“You will go there again. You will. I’m not about to pretend otherwise. It’s all or nothing, Chris. All the dark, hated places you go, you go with me. You have to trust me enough to love that part of you as much as I do the rest.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking.”
“It’s not a question. It’s not even close to a request. This is how it has to be.” His lashes lower; his struggle is palpable, and I soften instantly, hurting as he hurts. My fingers find his hair, stroking tenderly. “Let me love what you hate. Let me do that for you.”
He presses his cheek to mine, his whiskers a welcome rasp on my cheek. “God, woman. I can’t lose you.”
I close my eyes and whisper, “I’m not going anywhere.”
For a time, we huddle together, neither of us ready to move or to leave, almost as if we both fear that the real world will steal this newfound rein we hold on our future. And then we start to talk about Dylan, about the nightmare that has been Chris’s week, until the chill of loss collides with the chill of the night, and we can stay no longer.
Chris helps me to my feet, and I do the best I can to clean up and pull myself together. Remarkably, my heels are still on my feet, but my skirt has not weathered the reunion well. I have a rip up the side, and as I try to close my blouse, several buttons have gone astray. “I’m a mess. I can’t walk into the building like this.”
“I never let the valet park my bike. We’ll head in through the garage.” He hands me my helmet and his voice softens. “Let’s go home, baby. Our home.”
And I dare to believe that it really is. I dare to bet on us again.
• • •
Chris and I are walking toward the elevator, our fingers laced, my shoes dangling from my free hand, when Jacob steps out of the elevator and heads toward us with determined steps. “So much for my discreet entry,” I murmur, appalled at my ripped skirt and thankful the leather jacket I’m wearing is zipped.
“Something wrong?” Chris asks as Jacob joins us.
“I was about to ask you the same,” Jacob comments, giving me a once-over.
“Sara’s first trip on a motorcycle was eventful,” Chris replies.
Jacob looks like he expects more of an explanation, and when it doesn’t come he casts me a puzzled look before glancing at Chris. “Blake’s been trying to reach you.”
Chris checks his cell phone. “So he has. Any idea what it’s about?”
“Mary and Ricco were arrested trying to leave the country.”
“What?” I gasp.
“Mary and Ricco?” Chris repeats, sounding as stunned as I feel. “Are you sure?”
“Completely,” Jacob assures us, “but beyond that I know nothing. Apparently, Sara asked some questions and spooked Ricco. Blake wants to explain it all himself. He said to call him since you quote ‘won’t answer the damn phone.’ ”
Chris punches in Blake’s number. “On it,” he promises, and we step onto the elevator.
I desperately try to make out the conversation, but Chris mostly listens. It drives me insane. “And Rebecca?” Chris finally asks.
Yes! What about Rebecca!
“I see,” Chris replies to whatever Blake says. “Yes. Not a problem.”
“Well?” I demand as we enter the apartment and he ends the call.
“Let’s talk while we start a hot shower.” He laces his fingers with mine and leads me toward the bedroom. “Turns out Ricco was not only jealous of Mark and Rebecca’s relationship, but furious that Mark took advantage of Rebecca. He wanted to bring down Riptide as payment for hurting her. Mary went along for the ride for the money and because she was angry Mark didn’t give her more opportunities.”
“Is Rebecca involved?” I ask as we enter the bathroom.
Chris removes his boots and opens the shower and turns it on. “Not according to Ricco and Mary.”
“Then where is she?”
“That’s the big question. Ricco insists Mark had to have done something to make her run.”
“So, do the authorities think she’s in hiding?”
“They don’t know where she is, but if Mary and Ricco, or Mark for that matter, know, I’m confident Blake will find out.”
“There’s still a concern that Mark is involved?”
“Blake doesn’t think so. He thinks Mary and Ricco know where she is, and that they’ll break under questioning.”
“I just can’t believe Ricco knows where she is. But then, I wouldn’t have believed he was a part of this, either.”
Chris scrubs his jaw. “You and me both. I don’t have a high opinion of Ricco but I didn’t have this low of one, either. Oh, and Blake wants you at the police station tomorrow to go on file formally with what you know.”
“Right.” I grab my purse off the counter and remove my phone. “I guess I should text Mark and tell him I won’t be in.” Chris’s shift in mood is instant, his expression turning stormy, his jaw clenching, and I quickly add, “Maybe not ever again.”
He goes still. “What are you saying?”
“That I want all or nothing so I have to be willing to give the same.”
He closes the distance between us, his arms caging me against the counter, searching my face. “You’d give up Allure for me?”
“Yes.” It’s a decision I didn’t fully realize I’d made until this moment, but after tonight it’s inevitable and right. “But I need my own career and independence. Those things are important to me.”