Amber pulls me to a spot by the bar and I turn to her, settling my back against the leather rail behind me. I have no intention of staying.
Amber lags down the bartender. “Two shots of tequila.”
“No,” I say. “I have a taxi outside waiting.”
“I can’t hear you,” she complains as she leans in close to me, her hand reaching over my chest, arm pressing on my br**sts to hold the bar at my opposite shoulder. I stifen, aware of how intimate and unnecessary the move is as she repeats, “What did you say?”
I ight the urge to push her away, afraid it will turn into more touching. “I have a taxi waiting for us.”
“A new doorman comes on in thirty minutes. He likes me.
He’ll let us pass.” She leans back and looks at me, then strokes the hair from my eyes. “You really are very pretty.”
My breath hitches. What is happening? What is she doing?
“You’re never going to stop making him pay, are you?”
At the sound of Tristan’s voice, Amber turns to him, her arm thankfully dropping from my chest. I blink Tristan into view, his long dark hair framing crystal-blue eyes. He’s staring at me, his expression hard, unreadable.
Amber touches my hair and I instinctively pull back, but she’s focused on Tristan. “I need this. It’s your duty to fulill my needs.”
Tristan stares at her, several intense moments ticking by before he pulls her to him, his hand on the back of her head.
“It’s time to let him go. It’s past time, Amber.” His gaze slides to mine and there is something unidentiiable in his stare. Then he is kissing her, his hand sliding over her breast and yanking down her top, exposing her nipple right there.
I can’t breathe, but the look Tristan gave me . . . I don’t know why, but I think he’s giving me an escape, and I need it.
I sidestep away from them and dash for the hallway, then stop abruptly. There’s a woman with her shirt pulled down to her waist, with a man sucking her ni**les right in front of the exit. I turn away, looking for any direction but back toward Tristan and Amber, and calling myself every kind of fool.
I dart to my left and down a hallway, hoping for a bathroom. There’s only a doorway that seems to lead to a room. I turn to ind Tristan and Amber headed toward me, and I rush forward . . . and straight into hell.
I stop dead just inside a dark room illed with bodies.
Naked bodies huddled together. I can’t believe what I’m seeing.
There is a woman with a man behind her, rubbing her br**sts, while another woman is between her thighs, licking her. Beside them, a man is masturbating while watching. Behind him is a threesome of some sort. And it goes on and on. All around me, people are all over each other.
“This is what he wants,” Amber says, wrapping herself around me.
I don’t even ight her. My body is frozen, my heart ice.
“No,” I whisper. “It’s not.”
“Yes,” she promises, turning me to face her, her hands on my shoulders. “You will be one of those people, with him right there with you.”
No. Chris doesn’t share.
Tristan steps beside Amber and pulls her into his arms, and I blink as they begin to passionately kiss and touch each other.
No. No. No. This is not what Chris wants us to be.
And still I stand there, watching them peel away each other’s clothes. I wonder at why I didn’t dart past the na**d bodies at the exit? Maybe some part of me had to know what was in this club.What Chris was being accused of being a part of.
A stranger comes up behind me and touches me, and reality slaps me in the face. I shove the man away and rush for the door and down the hall. Somehow I ind the bathroom I’d missed before, and I go inside and lock the door. I lean against the hard surface and wonder if there are peepholes for people to watch me. My stomach churns at the idea. This can’t be what Chris wants. It can’t. He doesn’t share. I know he doesn’t.
But what are these secrets he doesn’t want to tell me?
What could be so bad after all I’ve seen but this? I’m lost. I don’t believe this is Chris, but Amber and Isabel and even Tristan are all parts of his life. And his desperateness to keep me away from them is pretty damning. Maybe this is his past, not his present. Except the Chris I know wouldn’t have a past like this, any more than a present. What if, like Ella, I don’t really know Chris at all? I’m confused. I hurt. I hurt badly. I’m not crying, but I will. There’s a storm coming and I don’t want it to happen here.
Ready to be out of here now, I unlock the bathroom door and make my way toward the exit, but I can’t help but stop and glance at the bar. Suddenly, I think I need that drink I’d been ofered early in the night, or the storm I know is coming might just erupt before I get home. I know this place isn’t Chris’s present life, but I am terriied this will be like the beatings he’d said he’d never need again and did. Tonight has dug up all of my hot buttons and insecurities I’d thought I’d buried. I wasn’t enough for Chris when Dylan died. When will I live that hell again? The idea is almost too much to bear and I want out of my own head. The more I think, the more the hole in my heart bleeds.
Rushing forward, I wave at the bartender, who happily supplies me with a shot of tequila. I choke it down and ask for another. I am not myself. I do not even know who I am right now. I don’t know who Chris is. I don’t know who Ella is or was. I know. . . . nothing.