Last time, we left off with Christian pinning Ana against an elevator wall and kissing her aggressively without checking in or ascertaining her consent in any way. Cool story, bro!
This time, we start with a smaller manifestation of that same contempt for consent: she asks him to call her Ana, again, and he still goes on calling her Anastasia, because evidently he doesn’t give a shit about what she wants.
“Why do you insist on calling me Anastasia?” she asks.
“Because it’s your name.”
“I prefer Ana.”
“Do you, now?”
“Ana” is too everyday and ordinary for her. And too familiar. Those three letters have the power to wound…
Christian drives Ana back to the apartment she shares with her friend Kate…
Kavanagh jumps up and gives me a critical once-over as she hugs Ana.
What did she think I was going to do to the girl?
I know what I’d like to do to her…
It’s like this dude has multiple personalities, and one of them is a murderer. He’s continually written to seem totally blind to his own creepiness. Ugh.
A lock of her hair has broken free, and without thinking, I tuck it behind her ear. She leans her face into my fingers, the tender gesture surprising me. My thumb strays to her soft bottom lip, which I’d like to kiss again. But I can’t. Not until I have her consent.
YES! CONSENT! I would be cheering and pumping my fists in the air right now, if I didn’t know that by “her consent” he means “her signature on a creepy BDSM contract.”
Then Christian gets in the car with his brother Elliot, who’s apparently dating Kate now, and they have another one of their classic bro-y conversations. It’s filled with stilted dialogue out of bad ’90s teen sex comedies, like “Man, I need some sleep; that woman is voracious” and “How about you, hotshot? Did she pop your cherry?” (Can we have an Elliot spinoff novel? I bet he’s more fun than Christian.)
The results come back from the background check Christian ran on Ana’s friend José (remember?). No sexual harassment charges; only “a ticket for possession of marijuana.”
And the little prick smokes weed? I hope he doesn’t smoke around Ana – and I hope she doesn’t smoke, period.
Grey has his assistant print out a non-disclosure agreement and a copy of his “standard Dom/sub contract” for Ana. Oh, the romance!!
For the first time in a long time, I have a sweet sense of anticipation. I’m excited.
Will she say yes to my proposal?
I picture her sleeping beside me, soft and small… and my cock twitches with expectation. I could have woken her and fucked her then – what a novelty that would have been.
I’ll fuck her in time. I’ll fuck her bound and with her smart mouth gagged.
It’s gross that for him, the appeal of fucking Ana is that it would have been “a novelty.” Not that he likes her, or wants to make her feel good, or wants to explore an equitable and mutually enjoyable sexual connection… but that she would’ve been an interesting new way for him to get his dick wet. Sigh.
Christian picks her up after her shift at the hardware store. “She’s dressed in black jeans… Jeans again.” Dude, it’s probably unsafe to wear a skirt when you work around sharp and splintery objects all day! Can you cut her some slack for wearing jeans to a goddamn hardware store?! She’s not here to please your eyes and your dick!
He’s taking her out on a trip in his helicopter, which is called Charlie Tango. I have italicized the name of the helicopter not for emphasis but because it is literally italicized every time it’s mentioned in this book. This is probably too boring and journalism-nerdy to even get into, but dammit, it annoys me. Who copy-edited this trash? I even just Googled “do you italicize the name of a helicopter?” but the results were unhelpful.
“Over there,” I order, pointing to the front passenger seat. “Sit. Don’t touch anything.” I’m amazed when she does as she’s told.
Really? You’re amazed that a small, college-age woman feels intimidated by the commands of an older, authoritative multimillionnaire in an aircraft she doesn’t know how to operate and won’t be able to escape from? What is confusing about that?
Do you remember the shot in the movie where Christian straps her into the seatbelt-harness of the helicopter, like she’s a literal child? That part is even creepier in the book. He’s “trying not to imagine her naked” while he does it, breathing in her “sweet, evocative scent,” and conceptualizing the straps as some kind of bondage device. “You’re secure. No escaping,” he tells her, and then, “I like this harness.” So glad I’m not Ana right now.
“You’re safe with me,” I reassure her, and add, “Well, while we’re flying.” I give her a wink, she beams, and I’m dazzled.
Is this what serial killers’ flirty banter is like?
Before and during the takeoff, there’s lots of technical jabber about helicopter motors and dashboards, etc. E.L. James: always a riveting writer. (Just wait til we get to the BDSM contract, y’all. It leaps off the page, with its many salient details about nutrition and living arrangements and clothing. Yawn.)
“Do you always impress women this way? ‘Come up and fly in my helicopter’?”
“I’ve never brought a girl up here, Anastasia. It’s another first for me. Are you impressed?”
Can we talk about how she used the word “woman” and he immediately switched it out for “girl”? This encapsulates so much about this damn book.
He takes her to his house, which is called Escala. I wonder why its name isn’t italicized like Charlie Tango. (Okay, I’ll stop being a copyediting nerd now, I promise.)
“Do you play?” She looks at the piano.
“Of course you do. Is there anything you can’t do well?”
“Yes… A few things.” Cook. Tell jokes. Make free and easy conversation with a woman I’m attracted to. Be touched…
Yikes. Just… Yikes.
He has her sign the non-disclosure agreement, which she does willingly. Then she asks if he’s going to “make love” to her tonight and he delivers one of his most well-known lines: “I don’t make love. I fuck, hard.” He invites her to check out his “playroom” and she delivers one of her most well-known lines: “You want to play on your Xbox?” Oh, honey…
He takes her in there and they have an incredibly awkward conversation that seems to indicate pretty clearly what any astute reader knew was true: Christian has very specific desires for Ana and she doesn’t have much knowledge of or interest in what he’s telling her. She seems confused, unsettled, and unwilling. Any half-decent human would have abandoned this whole endeavor if they were in Christian’s shoes, seeing how uncomfortable Ana is. But he’s Christian, and he puts his own agenda first, always.
“So you’ll get your kicks by exerting your will over me.”
Spot on, Miss Steele.
“It’s about gaining your trust and your respect, so you’ll let me exert my will over you.” I need your permission, baby. “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?”
“Me.” I shrug. That’s it, baby. Just me. All of me.
Then he shows her the bedroom where she’ll stay, Fridays through Sundays, if she agrees to the terms of his contract.
“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.”
Christian, you dumb shit!! You just gave her a powerful incentive to get blackout drunk more often! Not to mention, after he says this, he continues plying her with wine, even though she won’t eat anything and it’s probably not safe for her to be drinking so much on an empty stomach. Ugh, someone please delete this book from my Kindle before I throw it out a window.
“I will punish you when you require it, and it will be painful.” For example, when you get drunk and put yourself at risk.
Like right now, perhaps???
He gets frustrated with her (quite reasonable) series of questions, so he shows her the rules laid out in the BDSM contract. Their ensuing discussion leads to the revelation that Ana is a virgin.
How the hell did I get this so wrong? Anger lances through me. What can I do with a virgin? I glare at her as fury surges through my body. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” I growl, and start pacing my study. What do I want with a virgin?
After he calms down a bit, he tells her he wants to “rectify the situation right now.” HOW are women worldwide swooning over this character?! HOW is it at all romantic or exciting for someone to express their desire for you as wanting to “rectify [your] situation”?? A bit later, he rephrases it to, “Please, Ana, let me make love to you,” and that’s better, but still. He should have led with that.
He takes her to his bedroom and there’s a sex scene that is, actually, not terrible. He makes her come by just sucking on her nipples (unrealistic, maybe, but she does admit she’s never masturbated, so maybe a first orgasm would be that easy?) and then they fuck twice in two different positions. You know, if it weren’t for the horrible, awkward dirty talk, E.L. James might not be too awful at writing sex scenes, I will concede.
The chapter ends with Ana falling asleep next to Christian, devirginized and sated and happy. Yes! Get it, girl!
Can we just end the novel here before shit starts to get really scary?
Want to keep reading? Go to the next chapter.