He rests his forehead on mine. “I know. It’s a lot, but it’ll be better. We just have to hang in there.”

My hands cover his, and I want to hug him and comfort him. The day we’ve both feared is here, when we must face his demons, and we have to do it while we’re already standing in the fires of hell. And I have to be strong enough to keep him from burning alive.

I swallow my pain and nod. “Yes.” I force my gaze to his. “We do. We will. I love you.”

He strokes the dampness away from under my eyes. “I love you, too, and we can get through this. We can get through anything.”

Emotion overwhelms me and I press my hands to his cheeks. “Yes. We can get through anything.”

• • •

Going back out to that table of men and managing to stay dry-eyed is almost unbearably difficult, but I do it for Chris. And the ride home is even harder, filled with empty space that allows my mind to replay every moment with Amber, and question every action I took, every word I spoke to her. I know Chris will do the same, multiplied in every possible way. It’s nearly eleven o’clock at night when we finally pull into the garage of our apartment building, and it feels like I have lead in my stomach and a vise on my chest. I can barely breathe for what comes next.

Chris helps me out of the car and walks over to the 911, joking with Blake about riding the gas too hard. Jacob shuts the front door of the sedan and stretches, and I take the opportunity to quietly tell him, “We put Chris’s ex-girlfriend in Paris in rehab before we left. She just killed herself. I have to tell him.”

“Holy fucking shit.” He scrubs his jaw.

“I found out in the diner. I have to tell him in private, and I need to know we won’t be interrupted until I contact you again.”

“Consider it done.”

“Thank you.” My eyes burn. “I’m barely holding it together, so . . . if we can speed things up and get everyone gone quickly?”

“I’m on it. You did the right thing by waiting.” He steps around me to join the other three men.

I need a breath I can’t seem to manage to pull into my lungs. I stand there, my back to the men, and I am not sure how much time passes. Then Chris’s hand is on my shoulder and I reach up and cover it with mine, and that breath fills my lungs.

I turn to face him. “Any news?”

“We just missed a police press conference about the manhunt for Ava and Corey. They said they’d have more details on the investigation tomorrow morning.”

“So it’s all public now. No sign of Ava?”

“No. No travel activity. No sightings, but the press conference will change that. Blake says leads will flood the tip lines.” He motions to the elevator. “Jacob just took our coats and bags upstairs. Let’s go try to get lost in our own little world.”

If only that were possible. His arm settles over my shoulder, when it’s he who needs shelter from the firestorm I’m about to deliver. We ride the elevator in silence, and I wonder if he’s thinking about how to help me escape the torment I’m feeling. I know he is. That’s Chris. My dark knight. My hero. God, please let me be his now.

The elevator doors open and Jacob is there, his eyes meeting mine. His expression is carefully schooled but I feel his awareness, his understanding, and it’s a whisper of comfort. “Your bags are in the bedroom,” he says as we step inside the foyer. “We’ll have the building well covered. We don’t expect much to happen overnight, but if Ava or Corey is located, I’ll call. Otherwise, we’ll meet you here before the press conference at nine a.m.”

A storm of emotion hits me and I quickly leave them to say their good-byes, running down the stairs to the living room. I drop my purse on the chair and stop at the window to stare out at the inky black night, the stars and moon sucked into the darkness of clouds and an impending storm. My hands flatten on the cool glass and I drop my head forward. I don’t know how to tell him.

I feel the moment the room shifts with his presence and I squeeze my eyes shut, waiting for his touch. It comes with a hot spike of more emotion. So much emotion. I turn and grab his waist. “Lean back against the window.”

His brow furrows but he does as I say, allowing me to trap him with my body. I need to hold him. I need to try to control how this happens. Swallowing, I stare up at him, and I wish I’d turned on the lights. There are too many shadows, too little light.


I press to my toes and kiss him. “Just . . . listen. Okay?” He gives me a nod and I settle my hands back on his waist.

“Tristan called.” The words are a pained whisper, and I feel Chris’s body harden.

“How did Tristan call you?”

“He went . . . to Chantal. He said he can’t talk to you. Chris—”

His hands come down on my shoulders. “Just say it, Sara. Whatever it is, say it.”

“Amber . . . killed herself.”

He doesn’t move. He doesn’t speak. I don’t know how much time passes but I feel the eruption bubbling just beneath his surface a moment before he turns us and steps back. Withdrawing. He’s withdrawing. “When?”

“Tristan called me while we were at the diner. I didn’t want to tell you in front of everyone, and then have you be locked in a car, unable to react.”

He squeezes his eyes shut. “Thank you.”

I want to touch him, oh God, how I want to touch him, but I sense he’s not ready.

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance
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