Anastasia "Ana" Steele is a 21-year-old college senior attending Washington State University inVancouver, Washington. Her best friend is Katherine "Kate" Kavanagh, who writes for the college newspaper. Due to an illness, Kate is unable to interview 27-year-old Christian Grey, a successful and wealthy Seattle entrepreneur, and asks Ana to take her place. Ana finds Christian attractive as well as intimidating. As a result, she stumbles through the interview and leaves Christian's office believing it went poorly. Ana does not expect to meet Christian again, but he appears at the hardware store where she works. While he purchases various items including cable ties, masking tape, and rope, Ana informs Christian that Kate would like some photographs to illustrate her article about him. Christian gives Ana his phone number. Later, Kate urges Ana to call Christian and arrange a photo shoot with their photographer friend, José Rodriguez.
The next day José, Kate, and Ana arrive for the photo shoot at the Heathman Hotel, where Christian is staying. Christian asks Ana out for coffee and asks if she's dating anyone, specifically José. Ana replies that she is not dating anyone. During the conversation, Ana learns that Christian is also single, but he says he is no romantic. Ana is intrigued but believes she is not attractive enough for Christian. Later, Ana receives a package from Christian containing first edition copies of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which stuns her. Later that night, Ana goes out drinking with her friends and ends up drunk dialling Christian, who informs her that he will be coming to pick her up because of her inebriated state. Ana goes outside to get some fresh air, and José attempts to kiss her, but he is stopped by Christian's arrival. Ana leaves with Christian, but not before she discovers that Kate has been flirting with Christian's brother, Elliot. Later, Ana wakes to find herself in Christian's hotel room, where he scolds her for not taking proper care of herself. Christian then reveals that he would like to have sex with her. He initially says that Ana will first have to fill out paperwork, but later goes back on this statement after making out with her in the elevator.
Ana goes on a date with Christian, on which he takes her in his helicopter, Charlie Tango, to his apartment. Once there, Christian insists that she sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her from discussing anything they do together, which Ana agrees to sign. He also mentions other paperwork, but first takes her to his playroom full of BDSM toys and gear. There, Christian informs her that the second contract will be one of dominance and submission, and there will be no romantic relationship, only a sexual one. The contract even forbids Ana from touching Christian or making eye contact with him. At this point, Christian realises that Ana is a virgin and agrees to take her virginity without making her sign the contract. The two then have sex. The following morning, Ana and Christian again have sex. His mother arrives moments after their sexual encounter and is surprised by the meeting, having previously thought Christian washomosexual, because he was never seen with a woman. Christian later takes Ana out to eat, and he reveals that he lost his virginity at age 15 to one of his mother's friends, Elena Lincoln, and that his previous dominant/submissive relationships failed due to incompatibility. Christian also reveals that in his first dominant/submissive relationship he was the submissive. Christian and Ana plan to meet again, and he takes Ana home, where she discovers several job offers and admits to Kate that she and Christian had sex.
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