“Why don’t you just call her? Tell her you want to talk to her?”
“Anastasia, she’s unstable, and she may be armed,” I stress, irritated.
“So we just run?”
“For now, yes.”
“Supposing she tries to shoot Taylor?”
Jesus. I hope she doesn’t.
“Taylor knows and understands guns. He’ll be quicker with a gun than she is.” I hope.
“Ray was in the army. He taught me to shoot.”
“You, with a gun?” I scoff. I’m shocked. I loathe guns.
“Yes.” She sounds offended. “I can shoot, Mr. Grey, so you’d better beware. It’s not just crazy ex-subs you need to worry about.”
“I’ll bear that in mind, Miss Steele.”
Taylor comes down the stairs and we join him in the foyer. He gives Ana a carry-on suitcase and her Chucks. She hugs him, taking him and me by surprise.
“Be careful,” she says.
“Yes, Miss Steele,” Taylor replies, embarrassed yet pleased by her concern and her spontaneous affection. I give him a look and he adjusts his tie.
“Let me know where I’m going.”
Taylor takes out his wallet and passes me his credit card. “You might want to use this when you get there.”
Whoa. He’s really taking this seriously. “Good thinking.”
Ryan joins us. “Sawyer and Reynolds found nothing,” he tells Taylor.
“Accompany Mr. Grey and Miss Steele to the garage,” Taylor says.
The three of us enter the elevator, where Ana has a chance to pull on her Chucks. She looks a little comical in my jacket and sweatpants. But as cute as she looks, I can’t find the funny in our situation; the fact is I’ve placed her in harm’s way.
Ana blanches when she sees her car in the garage. It’s a mess—the windshield is shattered and the bodywork is covered in dents and cheap white paint. My blood boils at the sight, but for Ana’s sake I control my rage. I usher her quickly into the R8. She’s staring straight ahead when I climb into the car beside her, and I know it’s because she can’t bear to look at her car.
“A replacement will arrive on Monday,” I assure her, hoping that might make her feel better. I start the engine and put on my seatbelt.
“How could she have known it was my car?”
I sigh. This is not going to go down well. “She had an Audi A3. I buy one for all my submissives. It’s one of the safest cars in its class.”
“So, not so much a graduation present, then,” she says quietly.
“Anastasia, despite what I hoped, you have never been my submissive, so technically it is a graduation present.” I back out of the parking space and head to the garage exit where we pause, waiting for the barrier to lift.
“Are you still hoping?” she asks.
The in-car phone rings. “Grey,” I answer.
“Fairmont Olympic. In my name,” Taylor informs me.
“Thank you, Taylor. And Taylor, be careful.”
“Yes, sir,” he says, and hangs up.
It’s eerily quiet in downtown Seattle. That’s one of the advantages of driving at nearly three in the morning. I take a detour on I-5 just in case Leila is following us. Every few minutes I check the rearview mirror, anxiety gnawing at my gut.
Everything is out of control. Leila might be dangerous. Yet, she had the opportunity to harm Ana and didn’t. She was a gentle soul when I knew her, artistic, bright, mischievous. And when she ended our relationship as a means of self-preservation, I admired her for that. She was never destructive, not even to herself, until she turned up at Escala and cut herself in front of Mrs. Jones, and tonight when she vandalized Ana’s car.
She’s not herself.
And I don’t trust her not to hurt Ana.
How could I live with myself if that happened?
Ana is swimming in my clothes, looking small and miserable, staring out of the car window. She asked me a question and I was interrupted. She wanted to know if I’m still hoping for a submissive.
How can she ask that?
Reassure her, Grey.
“No. It’s not what I hope for, not anymore. I thought that was obvious.”
She turns to look at me, huddling down in my jacket, so that she looks even smaller. “I worry that, you know, that I’m not enough.”
Why is she bringing this up now? “You’re more than enough. For the love of God, Anastasia, what do I have to do?”
She fiddles with a button on my denim jacket. “Why did you think I’d leave when I told you Dr. Flynn had told me all there was to know about you?”
Is this what she’s brooding about?
Keep it vague, Grey.
“You cannot begin to understand the depths of my depravity, Anastasia. And it’s not something I want to share with you.”
“And you really think I’d leave if I knew? Do you think so little of me?”
“I know you’ll leave,” I answer, and the thought is untenable.
“Christian, I think that’s very unlikely. I can’t imagine being without you.”