“But you said—”

“I know what I said, and I meant it at the time. My irst instinct when you were in danger was to get you the hell away from anything and everything that could steal you away from me.”


“Including your past.”

“No, Sara. When I brought you here, I was all in, and I still am. My need to do things at my own speed isn’t about hesitation, it’s about how I have to deal with certain events in my life.

Wanting us to leave Paris was about keeping you safe. I don’t like this Neuville and Ella situation.”

“We need to stay and see through what we’ve started.”

“I know. Believe me, I know. I’ve spent the past two hours battling my need to protect you, and the many reasons I wanted us here now. Next week . . .” He looks away, his jaw tensing, before he turns back to me. “Nothing is as important as your safety.”

What happens next week? I open my mouth to ask, but his ingers snake into my hair, and his eyes glow with determination.

“I have people working on this Ella and Neuville situation, digging up information. If I ind out anything that I think puts you in danger, we’re leaving. Period.”

“Chris—”

He kisses me, hard and fast. “Nonnegotiable. And if you take unnecessary risks, or try to play investigator yourself, I swear to God, I’ll drug you and put you on a plane, if that’s what it takes to get you out of here.”

Storm clouds lurk in his eyes, threatening to consume him again; something about next week has set him of again. So we’ll deal with it next week. Right now I just want him to smile, so I smile and run my ingers over the newly forming stubble on his jaw. “Good thing you’re so sexy when you act like a caveman.”

He stares at me for a minute and then scoops me up and heads toward the door. “I’ll show you caveman.”

I bite my lip, pleased with his reaction. He’s not smiling, but I’m pretty sure we both will be soon.

Eighteen

Chris and I spend the rest of Friday in various ways of being na**d together, breaking only for food and conversation. Saturday starts just as wonderfully. Chris and I wake up together, eat together, laugh together. We dress casually and plan to hit some museums in the afternoon.

Midmorning, he heads to his studio to paint while I settle into my favorite chair in our bedroom, chatting with a worried Chantal while I watch the unending drizzle outside the window. Afterward, I have a chat with the business attorney about my venture. Though Chris set it up for me, he knows how important my own identity is to me, and that was the end of his involvement. I fall more in love with him every second.

When my call ends, I rush to Chris’s gallery to share my excitement over how easy it will be to ramp up my new business. I’ll need a name for it and already ideas are popping into my head.

I hear his murmured voice to the far right of the gallery and I follow the sound to a short, enclosed stairwell leading to another room. I head down and see Chris sitting behind a silver and gray desk. There’s a massive mural of a dragon behind him on the wall, and I gape at the amazing work he’s created. I can’t believe I haven’t asked to see the dragons he’d painted early in his career. He’d told me he keeps them here in Paris.

“I don’t care how it happened, as long as she’s not a suspect,” Chris says into the phone, glancing up and motioning me forward. “Just get her passport reissued.”

Chris falls into listening mode and I walk around the desk, leaning on the edge next to him as he says, “Of course, we’ll go to the embassy for the paperwork. Just tell us when.” He takes my hand and smiles up at me, and I smile back as I digest what I’ve just learned. I’m not a suspect in Rebecca’s murder, and my passport situation seems to be in the process of being resolved.

Add to that my business starting to take shape, and so far, today is a much better day than yesterday.

“I have another call coming in, Stephen,” Chris announces.

“Let me call you back—or better yet, call me back when you have Sara’s paperwork in order.”

He ends the call and glances at me. “Just one more minute. This will be fast.” I nod and he hits the button on his phone to answer his incoming call. He immediately says, “I hear Garner Neuville has been making a showing there on the weekends.”

I listen eagerly.

A female voice replies, “He might.”

Something about the voice sends unease through me.

“That’s a yes,” Chris replies, sounding irritated.

“Not a yes, but a ‘make it worth my while,’ ” the female replies, and my chest lutters with the suggestive comment.

Chris squeezes my hand, willing me to look at him. “I’m not in the mood for your games, Isabel.” His tone is biting in a way I never hear from him. “Call me when he shows up. And don’t tell him you did it.” He kisses my hand.

“It’s been weeks since he’s been in, Chris.” She sounds snappy now.

“Then he’s due a visit,” Chris replies, and hangs up. He reaches for me and pulls me in front of him. “She’s just a contact to try to get to Neuville. I’m making sure Neuville doesn’t get to screen me out. We have mutual acquaintances, and I’m putting them to use to get a one-on-one.”

I nod and settle my hand on his jaw. “Yes. I know, and I appreciate all you’re doing.” I let my ingers trail downward, his one-day stubble rasping against the softness of my ingers.

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