“It was remodeled in the seventies,” Eric tells us, “and the entire two hundred and fifty-six acre property was converted to a modern wine-making facility.”

I follow Chris as he slides across the seat and pause as Eric turns to me, and I see him clearly for the first time. He is in his mid-fifties with greying hair and sharp blue eyes that miss nothing.


“Thank you for such a wonderful tour, Eric.”

He inclines his head. “My pleasure.” I cringe at the choice of words, because though his well-schooled features give nothing away, this man is too sharp not to know about the pleasure in the backseat. “Enjoy the Chateau. Ms. McMillan.”

Chris has long ago shed his jacket and he tosses it onto a back seat before exiting the car. I follow him out and understand why the jacket is staying behind. It’s still a warm day despite the five o’clock sun creeping lower in the sky, a complete turnaround from the chilly city on the ocean I’ve come to love.

I slide my hand into Chris’s to allow him to help me out of the car, and I am amazed at the zip of electricity up my arm from such a simple contact. My eyes meet his and I know he feels what I do, and I’m almost certain he too is surprised by how readily we impact each other. But then two lost souls searching for an escape should connect, I reason.

With a cautious tug of my skirt, I stand up and Chris’s lips quirk in a way that tells me he is thinking of what we’d done in the back of the car. I am, too.

His hand slides to my elbow and we head through a massive wooden door that seems more movie fantasy than real life. We step inside the chilled foyer with its high ceiling and stone walls.

An employee greets us, a pretty woman in her twenties, with long, blonde hair, and a curvy petite figure shown off in a pale pink suit. Her gaze lingers on Chris with admiration. I have a thing about blondes. I always have. Well, since high school when my best friend, who was of Swedish ancestry, caught every guy’s eye with her natural long, white- blonde hair and curves in all the right places. I was ‘cute’ and she was beautiful. This guide makes me feel cute.

“I’m Allison, Mr. Merit,” she announces, offering him her hand, which he accepts. “Such an honor to have you here. I’ll be taking you on a tour of the Chateau.” She flicks me a look, but doesn’t extend her hand. “Welcome to our establishment.”

Chris slides an arm around my waist, almost as if he senses my sudden insecurity. “Thank you, Allison. This is Sara and she’s the reason I’m here today. I want her to learn why this place is special.”

His hand resting on my waist is possessive, protective. My throat thickens with his actions. I feel as if no one else exists when I am with Chris and no one has ever made me feel this way. My fear of cute verses beautiful fades away.

We begin the tour and as we stop in various tasting rooms, stucco and stone walls, and rich culture everywhere. We end the tour in a wine cellar that is chilly and I am suddenly aware of my barely there dress and lack of undergarments.

Allison leads us towards the stairs and before we follow, Chris pulls me close, blocking her view with his back. “Cold?” he asks, molding me close, and his hand glides up my ribcage, under the shaw, to caress my breast, and tease my already puckered nipple.

“Not anymore,” I confess breathlessly.

“You look beautiful tonight, Sara. I can’t stop thinking about all the things I’m going to do to you when the opportunity presents itself.”

When the opportunity presents itself, not when we get back to the room. Control. This is all about control and I’d almost taken his earlier tonight. He didn’t like it and he’s making damn sure I know I’m at his mercy. While I sense how much he needs this control, and I am aroused by this side of him, there is a deep part of me that screams in protest, that will not let go of what I’ve spent five years fighting for — my own control.

“Maybe you should think about what I am going to do to you,” I challenge.

His eyes darken, heat, and he surprises me by leaning down near my ear and whispering, “I’ve been thinking about it since the day I met you.”

I expected some power play, and maybe it is that and more, because my reaction is white hot arousal. My heart races wildly and heat rushes through my blood. When he pulls back and draws my hand into his, leading me toward the stairs, I am aware of the raw masculine power radiating off of him, of my absolute burn for this man. Yes. He has control and I cannot wait to give him more. This is a power play and he’s won.

***

We reach the top of the stairs to be greeted by an older couple who look as if they’re in their mid-sixties. The woman is dressed in a simple blue sheath and the man in black slacks and white button-down collar shirt.

“Chris! It’s so good to see you, son,” the woman says. “It’s been too long since I’ve seen my godchild.” She hugs Chris like she is a mother seeing her child for the first time in years, and without question, there are deep ties here.

The man hugs Chris next. “We don’t see you enough, boy.”

Chris pats him on the back and releases him. “I know. I’ll work on that.” He wraps his arm around my waist. “Mike and Katie Wickerman, I’d like you to meet Sara McMillan.”

“It’s lovely to meet you, Sara,” Katie beams, offering me her hand. She is pretty with sleek grey hair and a friendly smile.

“Thank you,” I say, sliding my palm against hers. It is warm and so is she. I like her. “I’m excited to be here.”

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