“You are the biggest prick I’ve ever known,” I hear Ava hiss a moment before she ends the call.
“Everything okay?” I query as she returns.
“He’s trying to get half the coffee shop.”
“Oh—are you going through a divorce now? I thought you meant your ex as in already divorced.”
“We’ve been separated two years. He’s dodged signing the papers and last year he started running around with some model to make me jealous. It didn’t work. Not only is he a jerk, but he has the sexual expertise of a Gummi Bear.”
I choke on a sip of champagne. “Gummi Bear?”
She smiles. “I prefer my men far more commanding than he will ever be.”
“Well, you have a prime prospect in Mark.”
Ava downs her champagne and cuts her gaze away, and I am quite sure I’ve hit a nerve. “Yes, well, Mark is the kind of man who tries you on for size and then moves to the next one.”
“You and he—”
“Fucked our brains out? Yes, but I knew the score. He’s an all-night kind of man, not an all-your-lifetime kind.”
“So . . . were you involved in his club?”
Her lips curve, more disdainful than amused. “You know about the club.”
“Yes. I know.”
“And are you a member?”
“No. That’s not for me.”
“Not even close,” I say firmly.
“I guess that explains why Chris hasn’t been around.”
Has she seen Chris at the club? Yes, of course. She all but said that. Have they been together? I shove aside that ridiculous idea. No. Absolutely not. Chris would have told me. And the way Ava runs her mouth, I think she’d probably speak up as well.
• • •
The attendant appears with an armful of clothes, and I rush to the dressing room and quickly close the door. Ava starts talking about some lingerie store I should go to, but I don’t hear half of it. I think back to her commenting about wanting to try out Chris, or some similar remark. I’m not jealous, but the remark continues to grate my nerves for reasons I can’t put my finger on. It’s not logical; she’s raved on and on about how Chris is so into me. Something about Ava is just not sitting right with me, though.
By the time I’m trying on my final items, a pair of dark blue jeans and a bright orange shimmering tank, I’ve managed to make small talk and Ava is so complimentary about my style, I really don’t understand why I’m so edgy with her.
I open the dressing room door to discover Chris has returned. Ava is sitting with her skirt hiked up her gorgeous crossed legs, facing him. Chris’s jacket is gone, his arms crossed and his tattoo stretched over impressive biceps. He’s staring at me but I can’t look him in the face. I feel awkward about this new knowledge that they are both members of a club I will never make part of my world. A club that Chris has made part of his.
“Oh, I love that tank!” Ava exclaims, hopping to her feet to inspect me, her expression animated, wiped of the admiration for Chris I suspect had been there moments before. “You have to get that one.”
Somehow, I manage a stiff nod. “Yes. I like it.” My gaze flicks to Chris. “I’ll just change so we can go.” I back into the dressing room and shut the door. Flattening myself against it, I squeeze my eyes shut and will my stomach to calm, forcing my mind away from weaving what-ifs into the worst possible conclusions. I must walk out of here with my composure intact.
I yelp as the door behind me jerks and pushes me forward. “This room is taken!”
“Sure is.” Chris pushes into the room and shuts the door. “By us.”
“Are you crazy? This is a women’s dressing room.”
“My woman’s dressing room.” He presses me against the wall and one of his hands rests by my head, the other at my waist. Those too-perceptive eyes of his pin me in a stare, and I can’t help being affected by both him and his claim of me being his woman.
“Talk to me,” he orders, his expression implacable.
Plain and simple, I am cornered.
I shove at Chris’s chest but he is a solid wall of stubborn, sexy man. “Why do you do this?” I growl, exasperated.
“Push me to talk when I don’t want to talk.”
“Because I care.”
“Do you?” I challenge before I can stop myself.
“I asked you to move in with me, Sara. That should answer that question.” He slides a lock of hair behind my ear, and I barely suppress a shiver. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve thought he had too much power over me. Times like now, when I feel insecure, and—
“What’s wrong?” he prods firmly.
“I can’t talk about this here. Someone might hear.”
“I sent them all away.”
I gape. “Just like that? You sent them all away.”
“Yes,” he states flatly.
Trapped. I’m not getting out of here without having this conversation. I drop my gaze, curling my hands on his chest, and damn it, it’s a stellar chest, and he smells good. I wonder if Ava knows how good.
I jerk my gaze back to his and blurt, “I wish you would’ve told me Ava was a member of Mark’s club. It was awkward hearing it from her.”
“I would have if I’d known.”