“If he takes ownership.”

“Either way, I’m out and protected. As for you, my little schoolteacher, big sister to the world . . .” He pulls me close and l slip under the soft leather of his black coat. “Enrique Estaban is at the Louvre for a meeting. I thought you might want to go meet him.”

I gape. “As in the renowned artist?”

“That would be him.”

“Oh my God.” My fingers curl around his coat lapels. “Yes. Yes. Yes. Please.”

He chuckles, low, deep and sexy, lacing his fingers with mine. “I thought you might be interested. Let’s go play in the calm before the storm.”

Part Four

Acceptance

Somehow Chris and I have a fabulous evening, as if we both just needed to escape the quicksand of all the tragedy we’ve been living inside of for the past few weeks. After we have dinner with Enrique Estaban and go home, I know that Chris has found a window of peace, because we make love instead of fucking. Instead of the dark, turbulent sex of recent days, it’s a slow, tender exploration of everything we’ve become together.

Morning comes, though, and ironically so does another dark, stormy sky. We lie there a long time, curled together, thunder rumbling in the background. We don’t talk, but eventually Chris moves, standing and taking my hand, his green eyes filled with the shadows he can’t escape. He leads me into the bathroom. We’re already naked, body and soul. He turns on the shower and steps in, dragging me in with him. One minute we’re staring at each other, and the next I’m against the wall, my legs around his waist, and he’s buried inside me. He is insatiable, as if last night was right and good, but just not enough. He’d found a sweet, safe haven to shelter us and left the rest of the world behind, but now the world has returned and with it, his demons.

I cling to Chris, panting with the impact of each thrust, desperate to give him the escape he needs, wanting him deeper and harder. On some level, I know this is more than his need. It’s mine, too. We are all the sum of all our broken pieces.

When it’s over we wash each other off, and still we don’t talk, but we don’t need to. He is dreading today, and so am I.

Shortly after nine, we’re dressed and nursing cups of coffee at the kitchen island counter, waiting for the explosion that’s sure to come. Neither of us tries to eat. However, we do talk, focusing on the Christmas charity event at the Louvre that Chris will be part of, and now me too, volunteering for a number of duties that don’t require French.

I’m refilling both of our cups when Chris’s cell phone rings. We exchange a silent look, then he glances at the number and back up at me. “It’s the attorney,” he murmurs, hitting the Answer button as I set the coffeepot back on the burner and sit down on a barstool, running my suddenly damp palms over my black velour sweat suit.

Chris says a few short words into the phone, ending with, “Then we wait. Right. We’ll see who hears something first. Let’s make this end today.” After saying goodbye, he makes another call that is quick and in French before setting his phone on the counter, crossing his arms over his black Sons of Anarchy T-shirt.

“The locks were changed as planned, and Tristan was served the paperwork in person. The process server said that as he was walking away, Tristan let out a loud growl and punched the wall. So I think it’s safe to assume he read the documents. I have Rey headed this way just to be safe.”

I swallow hard. “You don’t think Tristan would do anything crazy, do you?”

He unfolds his arms, reaching for the creamer to top off his coffee. “I’m just being safe. But at least we’re getting a reaction. He needs to deal with this, for his own good.”

The pounding starts on the door, a moment before the bell goes nuts.

Chris pushes to his feet. “And that would be him.”

“That was fast,” I say, also standing. “I don’t even want to know how this is going to go down.”

“Stay here,” Chris orders. “I don’t want you anywhere near this.”

He takes a step toward the stairs, but I grab his arm. “You don’t know what to expect, and you’re concerned enough to have just called Rey. Let me stand back on the stairs and be prepared to call the police, Chris. I’ll stay out of the way.”

The knocking erupts again, and there’s resignation in the furrow of Chris’s brow. “The emergency number is 17 here.”

The bell rings over and over, setting my already frazzled nerves on edge. “I know. I’ve got it.”

“Let’s get this over with, then.”

We go down the stairs into the living area, and my gaze catches on the furry cream-colored rug beside the couch as we pass. It’s the same rug where I’d lain naked with Chris on my first night in Paris, and Amber had let herself inside and surprised us. I’d been appalled and embarrassed—and confused by her comfort level in entering Chris’s home. She’d been beautiful, bitchy, and yet wounded in some way that kept me from hating her for that meanness. Maybe that’s what kept Tristan with her, despite all she put him through.

“Chris!” Tristan shouts as we reach the top of the stairs, and I’m certain the angry French that follows is mostly profanities.

Chris grabs my arms and turns me to him, his green eyes as hard as I’ve ever seen them. “Stay here, Sara. I can’t worry about you and deal with him.”

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