“Remember your own words,” he continues. “I’m not Mark and you’re not Rebecca. You know me. You know I don’t share. You’re mine, Sara. Only mine. ”

His possessive words radiate through me and warm the chill of my memories. I wrap my arms around his neck, blocking out everything but the warmth in his eyes and the feel of him inside me. “I like being yours.”

Pure male satisfaction lashes in his eyes. “Then you’d better accept that I’m going to protect you, whether you like it or not.

Either Rey is going to take you to the embassy or I am.”

I give him a playful frown. “You’re being overwhelming again.”

He nips my bottom lip and licks it. “I’ll make it up to you.”

And he does. Oh, how he does.

Chris pulls on light blue jeans and a white T-shirt with the museum logo on it and heads downstairs to brew cofee. I choose a black skirt, a V-neck black silk blouse, and knee-high black boots and brush my freshly washed long hair into a silky mass around my shoulders. Satisied I look passport-worthy, I head for the kitchen, jitters overtaking me with the thought of leaving for the embassy. It’s a silly energy drain when I’m simply replacing my passport, but it’s hard to completely ignore Chris’s paranoia. I don’t see how anyone here could connect me to Ella. Could they?

The instant I step into the living room, my nostrils lare with the rich aroma of cofee beans, and the idea of sharing a cup with Chris brings a smile to my lips. Hurrying up the stairs, I’m still smiling when I see Amber, with her back to me, decked out in an orange shirt, black leather pants, and high heels, and pouring herself cofee. My smile disappears, stripped away with the shock of her presence like a sticky piece of tape ripped from my mouth.

She turns and smiles at me. “Morning, Sara.” Her gaze sweeps up and down my body, sending discomfort through me before she meets my eyes. “You look nice today.”

“Thank you.” I wonder if she really means to compliment me or frame the obvious. Amber has this Barbie-gone-biker kind of beauty that’s striking in every way, and I’m . . . just me.

It’s hard to believe we’d draw the same man’s attention. I’m suddenly ready to be rescued from this conversation. “Where’s Chris?”

“Letting Rey in.”

I barely contain a sigh of relief at what is sure to be his short absence. In the meantime, I do . . . what? I glance toward the cofeepot, remembering how she’d touched me the last time we were here. I’m not so sure I want cofee, after all.

Amber watches me eye the pot and lifts her cup. “Would you like some cofee?”

As if I’m the guest, not her. It might be innocent, but I don’t think it is. I don’t think anything Amber does is innocent.

I force myself to cross to the cofeepot. “What brings you here so early?” But I know why she’s here. Chris wouldn’t take her calls last night, an action I regret now. I suddenly wish he’d just talked to her.

“I usually stop by a few mornings a week when Chris is in town,” she replies, implying she plans to continue the pattern.

I freeze with my back to her and the cofeepot in mid-pour.

With extreme efort, I beat down how iercely territorial I feel of my new home and my man, reminding myself why Chris keeps her in his life. She has no family, and the wounds on her arms, combined with the haunted look in her eyes I’d seen last night, indicate her story is more nightmare than fairy tale.

Despite the discomfort Amber stirs inside me, I love Chris all the more for being the kind of person who won’t shut her out.

And if he won’t, I won’t.

Finishing the task of illing my cup, a new attitude in place, I return the pot to the burner and rotate around to face Amber.

“Cream, right?” she asks, and ofers me the bottle on the island beside her.

I feel ridiculously unsettled by her being attentive enough to remember how I take my cofee. Trying to shake it of, I reach out to accept the creamer. “Thank you.”

Her hand closes over mine, a scalding vise that makes my heart race. Her eyes are lat, almost hard, and she lowers her voice to a near whisper. “He’s good at shutting people and things out. Too good.” She cuts her eyes sharply away, like she had back at the Script, then licks them back to mine. “I won’t be one of those things.”

I’m shaken both by how she’s called herself a thing, not a person—and by the truth she’s stated. Chris is good at shutting people out.

Footsteps sound behind us and she jerks her hand away from mine. “It could be you, just as easily as it could be me, that he suddenly blocks out. Remember that.”

Stunned, my lips part and I don’t move away.

Amber grabs her purse and rushes toward the stairs. “Of to work,” she announces as she passes Chris and the man behind him, whom I assume to be Rey, on the stairs.

“Amber,” I hear Chris say, halting her with the short command. I take the short delay to compose myself, turning away from the stairs. The creamer and my cup of cofee are still in my hands. I set them on the counter and steady myself by leaning against it.

“Don’t forget what I told you,” Chris reminds Amber, and I don’t even care what he’s talking about. Amber has sliced open the memory of Chris leaving me and all but kicking me out of his apartment, and it’s still too fresh not to bleed.

Footsteps sound behind me and I hear Chris and the other man speaking in French. Drawing a deep breath, I turn to face them, avoiding Chris’s stare for fear he’ll read how shaken I am. But I feel him. Every time he enters a room, I feel Chris in every pore of my body, in every inch of my existence.

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