I can’t seem to move. Amber. An American name, and pretty.

And Chris is walking around na**d in front of her. I lean back on my heels to snatch the shirt and pull it on. When I try to stand I stumble, and Chris catches me, his hand closing on my arm. All I see is his bare foot and na**d calf.


“Let go,” I hiss again, and I manage to look directly at Amber, who glances from Chris to me with a gloating amusement in her eyes. I’m hurt. I’m embarrassed. I feel completely sideswiped and betrayed. There’s so much more to this woman than Chris has told me.

“Sara.” Chris has stepped close to me, his hip pressed to mine. His na**d damn hip.

“Let go.” I barely recognize the deep timbre of my own voice. “Now.”

His hand slips away and I launch myself forward. Since forward is directly toward Amber, I regret my path, but I’ll be damned if I’m backing down. I lift my chin and walk straight for her, and she smirks with her pretty pink lips and steps aside.

Of course she does. I’m leaving her with Chris. Who is naked. That fact keeps replaying in my head like a stuck record.

She has a key. He doesn’t care if she walks in when he’s naked. She’s already seen him na**d long before now.

This doesn’t compute with what I know of myself and Chris, but I won’t be able to think straight until I’m alone. I’m not a confrontational person. I’m a “leave and never look back”

person, and the possibility that I might have to leave forever twists me in knots.

I nearly run up the stairs and storm into Chris’s bedroom.

At this moment I can’t call it mine, for fear that it, like him, will be stripped away from me. A gnawing worry that he never was mine in the irst place begins to form, and I can’t seem to move forward.

Stopping in the entryway, I fall against the wall and just stand there, breathing hard, the sound of my heart drumming in my ears. I expect some sort of outburst. I expect to cry, but I don’t. Based on my earlier blackout, I’m fairly certain that not only am I on emotional overload, but that my mind and body are protecting me from complete collapse. It is almost as if I’m standing outside myself looking in, and seeing nothing but a gaping, empty hole. All I feel is a fear of what will soon be inside it.

“Sara.”

I whirl around to face Chris. My gaze sweeps him from head to toe, as I’m sure Amber’s did plenty of times. He’s in jeans that aren’t buttoned, bare feet and no shirt, and his half-dressed state is enough to make me combust. “I didn’t come here to play with you and your tattoo-artist girlfriend, Chris.”

“She’s nothing more than a friend, Sara. A friend with piss-poor timing.”

My ingers curl, my nails digging into my palms. “With beneits and a key? Is this how you deine the trust you and I just talked about? Having another woman on the side, when you said there was no one? Or maybe I didn’t ask if you had friends with beneits—so you didn’t tell me about her.”

I suck in hard-earned air and exhale painfully. “Damn you, Chris. I opened myself up to you. I gave you everything that I am, when I swore I’d never do that with anyone. I let you spank me.” Pain nearly doubles me over, but somehow I hold myself upright. “I’m going home.” I turn away, seeking escape.

Chris shackles my arm. I whirl on him again and tug against his grip, not about to let him pull me close and cloud my judgment. Judgment that’s apparently impaired where he’s concerned, or I would have seen this coming. “I want to go home, Chris.”

“Home is with me, Sara.”

“Seems that Amber thinks so, too.”

He motions to the bed with his head. “Let’s sit down and I’ll explain.”

His lack of denial carves an extra piece of my heart out. I shake my head, vehemently rejecting that idea. “No. I’ll want to believe whatever you tell me, when that’s obviously a bad idea.”

My gaze rakes his shoulder, and the brightly colored tattoo she created, and anger burns in my belly. “Do you have any idea how much I hate that you were na**d while you were down there with her? Which is crazy, since I know you’ve probably been na**d with her more than with me.”

His eyes lash, and it’s all the warning I get. “That’s it,” he snaps. “You’re going to listen to what I have to say.” A second later I’m wrapped in his embrace and his long, muscular frame melds to mine, doing exactly what I’d feared. Distracting me.

Working me over. Making me forget.

Big and strong, he easily maneuvers me to the bed, forces me to sit down, and bends over, his hands at my sides, efectively trapping me. His eyes meet mine and it doesn’t seem to matter how hurt and betrayed I feel. I can’t escape the familiar punch of awareness he creates in me.

“You are the only woman in my life,” Chris declares, and the rough emotion in his voice creates hope in me. “You know that, Sara. I know you know that. You’re reacting to the events of the past twenty-four hours, and even the past few weeks of hell we’ve gone through together.”

Maybe.

Probably.

Partially—but I don’t give him the hope he’s given me.

Selish as it might be, I need it too much myself.

“And yes,” he concedes, “I used to f**k Amber, but it’s been years since I even thought about touching her. And a lot longer than that, since it mattered when I did.”

“So at some point she was special to you.”

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