I sigh as we step into the elevator. “I don’t like change.”
The doors shut and Chris slides his hand to my hip. “Things change, baby.”
“Meaning us? Will we change, too?”
“Yes. We’ll get old and gray.” The doors ding and the elevator opens. “But I’ll still be able to do this.” He lifts me and throws me over his shoulder, and I laugh, remembering the first time he did this, and his “Me Tarzan, you Jane,” proclamation.
“Put me down, Tarzan,” I order as he walks down the living room stairs and crosses to the kitchen door. “The blood is rushing to my head.”
He stops dead in his tracks. “Holy shit.”
I try to twist around and see what he’s seeing. “What?”
He slides me down to the floor and turns me to face the kitchen island. Flowers cover every bit of it, and just beyond, in the windowed alcove, our kitchen table is completely buried under a variety of cupcake choices.
“We sure aren’t going to be hungry if we taste all those cupcakes,” I say.
“We aren’t doing this today. There’s no way the florist and the bakery had the same deadline.” He pulls his phone from his pocket. “This is Katie’s deadline, and she’s going to have to wait until tomorrow.”
I grin, walking to the counter to inspect the many bouquet choices, immediately eying an arrangement of pink roses.
“I know, Katie,” I hear Chris say. “Yes. I know. Yes.” I smile, certain she is lecturing him, one of the few people on the planet who can pull it off. “Pay triple if you have to,” he finally says. “Just get us until tomorrow. We have the memorial. Not exactly the right day to be making wedding decisions.” There is a long silence. “Yes. No. I need—Katie. Tomorrow.”
I walk toward the cupcakes, and the counters by the fridge and stove are also covered in flowers, including another pink rose arrangement. I lift it from the vase to see how it’s different from the one I already admired. Chris enters the kitchen and I glance at him. “Everything okay?
“Tomorrow is fine,” he replies, stepping up beside me.
“Thank goodness.” I show him the flowers. “I like these. I love the whole leather and pink thing. It’s so us. I still think you should wear your leather jacket, not a tux.” I glance up and go still at the way his expression has gone all hard lines and tension. “What’s wrong?”
He takes the flowers from me and sets them back in the vase, his hands going to my waist as he backs me against the wall. “One day,” he says, his voice a tight band of well-contained emotion, “I’ll want the whip again.”
My hands go to his upper arms. “What just happened?”
“Katie. Something she said.”
“What could she have possibly said to make you think about the whip, Chris?”
“Nothing I want to talk about when we need to be ready to leave in an hour and a half.”
“We can cancel dinner. You’re what’s important.”
“We aren’t canceling; we came back early for that. And I’m not letting this interrupt our lives. Ever. But I need to know that you know this battle isn’t over. Tell me you can handle it.” It’s a terse, urgent command.
“I know that. And I can handle it. We can handle it.”
“I won’t go there again, I promise. I’ll want to, but I won’t. If I didn’t believe that with everything I am, Sara, I wouldn’t have asked you to marry me.”
“I believe you, Chris.”
“It builds. I never know the trigger. Maybe it’s the next Dylan—and there will be another Dylan, through our charity work. Or maybe it’s a nightmare about the shooting. I don’t know what it will be, but it will happen. But you need to know this, Sara: I’ll tell you. I won’t hide it. I won’t shut you out.”
“I know. Remember when you told me to see you? To really see you? I do, Chris. I really see you, and I love every part of you. I love you,” I repeat.
He swallows the proclamation with a kiss that is more than simple passion. It is a question that I’ve answered before, but something Katie said made him doubt, and I know what he means by triggers. There are things that make me remember Michael. Things that make me remember my father, and fear Chris will one day leave me. But Chris no longer sets those triggers off for me. No matter what he feels now, I am not afraid that this is the end.
He tears his mouth from mine, his gaze heavy-lidded, his desire so raw and palpable that I’m right there with him in an instant, wet, hot, and in need in a way only he can satisfy.
As if echoing my thoughts, he says, “I need to be inside you, and out of my own head.” His voice is rough erotic sandpaper on my nerve endings, and he doesn’t give me time to respond. He turns me to the wall and tears my shirt over my head, one arm wrapping my waist, holding me to him, another hand cupping my breasts, fingers shoving down my bra, pinching my nipples. Sensations spiral through me and already my knees are weak, my body heavy against his. He abandons my breasts and I want to pull him back but already he is shoving down my sweatpants. I help him every way I can, and somehow I am able to toe off one of my shoes but I’m pretty sure he somehow gets the second one off for me.
The instant I’m naked he presses my hands to the wall, his body cradling mine, his thick erection pressed to my backside.
“Why are you still dressed?” I whisper, desperate to feel his skin against mine. But even as I say the words, I know why. Whatever happened on that phone call has him feeling his control has slipped away, and he burns to reclaim it.