The first thing I notice is the smell; leather, wood, polish with a faint citrus scent. It's very pleasant, and the lighting is soft, subtle. In fact, I can't see the source, but it's around the cornice in the room, emitting an ambient glow. The walls and ceiling are a deep, dark bur-gundy, giving a womb-like effect to the spacious room, and the floor is old, old varnished wood. There is a large wooden cross like an X fastened to the wall facing the door. It's made of high-polished mahogany, and there are restraining cuffs on each corner. Above it is an expansive iron grid suspended from the ceiling, eight-foot square at least, and from it hang all manner of ropes, chains, and glinting shackles. By the door, two long, polished, ornately carved poles, like spindles from a banister but longer, hang like curtain rods across the wall. From them swing a startling assortment of paddles, whips, riding crops, and funny-looking feathery implements.
Beside the door stands a substantial mahogany chest of drawers, each drawer slim as if designed to contain specimens in a crusty old museum. I wonder briefly what the drawers actually do hold. Do I want to know In the far corner is an oxblood leather padded bench, and fixed to the wall beside it is a wooden, polished rack that looks like a pool or billiard cue holder, but on closer inspection, it holds canes of varying lengths and widths. There's a stout six-foot-long table in the opposite corner - polished wood with intricately carved legs - and two matching stools underneath.
But what dominates the room is a bed. It's bigger than king-size, an ornately carved rococo four-poster with a flat top. It looks late nineteenth century. Under the canopy, I can see more gleaming chains and cuffs. There is no bedding... just a mattress covered in red leather and red satin cushions piled at one end.
At the foot of the bed, set apart a few feet, is a large oxblood chesterfield couch, just stuck in the middle of the room facing the bed. An odd arrangement... to have a couch facing the bed, and I smile to myself - I've picked on the couch as odd, when really it's the most mundane piece of furniture in the room. I glance up and stare at the ceiling. There are karabiners all over the ceiling at odd intervals. I vaguely wonder what they're for. Weirdly, all the wood, dark walls, moody lighting, and oxblood leather makes the room kind of soft and romantic... I know it's anything but, this is Christian's version of soft and romantic.
I turn, and he's regarding me intently as I knew he would be, his expression completely unreadable. I walk further into the room, and he follows me. The feathery thing has me intrigued. I touch it hesitantly. It's suede, like a small cat-of-nine-tails but bushier, and there are very small plastic beads on the end.
"It's called a flogger," Christian's voice is quiet and soft.
A flogger... hmm. I think I'm in shock. My subconscious has emigrated or been struck dumb or simply keeled over and expired. I am numb. I can observe and absorb but not articulate my feelings about all this, because I'm in shock. What is the appropriate response to finding out a potential lover is a complete freaky sadist or masochistFear... yes... that seems to be the over-riding feeling. I recognize it now. But weirdly not of him - I don't think he'd hurt me, well, not without my consent. So many questions cloud my mind.
WhyHowWhenHow oftenWhoI walk toward the bed and run my hands down one of the intricately carved posts. The post is very sturdy, the craftsmanship outstanding.
"Say something," Christian commands, his voice deceptively soft.
"Do you do this to people or do they do it to you?"
His mouth quirks up, either amused or relieved.
"People?" He blinks a couple of times as he considers his answer. "I do this to women who want me to."
I don't understand.
"If you have willing volunteers, why am I here?"
"Because I want to do this with you, very much."
"Oh," I gasp. Why?
I wander to the far corner of the room and pat the waist high padded bench and run my fingers over the leather. He likes to hurt women. The thought depresses me.
"You're a sadist?"
"I'm a Dominant." His eyes are a scorching gray, intense.
"What does that mean?" I whisper.
"It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things."
I frown at him as I try to assimilate this idea.
"Why would I do that?"
"To please me," he whispers as he cocks his head to one side, and I see a ghost of a smile.
Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that's exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It's a revelation.
"In very simple terms, I want you to want to please me," he says softly. His voice is hypnotic.
"How do I do that?" My mouth is dry, and I wish I had more wine. Okay, I understand the pleasing bit, but I am puzzled by the soft-boudoir-Elizabethan-torture set up. Do I want to know the answer?
"I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don't, I shall punish you, and you will learn," he whispers. I glance at the rack of canes as he says this .
"And where does all this fit in?" I wave my hand in the general direction of the room.
"It's all part of the incentive package. Both reward and punishment."
"So you'll get your kicks by exerting your will over me."
"It's about gaining your trust and your respect, so you'll let me exert my will over you.
I will gain a great deal of pleasure, joy, even in your submission. The more you submit, the greater my joy - it's a very simple equation."
"Okay, and what do I get out of this?"
He shrugs and looks almost apologetic.
"Me," he says simply.
Oh my. Christian rakes his hand through his hair as he gazes at me.
"You're not giving anything away, Anastasia," he murmurs, exasperated. "Let's go back downstairs where I can concentrate better. It's very distracting having you in here."
He holds his hand out to me, and now I'm hesitant to take it.
Kate had said he was dangerous, she was so right. How did she know He's dangerous to my health, because I know I'm going to say yes. And part of me doesn't want to.
Part of me wants to run screaming from this room and all it represents. I am so out of my depth here.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Anastasia." His gray eyes implore, and I know he speaks the truth. I take his hand, and he leads me out of the door.
"If you do this, let me show you." Rather than going back downstairs, he turns right out of the playroom, as he calls it, and down a corridor. We pass several doors until we reach the one at the end. Beyond it is a bedroom with a large double bed, all in white...
everything, furniture, walls, bedding. It's sterile and cold but with the most glorious view of Seattle through the glass wall.
"This will be your room. You can decorate it how you like, have whatever you like in here."
"My roomYou're expecting me to move in?" I can't hide the horror in my voice.
"Not full time. Just say, Friday evening through Sunday. We have to talk about all that, negotiate. If you want to do this," he adds, his voice quiet and hesitant.
"I'll sleep here?"
"Not with you."
"No. I told you, I don't sleep with anyone, except you, when you're stupefied with drink." His eyes are reprimanding.
My mouth presses in a hard line. This is what I cannot reconcile. Kind, caring Christian, who rescues me from inebriation and holds me gently while I'm throwing up into the azaleas, and the monster who possesses whips and chains in a special room.
"Where do you sleep?"
"My room is downstairs. Come, you must be hungry."
"Weirdly, I seem to have lost my appetite," I murmur petulantly.
"You must eat, Anastasia," he admonishes and, taking my hand, leads me back downstairs.
Back in the impossibly big room, I am filled with deep trepidation. I am on the edge of a precipice, and I have to decide whether or not to jump.
"I'm fully aware that this is a dark path I'm leading you down, Anastasia, which is why I really want you to think about this. You must have some questions," he says as he wanders into the kitchen area, releasing my hand.
I do. But where to start?
"You've signed your NDA, you can ask me anything you want, and I'll answer."
I stand at the breakfast bar watching him as he opens the refrigerator and pulls out a plate of different cheeses with two large bunches of green and red grapes. He sets the plate down on the worktop and proceeds to cut up a French baguette.
"Sit." He points to one of the bar stools at the breakfast bar, and I obey his command.
If I'm going to do this, I'm going to have to get used to it. I realize he's been this bossy since I met him.
"You mentioned paperwork."
"Well, apart from the NDA, a contract saying what we will and won't do. I need to know your limits, and you need to know mine. This is consensual, Anastasia."
"And if I don't want to do this?"
"That's fine," he says carefully.
"But we won't have any sort of relationship?" I ask.
"This is the only sort of relationship I'm interesting in."
"It's the way I am."
"How did you become this way?"
"Why is anyone the way they areThat's kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate itDo you like cheeseMrs. Jones - my housekeeper
- has left this for supper." He takes some large, white plates from a cupboard and places one in front of me.
We're talking about cheese... Holy crap.
"What are your rules that I have to follow?"
"I have them written down. We'll go through them once we've eaten."
Food. How can I eat now?
"I'm really not hungry," I whisper.
"You will eat," he says simply. Dominating Christian, it all becomes clear. "Would you like another glass of wine?"
He pours wine into my glass and comes to sit beside me. I take a hasty sip.
"Help yourself to food, Anastasia."
I take a small bunch of grapes. This I can manage. He narrows his eyes.
"Have you been like this for a while?" I ask.
"Is it easy to find women who want to do this?"
He raises an eyebrow at me.
"You'd be amazed," he says dryly.
"Then why meI really don't understand."
"Anastasia, I've told you. There's something about you. I can't leave you alone." He smiles ironically. "I'm like a moth to a flame." His voice darkens. "I want you very badly, especially now, when you're biting your lip again." He takes a deep breath and swallows.
My stomach somersaults - he wants me... in a weird way, true, but this beautiful, strange, kinky man wants me.
"I think you have that cliche the wrong way round." I grumble. I am the moth and he is the flame, and I'm going to get burnt. I know.
"No. I haven't signed anything yet, so I think I'll hang on to my free will for a bit longer, if that's okay with you."
His eyes soften, and his lips turn up in a smile.
"As you wish, Miss Steele."
"How many women?" I blurt out the question, but I'm so curious.
Oh... not as many as I thought.
"For long periods of time?"
"Some of them, yes."
"Have you ever hurt anyone?"
"Will you hurt me?"
"What do you mean?"
"Physically, will you hurt me?"
"I will punish you when you require it, and it will be painful."
I think I feel a little faint. I take another sip of wine. Alcohol - this will make me brave.
"Have you ever been beaten?" I ask.
Oh... that surprises me. Before I can question him on this revelation further, he interrupts my train of thought.
"Let's discuss this in my study. I want to show you something."
This is so hard to process. Here I was foolishly thinking that I'd spend a night of un-paralleled passion in this man's bed, and we're negotiating this weird arrangement.
I follow him into his study, a spacious room with another floor-to-ceiling window that opens out on to the balcony. He sits on the desk, motions for me to sit on a leather chair in front of him, and hands me a piece of paper.
"These are the rules. They may be subject to change. They form part of the contract, which you can also have. Read these rules and let's discuss."
The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.
The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of seven hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant.
The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing from a prescribed list of foods (Appendix 4). The Submissive will not snack between meals, with the exception of fruit.
During the Term, the Submissive will wear clothing only approved by the Dominant. The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for the Submissive, which the Submissive shall utilize. The Dominant shall accompany the Submissive to purchase clothing on an ad hoc basis. If the Dominant so requires, the Submissive shall during the Term any adornments the Dominant shall require, in the presence of the Dominant and any other time the Dominant deems fit.
The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with a personal trainer four times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and the Submissive. The personal trainer will report to the Dominant on the Submissive's progress.
The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Submissive will visit a beauty salon of the Dominant's choosing at times to be decided by the Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments the Dominant sees fit.
The Submissive will not drink to excess, smoke, take recreational drugs, or put herself in any unnecessary danger.
The Submissive will not enter into any sexual relations with anyone other than the Dominant. The Submissive will conduct herself in a respectful and modest manner at all times.
She must recognize that her behavior is a direct reflection on the Dominant. She shall be held accountable for any misdeeds, wrongdoings, and misbehavior committed when not in the presence of the Dominant.
Failure to comply with any of the above will result in immediate punishment, the nature of which shall be determined by the Dominant.
"Hard limits?" I ask.
"Yes. What you won't do, what I won't do, we need to specify in our agreement."
"I'm not sure about accepting money for clothes. It feels wrong." I shift uncomfortably, the word 'ho' rattling round my head.
"I want to lavish money on you, let me buy you some clothes. I may need you to accompany me to functions, and I want you dressed well. I'm sure your salary, when you do get a job, won't cover the kind of clothes I'd like you to wear."
"I don't have to wear them when I'm not with you?"
"Okay." Think of them as uniform.
"I don't want to exercise four times a week."
"Anastasia, I need you supple, strong, and with stamina. Trust me, you need to exercise.""But surely not four times a week, how about three?"
"I want you to do four."
"I thought this was a negotiation?"
He purses his lips at me.
"Okay, Miss Steele, another point well made. How about an hour on three days and one day half an hour?"
"Three days, three hours. I get the impression you're going to keep me exercised when I'm here."
He smiles wickedly, and his eyes glow as if relieved. "Yes, I am. Okay, agreed. Are you sure you don't want to intern at my companyYou're a good negotiator."
"No, I don't think that's a good idea." I stare down at his rules. Waxing! Waxing what?
"So, limits. These are mine." He hands me another piece of paper.
No acts involving fire play
No acts involving urination or defecation and the products thereof No acts involving needles, knives, piercing, or blood No acts involving gynecological medical instruments
No acts involving children or animals
No acts that will leave any permanent marks on the skin No acts involving breath control
Ugh. He has to write these down! Of course - they all look very sensible, and frankly, necessary... any sane person wouldn't want to be involved in this sort of thing surely?
Though I now feel a little queasy.
"Is there anything you'd like to add?" he asks kindly.
Crap. I've no idea. I am completely stumped. He gazes at me and furrows his brow.
"Is there anything you won't do?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
I squirm uncomfortably and bite my lip.
"I've never done anything like this."
"Well, when you've had sex, was there anything that you didn't like doing?"
For the first time in what seems to be ages, I blush.
"You can tell me, Anastasia. We have to be honest with each other or this isn't going to work."
I squirm uncomfortably again and stare at my knotted fingers.
"Tell me," he commands.
"Well... I've not had sex before, so I don't know." My voice is small. I peek up at him, and he's staring at me, mouth-open, frozen, and pale - really pale.
"Never?" he whispers. I shake my head.
"You're a virgin?" he breathes. I nod, flushing again. He closes his eyes and looks to be counting to ten. When he opens them again, he's angry, glaring at me.
"Why the f**k didn't you tell me?" he growls.