“Terrified and furious” doesn’t begin to describe my state by the time Chris brings the bike to a screeching halt just off the coastline, in the midst of twining trails and massive trees with towering trunks dimly lit by moonlight and stars. My heart is in my throat, my breath heaving, and my legs frozen to the bone.

He frees my hands and I scramble off the bike, stumbling and yanking off my helmet. “Are you crazy!” I scream, tossing it away and shoving the mess of my hair out of my face. “Were you trying to kill us, or just punish me, Chris? Have you not punished me enough?”

“Who’s punishing who?” he demands, setting his helmet on the bike and advancing on me.

My hands go up and they shake with the volume of adrenaline and emotion pulsing through me. “Stay back. Just stay back. I can’t believe you just did that to me.”

He grabs my arm and turns me, pushing me against a tree, my fingers digging into the bark, his h*ps against my backside. Anger and arousal and a sense of needing him ignite all at once within me. “Did you f**k Mark, Sara?”


His hand slides up my waist, under the jacket, and over my breast. I squeeze my eyes shut against the delicious roughness of his touch I don’t want to react to. Not when he’s angry, not like this.

“Did he touch you here?” The question is gravely spoken by my ear, accusation etched in its depths, and I struggle to remember how I’d feel if I’d seen him with Ava.

“No. Chris—”

“Did you tell him no, Sara?” He yanks my skirt up, his hand framing my h*ps as he arches his pelvis against me.

“Yes,” I pant, impossibly alive with his touch, arching into him, the thick pulse of his erection nestled against my bottom. My body doesn’t care how angry and hurt I am.

He tears my panties. “Did he do that?”

“No,” I breathe out.

His hand curves around my hip, his fingers gliding into the slick heat of my sex. “Oh yeah, baby, already dripping for me. Or did he get you ready for me?”

“Enough!” I shout, driven to my limit by his crassness. I shove ineffectually against him. “Let me off this tree, Chris.”

“Not until I’m ready.” He squeezes my breast, strokes the slick, sensitive flesh between my legs, and I moan uncontrollably.

“Did you moan for him, too?”

That’s it! I elbow him hard in the side and he grunts, loosening his grip enough for me to twist around to face him, shoving against his chest for more space. “Have you not hurt me enough?” I demand, yanking my skirt down over my exposed, cold backside, and I blast him with everything I’ve felt these past six days.

“When is it enough? When, Chris? When you’ve totally ripped out my heart? I didn’t f**k Mark, but I could have. You said we were over. And damn you, you made me believe home was with you, then the first time life gets rough, you snatch that home from me and tell me I can stay until the Rebecca thing is over. Like I’m at a hotel. Do you know how that felt? Do you know how much it hurt me?”

For several beats we just stand there, staring at each other, the moonlight revealing the same anger carved in his face that I know must be mine. An anger I watch transform and soften the amber speckles in his green eyes, turning them to the gray of shadows and torment. His hands go to the tree, framing my face. “Sara.” My name gusts from his lips like an ocean wind, and he buries his face in my neck, the earthy male scent of him I’ve missed so desperately washing over me, filling my senses.

My arms wrap around his neck, my lashes lowering. His arm circles my waist, holding me close. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, his tone dark and tormented. “I’m so sorry, baby.” He cups my face, staring down at me. “I’d bleed for you, Sara. I would never intentionally hurt you. Never.”

“You shut me out, and—” My throat constricts. “I was supposed to be there with you. We were supposed to go through this together.”

“Losing Dylan”—he hesitates, seeming to battle within himself before he continues—“it brought back old demons I thought I’d dealt with.” He buries his face in my neck again, as if he can’t bear for me to see his face. “Do you know how I felt when you saw me like that?”

Anguish pours off him and into me and my hands settle on his head, cradling him against me. “I love you, Chris. I can deal with anything except you shutting me out.”

“You don’t know that.”

A heavy weight of doubt settles in my heart, and I wonder if we can make it through this. “You don’t know that,” I whisper. “You don’t trust me enough to believe in me, in us.”

He lifts his head, letting me see the shame in his eyes, exposing what he’s tried to hide. Shame I understand all too well and would never wish on Chris. “You have no reason to feel what you’re feeling right now. Not with me,” I say.

“There’s a part of me that lives in the belly of hell. You don’t belong there. I can’t take you there with me.” His forehead goes to mine. “And yet I can’t stay away. I can’t let you go.”

“Don’t,” I breathe, my hands press to his chest, the muscle flexing beneath my touch. I wish I could pull the pain from within him, heal him the way he does me. “Don’t let me go.”

“I’m not,” he vows, framing my face to stare down at me, his voice sandpaper rough as it shivers down my spine and into my soul. “I can’t, and I can only pray you don’t wish I would have.” He claims my mouth, and it is as if he is claiming me again for the first time. I offer all that I am to him.