Fifty Shades of Grey
Author:E.L. James

He narrows his eyes, but I'm no longer intimidated by him. Well, only a little. I gaze impassively back, not blinking or backing down.

"Will you take a check?" he says acidly.

"Yes. I think you're good for it."

He doesn't smile, he just turns on his heel and stalks into his study. I take a last lingering look around his apartment - at the art on the walls - all abstracts, serene, cool... cold, even. Fitting, I think absently. My eyes stray to the piano. Jeez - if I'd kept my mouth shut, we'd have made love on the piano. No, f*cked, we would have f*cked on the piano.

Well, I would have made love. The thought lies heavy and sad in my mind. He has never made love to me, has heIt's always been f*cking to him.

Christian returns and hands me an envelope.

"Taylor got a good price. It's a classic car. You can ask him. He'll take you home."

He nods in the direction over my shoulder. I turn, and Taylor is standing in the doorway, wearing his suit, as impeccable as ever.

"That's fine, I can get myself home, thank you."

I turn to stare at Christian, and I see the barely-contained fury in his eyes.

"Are you going to defy me at every turn?"

"Why change a habit of a lifetime?" I give him a small, apologetic shrug.

He closes his eyes in frustration and runs his hand through his hair.

"Please, Ana, let Taylor take you home."

"I'll get the car, Miss Steele," Taylor announces authoritatively. Christian nods at him, and when I glance around, Taylor has gone.

I turn back to face Christian. We are four feet apart. He steps forward, and instinctively I step back. He stops, and the anguish in his expression is palpable, his gray eyes burning.

"I don't want you to go," he murmurs, his voice full of longing.

"I can't stay. I know what I want and you can't give it to me, and I can't give you what you need."

He takes another step forward, and I hold up my hands.

"Don't, please." I recoil from him. There's no way I can tolerate his touch now, it will slay me. "I can't do this."

Grabbing my suitcase and my backpack, I head for the foyer. He follows me, keeping a careful distance. He presses the elevator button, and the doors open. I climb in.

"Goodbye, Christian," I murmur.

"Ana, goodbye," he says softly, and he looks utterly, utterly broken, a man in agonizing pain, reflecting how I feel inside. I tear my gaze away from him before I change my mind and try to comfort him.

The elevator doors close, and it whisks me down to the bowels of the basement and to my own personal hell.

Taylor holds the door open for me, and I climb into the back of the car. I avoid eye contact.

Embarrassment and shame washes over me. I'm a complete failure. I had hoped to drag my Fifty Shades into the light, but it's proved a task beyond my meager abilities. Desperately, I try to keep my emotions banked and at bay. As we head out onto 4th Avenue, I stare blankly out of the window, and the enormity of what I've done slowly washes over me. Shit - I've left him. The only man I've ever loved. The only man I've ever slept with.

I gasp, and the levees burst. Tears course unbidden and unwelcome down my cheeks, and I wipe them away hurriedly with my fingers, scrambling in my bag for my sunglasses. As we pause at some traffic lights, Taylor holds out a linen handkerchief for me. He says nothing and doesn't look in my direction, and I take it with gratitude.