Fifty Shades of Grey - Fifty Shades #1

I am indebted to the following people for their help and support:

To my husband Niall – thank you for tolerating my obsession, being a domestic god and doing the first edit.

To my boss Lisa – thank you for putting up with me over the last year or so while I indulged in this madness.

To CCL – I’ll never tell but thank you.

To the original bunker babes – thank you for your friendship and constant support.

To SR – thank you for all the helpful advice from the start and for going first.

To Sue – thanks for sorting me out.

To Amanda and all at TWCS – thank you for taking a punt.

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable.

Kate is my roommate, and she has chosen today of all days to succumb to the flu. Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she’d arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I’ve never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish, and I’m supposed to be working this afternoon, but no – today I have to drive a hundred and sixty-five miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our university, his time is extraordinarily precious – much more precious than mine – but he has granted Kate an interview. A real coup, she tells me. Damn her extracurricular activities.

Kate is huddled on the couch in the living room.

“Ana, I’m sorry. It took me nine months to get this interview. It will take another six to reschedule, and we’ll both have graduated by then. As the editor, I can’t blow this off. Please,” Kate begs me in her rasping, sore throat voice. How does she do it? Even ill she looks gamine and gorgeous, strawberry blonde hair in place and green eyes bright, although now red-rimmed and runny. I ignore my pang of unwelcome sympathy.

“Of course I’ll go, Kate. You should get back to bed. Would you like some Nyquil or Tylenol?”

“Nyquil, please. Here are the questions and my mini-disc recorder. Just press record here. Make notes, I’ll transcribe it all.”

“I know nothing about him,” I murmur, trying and failing to suppress my rising panic.

“The questions will see you through. Go. It’s a long drive. I don’t want you to be late.”

“Okay, I’m going. Get back to bed. I made you some soup to heat up later.” I stare at her fondly. Only for you, Kate, would I do this.

“I will. Good luck. And thanks, Ana – as usual, you’re my lifesaver.”

Gathering my satchel, I smile wryly at her, then head out the door to the car. I cannot believe I have let Kate talk me into this. But then Kate can talk anyone into anything. She’ll make an exceptional journalist. She’s articulate,