His eyes dance with mischief and his lips curve. “I love . . .” He pauses as I had. “Being with you.”

My eyes go wide. Have we just confessed our love? Surely not. “You love . . . being with me?”

“Very much,” he assures me, and slides his fingers between mine. “And Saturday night I’m going to love peeling off the dress you’re about to buy. I’m imagining it will get me through the torture of my monkey suit.”

I laugh. “I can’t wait to see you in your monkey suit.”

My mood is light and spirits high as we walk into the Chanel store that I adore but have avoided since becoming a struggling teacher. Chris releases my hand and I start wandering the store. A long, slim-cut, emerald dress catches my eye and I walk toward it; the color reminds me of Chris’s eyes when he’s in that dark, dangerous place I’ve come to crave.

I stop in front of it, admiring the silk material, and I can’t help reaching for the price tag. Chris’s hand slides around mine. “Don’t even think of looking at that.” I tilt my head back to look at him over my shoulder. “Try it on,” he orders.

“Yes, Master.”

He laughs. “Like you’d ever allow that.” I gape at the implication that he would, and he smiles wickedly, then lowers his voice. “I don’t want to be your Master, Sara. I just want you to do what I say.”

I snort and pick up the dress. “Good luck.” He glances at it and back at me, and I glower. “I like it. I’m not trying it on because you told me to.”

“Of course.”

Strolling away, I grab several more dresses before heading to the dressing room, only to find Ava standing at a rack near the entry, looking gorgeous in a pale blue dress with a belted waist.

“Sara!” she exclaims and hugs me. “What a small world.” She gives Chris a nod. “I see you know how to take good care of a woman.”

My face heats and Chris’s hand slides to my back, silently soothing the burn of the comment. “Hello, Ava,” he offers in a taut greeting.

Ava runs her hand down the green dress. “Oh, this one is going to look gorgeous on you. I have some time. I can’t wait to see you in it.”

Chris turns to me. “Why don’t I leave you to shop and I’ll run to the bank. I’ll leave a credit on the account. Buy whatever you want. We have a good hour before we have to leave for our appointment. The restaurant we’re meeting at is a few blocks away.”

I can feel Ava watching us and it’s uncomfortable. “I’ll be ready when you get back.”

He leans in and whispers in my ear. “I’m always ready.”

I bite my lip to keep from laughing. “Yes. I know.”

His hand glides down my hair, and while his expression is unreadable as he says good-bye to Ava, I have the distinct impression he is not pleased she is here.

A few minutes later I walk out of a room into the open area where Ava is lounging with a glass of champagne. “It’s spectacular on you,” Ava exclaims of the emerald dress.

“I like it,” I agree, moving to a three-way mirror. “I usually don’t like something as much on me as I do on the hanger, but I do this one.”

“Well then, this is reason to celebrate.” She calls the attendant. “A glass for Sara. We are celebrating a perfect dress.” She pats the blue velvet bench she is sitting on. “Join me. I’m dying to hear about you and Chris.”

There’s simply no escaping her curiosity. I sigh inwardly and claim the spot she’s indicated. “We’re going to a gala in L.A. and I needed a dress.”

“Interesting,” she comments, her lips pursing in a smirk that on her is still beautiful. On me it would just be twisted.

“What does that mean?”

“In all the years that man has been around my coffee shop, not once have I seen him with a woman. I figured he had some hottie back in Paris.”

I instantly think of the tattoo artist, and she might as well have punched me in the chest.

“Oh honey,” Ava purrs, grabbing my leg. “I upset you. I didn’t mean I think he has another woman. I was just telling you what I assumed because a man like that has to have women lined up.”

Lined up? Lots of women?

“Sara!” Ava exclaims. “He doesn’t have lots of women. You have it bad for Chris, don’t you?”

“I . . .” I nod. “Yes. I guess I do.”

She smiles. “He’s a catch, honey. Be happy, not paranoid. The man looks at you like you’re the biggest treasure on the island.”

“I thought you said he looks at me like he wants to gobble me up?” I ask, reminding her of the day Chris and I had both been in her coffee shop.

“That, too. That, too.” Her cell rings and she grimaces. “My ex. Grrrr. I can’t stand the man but I have to take it or he’ll call twenty times.” She stands up and walks to the other side of the lounge.

The attendant appears with a glass of champagne. “This is for you,” she states, handing me a note.

I frown and open it to find Chris’s writing. I put five thousand on my store account. Spend it or I will.

“Should I bring you some items to try on?” the woman asks, and the eagerness of her tone tells me she works on commission. I’m also certain Chris is quite serious and that we have to have a chat about money.

“Yes, please,” I concede for now, and I give her a laundry list, distracted from the money issue by the Paris issue, and what, or rather who, might await Chris when he returns. He asked you to go with him, I remind myself.

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance
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