“Chris,” she pleads. “You tell me to talk to you—I’m begging you to do the same to me.”
“It means,” I say tightly, “that you think you know what I’m about, Sara, but you don’t really see me.”
I see how she struggles to swallow, see the fear in her eyes; fear I feel in my gut. “Isn’t that what I’m here for? To really see you, and to find us? If going with you tonight does that for us, then I need to be there, Chris. I have to be there. You have to let me in all the way.”
Her words dive right into that hellhole in my soul. She’s right. I brought her here for a reason, and I let that reason get swept aside. I even proposed, knowing I’d let it happen. That’s how damn selfish I am when it comes to Sara. I want her, but I don’t truly have her.
“Get dressed,” I say, before I lose the will to do it.
The momentary bewilderment in her eyes is replaced by understanding and she disappears into her closet. I yank a black Harley T-shirt from a hanger and pull it on, grabbing hold of the control that both she and I need me to have tonight. She’s been through hell these past two weeks, and I’m about to add to it. Dylan died and I shut her out. Rebecca is dead. Ella is missing. She’s been pickpocketed and accused of murder, and she was emotionally bruised and beaten by Amber, who’d played on Sara’s fear of letting someone else get hurt.
I see every action Sara has taken since arriving in Paris as a desperate need for the control she trusts to no one else but me, and I need to deserve that trust. If I let us leave this place with the lie that we’ve faced all there is to face from my past, I don’t deserve her trust at all. I owe her the chance to decide if this is what she really wants. And if she decides to walk away from me, I somehow have to let her.
Turning away from the closet, I find Sara dressed in a loosely fitted pale blue dress. It doesn’t have to hug her body for me to envision the soft, slender curves beneath. Her hair is brushed to a shiny mass around her shoulders, her face clean of all makeup, and she has no idea how sweet and perfect she is to me. How very wrong she is for the place I’m taking her. But I also know that neither of us can get back on a plane to the States without our eyes wide open.
• • •
Sara and I are silent on the ride to Isabel’s club. She knows when I’m at that place where words don’t do it for me. She understands me in ways I never thought anyone could, and I try to take comfort in that right now, when I know the blinders are about to come fully off. The problem is I’m pretty damn sure that I’m not good for her. I’m just too f**king selfish and in love to walk away.
I pull up to the door of Eclipse, one of Isabel’s clubs, the place she chooses to play her power games. As I shift into park, club staffers are instantly at both sides of the Porsche 911. Ignoring them, I turn to Sara. “This is just like Mark’s club. You do as I say, when I say it. Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t even look at them.”
“Okay. Chris, I promise you that nothing inside this club matters to us.”
But it does, and I’ve let us both pretend it doesn’t. “I promised you that you’d understand me if you came to Paris. Tonight, I’m going to make sure you do.” Wrapping my hand around the back of her neck, I kiss her deeply. Then I pull back, praying I didn’t just kiss her good-bye.
Reaching for the door, I glance over my shoulder at Sara. “Stay in the car. I’ll come around and get you.”
She nods and I get out, shrugging out of my leather jacket and leaving it inside before handing the keys to the man who greets me. “Keep the car close,” I instruct, sealing the deal with a bill large enough to bypass the club policy that says otherwise. Isabel likes people to stay awhile, and uses every means possible to make it happen.
I round the hood of the 911 as another man opens Sara’s door, and I’m there to offer her my hand, pulling her to her feet and bringing her hips to mine. “Leave your jacket,” I tell her, slipping it from her shoulders, the cold November wind gusting her long hair around her bare shoulders. “They’ll make you check it and I don’t want anything delaying our departure.”
Handing the jacket to the attendant, I let him shut her door. Sara shivers and I run my hands over her arms. “Remember what I said,” I say, my voice low, intentionally commanding. There are too many things inside that could go wrong. I need her with me on this. “Don’t talk. Don’t even look at anyone.”
She offers me a weak smile. “This would be a really bad time for a ‘master’ joke, right?”
I lean in close to her, pressing my lips to her ear, inhaling the floral, sweet scent of her. “I’m not your master, baby. I’m just in charge.”
Her hand settles on my cheek and her low, sexy laugh tightens my groin and makes me want to strip her naked. “In bed,” she reminds me, stating her limits as I expected she would. “You’re in charge in bed.”
I draw her hand into mine, letting her see the heat in my gaze that’s for her alone. “Which is exactly where I wish we were right now,” I say, watching her cheeks flush as if I haven’t thoroughly licked and f**ked her many times over. It’s this mix of sweet and sexy that somehow grounds me, keeps me steady and right in ways I wasn’t sure were possible again, before Sara.
I tenderly brush my hand down her hair, then lace my fingers through hers and lead her up the ten brick stairs. We easily fall into step with each other, united as we approach this place.