I walk to the glass and press the intercom button on the small black box attached to the surface. “Touch her again, Isabel,” I warn tightly, “and I swear to you, you’ll regret it.” Isabel’s eyes glint with rebellion and her wrist cocks back again, stirring white-hot anger in my chest as I add, “We both know there are many ways I can hurt you. Don’t make me go there.”
Laughter bubbles from her lips, muted by the glass. She turns and offers me an unwelcome view of her bare backside as she hits the intercom button behind her and challenges me in a hushed French whisper, “Come in here and give me something better to do with my whip. You know you need it as much as I do. Tell Tristan he stays out there, or I’ll have security remove him and forbid him entry into the club ever again. You can bring your new girl toy, though. I can’t wait to make her scream.”
She punches a button, and the door buzzes open. Then she turns back to face me, her lips curving into a smile. Tristan pushes through the door and is already inside the Hive, crossing the room toward Amber, who responds with a vicious verbal attack.
“Fuck you, Tristan. Fuck you! I told you not to come here. I told you I didn’t want you here. I don’t want you, Tristan. I don’t want you.” Tristan tries to reach for the rope above her head, and she squirms and shouts, “Get back. Get back!!!”
Isabel curses him in French and then reaches for the phone to call security, while Amber begins to scream my name, tears streaming down her face. “Chrisssssss!” she shouts with such venom it snakes into my soul and rips another hole to go with the rest. “Chrissss!”
Sara’s hand comes down on my arm and I pull her in front of me to face the window. “Look at her, Sara. Look at her. This is what I brought you to Paris to see.” Then I turn her to face me, one of my hands on the glass by her head, the other on her waist. “My secret wasn’t about the shooting. That’s what I let you believe, but no more.
“My secret was about how the shooting was the final blow, when it seemed like people were dying because of me. I was spiraling out of control, and I landed in hell—where I dragged Amber, rather than being the man she needed me to be.
“Why do you think I left you when Dylan died? I didn’t want to drag you to the whip with me. I did this to Amber. Fuck—I was what Amber is. And no matter how much I try to control what’s around me, I can’t ever guarantee I won’t be her again.”
The color drains from Sara’s already pale face. “Are you saying . . . were you whipped again . . . after Mark’s club . . . ?”
“Several times while I was away for Dylan’s funeral, and trying to help his parents survive losing him. Before losing Dylan, I swore I’d never need that kind of thing again—but obviously I did. And what if there’s yet another next time? What then, Sara?”
She twists my shirt in her fingers, a promise in the depths of her eyes that I’m not sure she can keep as she vows, “We’ll deal with it.”
“Or we drown in hell together. And the worst of this is that I can’t even be honorable anymore and walk away—and not just because I love you. Over and over, I told myself to scare you away and get you the hell out of this world. Instead I led you into it, and now you’re in too deep. I see it in your eyes and taste it in your kiss during your tormented moments. I’m the only damn thing keeping you from going too deep—and yet I’m the one most likely to drag you there anyway.”
She shakes her head. “No, Chris—”
“Yes, baby. It’s true and we both know it. So you think long and hard about what you see here today, and where you’re headed. But if you run, run fast. Because I’m going to come after you. That’s just the kind of bastard I can’t seem to help being.” I push off the wall and leave her there, walking into the Hive, a place I’ve never escaped. But for Sara, there’s still time.
As I enter the Hive, Amber instantly tears up, a sob escaping her throat, her head dropping between her shoulders. And, as much as it shreds me to know how truly lost she is, anger dominates my mood. Anger at myself for letting this happen. Anger at Isabel for feeding Amber’s behavior. And anger at Amber for not fighting for more than this misery. But I don’t go there. She’s Tristan’s woman to save, and Isabel is my problem to handle.
I move toward the battle between Isabel and Tristan, placing myself between them, facing Isabel. She glares at me, her eyes cutting like blue diamonds. “I told you he wasn’t welcome here. This is my club and my rules. He will be removed.” She tries to step around me, toward the intercom on the wall.
I shackle her arm and she whirls around, surprise replacing the anger in her eyes. “Amber’s his woman,” I say. “Don’t even think about interfering with him taking her out of here.”
She smirks, arrogance and hatred in her eyes. “That’s the biggest joke I’ve heard since you not needing the whip. She’s more mine than she was ever his.”
“You make it about you, Isabel—but to the rest of us, you’re just one of many who can handle a whip.”
Fury fills her face and she slaps me. I grind my teeth against the sting but I don’t flinch. My lips quirk with amusement. “Another reason you’re nothing more than a whip. You have no real control.”
She slaps me again, and I’ve had it with the bitch. I capture her waist, lifting her and, ignoring her protests, I set her in front of the dungeon stock. “Down,” I order, using my knees to buckle hers and shove her to a squat.