His fingers flex into my backside where they’ve settled, and his gaze lingers on my mouth. When it lifts, his stare is as hot as I suddenly feel. “I want to fuck you right here and now,” he shocks me by announcing.

“Oh no,” I say quickly. “Not here. We can’t.”


“We can,” he assures me, and his fingers begin to inch my skirt up.

My hand goes to his, stilling his actions. “No,” I insist. “Not here, Chris. And the hearing has already started; we have to be ready to deal with the results.”

“It’ll take a while to end,” he says, his fingers tunneling into my hair as he drags my mouth a tantalizing breath from his. “Didn’t we just decide it’s better to focus on what we can control? And I choose to control all the things I can do to you while we wait for David’s call.”

“Chris—” His lips brush mine, a featherlight touch that sends a rush of sensations along every nerve ending in my body. “You’re so unfair.”

“How’s this for fair?” He turns me and walks me backward until I hit the desk. “I’m going to fuck you right here, right now.” His hands go to my waist and he lifts me, setting me on the desk and caressing my skirt up my thighs. “Any objections?” He opens my knees and fits his hips between my legs, nestling the thick ridge of his erection in just the right spot.

“Since you put it that way,” I say, sounding as breathless as I feel, “no objections.”

His dangerously perfect mouth quirks and he leans in, nuzzling my neck, my arms wrapping around his neck. His tongue flicks wickedly over a delicate spot behind my ear that he somehow makes me feel in the deepest part of my sex. My thighs clench his hips and his hand cups my breast, strokes my nipple, and my lashes flutter, lowering. And then somehow, I’m staring over his shoulder at the painting of the roses resting on the ground.

Unbidden, random entries from Rebecca’s journal flicker into my mind. I can almost hear her voice in my head, feel her need for Mark in my need for Chris. Because of this room, which was her office. It’s their place, their past. It’s Mark’s loss and pain and Rebecca’s murder. It’s them, not us. A desperate need to escape rushes over me, and I shove my hands against Chris’s chest. “Wait,” I say, straightening. “Wait, Chris. Wait.”

He leans back, giving me a heavy-lidded stare, his hands coming down on the desk next to me, his breathing heavy. “What just happened?”

My mind races with a million things I want to say to him, about the roses and Mark and Rebecca, but all I can see in my mind is the ring he designed for me. I don’t know what those flowers mean to him yet, and I can’t ruin what he’s done for me over a wrong thing said in the wrong moment. Finally, I say, “This place is them.”

“Them?” he asks.

“Rebecca and Mark. It’s . . . them. I don’t want it to be us.”

Understanding shows in his eyes and he drops his head forward, as if he’s scrabbling for control. His cell phone rings and he straightens, reaching for it. “David,” he announces, answering the call.

“Is it over?” he asks, listening a moment and then giving me a nod.

Scooting off the desk, I tug my dress back into place, my eyes not leaving Chris’s impassive expression as he listens to David. I watch the tick in his jaw get faster, until he abruptly turns, giving me his back. “She’ll have a monitoring device?” he asks, leaning a hand on the door.

My pulse leaps, and my fist balls on my chest, where my heart is now thundering. Ava’s getting out of jail. She’s going to be free. I drop my face in my hands, trying to calm the white noise in my head and listen to Chris’s conversation, but I can’t seem to make it happen. Calm down, I tell myself. Calm down! Finally, Chris’s voice comes back to me.

“Me?” I hear him ask. “When? Fuck, David. Yeah. Okay. I’ll be there.” Silence follows, and I realize he’s ended the call.

Letting my clammy hands drop to my lap, I say, “They let her go.”

“Yes.” He stuffs his phone in his pocket and comes to me, his hands settling on my knees. “She’ll have an ankle monitor, and we have a restraining order in place as a condition of her release. David’s still working on the approval for us to go back to Paris until the trial, which will be months away.”

“They dismissed the murder charges?”

“For now, but David seems to think that might change. They want me and Mark down at the station.”

“Why you? Detective Grant told me he cleared you, Chris.”

“That’s the first I’ve heard of it, but either way, if I can help them lock Ava back up, I will. Hopefully it won’t be long, but I’ll take you home first.”

“No. I’ll stay. Blake’s team will be less spread out with me here, and I’ll know more of what’s going on.”

“That might actually be better. I know you knew this was coming, but your name did end up getting released in court with the press present.” He grabs my hips and settles me against the desk again. “It gets worse, though. For starters, Ava’s counsel stuck to the giant conspiracy story about the four of us framing her to shut her up over Rebecca’s death, so that theory went out to the press.”

“Detective Grant told me he’s completely cleared us. Can’t they speak up for us?”

“Truth or fiction, it’s not really relevant in the bond hearing. Unfortunately, Ava’s crazy claims, along with the dropped murder charges, muddied the prosecution’s case enough to lower her bond.”

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