“What’s upset you?”

“Who says I’m upset?”

“Me.”

“Like I said. You see too much.”

I ignore the comment. “Mike seemed eager to give you whatever he wanted to give you. I expected you to return pleased, not cranky like a bear.”

“Cranky like a bear?”

My lips quirk. “Yes. Cranky like a bear.”

He studies me with a hooded look, his lashes thick veils hiding his eyes from my prying gaze. He is beautiful in the starlight--and the wine, or perhaps Chris himself, has washed away my inhibitions.

I reach up and trace his full, sensual mouth that I know can both punish and please, studying him. My fingers travel his face, tracing his high, defined cheekbones, and down to the light stubble on his square jaw. I imagine how the stubble could scrape my bare skin. I am infatuated with his beauty, his talent, his wit…his body. But I want to know the man.

“Talk to me, Chris,” I plead when the silence stretches eternally.

He draws my hand into his and kisses the back. “Not an easy thing to do when you’re touching me.” He slides my hair behind my ear. “Especially when you’ve been drinking and I can’t do any of the many things I planned to do to you while you’re pantyless.”

A slow smile slides onto my lips. “And braless.”

“Thanks for reminding me because I’m not going to push you when you’ve had too much to drink.”

Push me? Please. I yearn to know what that means. “What happened to Mr. I’m-No-Saint?”

“Apparently he comes with limits, namely yours.”

I’m pretty sure he’s not talking about the wine I’ve consumed any longer and the hard lines of his expression tell me I’m right. “My limits aren’t as narrow as you think.”

“I guess that’s yet to be decided.”

My brows furrow. While he’s playful as usual, there is an undercurrent of tension in him that isn’t going away. “What happened with Mike?”

“You’re giving me whiplash, baby. That’s a sudden change of subject.”

“And you’re avoiding an answer.”

“For someone so tipsy, you’re pretty damn pushy.”

“I used the word ‘cock-fight’ the last time I was drinking,” I remind him. “So yeah. I am.”

His lips quirk. “Ah yes. How could I forget?”

“What happened with Mike?” I repeat.

“He gave me something that used to be my father’s. He thought I’d like to have it.”

I’m shocked he’s really answered. Tentatively, I push for more, “But you didn’t want it?”

“No. I didn’t.”

“Did you tell him that?”

“No.”

“What was it?”

He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a small laminated card and hands it to me. I study what appears to be a wine judge’s certificate with his father’s name on it.

I glance up at Chris, at the hard set of his jaw, and I feel the ache in him, the turbulence and pain. “Why didn’t you want this?”

“Because Mike and Katie don’t know that wine was my father’s drug of choice. It’s how he tried to forget the day he was behind the wheel of the car when my mother died.”

Air rushes from my lunges. “He was driving?”

“Yes. He was driving and he never forgave himself for letting her die. He hid behind the tasting events and the judging tables, and slowly drank himself to death.”

I feel like I’ve been punched in the chest. Chris not only lost his mother that tragic day, he’d also lost his father. “Oh God. Chris. I’m sorry.”

Anger crackles off of him. “Come on, Sara, you of all people know sorry is not what the hell I want to hear.”

“I do. You’re right.” Damn the buzz in my head that won’t let me communicate properly. His sharing this with me is a huge breakthrough. Desperately, I fight the buzz; I try to let Chris know I’m here for him. “If this is the deep, dark secret you think is going to make me run away, it’s not. I’m not going anywhere.”

He barks out in bitter laughter, and turns me so that I am against the rail, his hands framing my shoulders, his body no longer touching mine. Dark Chris is back, and he is harder and edgier than I have ever seen him. His voice lowers and bites like a whip. “If you think this is my darkest secret, then it tells me you have no idea just how dark life can get.”

“How do you know if you don’t try me?”

“You can’t handle it,” he grinds out. “End of story. And you’re not going to get a chance to prove me right. I’ve broken rules with you, important rules I’ve lived by, and you’re the one who’ll pay the price. I’m not going to let that happen.” He pushes off the railing. “We’re leaving.” He grabs my hand and when he sees the card in my palm, he tosses it into the water. My stomach knots as I double-step to keep up and watch the small piece of his father flutter toward the water. My heel catches on a board and I stumble again.

Chris rounds on me and catches me. “And stop drinking too much damn wine.”

I’m appalled at his reprimand, my defensiveness rising to the challenge. “You gave me the wine, you…jerk!”

His hand tightens on my arm and he pulls me close. “Finally you get what I’ve been telling you. Yes. I’m a jerk. The kind of jerk you don’t deserve.” He takes my hand and starts walking, and like the jerk he proclaims to be, his steps are fast and my footing is painfully unsteady.

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