The Mister - E L James Page 0,1

hours of the morning. It’s my favorite recreational activity and gives me something to do—someone to do. Fucking keeps me fit, and in the throes of passion I learn all I need to know about a woman—how to make her sweat and if she screams or cries when she comes.

Caroline is a crier.

Caroline has just lost her husband.


And I’ve lost my big brother, my only guiding light for the last few years.


Closing my eyes, I see Kit’s pale, dead face once more, and his loss is a yawning space within me.

An irreplaceable loss.

Why the hell was he riding his motorcycle on that bleak and icy night? It’s beyond comprehension. Kit is—was—the sane one, the safe pair of hands, Lord Reliable himself. Between the two of us, it was Kit who brought honor to our family name, upheld its reputation, and behaved responsibly. He held down a job in the City and managed the substantial family business as well. He didn’t make rash decisions, he didn’t drive like a madman. He was the sensible brother. He stepped up, not down. He was not the prodigal mess that I am. No, I’m the other side of Kit’s coin. My specialty is being the black sheep of the family. No one has any expectations of me, I make sure of that. Always.

I sit up, my mood grim in the harsh morning light. It’s time to hit the basement gym. Running, fucking, and fencing, they all keep me in shape.

* * *

With dance music hammering in my ears and sweat rolling down my back, I drag air into my lungs. The pounding of my feet on the treadmill clears my mind as I concentrate on pushing my body to its limits. Usually when I run, I’m focused and grateful that at last I feel something—even if it’s just the pain of bursting lungs and limbs. Today I don’t want to feel anything, not after this fuck-awful week. All I want is the physical pain of exertion and endurance. Not the pain of loss.

Run. Breathe. Run. Breathe.

Don’t think about Kit. Don’t think about Caroline.

Run. Run. Run.

As I cool down, the treadmill slows, and I jog through the final stretch of my five-mile sprint, allowing my feverish thoughts to return. For the first time in a long time, I have a great deal to do.

Before Kit’s demise my days were spent recovering from the night before and planning the next night’s entertainment. And that was about it. That was my life. I don’t like to shine a light on the vacuity of my existence. But deep down I know how bloody useless I am. Access to a healthy trust fund since I turned twenty-one means I’ve never done a serious day’s work in my life. Unlike my older brother. He worked hard, but then again he had no choice.

Today, however, will be different. I’m the executor of Kit’s will, which is a joke. Choosing me was his last laugh, I’m sure—but now that he’s interred in the family vault, the will has to be read and…well, executed.

And Kit died leaving no heirs.

I shudder as the treadmill comes to a stop. I don’t want to think about the implications. I’m not ready.

Grabbing my iPhone, I swing a towel around my neck and jog back upstairs to my flat on the sixth floor.

Stripping off my clothes, I discard them in the bedroom and head into the en suite bathroom. Beneath the shower, as I wash my hair, I consider how to deal with Caroline. We’ve known each other since our early schooldays. We each recognized a kindred spirit, and it drew us together, two thirteen-year-old boarders with divorced parents. I was the new boy and she took me under her wing. We became inseparable. She is and always will be my first love, my first fuck…my disastrous first fuck. And years later she’d chosen my brother, not me. But in spite of all that, we managed to remain good friends and keep our hands off each other—until Kit’s death.

Shit. It has to stop. I don’t want or need the complication. As I shave, solemn green eyes blaze back at me. Don’t fuck it up with Caroline. She’s one of your few friends. She’s your best friend. Talk to her. Reason with her. She knows we’re incompatible. I nod at my reflection, feeling more resolved about her, and wipe my face free of foam. Tossing the towel onto the floor, I head into the dressing room. There