Frenched Series Bundle(7)

By: Melanie Harlow



“So you do miss him? Because I don’t see a heartbroken girl here in front of me. I see someone who’s angry that her relationship ended badly mostly because it ruined an idea she had about the perfect life. And she flew all the way here, but even Paris isn’t enough to distract her from the fact she didn’t get exactly what she wanted when she wanted it.”

“It was more than an idea! It was real. At least, it felt real…most of the time.” My spine curled as the fight left my body. Even my voice weakened. “But what do I know?”

He spoke softer too. “Want to know what I think?”

“No.”

He held up his hands. “Fair enough.”

I put my credit card on the bar. “I want to pay my bill and leave.”

“The wine is on the house.”

“Because you feel sorry for me?” I snapped. God, Mia, just shut up. Why I was letting this guy get to me, I had no idea. Wasn’t I in this bar because I felt sorry for myself?

He hesitated before answering. “Yes. Originally, I felt sorry for you because some asshole treated you wrong. But now that I know a little more, I think he did you a big favor. Now I feel sorry for you because you’re going to let one bad day ruin a dream that you’ve had for such a long time. You know, if you leave tomorrow, I bet you never come back. I bet you’ll always think of Paris as a miserable, lonely place.”

I opened my mouth to argue and then closed it. Was he right? Was I letting one bad day speak louder than a lifetime of dreaming about Paris?

“But I’d also bet you’re stronger than you think.”

I met his eyes, and they were serious. Was he right? I’d known coming here wouldn’t be easy, but I’d gotten on that plane. Cocking my head, I asked, “Were you a psych major or something?”

He grinned. “Double major—music and psychology. Graduate degree in psych. Look, I know we just met, and I do tend to analyze people and open my big mouth when I should probably just keep my opinion to myself. But when you walked in here alone and looked around, I thought, There is a woman who knows what she wants. That confidence is sexy.”

“But I’m not confident.” The words came out like a whimper as I stared down at my left hand, where my ring used to be. I wondered where it was now—I’d thrown it in the toilet, but Coco had rescued it.

“Yes, you are. You’re just a little scared right now.”

Exhaling, I looked up at him through my lashes. “You argue with everything I say. It’s really annoying.”

“Sorry. Let me make it up to you.”

“How?”

He thought for a moment. “Well, let’s make a deal. You agree to give Paris one more day, and I’ll agree to spend the day being your tour guide—no psycho-analysis, I promise. If you’re still miserable even when you have a friend by your side, you can grab a flight home the next day. I’ll even call the airline for you.”

“A friend, huh?”

“You think about it.” He moved down the bar to fill drink orders, and I checked out his ass again. It really was cute. And though he wasn’t my first choice for a travel companion—I’d rank him somewhere above my mother and below Coco and Erin—the offer was sort of sweet, and I figured he’d make a pretty good guide, being native and all. I could give it one more day.

When he returned, I held up two fingers. “I have two conditions.”

He folded his arms across his chest. “Name them.”

“You have to quit arguing with everything I say about myself. You don’t even know me.”

“Yes, I do.”

I drew in a huge angry breath, but he burst out laughing. “Sorry.” He flashed his palms at me. “But you’re cute when you’re mad, you know. It’s going to be hard for me to resist poking at you just a little.”

My mouth hung open. Was he flirting with me? I was half furious, half flattered. On one hand, he’d irritated me to no end tonight with his smart-ass, know-it-all attitude, but on the other…My God, how long had it been since someone had flirted with me this way?

The other bartender called for help, and Lucas held up one finger over his shoulder to put him off a moment. “So? What’s the second condition?”

“There must be wine.”

He grinned. “Deal.” I put out my hand and we shook on it, and then suddenly he pulled me toward him over the bar, kissed each of my cheeks, and then the first one again. “Nice to meet you, Mia. Welcome to Paris.”

#

Despite Lucas’s opinion, I did not feel confident enough to take the Metro for the first time at night, so he put me in a cab and gave the driver directions to the hotel. Lucas raised an eyebrow at my fancy digs but didn’t make any smart comments. We agreed he’d meet me there in the lobby at ten the next morning—he argued for noon, but I insisted on earlier.

“I have to work until two,” he complained.

“Better get right home afterward, then. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover tomorrow if you’re going to sell Paris to me in just one day.”

He groaned and opened the cab door, and I flashed him a victory smile. I’d sort of been expecting at least a hug or something, but he didn’t go in for one, so I didn’t either. Sliding into the back seat, I lifted a hand in farewell as he shut the door and did the same.

It was oddly disappointing.

#

The next morning I woke at eight, showered, and donned the smaller of the two robes that hung in the bathroom. Humming along with Kate Nash’s “Paris”, one of my favorite songs on the Paris playlist, I let my curls air-dry as I sipped a delicious pot of room-service coffee, nibbled on strawberries and pain au chocolat, and sifted through my clothes for just the right outfit. According to the English-language newspaper that had been waiting at my door, the day would be overcast but not rainy, and the temperature mild.

Hmmmm. Tapping a finger on my lips, I considered my wardrobe. I wanted to look nice but not like I was trying hard—because I wasn’t—but I needed to be comfortable too. My flats had been OK for walking yesterday, but I thought I might go with sneakers today. I paired them with my favorite jeans, rolled up, and a plain white tank top. In case I got chilly, I tossed a soft little sweater in watermelon pink over my shoulders.

Once I was dressed, I put on some mascara and fussed a little with my hair, but really, there wasn’t much I could do once it was dry. Kerastase made products I loved, but sometimes my curls had a mind of their own. Today, thankfully, they were behaving properly.

I finished my coffee and was brushing my teeth when the front desk called up letting me know I had a guest in the lobby. I rinsed, spit, and put on my favorite lip balm before slinging my bag over my shoulder and rushing out the door.

On the elevator ride down, my stomach was actually jumping—what the hell? I put a hand over it and reminded myself not to expect too much out of this day. Lucas was a nice guy and all, maybe even a little attractive, but there was no guarantee I was going to enjoy his company for hours on end, nor he mine. In fact, this day could be totally awkward if we didn’t have anything in common. I’d have to think of an excuse to cut out early if that was the case.

After exiting the elevator, I walked into the elegant lobby and scanned the crowd.

“Looking for someone?” The voice came from behind me, and I turned to find Lucas standing there, hands in his pockets.

I smiled. “This time, I am.”

He returned the smile before leaning in and kissing me, once on each cheek. Was it my imagination, or was he cuter this morning than he’d been at the bar last night? Was something different? I took a quick inventory—no, the scruff was still there and the hair was still kind of a mess. Jesus, did the man own a comb?

But his outfit wasn’t bad. The gray pants from last night were making a repeat performance, but on top he wore a white shirt and a cardigan sweater. It was cute in a sort of nerdy-chic way.

We exited the hotel and Lucas gestured left. “This way.”

“Where are we going?” I fell in step beside him.

“For coffee.”

A sound of frustration escaped me. “I’ve already had coffee! I want to see something!”

“Relax, princess. We’re going to stroll up the Champs-Élysées like proper tourists and then sit at a cafe and have coffee in view of the Arc de Triomphe. You’ll be able to cross two famous sights off your list.”

“How you do know I have a list?”

He grinned sideways at me. “Just a guess.”

Pursing my lips, I smacked him on the shoulder. “You said no analyzing today.”

His eyes lit up. “Oh my God, you’ve got a list for everything, don’t you? I bet you even have one that says ‘Tuesday Morning: blue jeans, pink sweater, gray sneakers.’” He raised his voice to a high feminine pitch to mimic me. “Outfit change at four forty-five into cocktail dress and black heels.”

“Stop it. I do not.” I lifted my chin and kept walking, refusing to look at him lest my expression give me away. How fucking annoying that his stupid analyses of me were so spot-on.

Lucas laughed. “I was kidding, but you do, don’t you? You do have an outfit list!”

“So what if I do? What’s wrong with being organized and planning ahead? I’m good at that.” I’d always thought of my well-preparedness as an asset, so why were my cheeks so hot?

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