Frenched Series Bundle(9)By: Melanie Harlow
“Hmmm.” Sucking my lips between my teeth, I studied the map, but my navigational skills didn’t feel too sharp, for some reason, and I was pretty sure that reason was Lucas’s scruffy jaw. It hadn’t been as scratchy as I’d imagined. What the hell, Mia? Focus. “Uh, we look for the number three and we want to go in the direction of…Gallieni?”
“Well, you could. Except the number three doesn’t stop at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile. We’d have to make a transfer.”
“Oh.” I squinted at the map again, but I could still feel his whiskers on my skin. Fucking concentrate, goddammit! You don’t even like scruff. “Oh! I see. We get on the…number two and sort of go up and around. That way we don’t have to transfer.”
Beaming with pride, I turned around. “So I need a ticket, right?”
“Yes. Over there.” Lucas led me to one of the ticket machines and watched as I got started, changing the language to English and moving through each step.
At one particular screen, I hesitated. “How many should I buy?”
“Is it just for one day?”
I kept my eyes on the screen. “I don’t know. Maybe two.”
“Aha! My plan is working!” he gloated.
I shrugged, refusing to look at him. “It might be. A little.”
“Get a book of ten.”
I paid by credit card and put nine tickets inside my wallet. Lucas had some kind of pass he swiped, and I fed my ticket into the machine and followed him through the turnstile. At that point he wanted me to lead the way, so I looked at all the signs carefully before choosing which tunnel to take.
When we arrived at the tracks, Lucas held up his hand and I high-fived him. “Way to go, princess. You successfully navigated the metro. I have confidence you can get yourself anywhere in Paris now, even when you’re on your own.”
“Thank you.” I took a small bow, but I felt a twinge of sadness when I imagined myself doing all this alone.
While we waited for the train, Lucas asked me what I did back in Detroit.
“I’m an event planner.”
He burst out laughing. “Of course you are.”
Indignant, I stuck my hands on my hips. “What’s funny about that?”
“Nothing.” He stopped guffawing but couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. “It’s the perfect job for you. I bet you’re really good at it.”
“I am, thank you very much.” I sniffed, slinging my bag higher on my shoulder. “I worked for someone else for a while after college and then started my own business when I was only twenty-five. Well, my best friend and I started it—she had inherited some money and we’d always wanted to do something together. So we went for it.”
He looked impressed. “Very cool. How’s it going?”
“Very well, actually. We were on the news last year for being two of the top up-and-coming young entrepreneurs in the city. We got a lot of business out of that, weddings mostly, but a bunch of them are pretty big-budget.” A flicker of discomfort on Lucas’s face made me pause, and for a second I wondered what I’d said wrong until I realized I’d mentioned weddings. But surprisingly, neither the word nor the idea bothered me.
“And what’s the name of your company?”
“Devine Events. Devine is my last name.”
He smiled at me again, but it was softer. More admiring than amused. “It suits you.”
At that moment the train pulled into the station, roaring along the tracks as a blush warmed my face. I dropped my eyes to the ground. What the hell? Was he flirting with me? Was flirting allowed on this tour? And what’s with the way my heart was beating? It felt huge and clumsy in my chest as we boarded the train.
There was only one empty seat, and Lucas gestured for me to sit. He remained standing, and even though the train’s movement wasn’t smooth, he didn’t hold on to anything, just stood in the aisle with his feet planted wide and his arms crossed. Why that turned me on a little, I had no idea, but I felt a stir low in my belly.
Hmm. I guess he’s growing on me.
Haha, growing on me.
Turning my cheek so he couldn’t see the smile I was trying to hide, I berated myself for the dirty thought. Stop it, Mia. And don’t even look at his crotch right now. Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t—
I did it. I couldn’t help myself.
It wasn’t a longing gaze or anything, more like just a passing glance, and it didn’t tell me anything, but I was still scared he’d noticed. I switched my focus to my sneakers.
A few stops later, the seat next to me was vacated and Lucas sat down. “So are you a cemetery person? Was Père Lachaise on your list?”
“I don’t know if I’d call myself a cemetery person, but I believe it was on the list. Remind me who’s buried there?”
“Lots of people. But names you’d know are Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Gertrude Stein…”
I raised my eyebrows. “I’m impressed, Professor Fournier.”
He shrugged. “I’m a cemetery person. I think they’re beautiful and relaxing. Peaceful.”
I considered it. “Yeah, I can see that.”
“I just hope it’s not crammed with tourists today, although it is the season.”
“We ruin your soulful hipster vibe, is that it?”
He thumped my leg and leaned closer to me. “Yes, in fact, you do.”
“Well, I’ll try to rein in my excitement but no promises.”
Our faces were close, nearly nose to nose. My breath got stuck in my lungs as his eyes dropped to my lips for a second. Jesus, he’s going to kiss me. Right here on the train, he’s totally going to kiss me!
But before I could even decide how I felt about it, he leaned back in his seat. “You don’t wear lipstick. I noticed that last night.”
It took me a second to recover. “What? Oh, no. I don’t, not usually.”
“I like that. I think lipstick is gross.”
“Yeah. It’s all sticky and goopy, and it gets all over everything, and I don’t know what the hell toxic chemicals it’s made of these days, but it never comes off.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Yeah, I think there are some hazardous ingredients in a lot of them. I’m a lip balm person myself.”
Lucas cocked his head and looked at me askance. “Good to know.”
Bang bang bang went my swollen heart against my ribs.
Damn, it was official—he was flirting with me, and I liked it.
“This is us.” Lucas nudged me, and I stood when he did, but I did not have his sea legs and immediately fell forward as the train swerved into the station. Lucas caught me easily against his chest. “Whoa. You OK?”
“Yes, sorry. But I think I have to hold on.”
“I’ve got you.” He turned me around and held me by the shoulders until the train came to a stop and the doors opened. “Here we go.” Once we were on solid ground, he let go of me.
And I kind of wished he hadn’t.
Much to Lucas’s dismay, there were quite a few busloads of tourists at Père Lachaise. We managed to avoid the crowds by skipping the big names and just wandering the dirt and cobblestone paths with no particular destination. I’d asked if there was somewhere I could get a map or a Who’s Buried Where kind of guide, but Lucas insisted that we didn’t need one. “I come here a lot,” he assured me. “Let’s just walk, and if you’re curious about something, I’ll tell you what I know.”
“But I love maps. I want a map. I need a map,” I whined.
“No, you don’t.”
I gave him a withering look, and he held up his hands. “I know I said I wouldn’t argue with you, but let’s just try it my way, and if it doesn’t work for you, I promise I’ll go buy you a map.”
It made my palms a little itchy to think of meandering through such a big famous place without a guide, but I figured I could try to endure it for Lucas’s sake.
And actually, I enjoyed it.
With no particular route to follow or timetable set, I found myself in less of a rush than I usually was when sightseeing, noticing things that I probably wouldn’t have if I’d had my nose stuck in a guide.
And Lucas hadn’t exaggerated—he was able to tell me a lot of stories about the people buried there, whether they were musicians, actors, writers or politicians. “This one here?” He gestured toward a bronze-gone-green statue of a man reclining on his tomb. “Best story ever.”
I paused in front of it. “Really? Who was he?”
“He was a French president who died while getting a blowjob from his mistress. His epitaph in French is, ‘Il voulait être César, il ne fut sue Pompée,’ which could mean ‘He wanted to be Caesar but ended being Pompey.’” Lucas’s eyes glittered. “Or it could mean, ‘He wanted to be Caesar but ended being pumped.’”
I gasped and clapped a hand over my mouth. “God, that would never be allowed on the grave of an American President.”
Lucas shook his head. “Probably not.”
“You’re pretty good with all this history,” I said as we continued walking.