Seductive Affair (Bend To My Will #2)

BOOK: Seductive Affair (Bend To My Will #2)
12.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Seductive Affair

Bend To My Will: Book 2

 

 

By

Emily Jane Trent

 

Chapter 1

The first few days were the worst. Yet even as the weeks passed, Vivienne couldn’t forget Jacob. The night with him was one she would treasure, and she only wished he wouldn’t have ruined it. But he had, and she needed to go on with her life.

Importing perfume didn’t mean that Vivienne went to Europe to purchase it. Most transactions were done online, and shipments arrived through standard carriers. Owning a shop didn’t provide the funds to scour international perfume shops, as much as she wished it did.

So one afternoon at Vee’s, when Alfred Dunham suggested a trip to Paris, he had her interest. He made the offer as a show of good faith. He was a successful businessman in his thirties who’d built his business wholesaling perfume to top-end stores. And he’d done well at it.

But he wanted to expand, and had taken a liking to Vivienne. She was used to male customers, as many frequented her shop to buy gifts for the women in their lives. Alfred was in another class entirely. He’d frequented Vee’s Scents for years, and they’d become friends.

Alfred often placed large orders, stating he liked Vivienne’s taste in scents. She prided herself in her ability to discern aromas. It was one of the things that drew her to the perfume industry. The items she stocked or sold to wholesalers were those in demand, but she filled in with some very unique ones.

“It’s your nose,” Alfred said. “That’s what I need. I’m taking you to Paris with me.”

“I can’t just take off like that,” Vivienne said, hoping he would prove her wrong.

“All expenses paid.”

“You say it like that seals the deal.” But Vivienne smiled in spite of that assumption. “Tell me why you want to do something like that…not saying I’m accepting.”

Alfred was not only a good businessman, he was charming. He dressed well and stayed in shape. Vivienne guessed that he had women after him, but that wasn’t her interest. And she hoped it wasn’t his. He gave her a confident smile.

“We’ve talked about going into business together,” Alfred said. “These days online perfume sales outstrip store purchases. I want to tap into that income stream, but I need your talent with scents. I don’t want to be just another retailer. My line has to be unique.”

“Yes, we’ve talked about that,” Vivienne said. “But I assumed it was just banter. You could go into business with anyone you like. Can you really be serious about a joint venture with Vee’s?”

“That’s what I’m telling you,” Alfred said, his grin showing his perfect white teeth. “I know a good thing when I see one, no disrespect meant. I’m talking about your sense of smell, and how you pick out the subtle fragrances that stand out from the others.”

“I’m flattered.”

“Don’t be. I’m doing this for business reasons. The new venture could net…a lot of money. For both of us.”

Vivienne was starting to think this was for real. “So what are you asking?”

“I leave for Paris at the end of the month,” Alfred said. “I’m booking you on the flight. I want you with me, assisting with purchases. I’m hiring you as my perfume consultant, and if it works out, we’ll structure a business arrangement that is profitable for both of us.”

“I’m tempted.”

“You should be. You’ll have a room at the Four Seasons. You’ll see Paris. I’ll cover all expenses.” He paused. “How can you refuse an opportunity to taste authentic French cuisine? To see Paris?” He winked at her. “Parisian outdoor theater?”

“You know me too well.” Vivienne was smiling now too.
It will be good to get away, far away, and stop brooding about Jacob. He’s had plenty of opportunity to call if he wanted to. No sense waiting around for him.
“Okay, I’ll make the arrangements.”

“Good decision, Vivie. You won’t regret it.” Alfred shook her hand. “I’ll email the itinerary.”

As soon as he left, Michele came over. “What was that about? Did I hear the word
Paris
?”

Vivie waved her assistant to the office. “Let’s coordinate,” she said. “You’ll have to do without me for a week or so.”

“I was right? You’re going to Paris?”

“It looks that way,” Vivienne said. “You’ll have Luke. Where is he, by the way?”

Michele sat in the chair next to the desk. “In the back room, unpacking some new shipments.”

“I’ll bring in someone temporary to help you at the perfume counters. And I’ll be available if you need me…just text. And I’ll check email, in case you have to send anything.”

Michele’s pale blue eyes shone. “I’ll manage, don’t worry.” She twisted a lock of her light brown hair in her fingers. “But you have to bring me something from Paris,” she said. “And take lots of pictures.”

Vivienne laughed. “I will. I promise.” Her life had taken a turn for the better. “Now what do I need to do? I have to let my parents know. And Lana…she won’t believe it.”

“Okay, hand me that paperwork,” Michele said, extending her hands. “I’ll see what I can take over. You only have a week to get ready.”

“What am I going to wear?”

“You better call Lana. She’s good with that sort of thing. Maybe you can borrow some stuff from her…there’s one reason she makes a good roommate.” Michele stood up, holding a stack of papers. “I’ll take care of things up front.” She headed toward the counters, leaving Vivienne to do what she needed to.

It would be better to call her parents later. It might be difficult to reach her dad if he was working, so the evening was more convenient. Since her parents had divorced, Vivienne’s mother was home a lot. She’d call her before dinner.

Lana was her first call. Vivienne couldn’t wait to share the news. Her friend knew about her disastrous date with Jacob, but only the part that wasn’t too embarrassing to share. Even that was enough to paint the picture: Vivienne was devastated by the failed romantic interlude. Lana continued to date Trace Farrington. But she didn’t talk much about Rinaldi Imports, out of consideration for Vivienne.

“Vivie.”

“Are you waiting tables?”

“Yes, let me go to the back. Just a second.”

Vivienne waited, excited to relay her news.

“Okay, I’m here,” Lana said. “What’s so urgent that you couldn’t text?”

Vivienne grinned. “I’m going to Paris next week.”

“Jacob called?”

A fist twisted in Vivienne’s stomach. “No. You know that’s over.” She took a breath. “This is business.”

“You can expense a trip to Paris?”

The excitement in Lana’s voice matched how Vivienne felt. “I can’t. But Alfred Dunham can.”

“You have a thing for him?”

Vivienne laughed. “No, silly. It’s a business deal. He wants me there as a perfume consultant. But that’s not the important part.”

Lana’s voice raised a notch. “What are you going to wear?”

“Exactly,” Vivienne said. “That’s why I’m calling. You’re better at fashion. And I’ll be too nervous to pick. You
have
to help me.”

“I can get Saturday off. We’ll shop. You can borrow some things from me. But I’m sure I don’t have the right clothes for Paris in spring, not that I know what that is.”

Vivienne relaxed a little. She was in good hands. “We’ll figure it out. It can’t be that difficult, especially with your eye for color. I’ll find out what the weather will be like.”

“I have to run. Dad’s calling for me. We’ll talk later,” Lana said, then hung up.

Swiveling in her chair, Vivienne faced her computer. She did a search for the weather in Paris. One site described Paris in May as:
a hive of visitors, lush blooms, and excitement, like the Paris portrayed in movies
. The article proclaimed that the pleasant temperatures made it a good month to enjoy the sidewalk cafés or wander through the many parks and gardens.

The prospect of a trip to one of the most romantic cities in the world made Vivienne think of Jacob. He could be so romantic, but he wouldn’t admit it. She had pressed one of the flowers he’d given her in a book, to keep as a reminder. If only he hadn’t screwed everything up.

Since Vivienne had known Jacob, she was either annoyed with him, or if she did warm up to him, he gave her the brush-off. “
I’m keeping you from your date
,” Jacob had said. But the worst was right after the most passionate night of her life: “
Why didn’t you stop me?

That hurt the most. When she’d let him tie her to the bed and give her a mind-blowing orgasm, Vivienne had felt closer to Jacob than she thought possible. But it was fleeting. She’d been confused, and she’d cried. Did that mean he had to cut her off with no explanation?

The relationship was doomed. Jacob had a dark side. Something was going on behind those piercing blue eyes that he didn’t discuss. He didn’t date, and didn’t kiss. But he wanted to command her, or hold her down while he had his way.

Yet it had been fantastic. Vivienne closed her eyes, remembering how it had felt, the way Jacob had touched her. It was as though he knew her body better than she did. He understood her, and gave her pleasure in a way she hadn’t experienced before.

It had been a bit overwhelming. Was it a crime to cry? Couldn’t Jacob talk to her about it, or give her a little time? But no, he had to end it. There was no way Vivienne was going after him. If he didn’t care more than that, then she shouldn’t either.

The flaw in that equation was that Vivienne
did
care. More than she wished. But she didn’t understand Jacob’s ways. He was tactless and arrogant. Yet he could melt her with just a word. It was infuriating.

Now Jacob had pushed her away, telling Vivienne that she doesn’t know what is good for her. Another insult from a rude man. She
would
know if he’d give her half a chance. It was as though he thought he was bad for her.

But Vivienne couldn’t see how. There was a part of him that Jacob didn’t share. Nor did he explain his behavior. “
I have my reasons
.” Yet there was more to the sexy heartthrob than his ill manners and distant attitude.

There was his stern voice, his piercing blue eyes, and his swoon-worthy muscled form. No wonder she couldn’t forget about him. Vivienne had crossed an invisible line, and there was no way back. Jacob was unlike any man before.

Vivienne wouldn’t have walked away from him, despite his flaws. She knew in those moments of intimacy that there was more to Jacob than he cared to reveal. She saw it, and she was drawn to him. That was one thing that wouldn’t change.

Besides the unforgettable sex, and the romance that Jacob denied, he had another thing in his favor. Vivienne wrapped her arms around her waist, the gloom of the last few weeks threatening to take over again.

Jacob was the man for her. He was the
only
man for her. It was how Vivienne felt, and she couldn’t push it aside. Despite every reason Jacob was the wrong choice, he was the man she wanted. Once again, Vivienne had to face the reality that he was done with her, that it wasn’t going to happen. She pushed her chair away from the computer, and banged into the desk behind her. Vivienne was mad at Jacob…once again.

 

 

Chapter 2

In Paris at last, Vivienne went to her room to freshen up before dinner. Alfred would return in an hour, and accompany her to Epicure, which he said was one of his favorite restaurants in the city. There was time to call Lana.

“Vivienne, you’re calling from Paris!”

“Oh my God. Lana. You have no idea what it’s like here…so beautiful and romantic. I love the people, the language, the city.”

“I’m so jealous,” Lana said. “Where did you go today?”

“We went through Trocadéro Gardens, which lead to the foot of the Eiffel Tower, which was surrounded by cherry blossom trees covered with pink flowers. There were flowerbeds filled with yellow tulips. And I stood at the bottom of the tower, and framed it just right so I got a picture of the Eiffel Tower framed with the pink blossoms.”

Vivienne took a breath. “And tomorrow we are going to the Louvre Museum.”

“You make me feel like I’m there,” Lana said.

“Later, Alfred took me to lunch at a sidewalk café, and we strolled through several of the bookstalls along the Seine.” Vivienne couldn’t begin to convey all that she’d seen.

“Pictures. I want pictures,” Lana said. “And what did you do at night? Paris after dark must be amazing.”

“We rode the cable car up the hill to Basilique du Sacré-Couer.”

“You sound like a local.”

Vivienne laughed. “Alfred said it means Sacred Heart Church of Paris. It’s at the summit of Montmartre, and is the highest point in the city of Paris.” She paused. “He said it was built to cure France’s spiritual ills after defeat by the Germans, and that it expresses their faith in the power of beauty.”

“Is there anything there that’s not romantic?”

“I don’t think so,” Vivienne said. “Not so far.”

“All that was just your first day.”

“When we came back to the Four Seasons, we went to the bar for a cognac,” Vivienne said.

“You’re sure this guy isn’t sweet on you?” Lana said. “Because this sounds like a romantic getaway to me.”

“No, I’m sure,” Vivienne said. “He is a friend. And we’ll be attending to business while we’re here. That’s why we came. But there’s no way I’m coming to Paris without seeing the city.”

Lana didn’t argue.

“So are you working today?”

“My shift starts later this morning, but I’m taking off early,” Lana said. “I have an audition.”

“That’s great.”

“I’m excited. But it’s just a part in a small production,
if
I get it.”

“I hope you do.” Vivienne hesitated, but couldn’t resist asking. “Now that I’m safely in Paris, I can’t help wondering about Jacob. I shouldn’t ask, but has Trace mentioned him?” She dared not ask if he had said anything about her.

“Not much to report,” Lana said. “He travels a lot, as you can imagine. He’s not in New York now, and I’m not sure when he’s coming back.” She hesitated. “I could ask.”

“No, don’t,” Vivienne said. “It doesn’t matter.”

That wasn’t really true. The lack of news made her heart sink. Hearing about Jacob would have been better. Maybe. Vivienne needed to get over it. After ending the call with Lana, she changed for dinner. But she couldn’t get her mind off Jacob, and wondered if he thought about her at all.

*****

The Epicure was very French. The restaurant had pearl-white walls, ornate gold chandeliers, and recessed ceilings. White linen covered the tables, and embroidered drapes framed the windows. A fireplace, with a painting of the countryside above the mantel, was the focal point of the room.

Alfred was handsomely dressed in a charcoal suit with a pale blue shirt that went well with his light blue eyes. “The chef is a wizard,” he said. “I’ve had some of the best food in Paris here. I think you’ll enjoy it.”

“I’m sure I will,” Vivienne said. “You’ll have to help me choose what to order, since you’ve dined here before.”

“How about the tasting menu? That way you can try a variety of dishes.”

“Perfect.” Vivienne’s mouth was watering. “It smells so good in here.”

The waiter described the menu as a six-course meal with wine pairing. It precluded having to choose a wine for the dinner. “That way you’ll have the right wine with each of the courses,” the waiter said. “Chef Frechon has a signature style, and this is Paris, the gourmet capital of the world. He has a talent for matching unusual ingredients to astounding result. His foie gras and smoked oysters with a duck and green tea boullion are dishes customers favor.”

“And those are included in the tasting menu?”

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

The first course arrived promptly. “This first wine is a Chateau d’Yquem Sauterne,” the waiter said, as he poured some into their glasses. “It’s a classic pairing with the luxurious, buttery quality of the foie gras.” He bowed. “Bon appétite.”

Alfred tasted the delicacy, then took a sip of his wine. “As good as I remembered,” he said.

Vivienne did the same. “This is delicious.” She took another bite. “Paris has captivated me,” she said. “Especially with the rich cuisine. I’m having a love affair with the food.”

“Just wait. This is only the first course.” Alfred took another bite. “You can’t do better than this, though.”

“So you have appointments lined up for tomorrow?” Vivienne said. “So far it seems like a holiday.”

Alfred smiled. “We will be quite busy for the next couple of days.” He sipped his wine. “But not too busy for pleasure.”

“You’re an interesting man, Alfred.”

“How’s that?”

“You’re rich and successful…handsome.”

Alfred smiled.

“You travel, have excellent taste in food, wine…perfume.” Vivienne tilted her head. “How is it that you are unattached?”

“I was married, many years ago.” Alfred frowned. “We haven’t talked too much about personal things. But I suppose if we’re to be business partners, we’ll get to know each other better.”

Vivienne waited, noting the sadness in his eyes.

“Julie was the love of my life,” Alfred said. “I fell for her, heart and soul. And she felt the same. She was from England, same as me, and we had a lot in common.” His put his fork on the plate. “I thought we had a lifetime together, but it was not to be. After five wonderful years of marriage, she got cancer.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“She died in my arms.” Alfred paused, regaining his composure. “Anyway, it was years before I dated again. But I haven’t had a serious relationship. Maybe someday. The loss of a loved one is difficult, and Julie is still the only woman in my heart.”

“You will find the right woman.” Vivienne didn’t like the idea of Alfred being alone for the rest of his years.

“Maybe so.”

The plates were cleared, and next, the oysters were delivered with champagne. “What about you, Vivie? Is there a special guy?”

The question reminded her of Jacob. “I don’t have anyone steady right now,” Vivienne said. “I could say I haven’t found the right one, but I suppose that wouldn’t be true.” She didn’t know why she confided in Alfred. But he had been open with her.

“The only thing is that
he
isn’t interested in me.”

Alfred held his glass midair. “I find that difficult to believe.”

“I thought he was. I thought we might have something special,” Vivienne said. “He’s just difficult to understand.”

“You should talk to him.”

“That’s not going to happen. We aren’t seeing each other anymore,” Vivienne said.

“That’s unfortunate,” Alfred said. “What’s his name? Do I know him?”

“Jacob Rinaldi. He runs a wine-importing business.”

“I know of the company, Rinaldi Imports. Being a wine connoisseur of sorts, it would be hard to miss.” Alfred took time to let an oyster slip down his throat. “Well, he’s making a mistake by letting you go.”

“I doubt he sees it that way.” Vivienne sighed. “But that’s enough of that. I just want to enjoy this amazing meal. And thank you so much for this trip.”

“As I said, I plan to profit well from our venture,” Alfred said. “Plus, I’m enjoying your company.”


If
we proceed with our venture.” Vivienne wasn’t sure how that would turn out.

“That’s what we’re in Paris to find out,” Alfred said, with a wink.

*****

The next morning, Vivienne dressed for shopping. She wore a khaki skirt and white blouse, with a brightly colored scarf. Since it was sunny, she chose a comfortable pair of ballerina flats. She secured her wavy hair in a velvet tie, and wore small pearl earrings. One thing she’d learned was that Frenchwomen prided themselves on their appearance, looking feminine and stylish wherever they went. Lana’s assistance had proven invaluable, and Vivienne had brought many attractive outfits.

Alfred knocked on her door, right on time. Breakfast was soft-boiled eggs with bread slices to dip in the yolks, fruit, and coffee at an outdoor café. Although Alfred had rented a car, it was more convenient to take a tram to the shops.

“Parfums Divine will be our first stop,” Alfred said. “It’s a discreet shop, known only by word of mouth. Yvan Mouchel uses only raw materials of the highest quality. His approach to a new perfume is the same as if he were creating a painting, a symphony, or a novel.”

“His fragrances are works of art,” Vivienne said.

“Yes, and his are natural fragrances extracted from flowers, no chemically produced scents.” Alfred held the door open for her. “Some history for you: the real heart of the French perfume industry is Grasse, a small town in the Alps, famous for production of natural fragrances from lavender, myrtle, and roses for over eighty years.”

At the long perfume counter, Vivienne tested several fragrances. “This one is L’être aimé, a sun-drenched fragrance with notes of bergamot and nectarine,” the clerk said.

“Nice,” Vivienne said, holding out the ceramic blotter which was soaked in the perfume. Alfred nodded in agreement.

“And this one,” the clerk said, “L’infante, is like a bouquet of freshly gathered flowers, but very sensual. It also contains the aroma of vanilla, which appeals to men.”

Vivienne smiled. “I’m sure it’s popular with women, then.”

When it came to the art of perfume, there was no substitute for the acquired skills of France’s master perfume producers. Secrets and techniques were passed down from generation to generation. There was a special quality that couldn’t be replicated or copied. Chanel, Christian Dior, and Givenchy, some of the great names in the industry, were French. It was quite an experience to sample timeless fragrances in a Paris shop.

When visiting traditional French perfume houses, Fragonard was not to be missed. The company had built its reputation on classic, elegant scents, and Vivienne was enamored with several of them. Next was Guerlain, another classic, world-famous shop, where she tested a couple of the perfumes.

“I think my nose needs a rest,” Vivienne said when they left the last shop. Some of the shops had coffee beans in ceramic dishes on the counters, as sniffing them was thought to act as a sort of palate cleanser for the nose. But she hadn’t found it really worked for her, so usually took breaths of air between fragrances.

“I suggest a brisk walk to clear our olfactory senses.” Alfred strolled beside her. “So, Vivie, what do you think so far?”

“I have many ideas,” Vivienne said. “I’ve blended scents for quite a while. This chance to experience the prestigious shops of Paris has ignited my creativity. Provided we can acquire the right scents, real flowers, not chemical, I am sure we can come up with some unique blends.”

“I was hoping you’d say that. And I already have connections here. We’ll negotiate wholesale prices on the scents we want to distribute,” Alfred said. “Some are inaccessible. But there should be enough suppliers for our stock.”

“It’s exciting,” Vivienne said. “We’ll have to look at the figures, the profit margins and such. But I’m sure you thought of that before you invited me to Paris.”

“I did, and selling online is a huge advantage,” Alfred said. “No stores, less staff, lots of reasons.”

“And you can handle the technical end? Because technology isn’t my thing.”

“My IT department can work that out,” Alfred said. “We’ll talk more about this over lunch.”

“Lunch sounds good, right after we visit Jovoy. I’ve heard François Hénin has over twelve hundred niche perfumes,” Vivienne said. “We’ll have to be choosy, because I don’t think I’ll be able to discern much after the first hundred.”

Alfred chuckled. “Very funny. But Jovoy does have a couple with rich floral notes I’d like to sample, especially Flor y Canto. I read about it. The perfume is a mixture of tuberose, magnolia, and plumeria.”

“Definitely, I’ll smell that one,” Vivienne said. “And being the romantic that I am, I want to test Betrothal. I heard that the scent was originally created in honor of Queen Mary of England’s betrothal in the eighteen hundreds.”

The boutique had a pleasing contemporary design, and the scent tour began in a cozy alcove in the back. The owner met with them, and enthusiastically told them about his perfumes. He not only educated them about his tantalizing mixtures, but shared a secret.

BOOK: Seductive Affair (Bend To My Will #2)
12.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Granny Game by Beverly Lewis
Darkness Falls by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Death in St James's Park by Susanna Gregory
Crash Into You by Kels Barnholdt
Deliver Us From Evil by John L. Evans
Jump the Gun by Zoe Burke
THE GORGE screenplay by Nicholson, Scott
Silenced by Natasha Larry
Salvation Row by Mark Dawson