The urge to bolt is stilled when Ryan leans in, his chin nuzzling my hair as he whispers, “He let go. You have to, too.”

I’m shaken by how right he might be, and how wrong I burn for him to be. “It’s too soon.” It’s too soon.


Mark’s hands settle on my shoulders, branding me. “I refuse to watch you hurt like this one more day. Let go, Ms. McMillan.”

He leans in, his head slowly lowering, the punishingly sensual line of his mouth nearing mine. “Think about it,” he urges softly. “To feel nothing but pleasure. To expect nothing more.”

Ryan’s thumbs stroke my waist. “To stop hurting,” he adds.

The heat of Mark’s breath teasing my cheek, the spicy, powerful scent of him overwhelms me, and for just a moment I am weak enough to want what these two men offer me. Chris doesn’t want me. He has all but kicked me out of what he’d called my home. Stay until the Rebecca thing is over. Just thinking about it slices through my very soul.

“Just let go,” Mark murmurs, his fingers settling on my cheek at the same time Ryan slides his hand to my stomach. Warmth spreads through me and then transforms, twisting and turning inside me, spiraling into the acid depths of darkness, to a place I remember too well. A place Michael took me two years before.

“No!” I shove against Mark. “No. No. No.”

“Ms.—”

“No, Mark. Let me go.” Ryan’s hands slide from my body and a bit of relief washes over me, but Mark is still touching me, somehow holding my arms. “Let go!”

They both step away from me as if burned, and I dart from between them in a rush of adrenaline. I all but run to the exit stairwell and start down the stairs. Ten floors down, I regret the walk, but I keep moving, despising what Mark and Ryan have stirred inside me. How they’ve tried to steal what hope I have left for Chris and me. How I was almost weak enough to let them convince me I could do no better than submitting to their control.

Reaching the bottom of the stairwell, on shaky legs, I draw a calming breath and exit, promising myself I will not lose it until I’m alone, when I know I am already a volcanic mess, burning alive from the inside out.

I manage well enough until I step onto the automatic door sensor and Mark appears beside me. “Sara—”

“Leave me alone, Mark.”

“I’ll take you to your car.”

“No. I don’t need a ride.”

“I was trying to help,” he says defensively as we step outside. “I can help.”

The instant I see the valet area is clear of people, I whirl on him. “What happened up there shouldn’t have happened.” Anger radiates from deep in my soul, lacing my words. “It can’t happen again. Ever.” Urgent to get away from him, I turn to my right and stop dead in my tracks to find Chris standing there.

“Chris,” I gasp, my gaze hungrily drinking in the sight of him in all his leather and denim glory. His presence is a sweet relief, filling empty spaces, allowing me to breathe again.

He glares over my shoulder at Mark. “What just happened that can’t happen again?”

“You’re ripping her to shreds, Chris,” he replies with unmistakable contempt.

Chris’s green eyes sharpen and he takes a threatening step around me and toward Mark. I jump in front of him, pressing my hands to his chest to stop his progress. Touching him is heaven. “No. Don’t.”

His lashes lower, his eyes resting on my face. “What happened, Sara?”

Mark answers before I can. “What happened is that she’s melting away to nothing over you, ass**le.”

Chris’s head lifts, the fury deep in his eyes as he fixes them on Mark again. “We both know what this is about and I suggest you don’t go there.”

“You suggest,” Mark repeats with disdain. “You’re good at suggesting what you can’t do yourself.”

Chris starts for him again and I wrap my arms around him. “No. Please.”

The two men stare at each other, Chris’s chest heaving under my hand. “Walk away, Mark,” Chris warns. “Walk away now before I don’t let you.”

“Mark, please,” I plead over my shoulder.

He hesitates. “If you need me, Sara, you know how to find me.” I hear his footsteps and Chris remains stiff, on edge, until I assume Mark is gone.

Chris’s attention slides to me for an instant, his fingers untangling my arms from around him, banding my wrist as he starts walking, all but dragging me toward the Harley parked near the door. “Chris—”

“Don’t talk, Sara. Not now. Not when I’m this pissed.” He stops at the bike and shoves a leather jacket my size at me. I stare down at it. He bought me a jacket? “Put it on, Sara.”

“I’m wearing a skirt. I can’t ride the bike.”

“Get on, or I’ll rip the damn thing to put you on this bike.”

I put the jacket on. He shoves a helmet at me. “And this.”

The instant I place it on my head, he tugs me forward and I yank my skirt up, sliding my leg over the bike. Chris shackles my wrists and pulls them around him. I begin to panic. I’ve never been on a bike. What if I fall off?

He revs the engine, rolls backward, and then in a roar of escalation we are on the highway, the cold ocean air blistering my bare legs. Chris speeds up and I bury my face against him. We travel the twisting roads, and he speeds up, faster and faster still. He won’t slow down. He won’t stop. He’s going to kill us.

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