Instant understanding ills his face, seeping into the depths of his probing stare. “I didn’t want to force you,” he says, his voice gravelly, tormented. This man lives in a tormented state I burn to make go away. He hesitates. “I just needed—”

“I know what you needed,” I whisper, my ingers curling on his jaw. I understand what I should have before now. “You needed to know that I love you enough to do this for you.


You needed to know that, before you let me discover whatever you think I’m going to discover in Paris.”

“Mr. Merit, we need you to board now,” a stewardess calls from the doorway.

Neither of us looks at her. We watch each other and I see the emotions playing on Chris’s face, the emotion he lets only me see. And that means everything to me. He wants me to see what he’s never shown anyone else.

“Last chance to back out,” he says softly, and there is a raw, hesitant quality to his voice, a dash of what I think is fear in his eyes. Fear that I will back out?

Yes, I think so, but there is more there, too. He is also afraid I won’t back out, afraid of what he hasn’t revealed yet. And it’s hard not to fear this right along with him, when I’ve seen some pretty dark sides to Chris. What awaits us in Paris? What is it that he thinks will rock me when I discover it?

“Mr. Merit—”

“I know,” he says sharply, without looking away from me.

“It’s time. Sara—”

“Whatever it is,” I say, “I can handle it. We can handle it.” I think of him ighting for my honor with my ex and my father.

Chris is giving me what I want by opening the closed doors of his life, his emotions, and I won’t make him sorry. I’ll ight for him and us.

I lace my ingers with his. “Let’s go to Paris.”

On the plane, my hope of some privacy is quickly dashed when we stop at the irst row and I discover an elderly woman in a bright purple shirt occupying the aisle seat next to us. She gives me a smile that is as boldly friendly as her tropical shirt, a smile I manage to return, considering I’m a load of emotional baggage, not to mention an uneasy lier.

Chris motions me forward and I sit by the window, while he its my bag into the overhead bin. I’m spellbound by this man who has become my world. My gaze traces the handsome lines of his face, the broadness of his shoulders, the lex of muscle beneath his snug T-shirt. And just thinking about how deliciously powerful he looks when he’s wearing nothing but the vivid dragon tattoo of reds, yellows, and blues exposed beneath his right sleeve, sends heat dashing through my body. I love that tattoo, and the link it holds to the past I’m now going to fully discover. I love him.

After closing the overhead compartment, Chris murmurs something I can’t hear to our elderly companion, who smiles in reply. I smile watching them interact until I catch a moment of bleakness in Chris’s eyes, reminding me of the pain he hides beneath all his sexy charm. My decision to travel to Paris with him was absolutely the right one. Somehow, some way, I’m going to make that pain go away.

As Chris settles into the seat between me and our companion, I glance at the Band-Aid on his forehead and then at the bandage covering his arm. I knew he’d cut his head last night, but not his arm.

My stomach lutters at how easily he could have died, crashing his bike on the lawn to try to save my life. “How are you?” I ask, gently covering the bandage with my hand.

“The head was more minor than I thought. The arm was a surprise, but a few stitches and it’s ine.” His hand covers mine—big and warm, and wonderful. “And the answer to your question is, I’m perfect. You’re here.”

“Chris.” His name comes out as a silky rasp of pent-up emotion. There is so much unspoken between us, so much tension created from the ight we had before I’d left for Mark’s house, and he’d followed. “I—” Laughter from the row behind us cuts of my words, reminding me of our lack of privacy.

“We need to—”

He leans in and kisses me, a soft caress of lips against lips.

“Talk. I know. And we will. When we get home, we’ll igure it all out.”

“Home?”

“Baby, I’ve told you.” He laces our ingers together. “What’s mine is yours. We have a home in Paris.”

Of course he has a home in Paris. I just hadn’t given it any thought until now. My gaze drops to where our ingers are twined and I wonder: Will his house there feel like home to me, as well?

Chris touches my chin and I look at him. “We’ll igure everything out when we get there,” he repeats.

I search his face, looking for the conidence in his vow that a man who is always in control would have, and I don’t ind what I seek. The shadows in his eyes tell a story of doubt. Chris isn’t certain we’ll igure things out—and because he’s not certain, neither am I.

But he wants us to, and so do I. His words have to be enough for now, but we both know it’s not enough for the future. Not anymore.

Friday, July 13, 2012

I called him.

I shouldn’t have called him, but I did, and just hearing him say “Rebecca” in that rich, velvety voice was nearly my undoing.

I’m supposed to leave for Australia tomorrow, and I’m not sure I can do it. I’m not sure it’s fair to my new man—not when I now know that I’m still in love with my Master.

And tonight he was diferent. He was more than a Master.

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