“Chris,” I whisper, my hand going to his wrist. “Chris, there’s more. Tonight—”
“Later. Tell me later. Right now, you stay here. I’ll come back and get you.”
He starts to move away and panic overcomes me. I grab his arm. “No. Stop. What are you doing?”
“I’m going to deal with Michael myself.”
“No!” I say quickly. “That’s what I have to tell you. I think he knows about the club, and he threatened to ruin you with the charity. He’ll do it. He’s that much of a monster.”
Chris cups my cheek. “If you think that prick is going to destroy me, you don’t know me as well as you will one day.” He leans in and kisses me again hard on the mouth. “He will not touch you again.” He’s gone before I can stop him.
I touch my lips where the taste of him still lingers, this man who swept into my life and awakened me again. What have I done by telling him about Michael now? I shove through the door and head for the exit. I have to stop Chris from doing something he’ll regret.
I make it halfway to the exit of the bathroom when Gina rushes inside, blocking my path. “Oh, no.” She holds up her hand. “You aren’t going out there looking like you do. The press will butcher you and Chris. They’re vicious.”
“Move, Gina,” I order. I have never wanted to physically hurt another person before, but I do now. I want her out of the way. “I have to stop Chris from doing something he’ll regret.”
She fixes me with a determined stare. “You’ll thank me for this later. Chris called security to have whoever gave you trouble taken to their booth in the back of the museum. We’ll fix your makeup and then you can meet him there.”
“Look in the mirror, Sara.” Her command borders on a bark. “Think about the kind of attention you will get for Chris and you.”
I draw several heavy breaths and do as she says. And she’s right. My mascara is streaked down my cheeks, impossible to miss. I am a front-page nightmare.
She holds up a bag. “My miracle bag. Let me do my magic.”
My fingers trail the puffy skin under my eyes. “No amount of makeup is going to fix this.”
“I have a miracle gel for that in my bag,” she assures me. “Let’s get to work.”
I hesitate. I don’t have time for this. I don’t want to do it with her. I don’t even want her involved.
“Let me help. You have time.” She moves to the sink and sets her bag down. “It’ll take security several minutes to find whoever Chris wants found and escort him to security with any level of discretion.”
Slowly, my shoulders slump and I join Gina at the sink. “Please hurry.”
“Speedy is my middle name when it comes to outsmarting bad press.” She removes a towelette from her supplies and gently starts wiping my cheeks. “And don’t worry about Chris. He never does anything he isn’t sure about.”
My gut clenches at the hint of intimacy between them. “You seem to know him very well.”
Gina applies the cooling gel to my eyes. “Don’t start imagining something that isn’t there. We never dated, and we’d be a horrible couple. I adore the spotlight and that man acts like it’s poison.” She swallows hard, her delicate neck bobbing with the action. “I . . . my sister died of cancer.”
Taken aback, I barely manage to spare her the “I’m sorry” that I know will make her cringe. “How old was she?”
“Sixteen.” She starts to apply foundation to my face with a roller brush. “She had all the medical care available to her but she worried that others didn’t.” Her voice cracks. “She volunteered until she was too sick to keep it up. That’s how we met Chris.”
Her words wreak havoc on my calm. Chris will lose everything he’s created with the charity if Michael paints him as some kind of freak. I can’t let that happen. No matter what that means, or what I have to do.
“I have to go,” I say, and dart around Gina before she can stop me.
I ignore her shout and I’m past the other woman guarding the door before she even knows I’m gone. I dart into the main events room and head toward the back of the museum, where Gina said I’d find security. “I’m supposed to meet someone at security,” I tell the first waiter I find. “Where is it?”
He points to an archway and a set of steps, and I rush toward them and take the stairs too quickly for my high heels, righting myself from a near trip. Finally, I see the sign indicating the security offices, and any hope I had of catching Chris before he talks to Michael evaporates when I hear his voice.
“I’ll take that number now,” I hear Chris say.
“Dream on, ass**le,” Michael responds. “You aren’t getting shit from me.”
“Have it your way. I can get the number myself.”
Michael snorts. “Good luck with that. Even Sara doesn’t have it.”
I hear the phone go to speakerphone and a number being dialed before Chris is speaking again. “Yeah, Blake. I need a personal cell number for a Thomas McMillan, and yes, I’m talking about the CEO of the cable company. He’s Sara’s father.”
He’s calling my father? Why is he calling my father? I reach for the door to stop him, then I hesitate. I know how vicious Michael is. He’ll say horrible things to me in front of Chris, and Chris will flatten him regardless of later consequences. I bite my lip and lean against the wall, squeezing my eyes shut and waiting for what will happen next.