He pulls me close and buries his face in my neck and just holds me for long seconds, still standing, holding my weight and his. My gaze goes to the window and I am aware of the blue sea and gorgeous city beneath us. Of the feeling of sanctuary I’ve found here and nowhere else, if only for a short while.

Slowly, Chris slides me to the ground and offers me a paper towel which I demurely accept, feeling a wave of shyness. Yes indeed, I’m a contradiction these days. Chris fixes his pants and then grabs the robe and pulls it around me.

“I’d like to take you somewhere and show you something I think you’ll like,” he says. “Overnight, if you can?”

Overnight with Chris? The idea thrills me more than it should and I remind myself this is a hot fling. Enjoy it while I can. Don’t get attached. Don’t fall for him. “Where?” I ask.

“Is that a yes?”

I nod. “Yes.”


“Then it’s a surprise but you’ll like it, I promise.” He glances at a clock. “But if we’re going to do everything I want to do, we have to get going.”

“I have to go home and shower and get clothes. I don’t even have a shirt to wear out of here.”

“You can use my shower, and you leave clothes to me.”

“Chris-”

He picks me up and I yelp. “What are you doing?”

“Taking you to the shower. Me Tarzan. You Jane. Do as I say.”

I laugh at his silliness, and think that he’s the contradiction. All rough, tough manly man and a gentle bear at the same time.

We pass the coffee table. “Wait! I need my purse.”

He backs up and leans down enough for me to grab it. I snatch it. “My skirt-“

“I’ll get you clothes,” he says, charging up the steps from the living room to the foyer by the elevator and down another hallway I hadn’t even noticed, and then up a winding set of stairs that ends in his bedroom, which is spectacular. A massive black bed on a pedestal with an incredible view I only get to see in passing before I am deposited on the white marble floor of a bathroom the size of my bedroom.

“I’m leaving you here and shutting you inside because if I join you, we won’t leave anytime soon.”

I open my mouth to object but it’s too late. He kisses me quick and hard on the mouth and then steps out of the room and shuts the door behind him. I am alone in Chris Merit’s bathroom and all I can do is smile.

Chapter Twenty-One

I use Chris’s soap and shampoo; it has a sandalwood musky smell that reminds me of him, and makes me wish he’s in the shower with me. Images of the things we’ve done together, the conversations we’ve shared, pour through me as the hot water pours over me. Chris confuses me on every possible level. Or maybe I’m confused anyway. Until this past week, I’d convinced myself I had life figured out. Did I let my father beat me by leaving everything behind? Part of me says no. I escaped with my own identity. I stood up for what I believed in. My love of art had been like my mother’s, a frivolous hobby, not a career. My role would have been like my mother’s, that of servitude to my father, and in my case, also Michael.

Another part of me, well, it grimly says that I ran rather than stood up to my father and demanded he accept who and what I am, not who he wanted me to be. I’d always hoped my mother would stand up for herself, and what had I done? I’d simply left. I’d run. Chris is right. No wonder I wanted to hit the man. He’d made me see the bitter, hard truth of my actions. He’d made me wish I’d been braver, made me see I’d lost five years of my life I can never get back. Still, I don’t want to see my father. I don’t want his damn money. I can’t be certain I’d have stayed in my current state of mind, but I would have fought for my dream, rather than hiding from everything. Wasn’t that the entire reason I left? To be me? I inhale and let it out. Me. I don’t know myself.

My stomach is officially in knots and I turn off the water. I did run. I can’t deny it. Damn it to Hell, I’m furious with myself. But I can create my own life and success now that I’ve decided to try. Resolve forms deep in my soul, where I’ve not felt anything for a long while…until Chris. I am going to embrace what is before me, including this weekend with Chris. Chris is my escape. This new job is my hope.

Pushing open the glass doors, I wrap myself in a fluffy white towel I’d found in a cabinet and wish for my clothes. Chris might dig up a shirt for me, but I’m sure he knows I need more for the weekend. We’ll have to make time to stop by my place, and the idea bothers me. My place. My little hole in the wall the size of Chris’s bedroom and bathroom. It shouldn’t matter but somehow it does.

Stepping to the vanity mirror, I find the hair dryer easily since it’s sitting on the shiny white tiled counter. Hair products are crucial though and I pull open the spacious medicine chest to hunt some down. Chris’s electric shaver, and various toiletries, including cologne and lotion are inside. No hair products. He has such great hair, and it’s as long as his chin, so it must require gel or some kind or product.

I start to close the cabinet, and hesitate, picking up the cologne, and spraying it in the air, drawing in the familiar scent of Chris, warm and wonderful, and strong in ways I’ve never experienced before. If you think the guy trying to protect you instead of walk all over you is the one trying to run your life, you’re just as f**ked up as I am. Ah yes, I think. Exactly. I am. So is he. We are destruction waiting to happen to each other; he’s a drug, as Rebecca had called the man in the journal, I’m already addicted to.

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