She blanches. “Oh, God. Now it all makes sense. She’s acting out, crying for help, and I did nothing.”
“What? Sara, this isn’t on you.”
“Yes, it is. Even if it’s subconsciously, I sensed this in her. You and Tristan were too close to this to see it. I think I was the stranger who she thought might listen, and I didn’t hear her.”
I did this, yet she’s blaming herself—a prime example of a lifetime of self-blame working her over, and an example of why I’m so damn certain she’s a step from the edge I can’t let her take. I pull her to me. “This is on me, baby. Not you. Tristan was right. I stayed in her life out of guilt, and became a crutch, not a solution.” I kiss her forehead. “Watch for Amber.” I pull out my phone. “I’m going to get my attorney to arrange a treatment center for Amber, with check-in tonight if possible.”
“Good.” She steps to the window, hugging herself, the self-blame radiating off her, and I know I was right. Rebecca, and even the Ella situation, have influenced every interaction with Amber. She wants to save the world. I need to save her, right after I save Amber.
I dial my attorney, who thankfully answers and is quick to instruct me and then go to work. “Well?” she prods when I hang up.
“He had another client who had to commit his daughter. He’s pulling some strings at that facility. He says that since Amber threatened suicide, we can get her committed for observation, but it won’t guarantee she stays in treatment. We need her agreement for that.”
“That’s not going to be easy.” She glances at the window. “Shouldn’t they be leaving by now?”
“Yeah. I’m concerned.” I dial Tristan, who doesn’t answer, and I grimace. “I’m starting to think I need to check on them.”
“Won’t someone miss Isabel?”
“Not when she has company.” My phone beeps and I grab it and glance down to read what Tristan has written: I convinced her to leave by telling her you were meeting us at our house. We’re on our way out of here now.
Slipping my phone back in my pocket, I glance up at Sara. “Tristan and Amber are headed our way.” I take her hand to head to the doorway, but I can’t shake the sting of Isabel’s accusations. “Sara, about Isabel—”
She kisses me. “I’m okay,” she promises, but the crack in her voice and the shadows in her eyes when she pulls back tell me she’s not even close to okay. And I’m not sure we are, either.
We exit the club into the chill of the windy November Paris night to discover that the 911 has not been held nearby, but parked in the garage. Apparently Isabel’s prior orders trumped my cash. With Sara shivering, and Amber due out the door any minute, I order our car to be pulled to the side of the building.
Rounding the corner, I drag Sara into a dark entryway framing a door to some other part of the building. Pressing her into the corner, I use my body to shelter her from the wind, leaving us swimming in shadows. But even in the darkness, our eyes connect, the heat radiating between us, defying the cold night. This reminds me of another day, and another entryway, when we’d first met and I’d warned her away from me and the gallery. Before I knew she would take me by storm.
“I didn’t want to put you through this hell, but eyes wide open, baby. I promised if you came to Paris, that’s what you’d get. I almost let us leave without giving it to you.”
“Nothing I saw in there tonight was new. I know it all.”
“Damn it, Sara, take off the rose-colored glasses you say you saw your father with for years. You keep seeing the wrong things.”
“So if I don’t see you as some kind of monster, I see the wrong things? Obviously, I see you and Amber differently than you do. One person experiences tragedy and uses it to drive them to success, like you have with your art. Another, like Amber, lets it drive them into self-destruction. We all have different kinds of people cross our paths, Chris, but they don’t define us. We do. How I deal with who you are isn’t about you. It’s about me.”
“But those people who cross our paths can make us stronger or weaker.”
“If we let them. Amber won’t let you help her. She makes herself weaker. You, you make me stronger. You make me fight for me, and when I don’t, you do it for me, the way I try to fight for you.” She balls her fingers around my shirt. “I heard you in the museum in California. I heard the way you stood up to my father, and to Michael, for me. And you taught me to deal with men like Mark by claiming my own power, the night you negotiated that commission for me. I didn’t see it then, but I do now. You make me stronger.”
“But I’m still the person who made Amber what she is today. Did you see her, Sara? Really see her?”
“Do you really see me, Chris? Because I’ve lived my mother’s death, my father’s life, Michael, my own identity issues, and then all this hell with Rebecca and Ava. And though I have my weak moments, I don’t want the whip. Even when you left me over Dylan and I was alone and devastated, I didn’t waver. And let me tell you, Mark did his damnedest to convince me that love was for fools and he could show me another way—but I wasn’t tempted.”
My anger is an instant punch of adrenaline. “Mark did what?”
“Mark isn’t the point here. You told me to see you once before, Chris. I’m begging you to see me now. I love us and you. And I love where you take me, and what you make me feel.”