It’s very quiet. The light is muted. I am comfortable and warm in this bed.
Hmm… I open my eyes, and for a moment, I’m tranquil and serene, enjoying the strange and unfamiliar surroundings. I have no idea where I am. I’m in a huge, beam-ceilinged bedroom with an ultra-modern canopied bed big enough for six, made of some rough gray wood, like driftwood. The walls are white; the furnishings are pale blue. It’s sterile and cold, but with a most glorious view of the Pacific outside windows that stretch floor to ceiling, overlooking the sea from a high cliff. Bluish islands loom in the distance. Where am I?
I notice a glass of orange juice on my bedside table, and I understand instantly: Christian. Control freak that he is, he’s thought of everything. My inner goddess farts loud enough to wake herself up, and suddenly she’s rubbing the crust from the inner parts of her eyes. I am quaking like a leaf. I throw back the juice greedily, thirstily, imagining drinking in the essence of… Christian. My throat goes suddenly dry as, without knocking, he enters the room.
Holy hell, he’s been working out. He’s in a set of Cabela’s silent-weave coveralls, patterned with a classy and ultra-modern collage of sticks and leaves, and open at the collar. I get a glimpse of his hardened pecs, spattered with something crimson red and brown that I assume is just his sweat. His eyes turn hooded at the sight of me, and I pull the covers up to my neck, feeling like something being hunted.
“Good morning, Anastasia. How are you feeling?”
“Better than I deserve,” I mumble.
He crosses to the bathroom. His back is to me, leaving him vulnerable, but his dark grey eyes look back at me through the mirror. “Hmph,” he huffs. “If you were mine, Anastasia, I would have stuffed and mounted you in my trophy room after the stunt you pulled yesterday.”
I reflexively draw my legs closer together, trying to stifle the achy fluttering sensation happening in the area south of my belly. Stuffed. Mounted. Oh my. I don’t understand this sensation. It must be what desire feels like.
“Taylor!” Christian calls, and I blush. Is this his pet name for me?
But, no: a nondescript man with a buzz cut appears in the doorway, carrying a bundle of clothes. He deposits them at my bedside, then swiftly withdraws, keeping his eyes down the entire time. I feel like he is a fatherly type of figure to me.
“Anastasia, Taylor has taken the liberty of bringing you some fresh clothes. They are from my collection. You and I appear to be about the same size.”
I flush head to toe. Am I supposed to get dressed here, in front of him?
“Are you hungry, Anastasia?” Christian asks impassively.
“No,” I whisper.
He is trying hard not to look annoyed. “You must eat, Anastasia,” he says, starting to close the door, giving the mercy of privacy for me to change. “You’re going to need your strength for later,” he adds over his shoulder, before shutting me in.
My subconscious churns my stomach like a strong-armed pioneer wife churning butter. Later? What could he mean? I rush to the pile of clothes and inhale the scent off the collar—Eau de Christian. It reminds me of my first day working at Clayton’s, when I managed to drop an entire pallet of cougar urine off the forklift in the backroom. It’s heady and pungent, but oddly comforting. I slip into the coverall set nearly identical to Christian’s own. Long sleeves—he’s thought of everything, I think, glancing at the cloudy skies outside before heading out into the hall.
Christian’s had Taylor prepare a feast for breakfast – bacon, eggs, toast, all piled high on plates set along the breakfast bar. Christian gestures to a seat at the table – a large mug with a bag of Twinings English Breakfast tea on the side. He’s just like a literary hero of the books I love to read – a regular Mr. Darcy or Heathcliff or Edward Rochester or Dr. Henry Jekyll. I move automatically for my tea.
“Aren’t you hungry, Ana?” Christian asks.
I squirm uncomfortably and bite my lip. “No,” I say. Only for you.
Christian piles a plate with food and sets it in front of me at the table. “Eat,” he instructs, and I meekly bring a forkful to my lips. When I look up from my plate, Christian is watching me, appraising me narrowly and impassively.
“Perhaps,” he says, “you were surprised to wake up here, Ana?”
“I’m always surprised with you, Christian Grey,” I whisper. But his words remind me – “Er – where are we, exactly?”
He leans back in his chair with a triumphant smile. “You deduced as much last night, on the phone. Kate told you about my island, didn’t she?”
I blush. Damn it, Kate!
“Did she tell you anything else?”
“No,” I say quickly, but he can tell that I am lying.
He stands, taking his glass of mimosa, and my eyes are glued to him, every step he takes. He gestures to the far wall of the dining room, and I have to peel my eyes away from him, noticing for the first time the stuffed and mounted heads of a veritable zoo of animals – lions, tigers, elephants, moose, bears, Sasquatch – each species larger and more formidable than the one below it. He looked up at them with a dark glint in his eye, and I suddenly found myself wishing that he’d look at me that way.
“My tastes are very singular, Anastasia,” he said. “I told you in my office, when you interviewed me, that you should steer clear of me.”
I swallow convulsively. My heart collides against my chest as I see him close his eyes, as if in defeat.
“There’s something about you, though, Anastasia,” he says. “Something that leaves me restless and makes it impossible for me to stay away from you, despite the many dangers it imposes on you. But I think you’ve figured that out already.”
He can’t stay away, even if it’s for my own good! My heart shatters – he’s such a tragic Byronic hero. Only literature students and old souls like me would even understand and appreciate what that means.
Christian takes a deep breath, before laying his deep gray eyes on me, as heavy as the sea. “I have but one passion in my life, Anastasia,” he says, “and it is the hunt.”