Okay, so that joke went over much better the last time I told it. I push to my toes and press my lips to his. “No. I won’t, because I love you, Chris.”
His hand closes down on my neck and he kisses me, and it’s not gentle. It’s a hot, possessive, turbulent claiming that sends a swell of desire through me so intense I tremble. “What are you doing to me, woman?” he growls against my mouth. “Besides making me crazy. Do you know how badly I want to take you to Paris and away from that man? But I know right now you won’t go. You want this job and I’m trying to understand.” He sets me away from him and runs a hand through his hair, walking in a circle and facing me again. “I don’t like Ryan suddenly hiring the gallery. It’s just a little too reminiscent of the journals.”
Unbidden, a shiver runs down my spine and I hug myself. There is a lot in my life a little too reminiscent of the journals but I’m trying to fix that. “You said Mark wasn’t capable of hurting Rebecca.”
“I don’t think he could or would, but he brought her into his world where she didn’t belong, and he’s responsible for where that might have led her. I know nothing about Ryan or anyone else he might have put her in contact with. I don’t like this, Sara. I don’t like that he’s trying to pull you into his world. And he is. He absolutely f**king is.”
His torment over this is palpable, a ball of fire burning away at him. I go to him and hug him, settling my chin on his chest. “He can’t. As long as you’re in my life, sharing it with me, there’s nothing but us, Chris.”
• • •
The tension fades away as we finish breakfast and then head to the hospital, where we find Dylan and Brandy in contagious good spirits. By the time we’re on the plane back to San Francisco we are relaxed and laughing, and I am more comfortable with Chris than I have ever been.
We settle into our seats and Chris pulls out his iPad. “I have a cure for your nervous flying—a movie. We can start it here and finish it at home.”
“Home,” I repeat softly.
He cups my face. “Yes. Our home. You belong with me now.”
Mark’s words come back to me: Don’t let Chris convince you there’s an in between. If I want it all with Chris, I can’t stand on the line; there can’t be an in between. The details will work out. “Yes. I do.”
He rewards me with one of his breathtaking smiles and kisses me. “Yes. You do.”
• • •
It is nearly seven by the time we land in San Francisco and finish the drive home. The doorman greets us and offers to bring our bags up for us. “I’ll let you tonight,” Chris says, and glances at me. “Finishing our movie over pizza okay with you?”
“Perfect,” I agree eagerly.
Chris slips the doorman some cash. “How about ordering us a couple of pizzas while you’re at it?”
“You got it, Mr. Merit.”
Chris draws my hand into his and we are laughing over a scene in Bridesmaids, which had been my choice of movie, as payment for watching Halloween, when we find Jacob in our path.
“Good evening, Mr. Merit, Ms. McMillan.” Jacob greets us with a little bow of his head.
Chris wraps his arm over my shoulder. “Did Blake stop by?”
The reminder that Rebecca is missing and that it looks like foul play takes me for a hard, quick ride.
“He did,” Jacob confirms. “We beefed up security here at the building. Anything else you need, I’m available.”
My nerves are officially frazzled and when we step into the elevator, I say, “Blake was worried enough to stop by and help with security?”
Chris frames my face with his hands. “We’re just being cautious.”
“Because you think Rebecca’s dead?”
“Because I want you safe. Just be careful and tell us where you’re going for a few days, while we get more information.”
Fighting my unease, I nod. “Okay.”
The elevator opens and he motions me inside. “Let’s finish that movie. The rest will be waiting on us in the morning. Tonight, let’s just enjoy being home together.”
Home together. I like how this sounds. I give him a small smile and nod. “I’d like that.”
We step off the elevator and Chris catches my hand and embraces me. “I’m not giving you time to change your mind. I’m arranging movers for your apartment.”
I have a fleeting moment of uncertainty but shove aside the millions of things that could go wrong. I’ve spent a lifetime sinking into the quicksand of life, and Chris is the only person who has ever set me on solid ground. I wrap my arms around his neck and take a leap of faith. “All right.”
He kisses me and leads me to the living room. Our living room.
Half an hour later, Chris and I have kicked off our shoes, and we’re watching the rest of the movie on the big screen over the fireplace, trying to eat pizza through our laughter. When the movie is over and our stomachs are stuffed, Chris replays a particular scene and we laugh all over again. I wipe tears from my eyes and he pulls me down to the couch beneath him.
As I stare up at him, I feel the low burn in my belly he creates so easily. And I realize that though I’ve had a hellish weekend, I’m laughing. I’m happy. Happiness is unfamiliar to me, but I feel it now.
Because of Chris.
I walk into the gallery on Monday morning in a pale peach dress and black heels and with a smile on my face. How can I not be smiling? I woke up to a sexy, brilliant artist in my bed and now I’m going to work at my dream job. So what if said sexy, brilliant artist was worried enough about my safety to drive me to work? I choose not to dwell on that part or I’ll make myself sick with nerves.