Torment rips through his eyes. “Sara—”
“You need that memory. I refuse to let Amber be a weapon in Tristan’s war games. And you have every right to grieve a woman who was part of your life for more than a decade. I’m not going anywhere, and we’re facing this together.”
The lines on his handsome face seem to harden, not soften, seconds ticking by before the hand around my neck drags me closer, our breath mingling, lips a sway from touching. “I won’t let you go,” he says, his tone low, guttural, emotion rushing off of him and crashing into me, and I know he’s not talking about me leaving by choice. He’s afraid of losing me the way Amber lost her family. The way he lost his mother, his father . . . Dylan. And as much as I want to remind him that living in fear of losing each other is a path to hell, I do not. Not here, in the midst of loss and grief.
Instead I reach behind me, closing my hand on his hand on my neck, my eyes meeting his. “Good. Because I’m not letting you go, either.”
Chris and I spend the rest of the day in bed, devouring each other and a Netflix marathon of Breaking Bad. I wake the next morning on my belly with Chris’s big body draped over mine, sunshine beaming through the curtains and a smile on my lips. His life is my life and my life is his.
“You smell like me,” Chris purrs in my ear, his tone low, gravelly.
Heat rushes over me with the possessiveness in those words, and I roll toward him. We both shift, staying close, and I happily devour the sight of him, his blond hair a sexy rumpled mess, the alluring shadow on his jaw, and the bright green of his eyes flickering with amber. “I like smelling like you. That’s why I like to wear your cologne.”
He tangles my legs with his big, powerful ones, his hand going to my hip, branding me in that way he does that turns me wonderfully inside out. “Wear me, not my cologne.” He leans in to kiss me—and his phone vibrates on the nightstand. He groans and pulls back, reaching for it without letting go of me. “It’s gone off three times in the last hour.”
My brow furrows. “It has? I never even heard it.”
“Time change. You were out hard.” He leans on his elbow and glances at his phone screen, then me. “Attorney. The apartment is going to be a mess to claim as mine—fuck, I don’t want to think about this right now.”
His phone buzzes again and his jaw clenches as he reads.
“What is it?” I prod.
He types a reply and looks at me. “He’s worried that Tristan’s silence means more trouble is on the way. Namely my full ownership of The Script, now that Amber’s . . . gone.”
I don’t miss how he catches himself before he says dead or the pain in his eyes that he allows me to see. He’s hurting and I hurt for him, and for Amber. Guilt stabs at me as I think of that gut feeling I’d had the night I’d gone after her at the club. That sense of desperation in her voice that had rung like danger to me in some way I couldn’t quite understand, but couldn’t ignore.
My fingers curl on his jawline. “How did you end up the owner of The Script, Chris? Was it always your business?”
“It was Amber’s business, but she borrowed money to start it and insisted I be on the paperwork until she paid me back. One loan turned into another, and that never happened. Tristan knew the setup and he didn’t like it. And while I think he’s a good guy, he’s angry, and obviously hell-bent on seeing me hurt. I have to be concerned.” His phone buzzes again and he glances at his screen and then me. “The attorney wants to meet right before lunch. I need to go get this behind me. You said Chantal wants to meet and talk about our wedding. See if you can do that now, so you’re free for the next few days to see the city.”
“I can go with you.”
“No.” His tone is absolute. “Go with Chantal.” He releases me, throwing back the blankets and sitting up on the edge of the bed, torment radiating off him in waves.
Tristan is getting to him. He can’t grieve and heal while defending himself, and I pray this isn’t the start of him shutting me out. I can’t let him shut me out. Not with Isabel and her damned whip here in the city.
Fighting for the man I love, I sit up and scoot toward him, wrapping my arms around him and laying my head on his back. I say nothing, silently letting him know I’m here for him, and that he’s not fighting this war against grief and guilt alone. At first he’s stiff under my touch, unmoving, and I feel fear forming in my belly, but slowly I feel him soften, the tension easing from his body.
He grabs me and pulls me around, cradling me while one hand slides into my hair. “Go see Chantal and I’ll deal with the attorney. I want our schedules cleared. I need to get away from this Tristan stuff and get lost with you, Sara. I’ll take you to explore the city I love. A few days of just you and me.”
My hand covers his, a mix of relief and heartache ripping through me. “Yes. Yes, I’d like that very much.”
His mouth comes down on mine, his kiss a deep slice of pain and passion that is over too fast. “Today I’m going to have to make some decisions where Tristan’s concerned that I don’t want to make. I need to think about what that means, and prepare myself.” He stands and walks toward the bathroom, leaving me to stare at his naked body as it disappears through the doorway.
The shower comes on, and my fingers sink into the mattress as I fight my instinct to go after him, since he’s clearly told me he needs a few minutes. My fear of his torment, and the whip he calls relief, is powerful, and so is my awareness of Isabel, the woman who first lashed him with that leather. A huge part of me needs to rush into that bathroom and make him promise he will not be tempted by the whip if he is shaken today. But I don’t. That’s not what he needs from me right now. Suffocating him isn’t trust—and not only has he done everything possible to deserve my trust, but I also believe he needs me to trust him enough for both of us.