into contact with you.”
I frown, not understanding. “Is she dangerous?”
“I can’t say, ma’am.”
“Why do I even know that she’s here?”
Prescott swallows and for a moment looks awkward. “I was on a restroom break. She came in, spoke directly to Claire, and Claire called Hannah.”
“Oh. I see.” I realize that even Prescott has to pee, and I laugh. “Oh dear.”
“Yes ma’am.” Prescott gives me an embarrassed grin, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a chink in her armor. She has a lovely smile.
“I need to talk to Claire about protocol, again,” she says, her tone weary.
“Sure. Does Taylor know she’s here?” I cross my fingers unconsciously, hoping she hasn’t told Christian.
“I left a brief voice message for him.”
Oh. “Then I only have a short time. I’d like to know what she wants.”
Prescott gazes at me for a moment. “I must advise against it, ma’am.”
“She’s here to see me for a reason.”
“I’m supposed to prevent that, ma’am.” Her voice is soft but resigned.
“I really want to hear what she has to say.” My tone is more forceful than I intend.
Prescott stifles her sigh. “I’d like to search them both before you do.”
“Okay. Can you do that?”
“I’m here to protect you, Mrs. Grey, so yes, I can. I’d also like to stay with you while you talk.”
“Okay.” I’ll grant her this concession. Besides, last time I met Leila, she was armed. “Go ahead.”
“Hannah,” I call.
Hannah opens the door too quickly. She must have been hovering outside.
“Can you check to see if the meeting room is free, please?”
“I already have, and it’s good to go.”
“Prescott, can you search them in there? Is it private enough?”
“I’ll be there in five minutes, then. Hannah, show Leila Williams and whomever she’s with into the meeting room.”
“Will do.” Hannah looks anxiously from Prescott to me. “Shall I cancel your next meeting? It’s at four, but it’s across town.”
“Yes,” I murmur, distracted. Hannah nods then leaves.
What the hell does Leila want? I don’t think she’s here to do me any harm.
She didn’t in the past when she had the opportunity. Christian is going to go nuts.
My subconscious purses her lips, primly crosses her legs, and nods. I need to tell him that I am doing this. I type a quick e-mail, then pause, checking the time. I feel a momentary pang of regret. We’ve been getting along so well since Aspen. I press send.
From: Anastasia Grey
Date: September 6, 2011 15:27
To: Christian Grey
Leila is here to see me. I will see her with Prescott.
I’ll use my newly acquired slapping skills with my now healed hand, should I need to.
Try, and I mean try, not to worry.
I am a big girl.
Will call once we’ve spoken.
Commissioning Editor, SIP
Hurriedly, I hide my BlackBerry in my desk drawer. I stand, smoothing my gray pencil skirt over my hips, pinch my cheeks to give them some color, and undo the next button on my gray silk blouse. Okay, I’m ready. After taking a deep breath, I head out of my office to meet the infamous Leila ignoring “Your Love is King” humming gently from inside my desk.
Leila looks much better. More than better—she’s very attractive. There’s a rosy bloom to her cheeks, and her brown eyes are bright, her hair clean and shiny.
She’s dressed in a pale pink blouse and white pants. She stands as soon as I enter the meeting room, as does her friend—another dark-haired young woman with soft brown eyes, the color of brandy. Prescott hovers in the corner, not taking her eyes off Leila.
“Mrs. Grey, thank you so much for seeing me.” Leila’s voice is soft but clear.
“Um . . . Sorry about the security,” I mutter because I cannot think what else to say. I wave a hand distractedly at Prescott.
“This is my friend, Susi.”
“Hi.” I nod at Susi. She looks like Leila. She looks like me. Oh, no. Another one.
“Yes,” Leila says, as if reading my thoughts. “Susi knows Mr. Grey, too.”
What the hell am I supposed to say to that? I give her a polite smile.
“Please, sit,” I murmur.
There’s a knock on the door. It’s Hannah. I motion her in, knowing full well why she’s disturbing us.
“Sorry to interrupt, Ana. I have Mr. Grey on the line?”
“Tell him I’m busy.”
“He was quite insistent,” she says fearfully.
“I am sure he was. Would you apologize to him, and say I’ll call him back very shortly?”
She nods and scurries out of the room. I turn back to the two women sitting in front of me. They are both staring at me in awe. It’s uncomfortable.
“What can I do for you?” I ask.
Susi speaks. “I know this is all kinds of weird, but I wanted to meet you, too.
The woman who captured Chris—”
I hold up my hand, stopping her in mid-sentence. I do not want to hear this.
“Um . . . I get the picture,” I mutter.
“We call ourselves the sub club.” She grins at me, her eyes shining with mirth.