• • •

I rush through my shower and dress comfortably for the sightseeing we’ve talked about doing, donning dark navy jeans, knee-high brown boots and a soft, light blue sweater. Grabbing my purse and jacket, I find Chris on the phone in the living area, and the moment he spots me, he motions to the doorway and ends the call.

He gives me a quick up and down inspection, approval flickering in his eyes. “Nice, but naked is nicer.”

“You naked would be even nicer.”

“Soon, baby,” he says, wrapping his arm around me. “Maybe sooner than you think.”

A comment like that is most definitely a loaded promise of something naughty and forbidden that will push my limits. Today he’s dark Chris to the extreme, and he’s taking me along for the ride. But even dark Chris is polite, holding my car door, and then squatting down beside me to tug my seat belt over my lap. My senses go into overload as his arm brushes my breast and his scent teases my nostrils.

“I can’t promise you won’t get hurt,” he says softly, “but I can promise you I’ll never willingly let you go.” He pushes himself to his feet and shuts me inside, leaving me struggling to inhale my next breath.

As he climbs in beside me, I promise, “Neither will I. Don’t forget that, Chris. I won’t let you go.”

Several beats of silence pass before he says, “Then you’d better hold on tight, baby, because it’s going to be a wild ride.” He starts the engine and opens the garage, backing up.

“I’m counting on it,” I say.

To my relief, his sexy, perfect lips twitch a tiny bit. He makes the quick right to the main road and we travel the few blocks to the Champs-Élysées, the street that is home to the famous bakery and restaurant Ladurée, where I’m meeting Chantal. It’s also home to The Script, and Chris stops in front of the door sporting a Closed sign, darkness inside.

“Maybe he’s taking appointments only,” I suggest.

Chris tilts his head back a moment, then pulls a U-turn to deliver me to the opposite side of the road several blocks down. “We need to get you a car,” he announces as he stops in front of Ladurée.

“I like the Porsche.”

“What color?”

“This one, Chris. With you behind the wheel. I don’t want to drive in this crazy city. They barely use lanes.”

“You’re getting a car, Sara. We’ll go shopping this week.”

“You’re ridiculously stubborn.”

“You bet I am, baby.”

“So am I. Don’t forget that.”

“How can I? You remind me every day.” He grabs me and pulls me to him, cupping my face, and adds, “And I answer like this.” His mouth closes down on mine, and the torment in his kiss devours me, sliding deep into my soul. When he pulls his mouth from mine and whispers, “I love you,” I can barely breathe.

“I love you, too. Hurry back.”

“I shouldn’t be more than an hour,” he says, releasing me. “I stuffed a wad of euros in your purse. Grab a cab home if you need to leave before I’m done.”

“I’ll drag Chantal to a few stores to shop if we get done before you return.” I open the car door and step outside.

“Tell Chantal not to worry about teaching you French. I have a few incentives in mind,” he says suggestively.

Relieved that he’s feeling a bit playful, my lips curve. “My tongue is already rolling those rs.”

“I like the way you talk dirty, baby.” He winks and adds, “Text me when you’re almost done.”

I nod and shut the door. The 911 pulls away from the curb and I watch it slip into traffic. My smile fades as worry rises again over the way Chris’s grief is colliding with Tristan’s anger. And I hate that my worry makes me think of Isabel and the whip. It’s not about trust, either. It’s about an addiction that we have to fight together, which means I have to talk to him and be honest about my fears.

Shaking it off, I enter Ladurée. Passing through a cute double-doored entryway with shelves of baubles you can purchase, I enter the bakery section and spot Chantal standing by the hostess stand. Looking like sunshine in a cute yellow dress that she’s paired with black knee-high boots, her eyes light on me and her arms open as she rushes forward.

“Sara!”

Meeting her halfway, I greet her with a big hug, realizing that she always smells like vanilla. “How’s your grandmother?” I ask, hoping for the same news I’d gotten back in the States.

She smiles. “For a woman who had a stroke, she’s bossy as can be, and it’s wonderfully irritating.”

Laughing, I adjust my purse on my shoulder. “That’s great news.”

The hostess waves us forward, and Chantal and I follow her into a small dining area that contains a dozen tiny tables in a space that should hold eight. Chantal orders coffee and an assortment of the bakery’s famous macarons for the two of us. We’ve barely removed our coats when a waiter fills our cups with piping hot goodness.

“You look amazing,” Chantal announces once we’re alone, warming her hands on her cup.

I glance down at my light blue sweater and jeans. “I look like a bum, and you look like a model.”

She waves off my words, dashing her light brown hair behind her ears. “I work hard at it, but you always just seem like you, Sara. I like that. It’s beautiful. You’re real, not fake.”

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