I didn’t set out for this to be a two-parter. After I finished writing on the seventh part of this, I realized I needed to take a break, cut this in half, and finish later.
6a) “We’re lovers, Anastasia. Lovers don’t need safe words.” He frowns. “Do they?”
“I guess not,” I murmur. Jeez—how do I know? “I promise.”
People I know who live the Lifestyle 24/7, more intensely than I ever have, have said that, unless two people are VERY in tune with each other, and truly know each other, and trust each other, then always have safe words. Without exception. That sort of TPE (total power exchange) takes a lot more time to build up than the entire length of this series, even if you weren’t a virgin at the beginning. Yet here we have Ana admitting, at least to the reader, that she doesn’t know if this is how it’s supposed to be. She’s not yet a rookie, and yet Christian has railroaded her into agreeing to no safe words.
Three short sentences, one little paragraph, later brings us this:
6b) A slow smile stretches across his face, and he starts to unbutton my shirt, his deft fingers making short work of it, though he doesn’t take it off. He leans over and picks up the cue.
Oh fuck, what’s he going to do with that? A frisson of fear runs through me.
Not a frisson of excitement. Fear. She’s scared, genuinely scared, and was just backed into no safe words, just having to hope that he’ll stop when told to. He doesn’t have a history of stopping when she’s begged him to. He’s raped her. Surprisingly, for the only time in the trilogy, he did stop hitting her, but only to start intercourse.
7a) “Jack Hyde’s office—”
“You assured me you wouldn’t go out,” Christian interrupts me, his voice cold and hard.
My heart sinks for the millionth time this day. Shit. How the hell does he know?
“Jack sent me out for some lunch. I couldn’t say no. Are you having me watched?” My scalp prickles at the notion. No wonder I felt so paranoid—someone was watching me. The thought makes me angry.
“This is why I didn’t want you going back to work,” Christian snaps.
“Christian, please. You’re being”—So Fifty—“so suffocating.”
“Suffocating?” he whispers, surprised.
“Yes. You have to stop this. I’ll talk to you this evening. Unfortunately, I have to work late because I can’t go to New York.”
“Anastasia, I don’t want to suffocate you,” he says quietly, appalled.
“Well, you are. I have work to do. I’ll talk to you later.” I hang up, feeling drained and vaguely depressed.
Her reference to not going to New York is due to Christian telling her she’s not allowed to go to a business conference she was supposed to attend. At this point, they don’t know that her boss is a creep with nefarious plans. All they know is she was supposed to go, and he overruled her. This is Monday. A short 72 hours ago, they weren’t on speaking terms. Already her reactions to him are not good. She’s scared, depressed, and concerned about how he’s stalking her and controlling everything from her finances to where she can live (he forced her to move in with him already). This is still considered a romance.
The very next paragraph is even more alarming.
7b) After our wonderful weekend, the reality is hitting home. I have never felt more like running. Running to some quiet retreat so I can think about this man, about how he is, and about how to deal with him. On one level, I know he’s broken—I can see that clearly now—and it’s both heartbreaking and exhausting.
His “brokenness,” for those who haven’t read the books, is he had a rough start to life. His mother was poor, and she had a pimp. His two memories of her are of her baking him a birthday cake, and her dying. He was adopted into luxury and wealth at the age of four years, yet continues to used his mother’s death as a trump card to getting his way, and he’s using it to make Ana pity him.
Allow me to be candid for a moment. His mother died from a drug-overdose. Nothing about it was particularly messy. He was taken from there to the hospital, where he was immediately adopted by a millionaire and given a life of luxury. My father’s death was gory, the sort that can’t be shown on television, and, if shown in a movie, would get an R-rating and be considered a slasher flick. I was there. I didn’t go from a home of heartbreak to wealth. I went from a home of heartbreak to having to try figuring out how to take care of a mother who turned to alcohol to an extreme degree, while dealing with a lot of my own medical stuff. I was a kid, younger than Ana, too sick to work, yet had to find a way to make ends meet.
My mother’s alcoholism got worse, and I ended up on the street for a long time. Thinking about it in any detail makes me cry. So I’ve learned to distract myself with anything else. My mother has become such a danger to me (her new husband is a murderer who confessed to a murder after it was clear there wasn’t enough evidence to try him, and he’s gleeful about it) that I’ve had to go to some extremes with her. Christian, on the other side of things, relishes bringing it up to get his way, because it always works. I never used what happened in my family for pity. I don’t want pity. It sucked. It happened. It still hurts. It’s over.
So I take it personally that Christian is using what happened, when he was younger than my daughter, against anyone, to try getting his way. I take it personally that he is using this to excuse his abusive ways, and to control Ana. Even if I hadn’t gone through my own experiences, what he is doing here is frightening. He’s terrifying Ana, and using years he’s mostly forgotten (he admits having only those memories of his first four years, which is pretty typical) to guilt her into giving him his way, which is coercing her into taking his abuse.
8)“Oh, I almost forgot,” he adds. “Your car arrived a day early. It’s in the garage. Taylor has the key.”
Whoa . . . the Saab? “Can I drive it tomorrow?”
“You know why not. And that reminds me. If you are going to leave your office, let me know. Sawyer was there, watching you. It seems I can’t trust you to look after yourself at all.” He scowls down at me, making me feel like an errant child—again. And I would argue with him, but he’s pretty worked up over Elena, and I don’t want to push him any further, but I can’t resist one comment.
“Seems I can’t trust you either,” I mutter. “You could have told me Sawyer was watching me.”
“Do you want to fight about that, too?” he snaps.
“I wasn’t aware we were fighting. I thought we were communicating,” I mumble petulantly.
He closes his eyes briefly as he struggles to contain his temper. I swallow and watch anxiously. Jeez, this could go either way.
“I have to work,” he says quietly, and with that, he leaves the room.
I exhale. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath. I flop back onto the bed, staring at the ceiling.
Can we ever have a normal conversation without it disintegrating into an argument? It’s exhausting.
We just don’t know each other that well. Do I really want to move in with him? I don’t even know if I should make him a cup of tea or coffee while he’s working. Should I disturb him at all? I have no idea of his likes and dislikes.
Here we have Ana admitting things are moving too fast, that they don’t know each other. She’s also said repeatedly that she loves him, loves him, loves him. You can’t love someone you know so little that you have “no idea of his likes and dislikes.” Yet she’s being railroaded into moving in with him. This is faster than she’s comfortable with. Take a peek at the fourth item on this list. You may recognize some of the other signs of a potentially abusive relationship in just these pretty random excerpts.
9a) “I’m a sadist, Ana. I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore—my birth mother.
He gets his sexual kicks having sex with, and beating, women who remind him of his mother. Women are being punished in her place. This is sick and scary, and is further evidence that he’s purposefully using his past. This is deliberate. Either this is an excuse, or the reason, for why he likes treating women like trash. A real dom wouldn’t be into dominance out of anger toward someone else. That’s a great way to lose control, and it’s dangerous.
9b) You’re still here. I thought you would be out of the door by now,” he whispers.
“Why? Because I might think you’re a sicko for whipping and fucking women who look like your mother? Whatever would give you that impression?” I hiss at him, lashing out.
He blanches at my harsh words.
“Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but yes,” he says, his eyes wide and hurt. His expression is sobering and I regret my outburst. I frown, feeling a pang of guilt.
There he goes again, manipulating her so she feels guilty for what he’s chosen to do.
10a) “Don’t leave me,” he whispers.
“Oh, for crying out loud—no! I am not going to go!” I shout and it’s cathartic. There, I’ve said it. I am not leaving.
“Really?” His eyes widen.
“What can I do to make you understand I will not run? What can I say?”
He gazes at me, revealing his fear and anguish again. He swallows. “There is one thing you can do.”
“What?” I snap.
“Marry me,” he whispers.
What? Did he really just—
For the second time in less than half an hour my world stops.
Holy fuck. I stare at the deeply fucked-up man I love. I can’t believe what he’s just said. Marriage? He’s proposing marriage? Is he kidding? I can’t help it—a small, nervous, disbelieving giggle erupts from deep inside. I bite my lip to stop it from turning into full- scale hysterical laughter and fail miserably. I lie back flat on the floor and surrender myself to the laughter, laughing as I’ve never laughed before, huge healing cathartic howls of laughter.
And for a moment I am on my own, looking down at this absurd situation, a giggling, overwhelmed girl beside a beautiful fucked-up boy. I drape my arm across my eyes, as my laughter turns to scalding tears. No, no . . . this is too much.
As the hysteria subsides, Christian gently lifts my arm off my face. I turn and gaze up at him.
He’s leaning over me. His mouth is twisted with wry amusement, but his eyes are a burning gray, maybe wounded. Oh no.
He gently wipes away a stray tear with the back of his knuckles. “You find my proposal amusing, Miss Steele?”
Oh, Fifty! Reaching up, I caress his cheek tenderly, enjoying the feel of the stubble beneath my fingers. Lord, I love this man.
“Mr. Grey . . . Christian. Your sense of timing is without doubt . . .” I gaze up at him as words fail me.
He smirks at me, but the crinkling around his eyes shows me that he’s hurt. It’s sobering.
“You’re cutting me to the quick here, Ana. Will you marry me?”
I sit up and lean over him, placing my hands on his knees. I stare into his lovely face.
“Christian, I’ve met your psycho ex with a gun, been thrown out of my apartment, had you go thermonuclear Fifty on me—”
He opens his mouth to speak, but I hold up my hand. He obediently shuts his mouth.
“You’ve just revealed some, quite frankly, shocking information about yourself, and now you’ve asked me to marry you.”
He moves his head from side to side as if considering the facts. He’s amused. Thank heavens.
“Yes, I think that’s a fair and accurate summary of the situation,” he says dryly.
I shake my head at him. “Whatever happened to delayed gratification?”
“I got over it, and I’m now a firm advocate of instant gratification. Carpe diem, Ana,” he whispers.
“Look Christian, I’ve known you for about three minutes, and there’s so much more I need to know. I’ve had too much to drink, I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I want to go to bed.
She won’t get to go to bed for a while still. This loops back up into number eight. He’s pushing her to move too fast. Pushing. They had sex for the first time three weeks before this, and in that short period of time, already broke up once. Now it’s declarations of love and a marriage proposal while Ana admits to herself and the reader, even even to Christian, that they don’t know each other.
10b) He tilts his head to one side and his lips quirk up in a smile. “Fair point well made, as ever, Miss Steele,” he breathes, his voice laced with relief. “So that’s not a no?”
I sigh. “No, Mr. Grey, it’s not a no, but it’s not a yes either. You’re only doing this be- cause you’re scared, and you don’t trust me.”
“No, I’m doing this because I’ve finally met someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
Oh. My heart skips a beat and inside I melt. How is it that in the middle of the most fucked-up situations he can say the most romantic things? My mouth pops open in shock.
“I never thought that would happen to me,” he continues, his expression radiating pure undiluted sincerity.
I gape at him, searching for the right words.
“Can I think about it . . . please?
There’s a lot I could say, but I won’t.
I’m just over 60% of the way through the book. There are worse things to come. He stages a helicopter crash (that link shows tons of evidence for how it would had to have been staged, and other problems in that situations), and you can bet that it gets her to say yes.
This has all been in eight days in book time, with the first handful happening almost in passing on the way to Ana and Christian getting back together, and the remaining 40% take place in four days. Yes, Ana says yes in that period of time. That’s horrifyingly alarming, considering her fears and hesitations, how fast this is all happening, and Christian’s behavior. These ten things (okay, a few more than that since some have a few small pieces that don’t happen one right after the other) would each be cause for concern on their own. They’d be problematic if they happened over the course of a year. But they happened in a measly eight days, and they had no contact until the very end of the fourth day. All of this has happened in less than 96 hours. A lot more of it happens in the next 96 hours of the book.
Readers, this is terrifying.