“Ava says that you killed Rebecca and blackmailed Mark into silence,” the detective informs me.

The darkness I’ve battled for hours now becomes a black hole, and the world seems to spin. A second later, my knees buckle and the ground is all I see.


Four

I blink and discover my hands are resting on the solid wall of Chris’s chest. His arm is wrapped around my waist, anchoring me to him while he talks on my phone. My anchor. He is that and so much more, I think, as I realize I blacked out and now I’m back in this world. I’ve never blacked out before, and it’s downright unnerving to realize I’ve lost all sense of time and reality.

“Did you tell her she couldn’t leave the country?” Chris calmly asks into the phone. There’s a short pause. “Then she’s done nothing wrong.” He listens again. “Yeah, well, for the record, I know she’s innocent, too, and your ‘just doing your job’

could have waited until she got over the shock of last night, no matter how much you want to cover your bases. From this point on, you talk to her attorney, Stephen Newman. He’ll be calling you.” He ends the call.

I swallow, trying to ind my voice, panic expanding in my chest all over again. “Chris, he . . . I—”

“You have nothing to worry about,” he assures me, framing my face with his hands. “I’ve got this, and I’ve got you.”

His eyes brim with warmth and promise, and I hope he knows something I don’t. “He all but accused me of killing Rebecca.”

“Ava and her attorney had to come up with a defense for her, and you were it. The police don’t believe her, but to get an indictment they have to do due diligence. Our attorney will take care of this. And I’ll take care of you.”

There was a time when the idea of leaning on Chris would have totally scared me. After the way he shut me out over Dylan’s death, it’s still hard not to be a little scared—but it’s also never felt as good as it does now, to be in this man’s arms.

I look down to where my hands rest on his chest and they’re shaking, but I can’t seem to feel them shaking. It is as if my body and my mind aren’t communicating. “I think . . . I think I’m not so good right now.”

“Like I said. I’ve got you, baby.” He punches the elevator button and scoops me up in his arms, and I sink against him, relieved. He has me. I have him. I choose to fully believe that right now. I need to believe that.

I rest my head against his shoulder and close my eyes. As silly as it might seem, I don’t want to see what awaits us inside, in this state of mind. I want to wait and explore later, when the bad isn’t tainting the good.

When I force my lashes to open a little while later, Chris is setting me down on a bathroom vanity. He kisses me, a quick brush of his mouth. “You okay?”

I cover his hands where they rest on my cheeks. “Only because of you.”

“I say that about you every day since I met you, Sara. You do know that, don’t you? When I was gone for Dylan’s funeral, it was you that got me through. Knowing you were in my life— that’s what broke through the darkness.”

My breath escapes on his name. “Chris,” I whisper, wrapping my arms around his neck and burying my face in his shoulder. Wrenching pain rips through me at the memory of inding Chris in Mark’s club, screaming for the lash of a whip to beat away the pain of losing Dylan. “I love you.” I can’t keep the quaver from my voice and I don’t try. I lean back and lift my gaze to his, opening myself up, letting him judge my words as he’d judged himself that night. “I love you so much, Chris.”

“I love you, too, Sara. More than I’ve let you see, but I’m going to ix that.” He brushes the hair from my eyes. “You take a hot bath while I make a few phone calls, then we’ll get some rest.”

“Yes, okay,” I say and he stands there a moment, and I can’t read him, but I think he wants to say something, or he expects me to say something. There is so much, too much, unsaid between us, but I’m unsure where to begin or even if now is the right time. He turns away, and the moment is lost. He walks to the tub, the epitome of grace and hotness, and bends over to start the water, but it’s the act of doing something so tender and caring that truly makes Chris the man I love. He’s both the man I found tied up and screaming for a harder beating, and the gentle, protective man he is right now, and the contrast sets me on ire and warms my heart.

I curl my ingers around the edge of the counter and glance around the bathroom, which is the size of a small bedroom.

It has the same white tile as our San Francisco apartment, but there are gray accents and silver ixtures. It’s luxurious, and so is the scent tickling my nose—musky and male, with a hint of spice.

Chris holds up a bottle. “My shampoo. It’s the only way I can give you the bubble bath you like, until you can stock up on what you want.”

“I like smelling like you,” I say, remembering a time I’d worn his cologne and said the same thing.

He saunters over to me, all loose-legged sex appeal in his faded jeans and a blue AC/DC T-shirt, and settles his hands on my knees. You’re mine, the touch says, and it is a welcome branding. Yes. Yes, I am his. “I like you smelling like me,” he replies, his voice a velvety-smooth caress.

It’s exactly what he’d said once before, and I react just as I had the irst time. I’m out of my head and into the moment with him, my body alive, tingling all over. He’s washed away the bad and left me deeply absorbed in him and all that he is. All that we have become together.

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