I shake off the thought and return the cologne to the cabinet. Still without hair products, I decide to focus on my makeup. Grabbing my purse, I pull out the journal to get to my makeup and set it on the counter, staring at it like it’s some exploding device. “Where are you?” I whisper softly, but I’m not sure I’m talking to her or me. I am lost in her life, and I wonder if I want to be found? Does she want to be found wherever she is? Has she escaped into a new life like I have?

With Rebecca on my mind, I focus on creating a soft, natural look with my makeup and I finish with lip gloss. With no hair products, I turn on the dryer, and wish for some straightening serum. Ten minutes later, my hair is dry and a bit wild. I’d kill for a flat iron right now.


I drop the towel and grab the robe, wrapping it around me, ready to find my clothes. I pause at the medicine cabinet and open it again, reaching for Chris’s cologne and squirting it all over me. Inhaling, I draw in the spicy scent and smile. I like smelling like Chris.

Tentatively, I pull open the door to the bathroom and Chris is nowhere to be found, but the bedroom door is open. My bare feet touch the hardwood floor and my gaze settles on the massive bed. On top are a good seven or eight bags, all from two high-end brand name stores I know are in the building next door. On the floor is a woman’s Louis Vuitton travel case which would sport a $2500 price tag.

My throat goes dry and my chest hurts. I walk toward the items and when I reach the bags I see they are packed with clothes, shoes, and even, yes, bath items and a flat iron. A very expensive flat iron that puts my bargain special to shame.

I’ve been in the shower maybe forty-five minutes and somehow he’s pulled off an entire shopping spree. Or rather, he called downstairs and the staff jumped through hoops. These are expensive items, thousands of dollars expensive.

My heart begins to thunder in my chest. These are all stores I used to shop at. Stores I enjoyed. Sure, I left the money behind, but a more humble life hasn’t been easy. I’ve found a place to store away the hunger for more, along with everything else associated with my past. I’d convinced myself I was fine, that I don’t need these things. That I didn’t care. But staring at these bags, there is an ache inside me, and I know it’s not simply about nice things. It’s about everything I left behind, about how easily that old life forgot me, even if I didn’t forget it.

“Anything you don’t like we can take back when we get back to the city.”

I turn to find Chris standing in the doorway, one shoulder propped against the doorjamb, looking sexy and all man. “I can’t take these clothes, Chris.”

He pushes off the doorjamb. “Of course you can.”

“No. No, I can’t.” I feel panic rising inside me.

He stops in front of me. “Sara-“

“I just want to run by my place and get my things.”

“I made us reservations someplace special. We have more than an hour’s drive. We need to get on the road right away.”

“Chris.” There is desperation in my voice I can’t suppress. ”I can’t take these things.”

“Sara, baby, if it’s about money, that’s not an issue. I want to spend it on you.” He slides his hands to my cheeks, framing my face. “You’ve spent five years without the nice things you grew up knowing. Let me do this for you. I want to do this for you.”

“Chris--”

“You can’t tell me you don’t miss these things.”

“I do fine with the simple life.”

“That’s not the point. You have to miss these things.”

Denial is on my lips, but he’s watching me closely, and he’s too smart to not see the truth. “Out of sight, out of mind. It’s how I cope, not like this.”

He runs a hand through my hair. He’s gentle and I fight the urge to lean into him, aware it will lesson my position. “You think I’m going to get you used to nice things and then leave.”

“I know you are, Chris.”

He presses his forehead to mine, strokes my cheek. “I told you. You’ll be the one who’ll run away, not me.”

Me? Run away from him? He keeps saying that and now more than ever, it confuses me. Mr. No White Picket Fence, and no relationship, is sounding like he’s in this to stay and I’m not. His actions and words don’t compute and there is deep-seated need inside me rising and taking shape. A relationship with Chris beyond sex is becoming far too appealing to be safe. I don’t want to fall for him. I don’t want to convince myself there is more between us than there is. “Chris--”

He kisses me, a long, deep, drugging kiss that leaves me panting. “Get dressed, baby.” He nuzzles my neck and pulls back, a surprised look on his face. “Are you wearing my cologne?” And the erotic heat in his eyes burns away my objections about these gifts.

“Yes,” I whisper. “I like smelling like you.”

The yellow flecks I adore in his green eyes burn nearly orange. “I like you smelling like me.” He kisses me again, his tongue stroking mine in a deep, seductive caress before he sets me away from him. “Get dressed before I don’t let you.” He turns and heads out the door, shutting it behind him.

I stare after him, feeling dazed, and my confusion ranks as perpetual. He really wants me to have these clothes, I realize. And more so, it feels like he wants me to have them to please me, not him. Though I’d not allowed myself to have the thought upon seeing the bags, deep down I’d feared he was trying to make me fit some acceptable mold before taking me to a public place he knows well. I’ve been there, done that, lived in the place where I had to meet standards to be seen in public.

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