“I know this is sudden.”
“Are you sure, darling? Don’t get me wrong, I adore Ana. But this is so soon and she’s the first girl—”
“Mom. She’s not the first girl. She’s the first one you’ve met.”
“Well, I am delighted for you. Congratulations.”
“There’s one more thing.”
“What is it, love?”
“I’m having some flowers delivered, for the boathouse.”
“Well, my first proposal was pretty crap.”
“Oh, I see.”
“And, Mom—don’t tell anyone else. I want it to be a surprise. I plan to make an announcement this evening.”
“As you wish, darling. Mia is in charge of deliveries for the party. Let me find her.”
I wait for what feels like an eternity.
Come on, Mia.
“Hey, big brother. Thank God you are still with us. What gives?”
“Mom tells me you are coordinating deliveries for my party. How big is this bash, anyway?”
“After your near-death experience, we’re celebrating.”
“Well, I have a delivery coming for the boathouse.”
“From the Bellevue Florist.”
“Why? What for?”
Christ, she can be annoying. I look up and Ana is standing in her short, short dress staring at me. “Just let them in and leave them alone. Do you understand, Mia?”
Ana cocks her head to one side, listening.
“Okay. Don’t get your panties in a wad. I’ll send them to the boathouse.”
Ana mimes eating.
“I’ll see you later,” I say to Mia and hang up. “One more call?” I ask Ana.
“That dress is very short.”
“You like it?” Ana pirouettes in the doorway and her skirt flares up, providing a tantalizing glimpse of her lacy underwear.
“You look fantastic in it, Ana. I just don’t want anyone else to see you like that.”
“Oh!” She looks upset. “We’re at home, Christian. No one but the staff.”
I don’t want to upset her. I nod as graciously as I can manage and she turns and heads back to the kitchen.
Grey, get a grip.
The next call I have to make is to Ana’s father. I have no idea what he’s going to say when I ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. From Ana’s file, I get Ray’s mobile number. José said he was fishing. I just hope he’s somewhere with a signal.
No. He isn’t. The call goes to voice mail. “Ray Steele. Leave a message.”
Short and to the point.
“Hi, Mr. Steele, it’s Christian Grey here. I’d like to talk to you about your daughter. Please call me.” I give him my number and hang up.
What did you expect, Grey?
He’s in the wilds of the Mount Baker Park.
While I have Ana’s file on my desk, I decide to deposit some money into her bank account. She’ll have to get used to having money.
“Twenty-four thousand dollars!”
“Twenty-four thousand dollars, to the lovely lady in silver, going once, going twice. Sold!”
I chuckle, remembering her audacity at the auction. I wonder what she’ll make of this. I’m sure it will be an interesting discussion. On my computer, I transfer fifty thousand dollars to her account. It should show up within the hour.
My stomach growls. I’m hungry. But my phone starts ringing. It’s Ray. “Mr. Steele. Thank you for calling back—”
“Is Annie okay?”
“She’s fine. More than fine. She’s great.”
“Thank the Lord. What can I do for you, Christian?”
“I know you’re fishing.”
“I’m trying. Not catching much today.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” This is more nerve-racking than I anticipated. My palms are sweating and Mr. Steele says nothing, cranking my anxiety up a notch.
Supposing he says no? This is not something I’ve considered.
“I’m still here, Christian, waiting for you to get to the point.”
“Yes. Of course. Um. I called because, um, I’d like your permission to marry your daughter.” The words tumble out like I’ve never negotiated or clinched a deal in my life. What’s more, they’re met with a resounding silence.
“Put my daughter on the line,” he says, giving nothing away.
“Just a minute.” I dart out of my study to where Ana is waiting, and hold out the phone to her. “I have Ray for you.”
Her eyes widen with shock. She takes the phone and covers the mouthpiece. “You told him!” she squeaks.
She takes a deep breath, and removes her hand from the mouthpiece. “Hi, Dad.”
She seems calm.
“What did you say?” she asks, and listens again, her eyes on me. “Yes. It is sudden. Hang on.” She gives me another unreadable look and heads to the other end of the room and out onto the balcony, where she continues her conversation.
She starts pacing up and down, but she stays close to the window.
And I’m helpless. All I can do is watch her.
Her body language gives nothing away. Suddenly, she stops and beams. Her smile could light Seattle. He’s either said yes…or no.
Damn it, Grey. Stop with the negative.
She says something else. And she looks like she’s going to cry.
Shit. That’s not good.
She stomps back and she shoves the phone at me, looking several shades of pissed off.