The car begins to move and Chris doesn’t look at me. I have this sense that he believes if he does, the walls he’s convinced himself to erect between us will fall. I burn to tear them down myself, to grab him and hold him, and promise him I’m not going anywhere. That’s what he wants to hear: that I’m not going to die. He wants the impossible.

I can’t take not touching him, not talking to him. The elevator stops moving and I step toward Chris. At the same moment, his head lifts, his eyes crashing into mine, his face carved in hard lines and shadows, no rainbow in sight. We’re still living the storm. No surprise there.


I resist linging my arms around him and reach for his hand, glancing down at his slightly swollen knuckles, and back up at him. “Let me clean the cut and bandage it for you.” I back out of the door, gently tugging him with me, encouraged when he follows. I lead him to the bathroom and he immediately tugs his shirt of, and hangs it on the side of the tub before sitting on the edge himself. The sight of his dragon lexing with the hard lines of one shoulder and arm does funny things to my stomach. It’s a part of his past I will never know, if he has his way.

I look up to ind him watching me watch him. Emotion tightens my throat. “Where would I ind bandages?” I don’t even know where anything is in my home, which might not be my home soon. Why does that feel so much worse now than ever before?

“Under the sink.” It’s the irst time he’s spoken since the bathroom in the bar, and the sound of his voice is silk soothing my raw nerve endings.

I turn away from him, gathering my supplies while I also gather my emotions. Part of me is ready to regret becoming this attached to Chris, but I squash the idea. Chris is feeling enough regret for both of us. One of us has to be willing to put it all on the line for this relationship.

When I turn back to him, Chris moves to the toilet seat to allow me to sit on the edge of the tub. Still feeling a bit too emotional, it’s my turn to avoid eye contact. I sit down and tap my leg for him to put his hand on top of it. He doesn’t hesitate.

His ingers splay on my upper thigh, palm resting in the center, and I am instantly, achingly aware of the touch in every part of my body.

I study the cut on his knuckle, surrounded by rapidly form -

ing bruises. It’s impossible to tell if there is any serious injury unless X-rays are taken, which I’m sure he’ll refuse.

“I don’t know how to love you and not protect you,” he says, and my eyes lift at his soft confession. My heart thunders as he adds, “And I don’t know how to protect you and not overwhelm you. I’m always going to be on edge. I’m always going to think . . . too much.”

“No one knows what tomorrow brings, Chris. We have to live for today together.”

He runs his uninjured hand through his drying hair, leaving it a wonderful mess. “That’s just it, Sara. I can’t do that. I’m never going to be able to do that. I can’t do this.”

He pushes to his feet and he’s gone, leaving me alone.

Seventeen

I’m remarkably calm when I snap out of my stunned reaction to Chris’s declaration. I’m not sure how long I’ve been sitting on the tub, but my body is stif and cold.

When I inally stand up, I strip of my clothes and turn the shower on to scorching before I step inside. I need to think, and once my mind is working again, my perspective on what he’s said changes.

Chris loves me. I believe that. He told me I’m what got him through losing Dylan, even when I wasn’t with him. So, while my irst thought was that his reference to not being able to do “this” meant us, me and him, I don’t think that now.

I think he means the pain, the worry, the fear. I believe that it’s the moments when he’s felt “I can’t do this” that he’s ended up tied up and screaming for someone to whip him until he feels nothing else.

My poor damaged man. So brilliant and wonderful, and he can’t see it. He wants to leave Paris to protect me from more than outside danger—he’s still afraid I can’t handle who he is.

This hurts far more than his reactions today. I’m not leaving. We are not leaving.

The hot water is cooling, and I get out and dress in my favorite soft black sweats and a pink tank. Once my hair is dry, I resist the urge to look for Chris. He left here feeling out of control, and I need to give him time to get it back. Pushing him won’t get me the results I want.

Grabbing my laptop, I head to the leather chair by the window in our bedroom. I open the blinds of the massive arched window, so like the others in the house. Rain patters against the panes and I curl one of my bare feet beneath me. Needing a connection to at least one of the two people I wish were with me now, I begin my search for Ella by googling the name “Garner Neuville.”

Two hours later, the everlasting rain a soft hum on my rattled nerve endings and I’m lost in thought. What does one of the richest men in Paris want with Ella, who has no family and no money? I’ve tabbed through pages and pages about the thirty-two-year-old billionaire who inherited a fortune and turned it into a bigger fortune, and have to igure out an answer. I have no idea why Chris thinks this man is trouble, but I don’t doubt he knows what he’s talking about.

It makes no sense that Neuville would be looking for Ella, so this has to be connected to her iancé. I never liked David, never trusted him.

I set my computer on the loor and stare at the bedroom door, willing Chris to appear. It doesn’t work. I can’t just sit here. I have to attack the problems, not let them attack me.

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