Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can’t move. I’m paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him. I’m staring at Christian Grey’s exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized, and he’s looking down at me, his gaze hooded, his eyes darkening.
He’s breathing harder than usual, and I’ve stopped breathing altogether. I’m in your arms.
Kiss me, please. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and gives me a small shake of his head as if in answer to my silent question. When he opens his eyes again, it’s with some new purpose, a steely resolve.
“Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you,” he whispers.
What? Where is this coming from Surely I should be the judge of that. I frown up at him, and my head swims with rejection.
“Breathe, Anastasia, breathe. I’m going to stand you up and let you go,” he says quietly, and he gently pushes me away.
Adrenaline has spiked through my body, from the near miss with the cyclist or the heady proximity to Christian, leaving me wired and weak. NO! My psyche screams as he pulls away, leaving me bereft. He has his hands on my shoulders, holding me at arm’s length, watching my reactions carefully. And the only thing I can think is that I wanted to be kissed, made it pretty damned obvious, and he didn’t do it. He doesn’t want me. He really doesn’t want me. I have royally screwed up the coffee morning.
“I’ve got this,” I breathe, finding my voice. “Thank you,” I mutter awash with humiliation. How could I have misread the situation between us so utterly I need to get away from him.
“For what?” he frowns. He hasn’t taken his hands off me.
“For saving me,” I whisper.
“That idiot was riding the wrong way. I’m glad I was here. I shudder to think what could have happened to you. Do you want to come and sit down in the hotel for a moment?” He releases me, his hands by his sides, and I’m standing in front of him feeling like a fool.
With a shake, I clear my head. I just want to go. All my vague, unarticulated hopes have been dashed. He doesn’t want me. What was I thinking I scold myself. What would Christian Grey want with you My subconscious mocks me. I wrap my arms around myself and turn to face the road and note with relief that the green man has appeared. I quickly make my way across, conscious that Grey is behind me. Outside the hotel, I turn briefly to face him but cannot look him in the eye.
“Thanks for the tea and doing the photo shoot,” I murmur.
“Anastasia… I… ” He stops, and the anguish in his voice demands my attention, so I peer unwillingly up at him. His gray eyes are bleak as he runs his hand through his hair.
He looks torn, frustrated, his expression stark, all his careful control has evaporated.
“What, Christian?” I snap irritably after he says – nothing. I just want to go. I need to take my fragile, wounded pride away and somehow nurse it back to health.
“Good luck with your exams,” he murmurs.
Huh This is why he looks so desolate. This is the big send off. Just to wish me luck in my exams?
“Thanks.” I can’t disguise the sarcasm in my voice. “Goodbye, Mr. Grey.” I turn on my heel, vaguely amazed that I don’t trip, and without giving him a second glance, I disappear down the sidewalk toward the underground garage.
Once underneath the dark, cold concrete of the garage with its bleak fluorescent light, I lean against the wall and put my head in my hands. What was I thinking Unbidden and unwelcome tears pool in my eyes. Why am I crying I sink to the ground, angry at myself for this senseless reaction. Drawing up my knees, I fold in on myself. I want to make myself as small as possible. Perhaps this nonsensical pain will be smaller the smaller I am.
Placing my head on my knees, I let the irrational tears fall unrestrained. I am crying over the loss of something I never had. How ridiculous. Mourning something that never was –
my dashed hopes, dashed dreams, and my soured expectations.
I have never been on the receiving end of rejection. Okay… so I was always one of the last to be picked for basketball or volleyball – but I understood that – running and doing something else at the same time like bouncing or throwing a ball is not my thing. I am a serious liability in any sporting field.
Romantically, though, I’ve never put myself out there, ever. A lifetime of insecurity
– I’m too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on. So I have always been the one to rebuff any would be admirers. There was that guy in my chemistry class who liked me, but no one has ever sparked my interest – no one except Christian damn Grey. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of Paul Clayton and Jose Rodriguez, though I’m sure neither of them have been found sobbing alone in dark places.
Perhaps I just need a good cry.
Stop! Stop Now! – My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration. Get in the car, go home, do your studying. Forget about him… Now! And stop all this self-pitying, wallowing crap.
I take a deep, steadying breath and stand up. Get it together Steele. I head for Kate’s car, wiping the tears off my face as I do. I will not think of him again. I can just chalk this incident up to experience and concentrate on my exams.
Kate is sitting at the dining table at her laptop when I arrive. Her welcoming smile fades when she sees me.