oozes to challenge him. But not Chantal. She boldly goes where others don’t dare. I learned that at the embassy.

Chris drapes a casual arm around my shoulders. “More like a troublesome sibling.” He helps himself to my cup and takes a drink.

“She doesn’t vibe like a sibling,” Chantal replies.

“Vibe?” I ask, unable to hold back a grin at the odd choice of American slang as a description.

“Isn’t that what you Americans say?” She frowns and says something to Chris in French.

“Yes,” he agrees in English, sounding amused. “The word vibe would mean the same as what you said in French, but I’m not sure it’s how I’d phrase it. It works, though.”

She purses her lips. “Well then, like I said. She doesn’t vibe like a sister. She said you two would end up married if you were forty and both alone.”

Chris snorts. “Even if I were alone at forty”—he glances down at me—“and I won’t be, I wouldn’t be with Amber.”

Despite his words, I don’t like this conversation, so I say, “Speaking of Amber, she said Rey was here. Did he have any news on Ella?”

“Good news, I hope,” Chantal adds.

“At least four people around Neuville’s home turf knew Ella by sight when shown a photo, and they’d seen her as recently as a week ago.”

Chantal looks happy. “That’s positive, right? That means she’s okay?”

“Yes,” I agree. And it is positive.

Chris continues, “Rey’s still digging around about when she left and why, to igure out if anyone saw anything strange.

So far, nothing. The witnesses said Ella was very pleasant and seemed happy. They also all seemed to think Neuville was quite taken with her, which stood out because it’s not the norm for him with a woman.”

More good news. But the fact that Ella hasn’t contacted me, and didn’t show up to work or call the school, still isn’t normal.

“On another subject,” Chris says, turning to me, “you remember that I have the boys’ camp at the Louvre Friday night, right? I asked Rey if he could stay with you that night.”

I frown. “Why would Rey stay with me?”

“I’d just rather know you’re safe.” His avoidance is done with an oh-so-casual tone.

I narrow my eyes. “What don’t I know that I should, Chris?”

“Neuville breeds caution in me.”

“But you said—”

He kisses me. “Humor me. I’ll worry if you’re alone.”

“You’re going to make me paranoid,” I argue. “We talked about this before.”

“I can come stay over, too,” Chantal ofers. “We can have a girls’ night.”

I perk up. “That’s a great idea!” Then I turn to Chris. “That way you’ll know I’m not alone, and I won’t be tortured by Rey’s hovering.”

“Hmmm,” Chantal says. “I wouldn’t mind him hovering.”

I glower at her. “You aren’t helping my cause here.”

“Oh, right.” She eyes Chris. “I’ll protect her. I’m pretty tough.”

That draws a chuckle from both of us. “That I don’t doubt, Chantal,” he says, and I am in full agreement.

When her phone chimes she glances at an incoming text and sighs. “I have to go cover the shop. My mom is with my grandmother again. So am I staying over?”

I give Chris a pleading look. “This is a good compromise, and we have a state-of-the-art security system. And I’ll have you and Rey on auto-dial.”

He sighs and says, “I want Rey to come by and check on you. And before you argue, that’s also a compromise.”

I smile. “I can live with that.”

Chantal grabs her purse. “I’m of.” She points at me. “Try to practice. You’re really not giving your French much efort.

You’re going to force me to only speak French to you.” She rushes of down the stairs.

“Hey,” Chris says, pulling me around to face him. “You okay?”

I touch his face. “I’m always okay when I’m with you.” My brow furrows. “What was all that about with Amber?”

“She has some money issues at the Script.”

“So you gave her money, and Tristan won’t be happy about it?”

“No. The two of them have had a turbulent relationship.

He’s not happy about me being in her life.”

I can understand how he feels. “How much did you give her?” I dare to ask.

“Ten thousand euros.”

I gape. “That’s a lot of money.”

“You should see the check I agreed to write to the museum.”

“So you did agree to a donation?”

“As long as my inancial guy sits on the board. I have too many commitments with my charity this year to do it myself.

I’ll never get time to paint.” He turns the topic back to Amber.

“You know I have to help her, right?”

I nod. “Yes, I do. I don’t fully understand why, but I do.” It’s an opening for more explanation, but he simply kisses me and pulls me to my feet, tugging me toward the stairs.

A few minutes later I’m in his studio with him, watching him paint, and I shove away thoughts of Amber. I simply have to trust that our trip out of town this weekend will deliver answers. Even if I have to push Chris to talk.


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