Finishing of a chip, I am rather impressed with the food.

“If the meal’s as good as the salsa, I’m going to be a happy girl.”

“It is,” Chris assures me. “I told you. I know all the American hot spots.”

I lean against the wall, angling my body in his direction and he faces me as well, setting a hand on my knee. “Does inding the American hot spots keep you from missing the States?” I ask.

“Spending a lot of time in the States keeps me from missing the States.”

My curiosity over his desire to be in Paris continues. “How much time do you spend here versus in San Francisco?”

“It depends on my charity commitments.”

An unpleasant thought hits me. “If I get a job here and you have commitments in the States, I’ll have to stay here without you.”

He sets his beer down and settles both his hands on my knees. “I don’t want to go anywhere without you, Sara, which is why I suggested you start your own art business. Call me selish, but I’d like you to travel with me. I also don’t want to pressure you to do anything but what you want to do. If you want a job in the art industry here, or anywhere for that matter, I have no doubt your love and knowledge of art, along with your charm, will allow you to get whatever job you want.”

Hearing Chris Merit say this about me is an amazing feeling. Yes, he’s the man in my life, but he is also a brilliant, respected artist who doesn’t give away meaningless compliments.

“Thank you, Chris.”

“Thank you?” His brow furrows and he takes my hand.

“For what?”

I brush a wispy strand of blond hair from the healing cut on his forehead and repeat what I’d told him at the airport. “For believing in me, but most of all for being you.”

There is a lash of some unreadable emotion in his eyes; then his deliciously sexy mouth, which I can think of any number of ways to put to use, curves into a smile. “I like it when you say that.”

“I like that you want me with you. And I’m excited about the idea of starting my own business and, despite lying, traveling with you.”

His smile is brilliant, free of any conlicting emotions.

“You’ll get used to lying, and I have no doubt you’ll make your business a huge success.”

He’s happy. Happy that we’ll have more time together, and happy for me to have a career of my own. I wasn’t wrong to come here with him. I was more right than I’ve ever been about anything in my life.

“I ran the business idea by the attorney today,” he continues.

“You just need to call him and do the basic setup.”

Attorney. I stifen, remembering Ava’s accusations against me.

I have no idea why I need a reminder, how anyone puts this kind of thing aside for any amount of time. But I have and I did.

It’s like my mind turns certain things on and of at certain times, to keep me from going into overload. I swallow hard. “The same attorney who’s talking to the police for me?”

“No. Two diferent people, but I talked to both today.”

My heart begins to race. “Why didn’t you tell me? Did he talk to the police yet? Do I have to go back to the States? Please tell me you aren’t trying to protect me from some epic melt-down, because—”

He kisses me, his warm lips lingering on mine for several seconds, and miraculously my heartbeat begins to slow. “Easy, baby,” he murmurs. “Everything is ine. If I knew anything, I’d tell you. Stephen and the detective played phone tag all day. He called me just before I went to pick you up at the Script, and they have a phone conference in about an hour. Stephen’s going to contact us afterward.”

He removes my hand from my chest, where I’ve balled it into a ist, opens my palm, and laces his ingers with mine. “I’ll have you talk to Stephen to give you some peace of mind. He’s very good at his job, and you’ll know it when you talk to him.”

I lift our hands and press his to my cheek. “I just want this to be over.”

“I know, and I hate you’re worrying yourself over this. It’s going to blow over quickly.”

“I hope so.” An idea hits me. “Can we call Mark? Maybe he’s heard something about the police investigation?”

Chris’s lashes lower and he sighs before leaning back in his seat. “Yeah, well. Mark. There’s another story altogether. I talked to him.”

I tense at his bleak tone. “When? What did he say?”

“Today. He’s in New York. His mother’s in the hospital, and he’s by her bedside.”

My lips part at the horrible timing. “Oh, no. What’s wrong with her? Please tell me it’s not serious.”

“Breast cancer.”

Unbidden, I see a lash of Dylan’s frail, cancer-sickened body, and the vision punches me in the chest. Certain Chris must be thinking of him, too, I lace my ingers through his.

“How bad is she?”

“Stage two. They caught it early. She’s having a mastectomy tomorrow, and since it’s a Friday he’s staying the weekend and lying back home Monday to meet with the police. He’s pissed about Ava twisting things in knots and pulling him away from his family right now. He told me to tell you he’ll deal with her.”

He smiles. “And you know Mark. If he says it, he means it. So stop worrying. Between me, Mark, and Stephen, you have a lion, a tiger, and a bear on your side.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance