Authors: Sally Clements
‘How did you know?’
‘I just did.’
She tore the bread into smaller and smaller pieces, reliving the memories of that day, the day that had ended up being such a turning point.
‘I’ve always believed in my intuition, and for a moment while the café burned I felt relief, I felt that everyone would understand I was right, I did somehow know things that other people didn’t. Instead, I found myself being questioned by the police, and eyed with suspicion.’
She popped a piece of bread between her lips as the waiter approached the table with their entrées.
‘Let’s eat.’ Jake picked up his fork.
evening flew, every moment infused with the kind of magic that she had long given up on. Every glance, every mouthful was significant somehow. The familiar planes of his face were shadowed in the muted lighting, and as they laughed all barriers between them fell, vanishing as if she and Jake were melding together.
Tempest’s glass clinked against her lower teeth. The tiny noise focused Jake’s gaze on her lips, which tingled as if kissed. Her hand shook. She carefully placed the glass down on the smooth white tablecloth.
‘Tomorrow morning, I have a meeting at the Louvre. It should be two hours max, do you want to come with me and check out the museum?’
He brought a forkful of langoustine to his mouth. She struggled to think about the question, not the man, drugged by a sensual haze.
‘I’d love that.’
Being at the museum and being with you.
‘We can have lunch together, and then I’ll have to go into the office and organize things. After that I’m all yours.’ The silken thread between them tightened as he reached for her hand over the table. ‘Now, shall we have coffee at home?’
Passion blazed in his eyes, and she nodded, needing to be alone with him, away from the tables of diners.
‘Let’s go.’ He murmured huskily, reaching for her hand pressing firm lips to her palm, and heat flooded through her core.
Jake accepted the small box of chestnut honey, vanilla and lemon zest madeleines from the maître d’ with a smile, and handed them to Tempest.
‘We’ll have these with our coffee.’
He settled the delicate pashmina over her shoulders, the brush of his fingertips igniting an urgent passion within her. The elevator ride down seemed to take forever. She gazed sightlessly at the view, aware only of his body close enough to touch. Dappled trunks of plane trees gleamed in the moonlight. Jake softly pushed her against the nearest trunk. His hands caressing her bare shoulders, his lips pressed down on hers. She wound her hands around his neck. Pulled him against her. A rush of erotic fire blazed when his body flattened hers against the tree, the shadows hiding them from view. He tasted of champagne. And the sensations racing through her made her head spin.
‘C’mon.’ He stepped back, reaching for her hand and walking towards the rank of waiting taxis. ‘We need to get home.’
Tempest reached over and took the keys from his fingers, deftly opening the door as he traced the delicate bones of her neck with his lips, blood thundering in his ears as he slid the zip of her dress down. The sexy dress pooled at her feet revealing a very small pair of green silk panties and nothing else. She kicked it to one side with the tip of her high-heeled shoe, then turned.
As his lips pressed against the softness of hers, her fingers undid his silk tie, fumbled at the buttons of his shirt. He traced her bottom lip with his tongue. She moaned and shivered. Her fingers stilled. Good, she was feeling this frantic desperation too. Undressing was taking too long. He wanted to be naked,
He ripped the shirt from his chest, buttons flying to the corners of the room and tossed it in the corner.
Their mouths met, tongues tangling as her hard nipples pressed into his chest. A groan swept though him as he cupped her bottom and pulled her closer, pressing her against the wall with his hips. She was so soft, the feel of her skin like satin against his palms. Blood thundered in his ears as his lips trailed down, the taste of her driving all thoughts of a more sophisticated seduction out of his brain. He’d meant to pick her up and carry her into the bedroom. Had all sorts of scenarios planned since they stumbled out of the taxi, desperate to be alone together. The touch of her small hand on his chest and the sound of her breath coming in little pants changed all that.
Somehow they managed to make it from the front door to the white sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace, naked and hungry for each other. Tempest moaned as his body covered hers. Her hands snaked around his neck and their mouths fused. Jake breathed in her scent, his senses on overload. Her taste, her smell, her hands urging him on erased all coherent thought from his mind. Her hips rose as her arms came around his back, clutching him close. Then he entered her.
Jake.’ Her hand pushed against him as her eyes frantically met his. ‘We need a condom.’
Shock thundered through him. He withdrew immediately.
What was he thinking?
Somehow he’d got so caught up in the moment he’d forgotten protection.
She touched his lips.
Jake’s heart started to pound again at the desire in her gaze. He reached for his discarded trousers and pulled a small foil package from his pocket. He quickly sheathed himself, hands shaking. He never forgot contraception,
Her hand slid around his neck, bringing his mouth down to hers.
‘Now,’ she whispered into his open mouth, and that was all the encouragement Jake’s body needed to turn off his overactive mind, and concentrate all his energies on pleasing Tempest as much as she was pleasing him.
Jake didn’t do snuggling. He glanced over at the woman sleeping with her head crushing his arm, and trailed a finger across her cheek. Twined a finger around a silken curl, and sighed. Holding her felt damned good.
He’d always had to be the strong one. After his father’s death, his mother had been a broken shell of the woman she once was. For too many years, Jake had kept his feelings locked up. His arm tingled with pins and needles, but he didn’t move it. Tempest’s weight was comforting, needed. Images of the past flickered to life. Vivienne’s devastation when her husband took the bullet intended for someone else. Her constant tears as her heart broke. And through it all he’d kept his own tears hidden. Even when they’d moved to France, dismantling his familiar life completely.
Fear clutched at his insides. He let the curl drop and stared into the darkness. Love was powerful, he’d seen its devastation first-hand. A relationship meant relying on someone, handing your heart over to them and hoping against hope they wouldn’t stomp on it. He wasn’t ready for that.
He pulled his arm out from under Tempest’s head and turned away. For the first time ever, he had been so carried away, he’d forgotten to use protection. Only Tempest’s vigilance had prevented a possible pregnancy.
What would our child look like?
The image of a little girl with long black curls and green eyes invaded his mind’s eye, until he blinked her away. This was crazy. After a week together he was thinking happy ever after. He clasped his arms around himself, forcing his eyes closed. When this week was over their relationship would have to be too.
Tempest was probably thinking it was time to take their relationship to the next level. She was that sort of girl. The sort of girl who wouldn’t understand that Jake didn’t have any other levels, this was as far as he was willing to take it. Being without her would hurt like hell, but it wasn’t fair to let her start dreaming about a future that wasn’t going to happen.
She tossed around in her sleep, one flailing arm crashing into the back of his head. Jake’s mouth twisted into a bitter grin. He was even going to miss being beaten up by her every night. He turned over, rearranging the covers to keep her warm.
It was cold on the streets. Paul pulled up the collar of his brother’s coat. An image flickered in a storefront, catching his eye. A television shop, with his face in triplicate filling the flickering screens. His heart pounded in his chest, muscles tensing as he stood transfixed for vital moments before ducking into a doorway, seeking the dark.
People walked past, looking everywhere but at him. After a few moments he turned, letting the light wash across his features. Still people avoided eye-contact with him. The good people of London looked away, as if determined not to invade the privacy of the strangers all around them. A sense of power swelled in his chest. Invulnerability surrounded him like an invisible shield.
He walked amongst them, untouchable, but if he were to draw attention to himself that could change. He strolled along the road to the underground car park, slipping silently inside while the doorman talked to a departing driver. It was easy to make his way up to the penthouse. He tapped in the entry code, and grinned when the tumblers clicked, allowing him entry. Jake was an idiot. Changing the code was the first thing Paul would have done.
The fridge was empty, but the freezer was full of ready meals. Paul quickly put two in to cook, while he peeled off his filthy clothes and climbed into the shower. He’d used the penthouse once or twice, and as predicted, all his needs were catered for, including a fresh toothbrush.
Once the meal was over he sat, wrapped in a bathrobe, with a full glass of Chateauneuf du Pape cradled in his hands. Jake’s laptop lay open on the coffee table before him, displaying a screen full of messages detailing Jake’s meetings for the next few days. It was amazing how much information was available when you knew the passwords.
He drank deeply from his glass and closed the computer, flicking the TV on with the remote control. He had four days, plenty of time to rest and prepare for the next stage of operations. Ignoring his own brief appearance on the news he turned to a movie channel, delighted to see Cary Grant being chased by a pursuing biplane;
North by Northwest
had got to be one of the best movies of all time.
The wine was going down nicely. Paul refilled his glass and stretched out on the sofa. Four days, then Jake would be home. He turned up the volume, laughing out loud as the plane flew headfirst into a gasoline tanker.
‘I want to see the Marquise de Pompadour portrait, and the Mona Lisa.’ Tempest’s lips brushed against Jake’s cheek. ‘Then there’s all that jewellery! I’m not going to miss you for hours.’
‘I’ll come and find you. Keep your phone on.’
She waved the pink phone at him then shoved it into her handbag.
‘See you later.’
Jake looked so different in his tailored charcoal suit she couldn’t pull her gaze away from his departing back. He reached the double doors and she resolutely turned away. She wasn’t a love struck teenager for goodness sake, what would happen if he turned around to see her staring after him as he walked away?
He’ll think I’m pathetic, and he’ll be one hundred percent right.
She opened the museum map they’d bought on the way in, and located the portrait gallery.
Time to get some culture in
Her senses were on overload by the time she stood in front of the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, sometimes called La Gioconda but known by everyone, world over, as Mona Lisa. Like countless others she was transfixed by the face and mysterious smile of the early sixteenth century beauty. Mona Lisa had no eyebrows or eyelashes, adding to the mesmerizing strangeness of her face.
Tempest’s stomach rumbled. She pushed back her sleeve to glance at her watch. Jake would be finished soon, and there were still so many things to see. And so little time. Madame de Pompadour; she couldn’t leave without seeing Reinette. She studied the map. Room 45 on the second floor. Louis XV’s mistress was one of her favourite historical subjects. Tempest stuffed the map into her bag, and, casting a final look Mona’s direction, moved on. She was standing in front of the little portrait when her phone rang.
‘Where are you?’
Her heart took flight at the sound of his deep tones. She really had it bad.
‘I’m in the Sully Wing, Room 45 on the second floor, will I come to you?’
‘No, stay there. I’ll be there in a minute.’
She sat on a bench in front of the portrait of the King’s mistress, but didn’t have long to wait.
‘Ah, Madame de Pompadour.’ Jake walked to the portrait. ‘It’s a wonderful portrait, isn’t it?’
She nodded. ‘She was an amazing woman. She was told by a fortune teller at the age of nine that she’d reign over the heart of a king someday, and she did.’
‘From what I remember, she persuaded Louis XV until he gave in. She knew what she wanted and went after it.’
He was teasing, but she felt too strongly about Madame de Pompadour to tease back, and staunchly defended her heroine.
‘No, I don’t think it was like that at all. Being with Louis was in the stars for her, her destiny. She was told that she would one day be the king’s lover, and her family and friends all called her
from that day on, little Queen.’
‘Yes, but didn’t her mother do everything to make sure she met the King? I remember reading how she took her into the royal forest in the hope of accidentally running into Louis.’
He was right, Reinette’s mother had shamelessly engineered an introduction between her daughter and the King, but there was still a magical element of fate about their love.
‘I suppose without her mother trying hard to introduce them, they might never have met. But from the moment she became his mistress until her death she was everything to him, and he to her.’
‘You, Red, are an incurable romantic.’ Jake pulled her to her feet. ‘Let’s go have lunch.’
They walked through the airy building, stopping whenever a particularly beautiful picture or artefact caught their eye, and eventually made their way out into the Parisian sunshine.