He looks up at Tristan again, reaching into his jacket pocket and setting an envelope on a small table just inside the door. “I cosigned for the business. This is the release and the fifty thousand euros you’re going to need to survive losing her here at the store.”
Tristan makes a disgusted sound. “Like that, or your fancy treatment center, solved anything. I don’t want your shitty money. I have a loan in process. I’ll buy this place from you.”
“You don’t need to buy it,” Chris retorts. “It was Amber’s. Your having it is what she would want.”
“I said,” Tristan hisses, “I don’t want—”
“Then have your attorney call my attorney.” Chris takes my hand. “His contact information is inside the envelope. It’s your choice, Tristan, but I suggest you think long and hard before you make it.” He leads me toward the door.
“Chris,” Tristan calls out.
When Chris halts Tristan spews several angry sentences in French, and I don’t have to understand the words to know he’s goading Chris for a reaction. Chris’s fingers tighten around mine, a sign of his anger, but he refuses to set it free. He starts walking again, his long, fast strides forcing me to double-step to keep up, telling me that Tristan got to him in a big way.
As we exit into the cold, dark night he unlocks the 911, then pulls open my door. Worried about his state of mind, I turn to him, but when the moonlight glints momentarily off the hard lines of his face, I’m clear on one thing: Now is not the time for questions. He wants out of this place, and he wants out now.
I slip into the car, and he is quick to round the hood and join me. He’s also quick to rev the engine. He maneuvers out of the parking lot and pulls out onto the Champs-Élysées, the move feeling too precise, too controlled. I feel he’s overcompensating for the storm raging inside him.
It’s amazing to me how he can be so in control on the outside when I know he has demons waging war in his head.
Only minutes later, we pull up to the gate of our home on Foch Avenue, and Chris rolls down his window and keys in the entry code.
Our home. I’ll never get tired of those words, and I’m finally starting to get used to using them. But what really hits me in this moment is that no matter how out of his mind with grief and guilt Chris might be, I don’t feel insecure. I don’t believe he has any intention of shutting me out, as he did in the face of tragedy in the past. No matter what we have to endure, no matter how ugly life might get, my place will always be with Chris. And he needs that security as much as I do. He needs to know that no matter how bad things get, I’m not going anywhere.
The gate opens and we circle around back of the massive gray stone building. As rich as Chris is, he is without the sense of righteousness that so many extremely wealthy people possess. He’s just . . . Chris. And though he’s indescribably perfect to me, I know that tonight, enduring the aftermath of Amber’s death, he feels wholly imperfect.
The garage door opens and Chris pulls the Porsche inside, the glow of a motion-sensing light surrounding us. He quickly shoves open his door and heads to the entryway to the house, leaving me behind. My gut clenches.
Following, I enter the small, carpeted foyer leading to the elevator that goes to every level of our private residence. The instant I step inside, Chris shuts the door and shrugs out of his jacket, his brown Van Halen T-shirt stretching over his impressive chest. “Undress,” he orders, tossing his jacket to the ground.
My eyes go wide. “Here?”
“Yes, here and now, Sara.”
His voice is hard, his jaw set, and when he reaches for his shirt and tosses it aside he exposes rippling muscle and his dragon tattoo, a creation of red, yellow, and blue that Amber designed. I swallow hard, aware that Chris doesn’t just dive into sex without the erotic push and pull of his control and mine, not unless he’s angry or standing on the edge of a proverbial cliff. I know he’d be seeking a whip right now if not for me. I know he’d be over that edge. But he’s not, and I won’t let him fall, not now or ever again.
I tear away my shirt and reach for my bra, removing it in an instant. Chris reaches for his boots, and his hot gaze rakes over my breasts and nipples. Feeling warm outside and bitterly cold inside, I remove my boots as well, and then together we move, both shoving away our jeans and underwear.
He advances on me in the same instant I free myself of the tangle of my panties, his big body caging me against the wall, his thick erection pressed to my hip. His fingers tangle roughly, erotically, into the strands of my hair and he drags my mouth to his. “Mine,” he proclaims. “Mine to protect,” he adds. “And mine to take.”
“Yes,” I whisper, and he swallows the word, his lips closing down on mine, hard and hot, his tongue licking into my mouth.
I taste hunger in him. I taste pain. I taste fear. The kind of fear that comes from blame. I ache to comfort him, but as his tongue is stroking against mine again, the pull of desire drugs my mind and awakens my body. I ache now in that bittersweet way I always want to last forever and ever. I feel it in the heaviness of my breasts, the burn of my nipples, the wet heat of my sex.
His hand caresses over my hip and he shifts our position, lifting my leg to his waist as he settles between my thighs. The thick pulse of his erection presses into the slick heat of my body and he releases my hair, his hand palming my breast, fingers tugging on one sensitive, swollen nipple.