All of Me (Inside Out Series Book 6)

BOOK: All of Me (Inside Out Series Book 6)
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July 20th . . .

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m planning a night home alone. He’ll probably be at the club with someone else. Not that I have a say in such matters; I chose to walk away and find myself again. To be alone. I’ve come to hate that word, though I’d once reveled in how strong it made me. It’s funny, how letting someone into your life makes you forget how to just be . . . you. You become
us
,
hoping that you both see it that way. The problem is, he never seemed to see “us” beyond Master and Submissive. Now, I’m trying to find me again. My brilliant plan includes a large cheese pizza and a Snickers bar. Probably not the best way to feel good about myself tomorrow, but I’m certain it will work tonight. Hey—one night at a time. That’s my motto and I’m sticking with it. At least tonight.

Midnight, a new day that feels like the same endless, lonely night . . .

Six episodes of
Sex in the City
has me wondering if my former Master is my Mr. Big. Will he eventually prove to be the soul mate I thought him to be? I’m not sure how I feel about that. I always wanted Carrie to end up with Mr. Big, but after watching the show again, I wonder if Mr. Big simply got old and settled for Carrie, and convinced her otherwise?
I don’t want anyone to settle for me. I want someone who would do anything for me, like Leonardo DiCaprio did for Kate Winslet in
Titanic
—except die. I want someone who’ll save me, and me them. Someone who will be on the raft with me.

I don’t want to be alone anymore, but I don’t want to settle for Mr. Big. I guess I
’m a romantic. I want real love. The kind that reaches inside your soul and awakens it and you. The kind that makes every bad thing a little smaller and every great thing a little more great. And that’s why I walked away from my Master. He’s my Mr. Big, and I want all of him. Only then will he get all of me.

Rebecca Mason

Part One

Mine

Paris, six weeks ago

It’s only twenty-four hours after Chris and I have arrived in Paris, and we’re facing the demons of his past. He pulls his silver Porsche 911 up to the front of The Script, the tattoo parlor he’d financed for Amber and her boyfriend Tristan.

Seeing the dimmed lights and Closed sign, he curses. “It’s ten minutes until eight. They aren’t supposed to close until eight.”

“He might have finished early,” I suggest, trying to soothe the darkness that has been his mood ever since we arrived yesterday. And I know why. He’s fighting the whip, that deep, evil need to punish himself and have the leather rip into his skin and muscle.

“Or,” Chris replies, “he’s avoiding me, the way he has my calls. I can see the reflection of a light in the back room, so I’m pulling around back.” He rolls forward.

I hug myself, curling my fingers beneath my arms. “Won’t the back door be locked? What if he won’t let you in?”

He cuts down the back alley. “I have to try, Sara. You know I do.”

“I know,” I whisper. I know he
thinks
he has to see Tristan, driven to make things right with a man he feels he somehow wronged. But deep down, I fear he craves someone who will blame Amber’s death on him, since I refuse to do so.

We round the corner and pull into the empty parking lot. “Maybe he just forgot to turn out the light?” I suggest.

Chris kills the engine. “If the light’s on, he’s here.”

Even in the shadows, I can see how stiff he is, how his wrist rests tensely on the steering wheel, his gaze locked on the place that’s more connected to Amber than it is to Tristan. Coming here reopens wounds that still ooze years of blame and guilt.

I itch to reach over and trace the blond hair teasing his neck, but I resist. He’s too edgy, buzzing like a live wire, and he doesn’t like to be touched when he’s like this. Not even by me.

“Let our lawyer drop off the ownership paperwork,” I suggest.

He turns to me, the shadows hiding his green eyes from my view. “It’s about more than the paperwork.” His voice is soft, raw in a way only acid emotion can create. “I need to know that in the end, she was taken care of. Her will didn’t allow me that right.”

“And you think Tristan will tell you?”

“I have to try.” He opens his door and steps out.

My gut knots as I shove open my own door, leaving my coat behind as I step out into the chilly November night, the wind gusting my brown hair around my face. My Chris Merit–designed Louvre Museum T-shirt does little to keep me warm, though my knee-high black boots were a smart choice.

Chris goes to the front of the car and I quickly move to his side. The starless night is dark, the mood even darker. He pulls me under his arm, his big body protecting mine, telling me that no matter what he has on his mind, I’m still with him. He’s not shutting me out. He needs to do this, and so we’ll do it—just like we’ll ride out the storm that is sure to follow.

I know the moment he makes the decision to push forward, and, in unison, we start walking. That’s how in tune I am with this man. We can read each other’s minds, and it’s like nothing I ever believed to be possible with another human being. It’s also why I know that just stepping inside the tattoo parlor is going to gut him, but he’s made his decision. I won’t stop him from doing it.

We stop at the entrance to The Script and Chris reaches for what I’m certain will be a locked door, but I’m wrong. It opens, and Chris motions for me to enter first. Everything inside me wants to wrap my arms around him and drag him away, but I understand why he must do this. It’s about knowing versus wondering, and it’s impossible to fight—the same instinct that makes people stare as they pass an accident, even though they know it’s going to be traumatic to view. The need to know consumes us, and it’s consuming him now. And what consumes Chris destroys him. I think he knows this. I think he is trying to keep that from happening, and I have to help him do it.

I step inside the warm building. It’s stuffy, as if the heat has been cranked a few degrees too high.

Chris follows me into the narrow hallway and silently shuts the door. He takes my hand and leans in, his lips near my ear. “Follow me. I don’t want you enduring his wrath.”

I nod and he moves ahead of me quickly, rounding the corner to the main room before I catch up. I blink into the dark of the retail area that’s decorated with artwork designed mostly by Amber. Memories rush over me, and I recall sitting at one of the tables set up for customers across from Amber and grabbing her wrist to question her about the whip marks on her arm. God, it hurts to know she’s gone, and I have nowhere near the history with her that Chris has.

He moves toward the doorway behind the tables, where light spills from a cutout archway. When he steps through the doorway I follow, gasping as we see Tristan’s naked ass, a pair of tattooed female legs with black four-inch heels wrapped around his hips.

Tristan looks over his shoulder and grunts before uttering a few French words that I’m certain aren’t nice. He steps away from the woman despite her protests, pulling up his pants as her eyes meet mine and she slips out of her fog of lust, her eyes going wide. Instantly in motion, she scrambles to pull her denim dress down.

I can’t help staring at her; I’m stunned by how much her ink-marked white skin, slender, curvy body, and long blond hair remind me of Amber. Suddenly, I’m sick with the thought that that’s exactly why he’s with her. He can’t let go of Amber, and my one bit of solace is that maybe seeing Chris will force Tristan to cope with a loss he hasn’t yet faced.

“I guess we know how you’re dealing with your pain,” Chris says dryly. “You
aren’t
. Does she know that she looks like your dead girlfriend?”

I cringe, but I’m glad that he’s not going to let Tristan pretend nor is he going to let the woman be hurt by thinking she’s more to Tristan than she is.

“Shut the fuck up, Chris,” Tristan growls, running a hand through his loose, long hair that he’s colored black with a few blond streaks. He steps in front of the woman, his tattooed, muscular arms flexing beneath his white tee as his hands go to his lean hips. “She’s American. She speaks English.”

“Good,” Chris replies coolly. “She needs to know she’s being used.”

Tristan sways forward as if he intends to have a go at Chris, the clench of his jaw telling me he’s fighting the urge. “Who the fuck are you to judge me?” His voice is low, terse. “You, who use a leather strap as an escape.”

“Better a whip than a person.”

“Dead girlfriend?” the woman demands, honing in on exactly the words Chris intended. “
What
fucking dead girlfriend?”

Chris replies, “The one who owned this place and looked just like you.”

Tristan hisses something in French at Chris. When the woman grabs his arm he whirls on her, gripping her wrist, and in a low, scathing tone, orders, “Go home. Leave now.”

“What?” she gasps. “I—”

“Go. Now.”

Her face reddens and she turns on her heel, charging toward us. Chris and I quickly move apart to allow her to pass between us before automatically coming back together. We
are
together, even in the worst of times now. Chris isn’t turning to the whip but to me, and it infuriates me that Tristan taunted him with his need for that escape. It also makes me wonder if that’s Tristan’s heartache talking, or if he did the same to Amber. Maybe he never really accepted her addiction or tried to understand it.

“Let me guess why you’re here,” Tristan drawls as the back door slams shut, his French accent thicker than usual. “You’re evicting me.”

His assumption that Chris would be so callous hits a nerve that is already rubbed raw by his reference to the whip, and I cannot stay silent. “Chris would never do that to you, or anyone—and acting as if he would says more about you than him. All he ever did was try to help Amber. He’s not a monster for that.”

There is ice in the stare he turns on me. “And we all see how successful that was, don’t we?”

The urge to shake some sense into him is powerful, and I launch myself forward. Chris shackles my arm, pulling me to him. “Sara. Stop.”

I still look at Tristan. “He came here to give you the tattoo parlor.”

“What I wanted was Amber,” Tristan growls, his fists balling at his sides. His gaze shifts in accusation to Chris. “He took her from me.”

“He didn’t—” I begin, but Chris pulls me to face him, his hands on my shoulders. “He’s right, Sara. And taking responsibility for the roles we play in life is part of moving forward.” He turns me so my back’s to his chest, his arm draped over my shoulder.

“You’re right,” Chris repeats to Tristan. “I regret the day I walked into her life, and I have a million regrets about how I handled leaving it. But I can’t change any of that. I can only do what I think she’d want me to do.”

“What she
wanted
was for you to stay out of her final affairs.”

“We both know she was lashing out in the midst of her own pain,” Chris replies coolly. “I believe that in her heart, she would want me to handle the future of The Script.”

“You didn’t know shit about what she had in her heart.”


You
were,” Chris says. “I know it didn’t seem like it sometimes. I know I didn’t always give you room to be her true hero—but you were.”

Tristan turns away, and his pain is so powerful it seems to leave room for nothing else, sucking all of the air out of the room. He’s bleeding inside and I bleed right with him, and I’m relieved that I didn’t attack Tristan to protect Chris. I hold on to Chris’s arm tightly, waiting for what comes next, certain it will be a blow.

Seconds tick by, and when Tristan still doesn’t turn, Chris pushes him for a reaction, asking, “Are all of Amber’s final affairs handled?”

Tristan twists around to face us, his eyes ablaze. “Of course her final affairs are handled,” he snaps. “I handled them. I took care of her.”

If Tristan’s implication that he succeeded in protecting Amber where Chris failed bothers Chris, he doesn’t show it. “I know you did, but the expense—”

“Is handled. I don’t need your fucking money. I’m sick of your fucking money, Mr. Famous Artist with a famous musician for a father and a mega–cosmetic company inheritance.”

Ignoring him, Chris coolly asks, “Where was Amber put to rest?”

His eyes narrow in a brutal glare. “She didn’t want you to know.”

“Tristan,” I plead.

“This isn’t your business, Sara,” he snaps. My sympathy for Tristan fades and I open my mouth to attack, but Chris turns me to face him, his hands going to my face as he gives me a quick nod, warning me to just let Tristan have his digs. I am almost shaking with my need to protect him, but somehow, some way, I reel myself back in, giving a short nod of agreement.

He looks up at Tristan again, reaching into his jacket pocket and setting an envelope on a small table just inside the door. “I cosigned for the business. This is the release and the fifty thousand euros you’re going to need to survive losing her here at the store.”

Tristan makes a disgusted sound. “Like that, or your fancy treatment center, solved anything. I don’t want your shitty money. I have a loan in process. I’ll buy this place from you.”

“You don’t need to buy it,” Chris retorts. “It was Amber’s. Your having it is what she would want.”

“I said,” Tristan hisses, “I don’t
want
—”

“Then have your attorney call my attorney.” Chris takes my hand. “His contact information is inside the envelope. It’s your choice, Tristan, but I suggest you think long and hard before you make it.” He leads me toward the door.

“Chris,” Tristan calls out.

When Chris halts Tristan spews several angry sentences in French, and I don’t have to understand the words to know he’s goading Chris for a reaction. Chris’s fingers tighten around mine, a sign of his anger, but he refuses to set it free. He starts walking again, his long, fast strides forcing me to double-step to keep up, telling me that Tristan got to him in a big way.

As we exit into the cold, dark night he unlocks the 911, then pulls open my door. Worried about his state of mind, I turn to him, but when the moonlight glints momentarily off the hard lines of his face, I’m clear on one thing: Now is not the time for questions. He wants out of this place, and he wants out now.

I slip into the car, and he is quick to round the hood and join me. He’s also quick to rev the engine. He maneuvers out of the parking lot and pulls out onto the Champs-Élysées, the move feeling too precise, too controlled. I feel he’s overcompensating for the storm raging inside him.

It’s amazing to me how he can be so in control on the outside when I know he has demons waging war in his head.

Only minutes later, we pull up to the gate of our home on Foch Avenue, and Chris rolls down his window and keys in the entry code.

Our home
. I’ll never get tired of those words, and I’m finally starting to get used to using them. But what really hits me in this moment is that no matter how out of his mind with grief and guilt Chris might be, I don’t feel insecure. I don’t believe he has any intention of shutting me out, as he did in the face of tragedy in the past. No matter what we have to endure, no matter how ugly life might get, my place will always be with Chris. And he needs that security as much as I do. He needs to know that no matter how bad things get, I’m not going anywhere.

BOOK: All of Me (Inside Out Series Book 6)
9.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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