“We all have things we want to forget. No one knows that better than me, but you can tell me anything. You have to know that by now.”
“You’re going to hate me, Chris.”
“I can’t hate you, baby.” His thumbs stroke away my tears and his eyes soften, warm. “I love you way too much for that.”
I feel as if a clamp has just slammed down around my heart. He loves me. Chris loves me, and while it’s exactly what I’ve burned to hear, I can’t accept it now. He doesn’t know me well enough to love me. I shake my head. “No. No, don’t say that until I know you mean it.”
“I already mean it.”
“I lied to you, Chris,” I blurt out. “I didn’t want you to know something about me so I just . . . I lied. I . . . told you I hadn’t had sex in five years but that wasn’t true.” His hands go to my knees, and I feel him withdrawing already, preparing for whatever I’m about to say. I press my fingers to my temples and they tremble. “Two years ago—no—that’s not true, either. Nineteen months and four days ago, I flew back to Vegas for a charity event honoring my mother. My father was a no-show and that hurt. It hurt so damn bad. Michael was there and I was alone and vulnerable and he acted like he cared, and I—”
“Wait,” Chris says, his voice sharp, biting. He rotates me to press me against the wall, his hands on my arms. “You know exactly how many days it is since you f**ked him last?”
I flinch. “No. I mean yes. But it wasn’t like that, it was—”
“Do you still love him? Is that what this is about?”
“No—God, no! I love you, not him. I never loved Michael. He . . . he came to my room and I made the mistake of letting him in.” Memories rip through me, and I tilt my head down. I can barely breathe with another flashback of Michael touching me, his hand on my breast. “I let him in.” I force my gaze to Chris’s and whisper, “I let him in, Chris.”
Chris’s hands go to my face, his gaze searching mine. “Are you telling me he raped you?”
“I just . . . I did what he wanted.”
“Did you want him to touch you, Sara?”
“No,” I whisper, and the tears have faded. The cold seeps into my limbs, slithering down my spine and settling deep in my soul, settling into the space where it’s lived for two years.
“Did you tell him no?”
“Yes. Over and over I told him, but he didn’t listen.” My voice is calmer now, but strained. I still don’t sound like me but then, who the hell am I? I don’t know anymore. “And then, I don’t know what happened. I just . . . gave up.”
“Then he raped you.”
“I gave up, Chris. He told me to do things and I did them. I did them. I was pathetic and weak, and I gave up. I don’t know why I didn’t just tell you it had been two years. I just . . . If I don’t block it out, I unravel. We’d just met and I didn’t think you were . . . that we were . . .”
He strokes my cheek. “I know, baby.”
“You don’t know,” I say vehemently as I push to my feet.
Chris is there in an instant, his hand on the wall by my head, and he repeats what I’d said to him earlier in the evening. “I know all I need to know, Sara.”
I shake my head again. “No. You don’t see how bad it was. I woke up with that man in my bed and I have no one to blame but me. I let him put a ring back on my finger and order me back to Vegas.”
“But you didn’t go.”
“No.” My skin crawls just thinking about that morning, how Michael was touching me, acting like he owned me.
“Tell me,” he prods. “What happened?”
I drop my gaze to his chest and draw a breath, trying to calm down, but it seems to lodge in my throat, and I barely get it out.
Chris’s fingers slide under my chin. “What happened next, Sara?”
“I convinced him I was returning to California to pack. Then I waited until I landed in San Francisco, and I called him and threatened him with a restraining order.”
“He laughed and told me I’d practically begged him to f**k me, and that’s what he’d tell the cops. I told him I’d go public and he said he’d paint me as the disinherited daughter looking for revenge.”
“And you said?”
“Bring it on. I didn’t care about my reputation, but he did his.”
“And he stayed away.”
Chris frames my face with his hands and he kisses me, just lips to lips, but it’s not just a kiss. It is fire and ice, and passion and heat, and love. There is love in this kiss and I lean into him, my hands going to his wrist, and I don’t want this moment to end. His lips linger against mine, and just for these few moments there is nothing else but us, no Michael, no past, no future to worry over.
“Sara,” he whispers, stroking my hair and searching my face. “It’s a testament to how much that man f**ked with your head that you’d think I’d hate you over this.”
“I hate me for that night, Chris. I hate how weak and pathetic I was. I hate how—”
He cuts me off with a kiss, then strokes his thumb over my lip. “You are the furthest thing from weak. You were very brave and smart about how you handled what happened. And he will never touch you again. You have my word.”