Read Kissed in Paris Online

Authors: Juliette Sobanet

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor & Satire, #Humorous, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #Contemporary Fiction, #General Humor, #Humor

Kissed in Paris (6 page)

BOOK: Kissed in Paris
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I gazed down at the pastry when suddenly another scene from the night before flashed through my head. I could see Claude, his chiseled cheek bones and his jet-black, slick hair, feeding me an olive. I could almost feel the juicy, bitter taste rolling around in my mouth. Then he’d picked up a glass of red wine and tipped it past my lips, the blackberry currant sloshing down my throat and into my stomach.

“It tastes good, does it not?”

Ugh. My stomach gargled. I glanced over at Julien, the skinny cigarette dangling from his lips, his muscular forearm shifting gears, his brown eyes fixed on the winding Parisian boulevard ahead. Noticing the way his cheekbones cut straight through his jaw line and reached all the way down to his full lips, the gargle in my stomach turned to a flutter.

Oh my God. Who cared about his damn cheekbones? What was I doing? How had all of this happened in less than a day? I should’ve been on my way to the airport. Flying home to greet my sister as she arrives in DC the next day. Finalizing my wedding plans. And preparing to marry Paul—my stable, no-nonsense fiancé who would never dream of smoking a cigarette or running a red light or eating a fattening pastry for breakfast.

“You look a little pale,” Julien cut into my thoughts.

I gripped at my aching stomach. “It’s just . . . this situation is out of control.”

I tried to take a breath, but suddenly felt as if no air was coming in or going out. What was I doing? How could I have climbed into the car with this man? What if he wasn’t telling me the truth? What if he wasn’t really an undercover agent? I had to get out of here.

“You need to breathe. Are you okay?” he asked, his deep voice ringing loudly in my ears.

I leaned my head back on the headrest and squeezed my eyes closed. A wave of heat made its way through my stomach and up to my stinging face. Sharp pains ripped through my chest as I struggled to suck the air into my heaving lungs.

Julien’s hand enclosed mine, and I felt the car come to an abrupt stop, my ears now ringing even louder, blackness closing in around me.

“Chloe, look at me. Chloe, open your eyes,” he said firmly.

I blinked my eyes open and peeked up at Julien, hoping he wasn’t going to hurt me. Hoping I hadn’t made a huge mistake in choosing to trust him. Clearly I’d already made a catastrophic decision in trusting Claude the night before.

“You can trust me,” he said, keeping his gaze fixed on mine. “I know you are confused, but it will all be over soon. I have seen Claude do this many times before, with women just like you, and I do not want you to get hurt. We are driving to Giverny, we will find Claude and get your passport, and you can leave France. I promise.”

My sharp breaths slowed down as I focused on his eyes. I didn’t know this man from a hole in the wall, but for some strange reason I believed him.

Julien reached down for the croissant in my lap. “
Mangez
,” he said. “You had a lot to drink last night and if you do not eat, you will be sick.”

I didn’t say a word as I picked up the croissant, tore off a piece of the flaky pastry, and tucked it into my mouth.

My breathing relaxed further as the chewy bread made its way into my stomach and soaked up some of the alcohol that was still swishing around in there, making me feel nauseous.

“Better?” he asked as he put the car back into gear.

I nodded as I gazed out the window and noticed row after row of gray apartment buildings, their black balconies all in a line, bunches of purple and white flowers trickling over the sides. The charming scene zooming past reminded me of a postcard of Paris my mom used to keep tucked in her bedroom mirror. After she died, my dad had boxed up the postcard and stashed it away in the basement, just as he’d done with the rest of her things.

Finishing the last bite of my croissant, I pushed the memories of my mom and her boxed-up life out of my mind. Now wasn’t the time to think about her. I had a few more pressing questions that unfortunately, she wouldn’t be able to answer for me.

“Does Claude usually. . . take
advantage
of the women he steals from?” I asked.

“You mean, does he have sex with them?” Julien said, not missing a beat.

I nodded, swallowing the lump in my throat.

“No, sex is not in Claude’s game plan. That complicates things too much, and all he is after is your money.”

“So you’re saying he doesn’t do
anything
with the women except get them drunk to the point of passing out before stealing their things?”

“No, I said that he doesn’t have sex with them. That doesn’t mean he won’t do
other
things. You did wake up in your underwear, no?”

I clasped my hands together in my lap, my knuckles turning white. “Yes,” I gritted through my teeth.

“With the exception of sex, Claude will do whatever he needs to do to get you to drink a lot, take off your clothes and pass out. If that involves kissing you or—”

“I get it,” I said firmly. I didn’t want to hear what else I may have done with Claude last night prior to the point of passing out in my underwear.

“Don’t be so worried,” Julien said. “Trust me, Claude does not have sex with the women he steals from.”

“How can you be so sure?” I asked.

Julien’s eyes bored into the road ahead, his jaw clenching. “I have been on the case for some time now, remember? I know how Claude operates. Stealing your money and taking your possessions are his main goals. Sex would mess up that plan.”

“What kind of despicable human being does something like this? Seriously, didn’t his parents teach him anything?” I huffed.

Julien responded by revving up the gas and screeching the tiny car around a corner.

How had I gotten myself into this mess?

I glanced at the clock to find that it was already nine o’clock. Only four hours left until my flight took off. If we arrived in Giverny before ten, found my passport, and Julien drove me back to the airport, I could potentially make it there by eleven-thirty or twelve at the
earliest
.

Even if I did make it to my flight on time, how would I explain to Paul that a massive amount of money had disappeared from our account, that all of my things were missing, and that I was wearing a skimpy red dress? And how on earth would I tell him that the beautiful, two-carat diamond engagement ring he’d given me was gone? I couldn’t bear to think about it.

“Is there any chance we’ll get my engagement ring back?” I asked Julien.

He shook his head. “
C’est possible
. . . but it is likely that he has already sold it.”  

“But he couldn’t have been gone for more than a few hours by now.”

“That is all it takes. Claude is a professional con-man. He’s very good at what he does.”

“How do you even know that we’ll be able to get my passport back then?”

“Because he usually holds onto that for a day or two.”

“If you know so much about how Claude does all of this, why haven’t you caught him yet?”

Julien paused before turning sharply down another skinny, cobblestone street. “Like I told you in the hotel, we believe Claude has a mouse on the inside.”

“A mouse?”

Julien sighed. “Not an actual mouse. It is an expression in English, no? When someone is working on the inside, feeding information to—”

“Oh, you mean a
mole
.”

“Mole, mouse—it is basically the same animal, no?
Merde
,” Julien muttered under his breath. “Anyway, there is no other explanation for how he has escaped us so many times. That is why I was assigned to the case. But you do not need to worry about all of this. Once you have your passport in your hands, you can fly home and never return to this smoke-infested, poisonous wine country ever again.”

Thank God for that. I looked at Julien in his dark jeans, his rugged five o’clock shadow and his slim gray T-shirt. He couldn’t have been more different from Paul if he tried. Paul always had a smooth, shaven face to go with his neatly trimmed black hair, and even on the weekends he wore clean, ironed polo shirts and perfectly tailored khaki pants.

“So, what were you doing in Paris?” Julien rolled the window down further and stuck his hand out to catch the humid breeze.

“I was here on a business trip.”

“What kind of business?”

“I’m an event planner.”

He nodded, his lips curving into a knowing grin. “I see.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“That explains why Claude chose you. He selects women who are used to being in control. The cautious ones in their prude business suits with their rich fiancés, diamond rings, and prestigious careers. The ones who have a lot to lose. Because once you give these women—the women like
you
—a  few glasses of wine, all of that pent-up energy and desire comes pouring out, and the control you are used to having, it vanishes into thin air. I am right, no?”

I crossed my arms over my chest and fought the urge to smack Julien across the face. I didn’t want to think any more about what may or may not have happened with Claude the night before.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

He threw me a sideways glance. “I think I know exactly what I’m talking about.”

“I thought you were an undercover agent, not a therapist,” I shot back.

He laughed. “Sometimes I have to think like a therapist to get into the mind of the thief, you know. To anticipate his next move.”

“So is that how you knew
I
was the woman Claude had duped this morning in the hotel?”

“Besides the signature red dress that Claude leaves for his ladies and the police officer glued to your side, there are not many women in the Plaza Athénée Hotel looking . . . euh . . .well, as you looked.”

I narrowed my eyes at him before glancing at myself in the side-view mirror. Black, smudgy make-up circled my bloodshot eyes, and my long, auburn hair which I normally kept pulled back into a clean bun was fluffed up in an unruly mess around my shoulders.

As I sat in Julien’s tiny French car that zipped at an impossible speed down the highway, the sights of Paris now barely visible in the rear-view mirror, I wished I could take a shower, brush my teeth again, and change into a pair of my own clean clothes. Then I would curl up in my king-sized bed underneath our crisp, 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, with Paul lying next to me, stroking my hair and telling me that this was all just a bad dream.

Julien flicked his cigarette out the window, then took a swig from a half-empty water bottle. “Thirsty?”

I stared at it, wondering where his mouth had been, and decided that no matter how thirsty I was, I could wait. Granted, I’d already come into contact with his lips once today . . . but at least this time I had a choice.

“No thanks.”

“Suit yourself,” he said, taking another drink.

“Can I borrow your phone?” I asked. “I need to call my credit card companies to put a hold on my accounts.”

“Sorry, no phone.”

“You’re on the job and you don’t have a cell phone? Are you kidding me? How are you keeping in touch with the police department to know where Claude is headed next?”

“I am an undercover agent, remember? I am not in touch with the police; my connections are much higher. But that is not for you to worry about.”

“If your connections are higher than the police, then
why
are we running from them?”

BOOK: Kissed in Paris
7.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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