My heart squeezes with the rough quality of his voice, at the vulnerability I doubt anyone else knows he’s capable of experiencing, let alone exposing. But he lets me inside the walls I once thought I’d never tear down.

“As long as you promise to trust in us, Chris.” I sound as afected as he did and I’m not sorry. I want him to understand how much he means to me.

He leans back and looks at me, and for a mere moment, his eyes are intense, probing. They soften then, warming me inside and out, amber lecks lickering to life in their depths, beams of sunlight in what has become a storm cloud of worry. “You know what I’m going to say to that, don’t you?”

I relax with him, my lips curving, my ingers teasing his smooth jaw. “That I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.”

His hand settles possessively on my lower back and molds me closer. “That’s right.” And then his talented tongue is licking into my mouth, drinking me in with one long, seductive stroke, followed by another and another. I moan as his equally talented ingers caress up my waist and over my breast to tease my nipple. A delicious ripple of pleasure travels directly to my sex and I wrap my arms around his neck, pressing closer to his hard, lean body.

He deepens the kiss, caressing my backside—a irm, deep touch—and I welcome the stir of erotic memories. The room fades away and I am back on my knees on the rug in the living room, na**d and exposed for him, as I have never been for another man. Slick heat forms between my thighs where I want Chris. Where I want him now.

Chantal’s laughter lifts in the air, louder now, and my eyes pop open. I’ve totally forgotten we aren’t alone. I try to pull away but Chris holds me to him, leaning in to nip my earlobe and whisper, “That’s how trust tastes, baby. I’ll show you how it feels tonight.” He releases me, leaving me weak-kneed.

“Good morning, Sara!” Chantal sounds sweet and innocent as she approaches.

“Morning,” I all but croak out, backing against the island counter for stability. I don’t turn to face her. What if I have lipstick smudged all over my face? I quickly inspect Chris’s, inding him free of my pale pink shade, and reach up to wipe my mouth.

Chris steps close again, his body radiating heat into me as he uses his thumb to swipe around my upper lip. The friction of his touch sets of an eruption of goose bumps and I lean harder into the counter.

“She’s right,” he says. “It is a good morning.” But there is absolutely nothing resembling Chantal’s innocence in the way he says it or in the wicked, possessive way he looks at me. But there is more in his eyes; a glint of something I can’t identify.

And then, with a quirk to his sexy lips I really want somewhere on my body right now, he turns to greet Chantal and Rey, but I ind myself suddenly taken aback by what my lust-laden mind had missed. What just happened between us wasn’t a simple seduction; it was cause and efect. My reaction to Amber’s visit triggered his need for control. And driving me insane in a minute lat and making me wait for satisfaction was his way of claiming it, and me.

By the time Chris walks us to the black sedan Rey’s driving, I’ve decided I have to put my insecurities aside and give him space. Regardless of what he means by the “right time,” it may never be the true right time for him—or us.

Chantal slides into the car and Chris wraps me in an embrace. “I’ll see you tonight.” His voice is soft velvet I feel like a caress stroking my body. “All of you.”

I trace his lips with my ingers. “As long as I see all of you.” He might take my words as another push, so I quickly twist them into a double entendre. “I like you better without clothes.” I slip from his arms and slide into the car, with his husky, satisied laugh following.

Fourteen

With Rey and Chantal on either side of me, I enter the embassy feeling pretty darn glad to be alive after Paris’s insane rush-hour traic. I might not be happy with my bodyguard situation, but the way Rey avoided a number of crashes earns him a lot of respect. In fact, if I wasn’t in so in love with Chris, I might fall madly, deeply in love with Rey, if only until the adrenaline rush of near death completely faded.

Inside the building, which looks like any administrative building in the States to me, Chantal and I slide of our hooded jackets, and we all wipe away remnants of the cold rain. Being a macho kind of guy, Rey of course isn’t wearing a jacket at all.

The passport oice turns out to be an oversized waiting room with rows and rows of steel chairs, and a line of window booths at the front. We’re directed to a line. A very, very long line.

I sigh. “Why don’t you two go get some cofee or something? I don’t want you to have to stand in line.”

Rey axes the idea instantly. “I need to stay close to you, in case you need anything.”

I press my lips tightly together to bite back an instant re-tort. He’s inadvertently hit a nerve called “anything to do with my father.” All through my childhood, a security guard ac-companied me and my mother at outings. As a child I’d simply thought it part of having a powerful father who loved us. As an adult, it became evident he was just protecting his property.

Rey reaches for my jacket, pulling me back to the present and the crowded, stufy room. “Why don’t I take this for you?”

I blink at him and release my jacket. “Thank you.” Rey isn’t my problem; my father is. And Chris isn’t the problem, either.

Unlike my father, his desire to protect me has nothing to do with a power trip or personal gain. It stems purely from a mix-ture of Ava’s attack and a lifetime touched far too intimately by the hand of death.

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