sit back and let you ind your own open doors, when I want to open them for you. But I will.”
Every time I think I can’t fall more in love with Chris, I do.
“Thank you. I do really need to know I have my own success.”
“I know,” he says, and his voice softens. “Sara. I need you to leave the money thing right here in this room tonight. There’s plenty of other monsters in my closet for us to face, and I can’t set those free if I can’t even get past this.”
I lean forward and frame his face with my hands. “You can tell me, or show me, anything.”
His expression turns solemn. “I know, and I’m going to.
And that’s what scares me more than anything.” He walks into the bathroom, leaving me to stare after him.
Chantal turns out to be a lovely, patient, twenty-three-year-old native Parisian. And considering it’s nearly noon, and I’ve been sitting with my new tutor for two hours and I haven’t learned much, she deserves my high opinion of her.
I lean back against the red leather couch in the amazing library on the same loor of our bedroom and drop the “word chart” Chantal has me using on the cofee table. The famous pieces of art Chris has on the walls are far more interesting than learning French. “You do know it’s actually three or four in the morning for me? The time change has got to be afecting my ability to absorb the lesson. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it for at least a week. Then I’ll come up with something else.”
Chantal smiles her sweet smile, which brims with the kind of innocence that only one who hasn’t been burned by life can possess. The kind of innocence Ella has. Or had. I wonder 89
if these past few months have changed her. I wonder . . . No, I will not let myself think bad things. She is ine. Happy. Married and honeymooning.
“I’ve had plenty of people do far worse than you,” Chantal assures me, sitting primly beside me in a black skirt and matching silk blouse, her long, light brown hair a perfect complement to her green eyes and olive skin.
I snort at her diplomacy, meant to comfort me. “In other words, I’m bad, but not as bad as the people who don’t even speak their own language well.”
She grins and says, “Exactly,” and the playfulness in her expression really does remind me of Ella. She reminds me of Ella. Well, in personality. Ella’s strikingly deep red hair and pale white skin are incomparable and, on her, enviable. A knot forms in my belly. Oh, how I miss Ella.
My cell phone rings and I run my hands down my faded jeans and grab it from the cofee table, assuming it’s Chris with the good news that his meeting is over. “Hey,” I greet him eagerly after seeing his number on caller ID.
“Uh oh,” I say, reading his weary tone. “Your meeting didn’t go well.”
“The museum is having some inancial issues.”
“They want your money.”
“My money won’t solve this. Not until they have someone who actually knows how to manage what they have. They asked me to take a temporary spot on the board to try to solve the problems.”
“Did you agree?”
“I agreed to talk.”
My concern is instant. “Please don’t pull back from this because you’re worried about me. I have a lot to learn, and plenty to keep me busy.”
“I would prefer you do those things with me. That’s why I brought you here. For us to experience Paris together.”
I hesitate only a moment, conditioned to hold back, to fear being hurt—but I’m already all in with Chris. Holding back only hurts us moving forward. “I’m here to be a part of your life, to build one for us, Chris. It’s a not a vacation. We have plenty of time.”
“And yet I always have this sense it’s never enough.” There’s a haunted quality to his voice that shades his words and I want to ask what he means, but he continues, “No matter what, it’s doubtful I’ll agree to sit on the board. My inancial team and I came in and cleaned things up several years back for them, and they’re in the same place all over again.”
I’ve never given much consideration to Chris’s business persona, and perhaps I should have. Despite his claim that he’d sold of his stake in the family cosmetics company, having no interest in sitting in a boardroom for a living, there’s a reason why he’s so rich. He manages his money. He doesn’t just spend it.
“They want me to stay for meetings this afternoon,” Chris adds wearily. He has to be as jet-lagged as I am, or maybe it’s the situation. “Baby, I don’t want to desert you your irst day in Paris.”
I shove aside a pinch of disappointment and irm my voice.
“You need to stay. You said there were people involved who could contribute to your charity, right?”
“Yes, but I can still meet with them outside of this large commitment.”
“You don’t want a great museum to be lost, Chris, and neither do I. I’m completely ine. I haven’t even explored the house yet, and there’s shopping within walking distance. Chantal can direct me where to go for what I need.”
“I can take you,” Chantal ofers eagerly.
“Perfect,” Chris says, obviously overhearing. “I don’t want you running around the city alone. It’s a big city and you have a language barrier.”
I look at Chantal. “Are you sure?”