“Why? Are you planning to tie me up sometime soon?”
He covers my hands on his cup. “Is that an objection, or wishful thinking?” He tilts the cup and drinks, his eyes never leaving mine.
“I plead the Fifth. It’s more fun that way.”
“That it is,” he agrees, but a sigh follows. “I wish I could do the same, but you’d better look at the newspaper.” He sets the cup on the counter, then hands me the Arts section of the local paper.
Dread fills me as I read the headline: “Acclaimed Artist and Philanthropist Chris Merit to wed Sara McMillan on Valentine’s Day in Star-studded Event in Sonoma.” I set it down. “We went to so much trouble to get the press off our backs before the wedding, and now they’ve found us! I knew when all these famous people showed up on the guest list, it was going to turn into a zoo.”
“Walker Security anticipated the press, and they’re staffed and ready for it. It’ll be fine. We’ll be shielded.”
Nerves the size of birds, not butterflies, attack my stomach. “We should have eloped.”
“We still can. Let’s do it. Now. Today.”
“We can’t elope,” I say, sounding appalled, as if he’d suggested it, not me. “People who respect you are coming a long way to see us. And Katie has planned this for months.”
“Baby, we can do whatever we want. This is our day.”
“No. We can’t. Not this far into this. Which reminds me—you can’t stay here tonight. It’s bad luck to see the bride the night before the wedding.”
“I told you how I feel about that. We make our own luck.”
He kisses me. “I’m staying here tonight, and I’m fucking you like I won’t see you ever again, just to be sure you walk down that aisle.”
“If you’re waiting for me at the end of that aisle, I’ll be there. And if you’re staying here tonight, we can use separate bedrooms.”
“Does today count as part of that eve-of-the-wedding rule?”
He scoops me up and I yelp. “What are you doing?”
“I’m a renegade, baby. Let’s go break the rules.”
• • •
It’s noon when Katie and I head to the Auberge du Nuit, the resort hotel Chris and I stayed at our first night in Sonoma. First on the agenda is to meet a couple of her girlfriends, as well as Chantal, her parents, and Rey in the lobby. As Chantal predicted in Paris, Katie and her mother are elated to see each other. Of course every person I meet tells me how beautiful I am, even though I’m without makeup, in sweats, ready to go to the spa. Maybe brides are like new babies, which everyone says are cute even when they have swollen heads and red faces. Nevertheless, I take the compliments gracefully, and there’s lots of hugging and laughter. There’s also enough awkwardness between Chantal and Rey to make even Katie, as distracted as she is by her reunions, give them a curious look. When the fuss finally dies down, Katie, her friends, and Chantal’s mother decide to do a little sightseeing. Rey is quick to go to his room.
Next for me and Chantal are our appointments at the spa, and while I’m dying to ask her about Tristan and Rey, it’s impossible, since we’re split up for facials, manicures, and pedicures. After we’ve been pampered, we head to one of the hotel restaurants for a snack and settle at a table for two.
I glance at the round bar in the center of the room and sigh. “I’d get a drink to calm my nerves, but the lady in the spa said it would make me puffy for the wedding.”
Chantal huffs at that and flags down a waitress. “Get a drink. You’re bouncing off the walls.”
That’s all the convincing I need. I order a glass of champagne and Chantal does the same, along with some spinach and artichoke dip and a plate of nachos to share. Halfway through my bubbly, with a few bites of food down me, I finally ask what I’ve wanted to for hours. “How bad was it flying over with Rey?”
She shoves her long brown hair behind her ear, looking uncomfortable. “Miserable. I hate him. I don’t hate him. He feels the same about me.”
“Okay, then. That sizes that up. What about Tristan?”
“He’s Tristan. Tormented, angry, miserable.”
“And that means what for the two of you?” My brows dip. “Or . . . uh, the three of you?”
“Two of us. There is no me and Rey. As for Tristan, I want to make his pain go away, but I think I’ve decided I can’t.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means he needs more. Or something else.”
“And how about you? What do you need?”
“I need to freshen up.” She sets her napkin on the table, then walks away.
I’ve clearly hit a nerve. I was afraid of Tristan hurting her, but it seems like Rey is the one tearing her to pieces.
My gaze drifts to the window and the view of the Mayacamas Mountains, and I’m fondly remembering seeing them the first time with Chris, when I hear, “Hello, Sara.”
I freeze at the familiar voice, the only voice other than Michael’s that could make me nauseous in an instant. I turn, swallowing the knot in my throat, to find my father claiming Chantal’s chair. It’s been years since I’ve seen him, and the only time I’ve heard his voice was when he was on speakerphone with Chris, being the bastard that he is.
I don’t speak. Neither does he. We just sit there, staring at each other. He’s still thin, his regal carriage as evident as always, but money and time have been good to him. His thick, dark hair might be more gray, and there are a few more lines on his face, but he still looks like the arrogant, self-important, but incredibly good-looking man I know as my fallen idol.