Overwhelmed with relief that he’s so well balanced after all that happened with Tristan, and so very happy with how far we’ve come, I smile. “I’ll say ‘I do’ to that.”

His cell phone rings and Katie’s ID flashes on the console. “She must have wedding radar,” he says.

“And I’m totally in the mood to talk about our wedding.” I kiss his cheek and grab his phone, putting it on speakerphone. “Hello, Katie.”

“Sara! It’s so good to hear your voice. I’ve been worried sick about you two over this Ava mess. Chris texted me when you arrived in Paris, but I can’t help but worry she can find you even there.”

I relax at her warm tone, amazed at how much this woman manages to make me feel like family. “Good to hear your voice, too, and I really doubt Ava has the resources to find us here. Besides, we really aren’t her targets.”

“The woman thought she could kill Rebecca to be with your boss. You never know what a person like that will do. And Chris was concerned enough to leave the country.”

“He was scheduled for the charity event at the Louvre, so coming here made sense. But we’re actually on our way to the country chateau now.”

“Oh. The chateau.” There’s a pause. “How is he, Sara? How’s he taking this Amber situation?”

My brow furrows at her reaction, and I can only surmise that she knows that he locks himself up out there on the anniversary of both his mother’s death and the mugging that left Amber’s parents dead. “These things aren’t easy, but we’re through the worst of it.”

“I won’t ask details, but at least it sounds positive. And thank God he isn’t going through this alone. I know I’ve said this, but I’ll say it again: You have changed him.”

“It’s mutual, I assure you.”

“That’s how it’s supposed to be. When one of you can’t breathe, the other does it for you.”

“Yes,” I say, loving that analogy, and understanding it in a way I never did before Chris. “That is how it’s supposed to be. Now, about the wedding. Valentine’s Day is a popular wedding day, so I need to lock down everything from the guests to the cake now.”

“I’m really not sure if confirming Valentine’s Day is safe until we know what’s happening with Ava,” she says.

“We can’t live in fear,” Chris interjects. “If Ava isn’t caught by the time the holidays are over, she may never be caught. And if Ricco helped her escape and then found out she killed Rebecca, she might not even be alive. I’m not willing to wait to call Sara my wife any longer than I already have to.”

I smile at his declaration.

“Valentine’s Day is the day we chose, and no one takes that away from us,” he finishes.

“Valentine’s Day it is,” Katie says. “And although you’re my godson, that is the sexiest thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

“Yes,” I agree, smiling. “It is.”

“On to my next point. A beautiful bride needs a dress. If you’re staying there for Christmas, you need to find one there.” I open my mouth to tell her about Chantal’s suggestions, but she’s already moved on. “And we need to get a guest list going to even begin to plan everything else. Is there anyone on your side of the family I should be coordinating with?”

“No,” I say, and it hits me then that my part of the guest list is going to be tiny. “No, there isn’t.”

She is quiet a moment and then softly says, “You do know that we’re your godparents now too, don’t you?”

My chest tightens. “Thank you. That’s a very nice thing to inherit.”

“Let’s hope you feel that way when I’m done planning the wedding,” she teases, and proceeds to talk about cakes, while my mind is still on the guest list that has triggered thoughts of Ella and my father. I understand Ella being on my mind; I’m constantly worried for her. But my father? He doesn’t deserve to have the energy expended. He didn’t even check on me when he heard Ava had tried to kill me.

“ . . . so the bakery is divine, Sara,” Katie says, drawing me back into our conversation. “Everything is melt-in-your-mouth goodness.” She says something to someone else, and then she sighs. “Mike is rushing me to get off the phone. He’s got some football star coming in for a tour of the winery, so I’ll call you tomorrow.”

We say a quick good-bye, and the instant I push the End button, Chris pulls the 911 to the shoulder of the road, puts it in Park, and turns to me. “Talk to me. What just happened?”

I close my eyes a moment, savoring just how good this man is to me. “Thank you for stopping, but really, there’s nothing worthy of concern. Let’s go to the chateau.”

“After you tell me what happened,” he orders, but the tenderness of his tone wins me over.

“When Katie wanted to know if there was anyone on my side of the family to coordinate with, it hit a nerve. I started worrying about Ella, and thinking about my father, who I don’t want to come to our wedding. I truly don’t, yet somehow, the very fact that I don’t gives him the power to twist me in knots.”

Chris nods. “As my father did to me, no matter how much of a bastard he became. Sometimes I think the worse he treated me, the more I wanted to win back his affection.”

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