Few things capture my interest, granting interviews is not one of them. Inane questions from ill informed individuals, more interested in my private life than the innovative accomplishments of my company. However, on this rare occasion I found myself granting an interview to Ann Marie Walker
I couldn’t rent an Audi at Sea-Tac.
I shouldn’t have been surprised really. The odds that an airport car rental company would have luxury sports cars available had to be pretty slim. Instead I settled for a Prius and while it is a far cry from an R8, it handles well as I pull onto the rain soaked highway for the drive to Grey House, the global headquarters of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. The company’s CEO, a self-made billionaire at only 27 years of age, has granted me an interview and I have spent the past month soliciting questions from my blog readers. Normally I wouldn’t fly across the country to interview a subject, but to my knowledge Christian Grey has only given interviews on two other occasions: to the student newspaper at Washington State and to financial journalist BG Willis. Besides, if he’s half as handsome as he looks in photos, the four hour flight will have been well worth it.
It’s still raining when I park the car, which seems only fitting given Seattle’s reputation, and I struggle to keep dry under the flimsy umbrella I purchased at the airport gift shop. As I wait to cross the street I notice an enormous puddle has formed at the intersection. I’m so busy contemplating how best to maneuver around it that I don’t see the approaching van until it’s too late to avoid being drenched. Squeezing my eyes closed, I brace myself for the inevitable tidal wave but it never arrives. When I open my eyes I am disoriented, but also dry…and standing a good five feet from the curb. What the?
“Are you lost?” someone asks as if reading my confused mind.
I don’t answer at first, still trying to reconcile what has happened. “Maybe,” I finally say, turning to face the man standing next to me. He is impossibly handsome with the most perfect, albeit ghostly pale, skin I’ve ever seen. His hair is the same dark copper as the man I’m about to interview, but his eyes are what truly stand out as they are the most unusual shade of gold. I catch myself staring and quickly shift my gaze to the spot near the curb where I could have sworn I’d been standing just a minute ago.
“Was I…I mean, did I…” I stop talking, unsure how to ask such a ridiculous question. You are losing it, Walker.
The stranger eyes me quizzically.
“Never mind,” I say, opting to ask for directions instead. I switch the umbrella to my other hand and fish a piece of paper from my jacket pocket. “Do you know where this building is by any chance?” I ask, showing him the street address for GEH’s corporate headquarters.
He glances at the paper and I see a flicker of recognition in his eyes. “Grey House? Yes, my sister works there.” He places a hand on my shoulder and turns me so I’m facing south. “Two more blocks and you’ll see it on the left. Big glass and steel building, you can’t miss it.”
I steal a peek at my watch and am relieved to see I still have twenty minutes until my meeting with Mr. Grey. “Great…” I begin, but when I turn around he’s gone. “Thanks,” I finish saying to no one in particular.
My mysterious tour guide was correct; there is certainly no missing Grey House. Twenty stories high, the modern office building looks as though it has been plucked from the pages of an architectural magazine. At the lobby reception desk, a lovely blonde woman dressed in black asks for my identification. She cross references it with the information on her computer screen before handing it back to me along with a clip-on badge marked “Visitor”.
“Take the elevators to the twentieth floor,” she instructs, pointing a well manicured hand to a bank of elevators flanked by two imposing security guards.
When I reach my destination, I am confronted by yet another perfectly coiffed blonde and I begin to wish I’d at least had time to get a few highlights in my brown hair. “Welcome, Ms. Walker,” she says the minute I step out of the elevator. Her personal greeting surprises me until I recall the first receptionist typing my information into the lobby computer. “Mr. Grey, will be with you momentarily.” She offers to take my coat and umbrella and instructs me to have a seat on one of the white leather couches.
As I sink into the oversized sofa I instantly regret my choice of outfit. Originally I’d planned on wearing my standard black dress pants from Ann Taylor, but changed my mind at the last second in favor of a fitted skirt. The cut is barely above the knee, but rather ill designed for sitting on such a deep couch. When the receptionist is distracted, I struggle rather awkwardly to my feet and walk over to the wall of windows. For a moment I am lost in the breathtaking views of Seattle’s skyline until the sound of a door opening breaks the spell. Another blonde, this one worthy of a fashion show runway, emerges from Mr. Grey’s office. Her hair cascades in soft, wave-like curls down her back and she has the same pale skin and goldenrod eyes as the mystery man on the street. Ah, probably the sister, I think to myself.
The receptionist jumps to attention. “Would you like me to call for your car, Ms. Hale?”
“No, I’m going to stop by my office first,” she replies with a cool smile before heading off in the direction of the elevators.
There is a soft buzzing sound and I watch as the receptionist raises her hand to the small earpiece hidden discreetly behind her blonde hair. “Mr. Grey will see you now,” she informs me, waving her hand in the direction of the oversized wood door.
I take a deep breath and push the door open, having no idea what to expect on the other side.
I open the door and am surprised to find Christian Grey, billionaire industrialist, gracefully crossing the expanse of his office to greet me. As he approaches I notice him expeditiously assess my hem line before extending his hand.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Walker,” he says, flashing a dazzling grin. “I’m Christian Grey.”
Holy Smokes, the pictures don’t even begin to do him justice. I expected him to be attractive, but the man standing before me is downright gorgeous. He’s taller than I imagined and when he smiles, looks even younger than his twenty seven years. He’s dressed sharply in a dark suit, white shirt, and silver gray tie that make him appear every bit the powerful CEO.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Grey.” I take his hand and feel a flutter of butterflies in the pit of my stomach. “Thank you for agreeing to speak with me.”
“My pleasure, Ms. Walker.” His tone seems sincere, but I suspect my persistence paid off only at the urging of his PR department to indulge the press with more than the occasional interview.
“Would you like to sit?” he asks, waving his hand in the direction of a chair functionally positioned in front of his desk. To my relief, it’s firmer than the couch in the reception area and I am able to perch on the edge without issue. Mr. Grey waits for me to take my seat before strolling around his desk. It is modern, made of dark wood and bigger than my dining room table. He lowers himself into his leather chair, beyond which nearly all of Seattle is visible.
“That’s quite an impressive view,” I note, not merely referring to the one outside.
His lips twitch with a trace of amusement. “Yes, it is,” he replies without bothering to look out the floor to ceiling windows behind him.
As I take in the rest of my surroundings, it becomes quite clear that Christian Grey is a firm believer in monochromatic decor. With the exception of the desk and a small coffee table, nearly everything else in the room is white – ceilings, carpet, walls, couches. There are a series of small paintings arranged on the far wall, but everything else is as sterile as a hospital.
“Not a fan of color?” I ask.
He cocks his head to one side. “On the contrary, I simply prefer an uncluttered and clean work environment. Functional.” He pauses, his bright gray eyes locking on mine, and I completely lose my train of thought. A brief moment of silence passes. “Ready when you are, Ms. Walker.”
“Um…yes…” I stutter, snapping out of my trance. I dig through my purse and out of the corner of my eye notice him raise an eyebrow in anticipation. “Do you mind if I use this, Mr. Grey?” I ask, holding up my digital recorder. His expression seems to be a mixture of surprise and relief. What was he expecting, a mini-disc recorder?
“Not at all,” he replies, resting his elbow on the arm of the chair and stroking his lip with his index finger. My eyes linger on his mouth before I catch myself and quickly scan my notes. I smile briefly when I realize how appropriate the first question is given the fact that I am suddenly acting like a star struck teen.
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Ann Marie Walker is author of the novel “Hollywood Ending” and currently represented by Folio Literary Management’s Senior Vice President, Erin C. Niumata.