Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele is a college undergraduate attending college near Vancouver and shares an apartment with her roommate Kate Kavanagh. Ana agrees to interview a young corporate executive, Christian Grey, at his company headquarters in Seattle for the college newspaper, after Kate becomes ill. When Ana meets him for the interview, Christian appears to show an interest in her and, soon after the interview ends, he arrives by “accident” at the hardware store where Ana is working part-time. After some ensuing small-talk, Christian agrees to participate in a photo shoot which Ana requests to accompany her college newspaper interview.
The photo shoot later takes place and Christian continues to show an interest in Ana. He invites her to stop at a coffee shop together. After talking some more to her, Christian is sufficiently impressed by Ana that he arranges to have first editions of Tess of the d’Urbervilles sent to her home after learning of her interest in literature during their conversation. On that same day, Ana goes out on the town drinking with her friends, and calls Christian spontaneously after having too much to drink. Christian senses she is drunk, asks her where she is, and decides to go personally and ask her to leave the bar. Before passing out, Ana sees Kate flirting with Christian’s brother, Elliot. Ana wakes up in Christian’s hotel room and is relieved to find she did not have sex with Christian.
Not overly worried about this awkward start, Ana and Christian begin dating soon thereafter and Christian asks Ana to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding their relationship. Christian expresses an interest in exploring a subculture relationship with Ana involving controlled bondage. Ana appears to agree though she admits to be sexually naïve and that she is still sexually unenlightened and uninitiated. Ana and Christian soon engage in a sexual relationship along with some of the sexual experimentation which Christian had earlier indicated he wanted with her.
During the next few days, Christian begins to shower Ana with unexpected gifts and favors, such as a new car and laptop. One night, Ana accompanies Christian to a dinner at his parents’ house, meeting Christian’s father and sister. During dinner, Ana reveals she will be leaving the next day to visit her mother in Georgia. This infuriates Christian as Ana reveals she wants a relationship that is more romantic than sexual. Ana leaves and is shocked when Christian surprises her while she is drinking with her mother. The next morning, Christian takes Ana on a date in his glider. Christian leaves soon after as there is an emergency in Seattle.
Not long after returning home, Ana still sees Christian. Christian continues to express an interest in further sexual experimentation to which Ana initially consents and participates in willingly. Christian, however, continues to wish to keep Ana at a distance emotionally, which is upsetting to Ana. Ana then asks Christian to show her what he really wants. They have an ensuing sexual encounter where Christian shows an excessive desire to use his own variety of rough sex. Ana senses this as disturbing and not within the bounds of her more romantic expectations of Christian. Ana becomes resolved that Christian is wrong for her and that she believes that Christian’s experimentation borders on being deviant and excessive. At her insistence, the two part company in the hallway outside his apartment.