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 (9 page)

BOOK: Kissed in Paris
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When I didn’t answer him, Liz kept talking. “We haven’t traveled much either. Not together anyway. And we’ve never been anywhere as beautiful or as romantic as France. I just couldn’t believe it when I found this tour. I mean who knew there would actually be a tour bus taking newlyweds to the most romantic sites in France? It couldn’t be more perfect.”

“Mmm,” I mumbled, plastering a smile across my face. “Perfect.”

The red wine swirling in my cup made me yearn for a glass of water. I hadn’t had anything to drink all day, and I wasn’t about to have even an ounce of that wine—not after the mess it had gotten me into.

“So how did you two meet?” Jack asked, sliding his arm around his wife and pulling her slim frame into his chest.

Julien took my hand in both of his before speaking. “I met my dear Chloe at a nude beach on the
Côte d’Azur
. As soon as I saw her, it was love at first sight.”

I freed my hand from his grasp, immediately feeling my cheeks go up in flames. A nude beach? Was he serious?

Julien tilted his face toward mine, the corners of his mouth curving upward. “Oh,
chérie
, do not be so embarrassed.” He turned back to Liz and Jack and continued talking as I envisioned pushing him off the bus.

“Chloe does not like it when I tell this story, but I cannot help myself. She was so beautiful, just lying there in the sun, her br—”

I reached down and pinched Julien’s arm so hard he squealed.

“I think that’s enough for now.” I released my death pinch and prayed the bus ride would end soon.

Liz’s eyes widened as she let out another screeching giggle. “I’ve always wanted to try out a nude beach, but I’ve never had the courage. Isn’t it scary being totally . . . you know, naked?”

“Oh, no. It is not embarrassing at all,” Julien responded in a serious tone. “There is nothing more freeing, actually. Don’t you think so,
chérie
?”

I shoved my cup of wine into Julien’s hands and crossed my arms over my chest, unwilling to partake in this ridiculous conversation for even another second. I’d agreed to follow him to get my passport back so that I could fly home. I had not agreed to pretend to be someone I was not. And
I
would never be caught dead at a nude beach.

Ignoring Julien, I turned to Liz. I had to find out if this bus was going to Paris. “So, have you two ever been to Paris before?”

“No, never.” She leaned even closer to Jack, nuzzling her head into his shoulder. “I can’t believe we’re going to be there in less than an hour. I really wish we had more than two days to spend there. I mean, how are we going to see all the sights in such a short period of time?”

Oh, thank God. We would be in Paris soon, then we’d take the train to Annecy, find Claude, get my passport back, and I would fly home. It would all work out. It had to.

Thankfully, Liz stopped making small-talk and instead focused her energy on her new husband. And after Julien’s little nude beach stunt, I refused to talk to him or look at him for the rest of the trip.

I missed Paul. Normal, stable, clean-cut Paul. Who would never, ever dream of letting the words “nude beach” pass through his lips.

I had no idea how I would even begin to explain any of this to him though, and the thought of lying to him again made me queasy. But as long as I made it home within the next few days, I would figure it out.

And I would never take another trip to France, ever again.

 

***

 

The Newlywed Torture Bus pulled up in front of the Luxembourg gardens in Paris about forty-five minutes later. I was never so happy to leave the company of a bunch of happy, drunk, love-sick Americans.

The minute we stepped foot onto the crowded Boulevard St. Michel with its miniature cars buzzing up and down the street, honking their horns and zipping through red lights, Julien grabbed my hand and pulled me toward a cab.


Gare de Lyon, s’il vous plaît,
” he told the driver as we slid into the sticky leather seat.

The cab sped off through the city, winding through the cobblestone streets like a runaway train. I searched for my seat belt, but came up empty so I gripped the door handle instead. What was with the drivers here? They were completely out of control.

From his side of the cab, Julien eyed me with an annoying smirk on his face.

“What?” I said.

“Are you always like this?”

“Like what?”

“So controlled. So worried.”

“No, I’m not normally worried like this. In my
normal
life at home, where I have a stable job and a fiancé, I’m not racing around with undercover agents and evading the police in a slutty red dress. So, no, I’m not usually like this, but these aren’t exactly normal circumstances. Though for you, I suppose they are.” I glared at him.

Julien sighed, wiping the smirk from his lips. “I am sorry. I did not mean to offend you. All I am trying to do is help you get home.”

“I still don’t fully understand
why
you’re trying to help me though. If busting Claude is your main objective and if no one else is supposed to know about you, why would you want me tagging along for the ride? And come to think of it, if you rank higher than the police, as you
said
, and you know I’m innocent, why can’t you just send me to whatever government agency you work for so they can set me up with a passport while you hunt for Claude?”

“Again with all of the questions.”

“And again, I’m going to need answers. Especially if you expect me to get on that train with you.”


Putain,
” he muttered under his breath.

“What was that?”

“It was nothing.” Julien scooted closer to me, his jeans pressing up against my bare leg. “The reason you cannot go home so easily is because I am the
only
person who knows you are innocent. And in fact, I am under strict orders
not
to help you.”

“What do you mean?”

“In the past, many of the women who appeared to be victims were actually working
with
Claude. They were working the system together. Claude would wire the woman’s money into an offshore account, the woman would run to the police crying about it and get her bank to refund the money since it was ruled as fraud. Then she and Claude would split the money. Once the police started to figure this out, they kept an eye out for Claude and for any of his red dress women who
claimed
to be one of his victims. So even my people will not believe you, and they will be required to run a full investigation on you before allowing you to leave the country. I am the only one who can keep you safe, Chloe. You have no other choice but to come with me.”

I searched Julien’s eyes, my mind struggling to grasp everything he was telling me. “So, if other women in the past have been in on these scams, why would you disobey your orders by helping me? What makes you so sure that I’m innocent?”

“The look on your face this morning in the hotel. It was one of pure bewilderment, of panic. I have seen it many times before. I am tired of Claude’s games, and I could not allow another woman to go through this.”

“But I could just be a good actress, like the other women.”

Julien shook his head. “No one can pretend
that
well. You were a mess. And I know a person like you would have nothing to do with a dirty scam-artist like Claude.”

The cab zoomed around a corner, causing me to slide right into Julien. I gripped his knee and lifted my face to his. “Thank you for believing me.”

A hint of softness passed through his big brown eyes, but he quickly blinked it away.

The cab came to an abrupt stop in front of the train station, making me realize my hand was still on Julien’s knee. I pulled it away and waited while Julien thrust a wad of bills at the cabdriver before letting us out.

As Julien bolted toward the station, I followed behind him, exhausted, sweaty, thirsty, and starving, but most of all, grateful that he was going to help me when it seemed that no one else in this God-forsaken country would be on my side. I couldn’t believe Julien had received orders to let me flounder with the French police . . . and even more so, that he’d ignored those orders.

We dashed into the bustling train station and zigzagged across the crowded main floor where travelers strolled past us, pulling their mini suitcases behind them, munching on baguette sandwiches. Once we reached the ticket window, Julien rambled on in French to the attendant, and I remembered again that I didn’t have any money to contribute. But Julien didn’t say anything. Instead he handed over a credit card, then collected two tickets and gave one to me.

“Thanks,” I said hesitantly, hoping that someday I could repay him.


Pas de problème
,” he responded.

A massive escalator transported us to an open-air platform where herds of people crowded around the large display screen, waiting to depart on one of the several trains pulling into the station.

“Are you hungry?” Julien asked.

I didn’t want him to spend any more of his money on me, but I was starving. And, at this point, I would’ve considered going to a nude beach if it meant I could have a bottle of water.

I nodded. “And thirsty. Really, really thirsty.”

“Come, I will get you something to eat and some water. I noticed you did not drink the wine on the bus.”

“Call me crazy, but I didn’t think more wine was going to help.”

He grinned, making that dimple pop into his right cheek again. “No, I guess not.”

As we walked toward a small group of cafés on the other side of the station, I bent down to adjust my painful heels. It took all my will-power not to toss them in the trashcan to my left and just walk around barefoot.

“Ahem,” Julien said loudly.

I peeked up to find him raising a brow, then realized I was still in this tiny red dress and was surely giving Julien and everyone else in the train station a show. I popped back up, smoothing the dress down over my butt.

“What?” I shot back as Julien’s gaze remained fixated on me.

“Why don’t you sit down, and I will get us something to eat. Okay?” he said, the mischievous smile on his face telling me that he’d just gotten an eye-full. Ugh.

I spied an open seat to my left and decided it wouldn’t hurt to take him up on just one more offer. And the thought of walking around in these heels for one more second made me want to cry. “Okay, thanks.”

“Is a sandwich alright? Ham and cheese on a baguette?”

“Actually, I’m a vegetarian.”

“You don’t eat meat?”

“That’s right. No meat.”

“Wow, no wine. No meat. I cannot imagine. What
do
you eat then?”

“A sandwich with cheese and some vegetables would be great.”

Julien turned on his heel and headed toward the café. A weird feeling passed through my stomach as I watched him walk away from me, his broad shoulders firm and unmoving as his muscular arms swung back and forth—his stance not threatening, but strong all the same.

I sank back into my seat and shook it off. I probably just needed to eat.

Massaging my throbbing temples, I glanced up at the giant clock hanging from the center of the station. It was one o’clock. My plane would be taking off any minute now from Charles de Gaulle airport, and in eight hours Paul would be waiting for me back in DC, wondering where I was.

BOOK: Kissed in Paris
7.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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