Chris’s lips curve. “Now would be good.” The heated look he gives me before releasing me says he’s not talking about the bags.
I stand back and watch as Chris generously tips several staff members, returning to drape his arm over my shoulder. With our hips fitted snugly together, I’m warm all over as we pass through the sliding doors to enter the lobby—and not just with the certainty of all the naughty things Chris has dancing around in my head. I’ve successfully tuned out all the troubles we’ll face tomorrow with the police over Ava, and I’m reveling in the memory of my first visit here and how far we’ve come since then. It’s a memory made complete when we spot Jacob waiting for us on this side of the front desk, looking every bit the unapproachable security person, in his dark suit and earpiece, as he had then.
“Welcome home, Mr. Merit,” he greets, glancing at me to add, “Ms. McMillan.”
I grin at him and he arches a brow. “Something I missed?”
“No,” I assure him. “Something I missed: you, greeting us all stoic and formal in that way you do. It feels like home.”
“I wasn’t aware I was being stoic,” he says, looking positively stoic.
“Like the Terminator, but you don’t have a big gun,” Chris jokes.
I give a snort of laughter that Jacob doesn’t seem to notice. He levels Chris with a stare and with a completely straight face says, “It’s against company policy to utilize big guns at work. Though while I’m doing contract work with Blake, anything goes.”
Barely holding back another snort, I lift my hands. “Way too much man talk for me.”
Chris chuckles and kisses my cheek.
The name of the private investigator, who’s been looking into both Rebecca’s and Ella’s disappearances, ties my stomach in knots. “Speaking of Blake,” I say, trying to sound nonchalant, though I suddenly feel anxious about tomorrow’s appointment at the police station, “anything new from him on Ava, Rebecca, or Ella while we were airborne?”
“Nothing I’ve been made aware of,” Jacob says.
Chris angles me toward the elevator and tells Jacob, “We need sleep. Pretend we aren’t here.”
I turn to say, “Unless you hear from Blake.”
“But it had better be important,” Chris adds as the elevator opens and we step inside.
Suspicious that Chris knows something he isn’t telling me, I wait until the door closes to confront him. “If you or Jacob know anything and you aren’t telling me—”
He cuts me off by shackling my wrists and pulling me to him, aligning our hips and legs with an intimate caress down my backside. “I know nothing you don’t know,” he promises. “Remember what we said in Paris, baby.” He spreads his fingers on my cheek, his thumb stroking a seductive line along my jaw, his voice lower and deeper as he adds, “No secrets. No in between.”
The air around us thickens, and Chris is the driving force. His mood has darkened, doing one of those wicked one-eighty shifts I’ve come to know and expect from him. No longer is he playful and light—but I’m no longer those things, either. Now we are electric, with a dark current running between us that is raw and carnal, yet soft and sensual.
Chris strokes my hair, dragging his hand down my neck, my shoulder, my arm, and I can almost feel the nerve endings in my body flickering to life, welcoming him and the pleasure he so masterfully arouses in me. But when my eyes meet his, there’s more than the punch of awareness I expect. In the depths of those gorgeous deep green eyes, I find something I don’t understand; something even more intense than the thrum of arousal burning in my belly.
Uncertainty maybe? Vulnerability? Yes. No. I’m confused, yet I know that I see nothing that Chris doesn’t choose for me to see.
The elevator dings, and I jerk around to face the exit that leads directly into our apartment. Like the first night I came here, I have an inescapable sense that once I pass through the door, I’ll never be the same again. Life will never be the same.
I realize Chris isn’t touching me anymore. He wasn’t touching me that night, either. It’s as if he feels I have to make the decision to move forward on my own, and some part of me knows why. He needs to know now that home with him is still home to me. It reminds me of why we connect, why we are those missing pieces of a puzzle that have found a perfect fit. No matter how perfect his being imperfect makes him to me, he will never see himself as I do. He will never feel he is not flawed. He will always need me to be his eyes, and he is mine.
I walk into the apartment, the glossy, light wood beneath my feet. Our suitcases are already sitting by the entryway, brought up from the service entrance. Intentionally repeating what I’d done during that first visit here, feeling that’s what he wants, I travel down the steps to the sunken living room. I drop my purse on top of the coffee table as I pass and keep going until I stand in front of the floor-to-ceiling window. Flattening my hands on the glass, watching the orange glow of the sun fade into the water, I see the stars begin to illuminate a city as shrouded in secrets as Chris and I once were. But now our blank canvas is inked with colors, not fears, and love has blossomed where there was once only passion.
Music begins to play and I smile when I hear “Broken” by Lifehouse, amazed that Chris would actually remember the song he’d played that first night we were together. I’m falling apart, the lyrics say. I’m barely breathing. I’m not falling apart, but as Chris steps behind me, his heat radiating through me, I am definitely barely breathing.