He brushes a knuckle down my cheek and I sense the shift in his mood. I can almost feel the dark, dangerously wicked side of Chris, ready to come out to play. My belly quivers with this knowledge and something raw and female begins to awaken inside of me, burning for satisfaction. I once denied how much I understood this part of Chris, and how much I am like him, but those times are past. I am who I am, even if I don’t fully understand that person yet. But the idea that I will, and that Chris will accept nothing less of me, is downright arousing.
Chris steps back out of reach, and I’m cold where I was warm before. His ingers curl into his palms and the muscles in his arms are tight steel bands. My gaze lifts to his and his expression is hard, his jaw harder. But the storm erupting in his eyes speaks volumes.
He’s carrying the world on his shoulders, including me. Despite every efort possible to save him, he lost Dylan to cancer.
He and I had then almost lost each other. And now Rebecca is gone, after he tried to warn her to stay away from the club.
My stomach clenches with the possibility that he’s blaming himself for her death; thinking he should have done more.
I know he blames himself for his father’s death, and maybe his mother’s, too.
He needs me. Screw the police and Ava, and every piece of hell trying to shake me. I start to get of the sink and he takes another step backward.
“I’m going to walk through the house and make sure it’s in order,” he says and turns away, disappearing out of the bathroom and leaving the door open.
I stare after him, darn near twitching to follow him, but I ight the urge. And why am I ighting it? I wouldn’t have fought it before.
My teeth worry my bottom lip. I know why. A piece of the darkness I’ve been ighting during our travel is all that’s unspoken and undone between us. We’d only begun to ind ourselves when losing Dylan, such a young, sweet child, to cancer had stirred the demons of Chris’s past and nearly destroyed us. But I came here to ight for Chris, and for us.
My decision is made. I slide of the counter and go to the tub to turn of the water, then rush through the giant bedroom, catching lashes of brown leather and a balcony. I exit into a long hallway with shiny black wood loors that fork in several directions, but there’s no sign of Chris.
My gaze latches on to the two lights of modern steel-and-wood stairs, one going up and one going down. Down seems the logical place for a kitchen and living area, and I head in that direction.
The steps twist and turn, and even open to another set of stairs that lead up. I continue down. When I’m nearly at the bottom I hear Chris’s voice, a low, rough, displeased tone as he talks to someone. I anxiously follow where it leads. I all but vault the rest of the way down the stairs and into a breathtaking living room shaped like a circle, with modern leather furniture and sleek tables that match the stairs and loors.
I don’t see Chris or hear him now, and my gaze goes to the stairs that go up to what appears to be the kitchen. As I start in that direction cool air washes over me, drawing me to the slight opening I’d missed in the balcony door. He must have stepped outside while I was on my way down the stairs.
I am at the door in a few seconds, and peek out to ind Chris’s back to me. “All I can say is, f**king make this go away for Sara. She doesn’t deserve this crap. And if they need money and resources to ind Rebecca and give her a proper burial, make it happen.”
Air lodges in my throat and I know we are already in full swing, facing his demons. I have no intention of letting them get an upper hand. All the weakness and fear I’ve let control me these past few hours evaporates.
Chris is putting on airs, pretending to be ine when he is not. He needs me. He needed me when Dylan died, and he’s not shutting me out again.
Opening the door, I don’t think twice about interrupting his call. The new day is cool, not cold, but my chest is burning.
Chris turns at the sound of my steps, a dim overhead light illuminating the surprise on his face, the Eifel Tower his backdrop.
No, that’s wrong. His pain is his eternal backdrop.
“I need to go, Stephen,” Chris says. “Call me when you have news.” He ends the connection and slides his phone into his jean pocket. “I thought you were taking a bath?”
I close the distance between us and wrap my arms around him, holding him tightly. His arms close around me and his hand slides down my hair. “What is this, Sara? What’s wrong, baby? The attorney said—”
“I don’t care right now,” I say, tilting my face up to look at him. “I don’t care about the detective or Ava or anything but you. Please tell me you aren’t blaming yourself for Rebecca’s death. Ava did this. Not you. Not Mark.”
Surprise lickers in his face before the shutters come down and I can no longer read his reaction, but the way his muscles tense beneath my hands tell me I’ve hit a nerve. “I know Ava did this.”
I shake my head, sensing the guilt in him he won’t admit.
“You don’t know—you think you should have done more to get Rebecca out of the club. But you did everything you could, Chris. You did more than most would have done.”
He stares down at me, his gaze hooded. We’re adrift in a sea of silence and his reaction is impossible to read, and I’m not sure what to do next. Chris is a light switch away from dark and light, pain and pleasure, and I’m far from knowing how to navigate the bumpy waters of his darker side.
But I want to master it. I want to be what he needs, not some damn whip tearing him apart. I’m not yet, though. Should I push him to deal with what he’s feeling, refuse to let him bottle it inside, where it can later explode? Or let it go for now?