Frenched Series Bundle(10)

By: Melanie Harlow

“I find it interesting.”

I elbowed him. “Especially the parts with blowjobs, I bet.” To my surprise, he blushed, and the word adorable popped into my head. “I’m serious. It’s amazing how much you know about this place.”

“I have a good memory is all.”

I sighed. “I don’t. I have to write everything down or I forget things constantly.”

He looked at me in surprise. “Really? I’d have thought you were one of those girls who always remembers everyone’s name and where you met and what they were wearing.”

“Not if I don’t write it down somewhere. There’s a reason I like lists so much—I’m not just obsessed with them for fun.”

“Fun,” he scoffed, nudging me with his shoulder. “Lists are not fun.”

I giggled and went to shove him back but he dodged it and threw his arms around me from behind, pinning my arms to my sides so I couldn’t move. “Behave, princess.” His breath tickled my neck through my hair, sending a weightless joy rushing up inside me.

“What if I don’t want to behave?”

Lucas went completely still, and for a moment I thought I might have gone too far. Change the subject.

“Hey, what’s that?” Up ahead was one of the most elaborate tombs I’d ever seen—it was almost like its own little Gothic chapel without walls. Inside the structure lay two statues in repose right next to each other, their hands steepled in prayer.

Lucas released me. “Ah. Abelard and Heloise. But that’s one I don’t know if I can tell you about.”

“Why not?” Moving closer to it, I stared at the stonework, nearly breathless at its beauty.

“Because it’s a very tragic romantic story. I’m not sure it’s advisable on this excursion.”

“No, tell me. I promise I can handle it.”

“OK. But I warned you. Ugh—” He took an elbow in the gut from me before going on. “So Abelard was a twelfth-century teacher and philosopher, and he’d heard about this brilliant young beauty named Heloise. He convinces her uncle to let him tutor her, only they don’t get much studying done.”

I put a hand on his arm. “Let me guess—more blowjobs.”

“You have a dirty mind, princess. But yes, I suppose there were blowjobs. Now don’t interrupt.”

“Sorry, go on.” I put my hands at the top of the iron fence surrounding the tomb and focused on the figures lying there, trying to ignore the way his nearness was starting to make my whole body tingle.

“They carry on a passionate, illicit love affair for a while,” Lucas went on, “long enough for Heloise to get pregnant, and it’s a big scandal because he’s so much older than she is. Anyway, the uncle finds out and tries to separate them, but they marry in secret.”

Rapt, I imagined it all as he talked—the late night tutoring sessions that ended in passionate kisses when their desire for one another became too much to bear. The secret trysts—I pictured them lying on some kind of bearskin rug in front of a fireplace, the flames casting golden light on their glistening bodies. The secret wedding ceremony, hurriedly conducted in hushed voices in a tiny chapel. “Go on,” I urged, feeling more than a little aroused myself. “Then what happened?”

“Well, it gets a bit gruesome at this point. Abelard fears for their safety because the uncle’s kind of a dick and not too happy about the marriage. So he hides Heloise in a convent and goes back to Paris alone, where he’s attacked and, uh, castrated.” Lucas shivered and adjusted the crotch of his pants.

I gasped. “No!”

“Yes. He’s so ashamed he decides he can’t face Heloise, and he becomes a monk. She’s so devastated she gives up her child, joins a convent, and becomes a nun.”

My mouth fell open. “What? They never saw each other again?”

“I don’t think so. But they wrote to each other for twenty years. And the love letters survived.”

“Love letters, really? Are they romantic?”

“I’ve never read them, actually. But I think they are. And lovesick crazies from all over the world come and leave letters here, hoping it will bring them good luck, although if you think about it, that makes no sense at all. These two weren’t reunited until death.”

I sighed again, exasperated. “You were right. You shouldn’t have told me that story. Now I’m all…” I fidgeted uncomfortably. Turned on. “Discombobulated.”

“I think I know what will fix that.”

My stomach cartwheeled, and I licked my lips. “What?”

“Wine. And maybe some food.”

“Oh. Right.”

Wait a minute. Was I actually disappointed that he meant wine instead of something more suggestive? What the hell was wrong with me? It was wine, for fuck’s sake. My favorite thing.

Tucking my sweater more snugly around me, I smiled at him. “Yes, that sounds perfect. Let’s go.”

Lucas chose a table by the window in the brasserie we’d picked, and I took a seat across from him. “I’m famished. What time is it anyway?”

“It’s just after two.”

“Is it? Wow, time flies when you’re having fun.” I thanked the waiter who handed me the menu and opened it up.

“Are you having fun?”

I looked up and saw Lucas studying me curiously. “Of course I am. Aren’t you?”

“Yes. But I don’t need to be convinced to stay in Paris. Have you made a decision yet?”

“I’m this close.” I held up one hand with my thumb and finger just an inch apart and continued in a whisper. “After some wine, it might be official.”

“OK, then, this bottle better be good.” He considered the list and looked up at me through thick, dark lashes. “What would you like?”

“Hmmmm. I really loved what you poured for me last night. The one from the Rhône Valley.”

“Want to try another Rhône or something different?”

“You pick. I’ll just enjoy. Oh, could you order me a salad like the one that’s on that lady’s plate over there?” I tried to point without being obvious.

Twisting in his chair, Lucas looked behind him. “It’s a Salad Niçoise,” he said. “Now you can order it.”

“But your French is so much better.” Lacing my fingers together under my chin, I attempted a winning smile. “Really, I don’t speak it well at all. Could you order it, please?”

He shook his head. “What are you going to do when I’m not around to order for you? You should do it. Don’t be scared.”

The thought of uttering French words in front of Lucas made me sweat a little, but when the waiter came around, I managed to order the salad and even ask for some water. Lucas ordered the wine—at least that’s what I assumed all the rapid-fire French was about—and a Salad Niçoise also.

“See? Was that so hard?” he asked when we were alone again.

“I guess not,” I admitted, smoothing my napkin onto my lap. I knew he was right about learning to speak for myself, because even if I did stay, I couldn’t expect Lucas to spend all his time with me. This was probably just a one-day deal. A hollow pit formed in my stomach, and I realized how sad I would be if I didn’t see him again after today. When I looked up, I saw him watching me with a serious expression on his face.

“Mia, would—”

But he was interrupted by the waiter approaching with a pitcher of water and two glasses. Lucas poured water for us, and I waited for him to say whatever it was he’d been about to say, but he didn’t.

“You were going to ask me something?” I prompted.

He shook his head and took a drink of water. “No.”

“Yes, you were. Right before the water arrived. You said my name.”

His brow furrowed, and either he had a good poker face or he really hadn’t had anything of importance to say. “I don’t remember, I guess.”

My chest caved a little, and I picked up my water. What is this? Why am I getting weird and mopey about Lucas? Last night I hadn’t even liked him that much. So my first impression of him had been off, so what? I found him attractive in spite of the scruff, big deal. So beyond the smartass mouth was a curious mind and a romantic soul, whatever. I hadn’t come here to meet a man; I’d come here to forget one. Straightening up in my seat, I vowed to quit allowing serious thoughts to get in the way of a good time.

Our wine arrived, and I watched as the waiter poured the ruby-colored liquid into glasses. My insides got quivery with excitement the way they always do when I’m anticipating a really good glass of wine. I must have bounced a little in my chair or something because Lucas laughed. “Excited?”

“Totally. Can I drink it now or do I have to let it sit for a while so oxygen wafts around above it or something?” I waved a hand in the air over my glass.

“No, you can drink it now.”

“Good.” I picked up my glass and breathed in the aroma as if I knew what I was doing. “So you know about wine?”

“A little. My family has a small vineyard in Provence.”

I lowered the glass. “Are you serious?”

“Yes. In fact, this wine is very similar to one we make. Try it.”

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