He's rich and famous, his past dark, but so is hers. Can they save each other? Or will the darkness tear them apart?
“You stopped to ask me what happened?”
“Yes. I stopped to ask what happened. Now, tell me.”
My lashes lower a moment as I savor just how good this man is to me. I curl my fingers on my cheek. “Thank you for stopping, but really, there was nothing worthy of concern. Let’s go to the chateau.”
“After you tell me what happened,” he orders, but the tenderness lacing the stubborn determination of his tone wins me over, as does his sincerity. He really cares and I am truly not alone anymore.
“When Katie wanted to know if there was anyone on my side of the family to coordinate with, it hit a nerve. I started worrying about Ella, and thinking about my father, who I don’t want to come to our wedding. I truly don’t, yet somehow, the very fact that I don’t gives him the power to twist me in knots.”
Chris nods. “As did my father to me, no matter how much of a bastard he became. Sometimes I think the worse he treated me, the more I wanted to win back his affection.”
I’d seen glimpses of these feelings before now, but this is the first time he’s spoken them aloud. “Maybe it’s some inborn need to feel close to a parent?”
“That’s the only conclusion I could come to when I couldn’t let him go. I still can’t. He’s always with me, making sure I stay just a little more fucked up.”
“If you’re fucked up, it’s all kinds of right, Chris Merit. That charity work Tristan talked about? You don’t just throw money at it. You give pieces of your soul to those kids and their families. You make a difference and I’ll be honored to help you do it.”
He pulls my hand to his mouth and kisses my fingers. “Let’s elope. Anyplace you want to go. Say the word and as far as I’m concerned we’ll go tomorrow.”
“What? No. We decided on Katie and Mike’s place together. And my ring isn’t even done.”
“This isn’t about a ring. Or Katie and Mike, or anyone else. It’s about us and I don’t want you worried about your father or the guest list. You know I’m not big on attention anyway.”
I lace my fingers with his. “You’re trying to protect me and I appreciate that, but I want to get married under those hanging rose your mother inspired Katie to plant.”
“Don’t do this for me, baby. I just want to spend the rest of my life with you. That’s all I need.”
“It’s for us. You know my father is just a hot button for me. I’ll get by it. And truth be told, I’m a little raw over Amber, too. That night here in Paris when I went to the club I had this sense I needed to save her. I shouldn’t have listened to that feeling.”
“Don’t do that to yourself. You barely knew her.”
“Yet, on some level I felt her screaming for help. But I second-guessed myself and thought it was Rebecca and Ella influencing my feelings.”
“You were a lot of the reason I pushed to get Amber help, Sara. It was just too little too late. That’s on me, not you.”
“Yes,” he says, stroking the hair out of my eyes, his hand staying at the back of my head.
“Now here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to leave this all right here and I’m going to drive us the fifteen minutes we have left to get to the chateau, where we’re going to fuck like
rabbits. Then, we’re going to eat and fuck some more. After we sleep, we’ll set some rules with
Katie about the wedding so you won’t worry about it and then we’ll fuck some more. And since I had the caretaker that lives in the house behind the chateau stock enough food to last us a week, we can stay in bed for days on end. Any objections so far?”
I smile and not just at his words, but at his rapid shift from dark Chris, to playful, sexy Chris. “And if I do?”
He, leans closer to me, his breath on my ear. “I’ll just tie you to the bed.”
Yes. Please. My list of objections begins to form.
He glances up from the paper he’s reading, then picks up his coffee cup. “Morning, Ms. McMillan.”
“Morning, Mr. Merit,” I reply, grinning as I join him. He offers me his coffee cup and I happily accept it, taking a drink of the perfectly flavored coffee and creamer. Sharing a cup with Chris has this sexy, intimate feel to it that always does funny things to my belly.
“Your last day as a free woman,” he comments.
“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.”
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Meet Lisa Renee Jones
Watch the video on casting for the INSIDE TV Show HERE
Since beginning her publishing career in 2007, Lisa has published more than 40 books translated around the world. Booklist says that Jones suspense truly sizzles with an energy similar to FBI tales with a paranormal twist by Julie Garwood or Suzanne Brockmann.
Prior to publishing, Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by Dallas Women Magazine. In 1998 LRJ was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.
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