“I said wait, Sara, and I damn well meant wait. You have to listen.”

“Chris, I—”

“Don’t push me, baby,” he warns, water tracking the angry lines of his face. “You won’t like the results. And if you think you’ve heard that one before, think again. This is all new territory.”

I’m shaking inside and out, and not from the chill of my wet skin. “Don’t threaten me.”

“Then don’t f**king give me a reason to be this damn pissed. Nothing is worth risking your safety.”

“You are!”

His lips thin. “I’m not giving you the chance to repeat today. This ends now. We’re going back to the States.”

“What?” The one word is all I can manage, all that can cut through the clawing pain of my heart being ripped from my chest.

“Stephen said a week in the States, and we can end the Ava iasco.”

We. He’s saying “we,” and for a moment I cling to the meaning, but only a moment. If I go back now, he’ll shut me out. He knows it and so do I. “Did Stephen say I have to come back?”

“He said it’s a good idea. He’ll work out the passport situation.”

He’s shutting me out before I can hurt him. “Did he say I have to return?” I ask again, unable to control the tremble in my voice.

He presses his hand to the wall, his body lifting away from mine. His silence is damning, and my mind slides down a water-fall into the icy waters of nevermore. I’m sinking, and I have to escape before I drown. I try to duck under Chris’s arm.

His leg shackles mine, holding me in place. “I’m trying to protect you.”

“Don’t even go there, Chris. I’m sick of that excuse. If you want out, then say you want out. Let me by.”

He’s a solid, unmovable wall, his expression infuriatingly indiscernible. “That man back there was hired to follow you in hopes of inding Ella.”

My lips part in surprise. “What? Why? By who?”

“Ella has found her way onto the wrong radar screen.”

“Whose radar?”

“Garner Neuville, a very rich, very powerful man who’s nothing but trouble. The kind I want you nowhere near.”

“Why would he be looking for Ella?”

“Exactly. Whatever she’s into is bigger than marrying some small-time American doctor. I want you out of Paris.”

Icy ingers crawl up my spine. I’m no better of than the night I sat on Ella’s bed, willing her home, and wishing for Chris. They’re both a million miles from my reach and I haven’t a clue how to ind them.

“But sending me back to the States isn’t about Ella, is it? It’s about your fear that I’m going to go of and die on you.” He jerks away from me and it’s as if a door slams shut, and I almost linch with the impact.

But I keep going, I keep pushing. I’m worried about Ella.

I’m angry at Chris. I’m hurt. “Well, you know what I fear? This is my fear. This moment when, once again, you shut me out 195

and I’m alone. If you were going to leave me alone, you should have walked away before now, when I still knew how to breathe without you.”

We stare at each other and all he gives me is more of his damn silence. I’ve said the things we don’t say, and he doesn’t even react.

I begin to shiver. I can’t stop shivering.

Chris shrugs out of his coat and steps closer, our gazes collide, and the regret I see in his eyes carves a piece out of my soul. I’m going to lose him, and it’s going to destroy me. And I think it’s going to destroy him, too.

He moves toward me and I hold my breath, preparing for the impact of his touch that never comes. He wraps the jacket around my shoulders and I huddle into the dry, warm silk on the inside, but I don’t look at him.

“I’m going to get the car,” he announces softly. “I’ll pull up to the door.”

My gaze snaps up as he reaches for the lock on the door, and I have this horrible feeling that if I let him walk out now, it’s done. We’re done.

“I’m not leaving,” I say, and my voice is steady. “I won’t leave without Ella, and I won’t leave without you. All of you, Chris.”

He stands there, more stone than man, more distant than present. Then he opens the door and disappears into the hallway.

We don’t speak on the ride to the house, the soft hum of the car heater illing the empty space. Once we’re inside the garage, and outside the car, Chris wordlessly takes his jacket from me 196

and hangs it over one of his bikes to dry. I’m mostly dry, thanks to my thin blouse and skirt, and the blast of the heater.

At the door we pause to remove our boots, and Chris takes of his socks as well. I can’t bring myself to remove my thigh-highs, and it’s the irst time in a very long time I’ve felt awkward with him. I think he feels it, too. It’s in the air. We aren’t right. We aren’t even close to right.

Inside the house, we wait for the elevator doors to open.

More awkwardness ills the air and it begins to twist me in knots. Finally the elevator arrives, and Chris waits for me to enter. We lean against opposite sides of the car, facing each other. Chris lets his head drop backward against the wall, and his lashes lower, wispy strands of half-dry hair teasing his forehead and cheeks. The wet cotton of his T-shirt outlines his hard body and dried blood outlines a two-inch cut on his cheek, which doesn’t look like it needs stitches. I hope the injury to his hand is equally minor.

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance
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