“Did you tell Chris you were trying to get her into rehab?”

“Chris wasn’t supposed to matter,” he says through his teeth. Pain ripples through the words. “He wasn’t supposed to matter.”

“Tristan—”

“She was obsessed with him, and I see the way you look at him. You’re just like her.”

“It wasn’t Chris she wanted, Tristan. It was about pain. Pain she was running from. She didn’t want to face how deep it ran, and you made her face it.”

“Stop pretending that you knew her.”

“I know what I saw in her eyes. I know what I felt when she reached out to me.”

“You know nothing—and that’s the problem. Get out of his world while you’re still whole. I didn’t, and clearly, neither did Amber.” He turns and starts walking.

“Tristan,” I call out, shocked when Chantal, who has just emerged from Ladurée, calls his name at the same time.

I look to my left as she takes off running after him. “Chantal!” I shout, racking my brain to try to remember if they were ever at the house at the same time, and shocked when she actually grabs his arm.

I hold my breath for his reaction, watching as he faces her, saying something that she reacts sharply to, her hand dropping away. He starts walking again and she shouts at him. He turns yet again and they exchange words, and I’m certain they know each other well. Tristan gives Chantal his back, his pace fast and unstoppable this time, but she relentlessly chases after him.

“Chantal,” I call out, not even certain when I started running after her, but I am, cutting between the people on the sidewalk. “Chantal!”

She stops abruptly, turning toward my voice as if she’s suddenly remembered that I even exist.

“What are you doing?” I ask, catching up to her, my breathing heavy, the cold air biting at my lips and nose.

“I need to go after him. He’s . . . he’s not good right now.”

“How do you know Tristan?”

“I . . .” She looks flustered. “Sara, he needs me. I need to go.”

Tristan needs her? “How do you know him, Chantal?”

“I wanted a tattoo, and I met Amber once when I was at your place. She wasn’t at the shop when I went, so Tristan gave it to me.”

“You got a tattoo?” I ask, shocked that Ms. Prim-and-Proper would do such a thing.

She looks indignant, her feathers clearly and thoroughly ruffled. “Yes. I did. That’s not a crime. I need to go check on Tristan.”

“He’s gone. Check on him where?”

Her lips purse. “I need to go.”

She knows where he lives. That has to be it. “You’re right; he’s not in a good place, Chantal. He’s a dangerous person to get involved with. What happened to Rey?”

“You said Rey was too old for me, and he agreed. He treats me like I’m a child. I don’t want a big brother.”

Tristan’s just as old, but I don’t have the chance to point that out before she adds, “I’m not a fool. I know he’s using me to get through the pain, but I’m okay with that.”

“He was with some other woman last night at The Script.”

She hugs herself, huddling into her jacket, lowering her head a moment before she looks at me again, but I see pain in her eyes. “I’m his friend,” she states. “Just a friend.”

There’s clearly more to this story than I know. “Chantal,” I start gently, but she holds up her hands.

“Don’t say my name like that. I don’t need pity.”

“Pity? That has to be a translation issue—because where did that word even come from?”

“You feel sorry for me because you think I’m acting like some lovesick puppy. He’s a friend. He doesn’t lie to me. He doesn’t tell me fairy tales. And I need to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.” She doesn’t wait on my reply, darting away in the direction Tristan has disappeared.

I hesitate a moment, and then my protective instincts win out. I start after her, only to have a hand come down on my arm. I whirl around to find Chris standing there.

“Let her go, baby.”

“You don’t understand. She’s involved with Tristan.”

“I heard her, but think about it. If someone had told you to stay away from me, would it have worked?”

“You aren’t Tristan.”

“Sara, he’s not into drugs, or booze, or pain. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just heartbroken.”

“And he’ll use her and hurt her. He was with another woman just last night.”

“She knows. You told her, and she clearly stated she has open eyes. We are all the sum of all our broken pieces. She has to live her life in order to grow, and warning her away from him is only going to make him more enticing. Besides, he’s going to need all the support he can get after what I’m about to do to him.”

“What does that mean?”

“In the middle of the night, the locks will be changed on The Script. In the morning, he’ll be served with papers that give him one of two options. Either he claims ownership in twenty-four hours, or I put all of the equipment into storage and he has two years to claim it.”

I swallow the instant knot in my throat. “He’s going to freak out, Chris.”

“Believe me, I know, baby. But this protects him and me at the same time. It gets this situation behind us so we can all heal.”

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