Chris squats down and unzips my boot. The memory of him just like this, seducing me into the logging, sends a rush of heat up my thighs. He glances up at me, holding the ticket, and I see the mix of anger and desire in his face. He’s thinking about the same thing I am, and he isn’t any happier about it than I am.
He’s pissed at me, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I guess it depends on why, and what this place really is to him.
He stands up and presents the lady with my ticket, and she hands him my things. Chris takes it upon himself to slide my purse cross-body over my head and I hate that he thinks I’m too drunk to manage it myself. I hate that I might be. I don’t meet his eyes. I can’t meet his eyes. I wait, and when the strap settles into place and he steps aside, I rush for the door and I don’t stop. I push past it, stepping outside and inhaling the cold air, trying to sober my mind and body. I walk as fast as I can away from this place; I’d run if I weren’t afraid of falling.
“Sara,” Chris calls, then he grabs my arm and turns me to him.
I explode on him. “Is this what you want from me, Chris?
Because it’s not me. I can’t and won’t be part of what I saw in there. I won’t.”
“Does anything about this place scream ‘me’ to you?”
“No. But I know Isabel is connected to this place, and you’re connected to her, and Tristan and Amber. And”—my voice hitches—“I didn’t think Ava was a murderer, or that Ella would blow me of like I was nothing, either. I thought I knew her. I thought I knew me, through you. And if I don’t know you . . . I don’t know what I know.”
He pulls me against him, his hard, warm body absorbing mine. “You know me, Sara. And I know you.We are not that place.”
“I want to believe that, but you don’t even know me well enough to believe I can handle whatever you haven’t told me.
You keep putting it of. You dread it that much—and then you wonder how I can think this place might be the secret? If you know me, what else could you think would make me react like this?”
“Nothing. There is nothing.”
He stares down at me, his eyes hard, his jaw tense. “I’ll tell you. In the car.” He draws my hand into his and starts walking, pulling me toward the street.
I’m stunned. He’s inally going to tell me?
I’m suddenly not sure I should have pushed him. He said next week. He said that was important to him. Why did I push?
Why did I come to this damnable place? Why why why?
Chris turns us to the left and stops by a black sedan a block down, opening the back door. “Where’s the 911?”
“There was car service at the museum. It was faster than getting my car from the garage.”
He was that anxious to get to me, that upset I was here. I step toward the door and stumble. Once again, Chris catches me, his strong hands steadying me. The world spins around me and I squeeze my eyes shut. Damn tequila. Damn bad deci-sions.
With Chris’s help, I slide into the sedan. He follows me inside, says something to the driver in French, and the driver gets out of the car.
Then we’re alone. And silent. We sit in the darkness, each by a door, and the space between us feels miles wide.
Chris inally turns to look at me and says, “Not even in my younger, experimental days would I have been drawn to that place, Sara. Amber knows that. She was trying to hurt me through you.”
I whirl on him again, ignoring the protest of my head and stomach. “Then why do you let her in your life? She’s not a nice person, Chris. She plotted and schemed to get my sym-pathy tonight, to get me here. She’ll tear us apart if you let her, and I know you know that—yet she’s still in our life. If you think that didn’t afect how I responded to everything that happened tonight, from me thinking she was worth trying to save, to hearing her lies, you’re wrong.”
He cuts his gaze away, his elbows settle on his knees, and his head drops between his shoulders. His hands tunnel roughly into his hair and stay there, like he’s trying to relieve pressure.
He can barely force himself to say whatever he has to say—and I can barely breathe, waiting for him to tell me.
Scrubbing his jaw, he sits up, still staring ahead and seeming to struggle before he speaks, his voice a soft, raspy, emotion-laden confession. “Next week . . .” He hesitates. “Next week is the anniversary of my mother’s death.”
My shoulders slump and I feel as if I’ve been punched.
His words replay in my head. There is a right place and a right time. You’ll understand what I mean, soon, I promise. I’m asking you to trust me on this. I shouldn’t have pushed him. I should have waited. “Oh God. Oh Chris. I—”
He turns to face me. “Ten years ago, during the week of the anniversary of her death, I took Amber and her parents out to dinner. We were walking to the car when we were mugged by two armed men in ski masks.”
“Oh,” I breathe out. “No. Tell me no.”
“I took one of the attackers’ guns and he ran of, but the other one . . .” He looks at the ceiling a long moment before his eyes meet mine again. “I saw his eyes and I knew he was going to pull the trigger on his weapon. I shot him, but not before he shot Amber’s parents. He died, and so did they.” His lips tighten. “He turned out to be a sixteen-year-old kid.”
My hand presses to my stomach. I think I’m going to be sick. “Chris, I—”