THERE IS SUCH a thing as perfection.
Perfection didn’t mean I lived in a world where I never got sick, argued with the man I loved, endured unhappiness, or generally still acted like a brat when certain things didn’t go my way.
But it did mean that all of that...
The nastiness of life.
Some people went their entire existence without finding the destination they were owed. And by destination, I didn’t mean death. I meant their life partner, soul mate, and best friend.
Q was my destination.
He was also my journey.
He was me.
After everything that I’d lived through, after everything that I’d done, life was exactly how it should be.
Free to be who I was with no judgement, no comments, no one trying to change me.
Until he changed the rules and I lost.
“I WANT TOMORROW to go perfectly, Suzette.”
Q’s rescued slave girl/housekeeper (and my best friend) spun in the oversized kitchen and planted hands on her hips. “Are you doubting my powers of organisation?”
I fought my smile. “Did I say that?”
“You implied that.”
Holding a hand to my heart, I said dramatically, “I would never say that. I know better than to antagonise your wrath.”
Suzette burst into laughter, wielding a spatula from the bench. “Damn right. Never forget it.”
We shared a look full of togetherness and contentment.
When I’d first arrived—shackled and tagged like a dog—Suzette had confused and scared me. Now, my life wouldn’t be complete without her.
When Q accepted me as an unwanted gift, he’d not only given me himself but his livelihood and friends, too. He’d given me a family after my own wanted nothing to do with me.
Suzette placed the spatula back onto the flour-dusted bench. “If you doubt me again, I’ll have to raid Q’s closet and spank you with something unmentionable.”
I chuckled. “Good luck with that.”
She swatted her own behind with a flourish. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll be better than he is with technique.”
I rolled my eyes. “No one could out-do Q.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She snorted. “You’re just besotted. He could do whatever he wanted to you, and you’d just smile and nod like a damn bobble head.”
Our laughter turned into noisy giggles.
She knew me so well.
Suzette tried to come across fierce and capable, but I knew the truth. I saw past her courageous façade. She was still damaged from her past, but thanks to Q, she was healed enough to find smiles in sadness once again. Besides, she had Franco to warm her at night and chase away whatever nightmares she still suffered.
In that respect, we were similar.
We were both rescued by Q.
Both brought back to life by the man who carved inked sparrows into his chest and loved so fiercely, hungrily, angrily that to some, he was overbearingly rude and far too intense.
To me, he was utterly perfect.
“Don’t piss her off, Tess. You know what will happen.” Franco laughed, propped up at the breakfast bar while cleaning his pistol that he carried to protect myself and his master.
Suzette and Franco might be in our employ, but they were family. And family couldn’t be trusted with something as delicate as this.
Ignoring both of them, I padded bare-foot to the walk-in pantry where Mrs. Sucre bustled about gathering ingredients for the picnic for our journey tomorrow. “Tell Franco and Suzette, Mrs. S, that if they have any more daft ideas like what they pulled at our wedding, I’ll murder them myself.”
Memories of having my wedding dress torn off to reveal the kinky lingerie I wore beneath made my cheeks burn. It was a day I’d never forget.
For multiple reasons.
“They know better than to do that.” Mrs. Sucre smiled as she waddled past me and dumped an armful of oats and sugar on the quartz bench. “Just like you know better than to try and micromanage everything.” Patting my hand, she added, “Besides, we’re all in on this secret. If maître knew—”
“He’d better not know.” I crossed my arms, dislodging her hold. “I want this long weekend to be for him. I don’t want him overthinking it.”
“And you’ve done great so far.” Franco hopped off the stool, placing his cleaned firearm back into its holster. “He doesn’t have a clue. Tomorrow, you’ll claim a need for a picnic, and I’ll program the GPS with coordinates that he has to follow. I’m still averse to leaving you without security but I know his driving and no one will be able to keep up. The rest of us will travel in the helicopter and meet you there.”
Suzette drifted to his side, an adoring smile on her face. “Perhaps, we can take advantage of this semi-vacation, too.”
I glanced away, giving them a small second of privacy. They didn’t display affection often, but I liked when they forgot they were in company. I loved seeing the way Franco softened and Suzette shone—almost as if the protectiveness of Franco bolstered her hesitant courage while they stood eye-locked and in love.
Deciding now would be the perfect time to leave, I waved. “Fine, I’m trusting you. I’ll see you in a little bit.” Breaking into a trot, I deliberately left the lovebirds and my favourite cook as I dashed up the turret staircase to Q’s bedroom.
Even after three years, I still had trouble saying that.
This chateau was mine.
Q’s fortune was mine.
The day he’d allowed himself to take me fully was the day he’d given me not only his heart but his empire and hearth, too.
Pulling out my hair tie as I strolled across the rug, I ruffled my blonde curls as I stared at the photo of us side by side still dressed in wedding finery. We weren’t aware of the camera, only each other.
If anyone tried to convince me that Q wasn’t capable of love, that he was a monster with deep dark urges, that one day he might hurt me far beyond my tolerance of pain, I’d laugh in their disbelieving face.
The way Q stared at me in that picture negated any naysayers or sceptics.
Our love was unique.
And I would never, ever take it for granted.
“You’ve given me so much, maître.” Stroking his cheek in the picture, I murmured, “This weekend, I want to give you everything that I can. Starting with eradicating the sadness that I’ve glimpsed once or twice in your gaze.”