She has no idea how much her words mean to me, or how Chris has made them true. Before him, I’d lost myself. Completely, utterly lost myself. “Thank you. That means a lot to me.”

“I’m just being honest.” She flattens her hands on the table. “Now. Let’s talk about the important stuff first. Do you have a wedding dress?”

“No. I’m planning to find one when I get back to the States.”

“You don’t even know when you can go back.”

“We plan to go back right after the holidays.” I worry about planning a wedding when Ava might still be out there somewhere, bent on revenge.

“That only gives you a little over a month to find a dress and have alterations made. We all think finding an outfit is easy, until we have to find it for some important event. A wedding is as important as it gets, and if you want a custom design, you aren’t leaving yourself enough time. There are some of the most amazing designers in the world here, and Chris has the money and resources to make sure you get a dream dress.”

“I know, but I don’t want to try to transport it back to the States. What if it gets damaged?”

“There are ways to handle the shipment safely. These high-end designers cater to people all over the world.”

“I don’t need anything fancy. It’s going to be a small wedding. I’m not even sure I want to wear white.”

“You can wear red if you like—it’s your wedding day. But you’re marrying a famous artist, Sara. People are going to want to attend his wedding, and your dress will be hyped in the press. You need something special. And I certainly want to be there.”

“Yes, please. I would love it so much if you were there.” And Ella, I think, silently praying for any news of my missing friend.

“Oh, I’m coming,” Chantal assures me. “And you know my mother is good friends with Katie, right? Katie is going to want my parents to attend, and they’re going to want to be there. And this is how small weddings become not so small. Guest lists tend to grow. I have a friend who wanted to limit it to twenty-five, and she ended up with a hundred.”

I don’t want to feel like I’m in a fish bowl when I get married, and I don’t believe that’s what Chris wants either, but I can see Katie’s excitement spiraling out of control. A conversation about the wedding planning with her and Chris is clearly needed.

“Let’s go back to dresses,” Chantal says, removing her iPad from her purse and setting it on the table. “I want to show you some of the designers you have to choose from right here in Paris.”

The macarons arrive and I end up lost in sweet treats and gorgeous dresses, fretting that the fancy gowns I love would be overdone for the size of the wedding I truly want.

When Chantal hears my concern, she says, “Even if it’s just you and Chris, you wear what you want to wear.”

The hour passes by quickly and by the time we’ve paid our bill, I’m officially excited about visiting a few designers. I’m marrying the love of my life. I want to enjoy every second of it.

As Chantal and I stand and slip into our coats I say, “Chris should be done soon, but I was thinking of strolling the shops nearby until he calls. Want to join me?”

“I’m always up for shopping,” she agrees eagerly. “Let me buy some pastries for my grandmother before we go.”

“Go ahead,” I say. “I’ll just step outside and try to confirm with Chris how much time we have.”

“Perfect.” She hustles away and I pull my phone from my purse as I step outside, almost running into a man on the sidewalk.

I gasp as his hands come down on my arms and I blink up at an all too familiar face. “Tristan.”

“Amazing how small the world is when we all live a few blocks apart. Maybe too small.” He lets go of one of my arms and uses the other to drag me forward.

I stumble and my mind races in circles that get me nowhere. “What are you doing?” I demand.

He stops, and though he releases me, I now have a wall at my back and him at my front. “We need to talk.”

“Yes,” I agree, hugging myself against the cold. He is taller and bigger than I thought. “Yes, we do. Chris—”

“Will drag you down just like he did Amber. Open your eyes, and see beyond the money and the power.”

Indignant, my hands go to my hips. “I don’t care about his money and power. I love him.”

“Right. Whatever makes you feel better in the morning. Get out while you can.”

I open my mouth to defend Chris but stop myself, certain that he’s baiting me and wanting to turn the tables on him. “Amber would want you to have The Script and the apartment.”

“Even if I was willing to take Chris Merit’s blood money, which I’m not, I can’t stand to be anywhere that reminds me of Amber—and that includes The Script. I’m getting the hell out of this place.” His lips thin; his expression tightens. “She was just like you, you know? She didn’t need a whip. She didn’t need pain. He did that to her. He’ll do it to you.”

“Chris didn’t—”

“Don’t,” he spits, running a hand through his long hair, the wind licking at the loose locks. “Don’t tell me what he did or didn’t do. He kept her close to him, like a pet. I tried to get her into rehab I don’t know how many times, and she wouldn’t go. She used him against me, pushing me away, always throwing around Chris’s damned name.”

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