Rey, who is somewhere around Chris’s age, and a good two hundred pounds of hard body and dark, edgy good looks, inclines his head and greets me with “Ravi de vous rencontrer, Mademoiselle Sara.”
The pull of Chris’s stare willing me to look at him is mag-netic. Somehow, though, I blink Rey into better focus and repeat his words in my head, pleased at my understanding of a basic greeting. “Nice to meet you, too, Monsieur Rey, and thank you for escorting me today.”
Rey smiles approvingly and licks Chris a rather amused look. “I thought you said she doesn’t know French.”
Afraid I’ve encouraged him to test my French rather than sticking to his well-spoken English, I say, “Understanding a few small phrases and speaking them are two diferent things.
I speak the French language about as well as I do English after three shots of tequila.”
Both men laugh, and at the sound of Chris’s rich, sexy chuckle, I inally look at him. His eyes meet mine and the tender concern in his wraps around my heart and begins to seal the wound Amber has opened.
Chris runs a hand over his jaw, looking thoughtful. “I seem to remember sounding like I’d drank a bottle of tequila back when I learned.”
“I ind that hard to believe.”
“Why do you think I got into so many ights at school?”
Rey shakes his head. “I wish I had an excuse for the ones I got into. At least I chose a job that gives me a way to use my ag-gression in a positive way.” His eyes land on me and the humor fades from his expression. “Chris told me about Ella.”
I shoot Chris a questioning look and he explains: “Rey has some connections he’s going to use to help us ind her.”
Eager for answers, I step closer. “How? What does that mean?”
“My brother is a military gendarmerie,” Rey reveals. “That’s the French police in more rural and border areas.”
“The towns outside the city are popular escapes from the city so they’re important to cover,” Chris adds. “Aside from his brother, Rey’s going to hire an investigator to ensure no stone is unturned here in the city.”
“It would help to have a picture of Ella and any data you have on her,” Rey says. “And it would be a good idea to take the picture with us to the embassy, in case one hasn’t already been given to them.”
I’m lustered by the request, kicking myself for not being prepared. “I don’t have a picture with me.”
“We can arrange to get her United States driver’s license through my brother,” Rey offers. “But a better picture would be helpful.”
Chris ofers a quick suggestion. “Would the school have a picture of her?”
“Yes.” My voice lifts with my approval. “That’s a great idea.
If I can’t get a staf photo, someone will be able to give me a yearbook shot, for sure.”
The doorbell rings. “That must be Chantal. I’ll let her in, then call the school before they close.”
I dart forward and Chris shackles my wrist. “Let Rey get the door,” he says softly.
Rey speaks to Chris in French, then his feet hit the stairs.
Finally, we’re alone.
The burn of the recent heartache he caused me explodes into my words. “Amber can only get to me because you haven’t told me whatever it is you need to tell me.”
He gives me a heavy-lidded stare. “What did she say to you?”
“Nothing I didn’t know. And what she said isn’t the point, Chris. Or maybe it is the point. She’s talking, and you aren’t.”
“What did Amber say to you, Sara?” This time there is steel in his voice.
I grimace with defeat. He’s in stubborn alpha-male mode, where “no” isn’t an option. “She said you’re good at shutting people out, and she doesn’t plan to let you do that to her. And she’s right: you aregood at shutting people out. No one knows that like I do.”
“It’s the past. I know.” I touch his cheek. “But Chris, if there is anything I fear, it’s you judging yourself through my eyes, like you did after I saw you in Mark’s club, and judging wrongly.”
My breath hitches. “I can’t go through that again. I can’t.”
His gaze lifts to the ceiling, and he seems to struggle before he ixes me in a burning stare, and not the kind I crave on a cold winter’s night. He’s angry again. “This is what I get for letting her in this morning. I should have known better.”
Exasperated, I shake my head. “If you don’t want me around her, and you knew she was going to be present in our lives here, why are we in Paris, Chris?”
“If we didn’t have to be here, we wouldn’t be. This is where this has to happen.”
In his haunted eyes I see the demons of his past, and the damage they’ve clawed into his soul. “Chris—” I start, but stop abruptly as I hear Chantal’s and Rey’s voices downstairs.
Chris reacts to our limited time, cupping my head and pulling my forehead to his. My hand settles on the solid wall of his chest, and his heartbeat is a steady, soothing thrum beneath my palm, the way he is to my soul. The way I want to soothe his.
His ingers gently tease the hair by my ear. “There is a right place and a right time. You’ll understand what I mean—soon, I promise. I’m asking you to trust me on this.”