“Crazy stalker man?”

I grin. “You can be my crazy stalker man any day, baby.”

He doesn’t laugh. “Sara—”

I rise up on my toes and kiss him. “Go play with the boys.

Then come home tomorrow and play with me.”

“You do remember there’s a price for making me worry, don’t you?”

“And you do know that Chantal’s conlict isn’t my fault?

Besides, that doesn’t work as a threat anymore, right? I like the price way too much.”

He gives me a scorching three-second look before he picks me up and sets me on the desk, shoving my dress up my legs. “I don’t have to leave yet, and you need a taste of that ‘price’ right now.” He goes down on his knees and spreads my legs. “Or maybe I’m the one who needs a taste.”

And all I can think as he shoves my panties aside and his mouth closes down on me is, Punish me, baby.

Twenty-Three

By ten o’clock I’m curled up on the bed in shorts and a tank, once again on the phone with Chantal. She has called me almost as many times as Chris and Rey combined. “I’m so sorry, Sara,” Chantal says for the second time in two minutes. “My grandmother is not good, and my mother is a mess.”

I toss the TV remote control on the bed, having muted the movie I’ve been watching. Thankfully, Chris has English satel-lite channels on the monstrous television that lowers from the ceiling, and an old movie has been keeping me company. “Stay with your family,” I reassure her. “We can do a girls’ night another time. I’m perfectly ine. Rey dropped by a few minutes ago, and Chris has been calling and texting with me all evening.” Somehow, I’d inally convinced Rey to keep a meeting with his brother who had some ideas to toss around on Ella’s case. I didn’t want to blow a chance to ind Ella over Rey babysitting me.

Chantal sighs heavily. “I really was looking forward to tonight.”

We chat a few more minutes before hanging up, and Chris messages me right as I do. I glance down at a photo of a row of kids in sleeping bags and smile. He doesn’t need to have kids.

He’s adopting them everywhere he goes.

I lip the TV sound back, snuggle under the covers, and ind an old Seinfeld episode. A good laugh will keep my restless mind busy.

Sometime later my phone beeps with a message and I jump, surprised to realize I’ve dozed of. I glance at the time and see that I slept for an hour, but I smile as I scan several pictures of kids sitting in a circle. The message from Chris reads, Scary story time, with me as the storyteller.

A sad memory of Dylan’s face as he begged Chris to tell him a scary story makes my chest tighten. I text Chris, worried about how this might be afecting him, checking his mood.

Did you ind the boogie man?

Yes, he replies. His name is Leonardo. He disguises himself as an artist.

Relieved at this humor, I laugh and type, I love you, Chris.

I love you too, Sara.

I’m going to take a bath and then head to bed.

I wish I was there for both.

I sigh and type, Me too.

A few minutes later I’m sitting on the edge of the tub when my phone rings, and expecting Chris, I answer without looking. “Sara,” a female voice half shouts over loud music, and my stomach knots with dread.

“Amber?”

“Yes. Sara, I need help.” She sounds upset, maybe crying. “I know Chris is . . . he’s at the charity thing. I . . .” She sobs.

I stand up. “What’s wrong?”

“Tristan and I . . . we had a ight. I’ve been drinking, and he won’t let the coat people give me my keys and purse. I need a ride. Please.” She pauses and I can tell she is walking since the music fades a bit. “My head is spinning and I can’t think . . . I just . . . need to get out of here. Tristan found out I borrowed money from Chris. He’s my Master. You must know what that means. I broke our rules. He’s going to punish me. Please, Sara.

Come quickly.”

All kinds of warning bells go of in my head for her, and for myself. This feels like a setup, but what if it isn’t? I’ve seen the marks on her arms. “Text me your address.”

“I will. Thank you, Sara. Thank you so much. I’ll text now.”

I end the call and sink back down on the edge of the tub with my mind ticking through all my options. I can’t call Chris.

He’ll freak out and leave the museum. If I call Rey, he’ll call Chris and Chris will freak out and leave the museum. He’ll also abandon his meeting with his brother over Ella. I’m not jeapar-dizing inding Ella over Amber. Besides, Amber’s in an abusive relationship with a man, and I don’t even know if she likes or trusts Rey. And what if Rey inds something out about Chris that Chris doesn’t want him to ind out? Chris is too private a person to risk that. No. As much as I want Rey to be an option, he isn’t.

My phone beeps with the address. I inhale and stare at it, considering a moment before I text back, I’m sending a cab to get you.

I wait for a reply. And wait.

I text again. Amber, please conirm you’re okay.

No reply.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

I dial her number. It rings and rings with no answer.

I hold the phone to my forehead. Chris is going to be furious if I do this. And it really feels like a setup. Guilt twists inside me for thinking that, and for just sitting here if she really needs help. I have to do what’s right, even if she isn’t.

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