“Please be here,” I whisper as I near my destination. “Please be here.”
The elevator dings and the doors slide open. For a moment, I just stare into the open space of the entrance to our apartment. Our apartment. But will it still be our apartment if I don’t go with him to Paris? Just last week he’d pulled away from me, shut me out over the loss of Dylan, a child stolen by cancer, instead of letting me help him through the pain. He’d made me feel that my “home” with him had been stripped away. He’s sworn that will never happen again, that I would never feel that lost again in the future—but the future is now, and I do.
Lost without him.
“Chris,” I call out, stepping into the foyer, only to be answered by silence. Two steps inside the apartment, and I am as hollow inside as I have ever been. He isn’t here. He’s gone.
I slowly turn to face the sunken living room and loor-to-ceiling windows, where the early dawn is beginning to creep over the city. Memories lood my mind, so many memories of Chris and me in this room, in this apartment. I can smell him, almost taste him. Feel him. I need to feel him.
Flipping on a dim light, my gaze catches on something clinging to the window. A taped note, and my chest tightens as I realize it’s in the exact spot Chris had once f**ked me, and made me feel heat and passion and yes, the fear of falling. And fall I had. For him.
I walk down the steps, past the furniture, and tug the note from the window.
Our light is at nine. You need to be there an hour early to ensure you get through security, and international luggage has a strict cutof time. It’s a long light. Dress comfortably. Jacob will be downstairs to drive you at seven to allow for traic. IF you decide to come.
No “I love you.” No “please come.”
But then, there wouldn’t be. This is Chris, and while I don’t know all of his secrets, I do know him. I know this is one of his tests. I know he needs this to be my decision, not inluenced by his words. That’s why he’s not here.
Realization hits me hard: I know this. I know what he is thinking. I know him. The words are comforting. In the ways that matter, I know him.
I turn and look at the clock near the kitchen entry to my left and I swallow hard. It’s almost six now. I have an hour to decide if I’m leaving the country with Chris, and to pack.
I sink to the loor, leaning against the very window I’d leaned on that irst night he’d brought me here. I’m exhausted, and I feel just as na**d and exposed as I had then.
One hour. I have one hour to make it to the airport if I decide to go. My jeans are dirty from rolling around on the ground while a crazy woman tried to kill me, and my hair feels like a long, dark drape that’s as heavy as my thoughts. I need a shower. I need sleep.
I need to make a decision about what I’m going to do, right now.
Dressed in a soft black velvet sweat suit with a bag over my shoulder, I stare at the gate labeled “DFW/Dallas” and “Paris.”
My heart is in my throat.
I’m here. I have a bag on my shoulder. I have a boarding pass. I draw in a labored breath and I think I might be on the verge of hyperventilating, something I’ve done only twice before in my life. Once when I was told a heart attack had killed my mother, and once when I was in Rebecca’s storage unit and the lights went out. Why I’m doing it now, I don’t know. I just feel so damn out of control.
My name is called over the intercom. I have to board.
Somehow, I step forward and raise my hand to let the attendant know I’m here. I hand her my ticket without really seeing her, and my voice is raspy when I reply to questions that I don’t remember two seconds later. I need to get this weird breathing in check before I pass out; I’m deinitely hyperventilating. I hate that I’m this weak. When will I inally not be this weak?
My knees wobble as I lift my Louis Vuitton carry-on bag, which Chris bought me when we’d traveled to Napa to meet his godparents, over my shoulder.
I’ve made it to the boarding ramp. I round the corner, and my heart skips a beat. Chris is standing at the door of the plane waiting for me, and he looks deliciously male and so perfectly him in his jeans, navy T-shirt, and biker boots. With one-day stubble and his longish blond hair a wonderful inger-rumpled mess, he is rugged perfection. And everything else fades away but him, and everything in my world is right.
I start running toward him and he meets me halfway, pulling me into his warm, strong arms. His addictive rich, earthy scent invades my senses and I am alive, breathing freely, my feet on solid ground, with no doubt left in me. I belong with Chris.
I wrap my arms around him and press into his hard body.
His mouth comes down over mine and the taste of him, spicy and male, overwhelms me in all the right ways.
I am home. I’m home because I’m with him. And I kiss him as if I will never kiss him again, as if I’m dying of thirst and he is all that can quench me. And I believe he is. He has always been the answer to the question of what was missing from my life, even before I met him.
He tears his mouth from mine and I want to pull him back, to taste him just a little longer. I’m breathing hard again, but from emotion and need, and passion.
He brushes my silky, freshly washed hair from my face and stares down at me with earnest green eyes. “Tell me you’re here because you want to be, not because I forced you.”
“You aren’t leaving without me,” I promise him, and I hope he hears everything that means. I haven’t said that he isn’t leaving. I’ve said he isn’t doing it without me.