He captures my hand and holds it. “You know I’m not buy-ing that, right?”

I manage a weary smile. “I’m just ready to be alone with you.” And oh, how true this is.


He runs his hand down the back of my hair, his touch protective, possessive, and I have the sense he feels a need to hold on to me, like I could change my mind and leave at any moment. He murmurs, “That makes two of us, baby.”

I’d promise him I’m not going anywhere, but I’m not sure words matter at this point. Actions do. Me being here. Me weathering the storm he believes is coming, without abandon-ing ship.

Once we’re inside the main area on the opposite side of the tunnel, we’re greeted with restaurants and stores to our left and a huge security line that winds seemingly forever. “I am so incredibly glad that’s not for us,” I gush with relief.

“Actually, it is,” Chris replies grimly. “That’s to clear our passports and enter the airport.”

I stop dead in my tracks and turn to him. “No. Please tell me we don’t have to stand in that line when I’m this tired.”

He shifts the bags on his shoulders. “It won’t take as long as it looks like it will.”

“Says the receptionist in the packed doctor’s oice,” I reply, and sigh. “I have to go to the bathroom before I stand in that line.”

He leans in and kisses my forehead. “Sounds like a good plan. I’ll go, too.”

We part ways at the restrooms, which say “toilette.” Toilette sounds so crass to me, and as I walk into the crowded facility I wonder if bathroom seems the same to the French. There’s a line of at least ive women ahead of me and only two sinks and two stalls. No hope of a speedy departure.

A woman gives me an up-and-down look as she passes, her gaze lingering on my face, and I wonder if I look more American than I realize. Not that I know what an American looks like.

I look like them. I think. My phone beeps and I pull it from my purse to ind a message from my cell provider, basically telling me I’ll spend a small fortune to use my phone if I don’t adjust my plan. One of many things I have to deal with, I suspect.

I glance up as the line moves. Another woman stares at me and I wonder if, when I brushed my teeth and applied lipstick on the plane, I created a mess. Do I have lipstick smeared on my face? I scan for a mirror, but there isn’t one. What? No mirrors?

No American woman would stand for such a thing. Women around the world can’t be so diferent, can they?

“Is there a mirror somewhere?” I ask the general population of the room, and get blank stares. “English?” I get more blank stares and two shakes of the head. Great.

Certain I’m a mess, I sigh, wishing my cosmetics were in my purse with a mirror, rather than in the bag Chris has with him. I glance at the time on my phone, and try to set my world clock without success. It’s early morning here, and I think San Francisco is six or eight hours diferent. Or is it nine? Regardless, if I go to sleep anytime soon, I’ll never adjust to the time change.

When I inally exit the bathroom I do so with hurried steps, and run smack into a hard body. With a gasp, I look up as strong hands right me before I fall. “I’m sorry,” I say, blinking as a big man with rumpled dark hair and handsome thirty-something features comes into view. “I didn’t mean . . .” I hesitate.

Does he even speak English?

He says something in French, and then says, “Pardon” before he departs.

An uncomfortable shiver races down my spine and the un-explainable need to follow him has me whirling around, only to ind Chris there.

His brows dip. “Something wrong?”

Yes. No. Yes. “I just bumped into a man, and—”

Chris curses and grabs my purse, and I look down to realize it’s unzipped. I’m certain it was zipped before. “Oh no,” I say, and shove it open to ind that my wallet is missing. “No. No no no no. This can’t be happening. He took my wallet, Chris!”

“What about your passport?” he asks calmly, setting our bags down between us.

My eyes go wide and I quickly dig for it. Feeling sick, I shake my head. “It’s gone. What does this mean?”

“It’s okay, baby. I forgot to give you your plastic card; I still have it. That’ll get us past the entry in France with some extra efort. And you can use it at the consulate to get a new booklet.”

I draw a deep breath and let it out. The way he says “us” is calming. I’m not alone. He is with me every step of the way, not just here and now. I know this, and I want to believe it won’t change. It’s one of the many things about him, and us, that delivered me to the airport today. “Thank God you have my card.”

Chris reaches over the bags and caresses my cheek. “I should have warned you how bad the pickpockets are here.”

“Pickpockets,” I repeat. “Here in the airport, or everywhere?”

“Any tourist area.” He hikes the bags back on his shoulder.

Welcome to the land of romance, I think, but then romance has never been an easy ride for me. “I have to call all my credit card companies, and I have no afordable cell service.”

“You can use mine when we get to the other side of security.”

I nod and zip my purse, then slide it cross-body and hold it with my hand. My world is spinning out of control and I am thankful Chris is a rock, or else I might just plain panic. It’s not that I want to dart back across the border, though I’m actually not sure I’ve technically passed it yet. I couldn’t go back to the States right now if I wanted to; a stranger has stolen that freedom from me. And I’m worried about my personal information in an unknown person’s hands, too.

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