Frenched Series Bundle(3)By: Melanie Harlow
He often said I was the ideal woman for him—beautiful, smart, and low maintenance. Those were his criteria. And I’d thought he was the ideal man—a gorgeous suit-and-tie guy with a master’s degree, a trust fund, and a flair for showy romantic gestures in front of an audience. The former drama student in me adored that.
So after downing the champagne, I slipped that ring on my finger and got busy planning a wedding worthy of a princess and playboy heir. I also moved into his townhouse, but even then we didn’t make a lot of demands on each other’s time.
Maybe we should have.
Maybe you’re supposed to want to actually be together more than Tucker and I wanted to. Maybe you should miss each other when you’re apart. Maybe the regret you feel after your fiancé calls off your wedding should be more about the man and less about the dress, the roses, and the menu.
(Surf and turf, by the way. Lobster and filet mignon. And the wine…oh good God, the wine.)
I squeezed my eyes shut. “Ugh, I’m so embarrassed. How could I have been so dumb?”
“Come on, Mia,” Erin said. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Each of my two best friends took a hand and pulled me up to a seated position. “It was a fantasy, like you said. Anyone would have been caught up in it.”
“Well, now it’s all just one big fucking waste,” I said bitterly. “All that time and money—gone.”
They glanced at each other. “You know what we think?” Coco patted my hand.
“You should go to France tomorrow.”
“What! By myself?”
“Yes.” Erin got off the bed and disappeared into my walk-in closet. Before I could ask her what she was doing, Coco started in.
“You’ve been working nonstop, Mia, and planning your own wedding every spare second. Now you need a vacation, alone. You need time to reflect and think and just get over this.”
I blinked at her in disbelief. “And going to Paris alone is going to help me do that? When it was supposed to be my honeymoon?”
“Don’t think of it as a honeymoon.” Erin appeared with my big old suitcase, the only one that was not monogrammed with TBM. The bright red one that I’d taken on all our girl trips—just the sight of it made me perk up a little. “Think of it as Tucker’s parting gift to you—an all-expenses-paid luxury send-off!”
“I can’t. That wasn’t the plan.”
“Fuck the plan for once, Mia!” Coco bounced off the bed and gestured dramatically. “Just do it! Think of Paris—think of all the things on your list you’ve always wanted to see! Those things are still there, and they’ll look the same even without Tucker at your side. In fact, they’ll look better.”
It was true, I did have a Paris list. I had several, actually. One for dining, one for drinking, one for shopping, one for museums and cathedrals, one for outdoor attractions, one for romance…the idea soured in my mind. “No. It was going to be my honeymoon, goddammit. All I’d do is sit around drinking wine and brooding that this was supposed to be the most romantic week of my life and instead I’m there alone.”
“But think of how good that wine will be!” Erin smiled so brightly I almost laughed. “You’re just going to do the same thing if you sit around here for the week. Why not do it in view of the Eiffel tower?”
“The Louvre!” Coco added, clapping her hands.
“The Pont Neuf!”
“The Arc de Triomphe!”
“OK, OK, please.” I put up my hands to stop the ad campaign. “Please don’t start singing The Marseillaise. I get it. France is awesome. Yay France. I’m just not up for it. And you know how I am about flying.”
“I’ll give you a sleeping pill. You’re going.” Erin put the suitcase on the bed and unzipped it. “Now let’s pack your bags. This trip is paid for, and if you don’t go, then Coco and I are going, and we might love it so much we’ll decide we’re a lesbian couple and stay there without you.”
“You’re so not her type,” I said. But I allowed her to pull me to my feet. “Coco goes for tall, dark, and tattooed. That little heart above your ass doesn’t count.”
Erin smiled sweetly. “But it’s Paris. Anything can happen there.”
“And I just thought of another benefit,” Coco added. “Your mother will be a whole country away. You destroyed your phone and we stole your computer, so she won’t even be able to get a hold of you.”
I chewed my lip. That was a benefit—my mother’s anxiety drove me nuts even when she didn’t have to deal with the fact that her daughter’s wedding was just canceled.
“Go to Paris, Mia.” Coco’s eyes pleaded with me. “You’ve been talking about it since you were a kid.”
“If you’re miserable, you can hop on a flight home—my mom will change your ticket for nothing,” promised Erin, whose mother worked for Delta. “But at least you can say you’ve been there.”
I hesitated. Could I do it, really?
“If you don’t, I’m telling your mother to come back to Detroit because you need her.”
I shot Coco a murderous look. “OK, OK, I’ll go. To the most romantic city on earth. Alone.”
They squealed and clapped their hands. “Good girl,” Coco said. “Now let’s get you packed, and we’re putting in all the sexy little outfits you had planned—I know there’s an outfits list here somewhere.”
“I’ll bet French men don’t jump out of bed to clean up right after sex,” added Erin.
“Please. I’d be happy just to stray from the Approved Positions.” I stretched a little and actually felt a flutter of excitement in my stomach, which was odd because I am not a person who can fly by the seat of her pants and enjoy it. I am a planner, a list-maker, a think-it-through-in-advance kind of girl. But for once, I was going to do something spontaneous.
Maybe I’d even enjoy it.
This was a horrible idea.
As the airplane shuddered and swayed from side to side, I closed my eyes and clutched my roiling stomach.
3 Things I Always Wanted to Do in Paris,
But I Died Getting There
1) Sip champagne in view of the Eiffel Tower.
2) Shop at the Clignancourt flea market.
3) Make out in the rain without worrying about an umbrella.
I opened my eyes and frowned. Even if I managed to make it to Paris alive, I’d have to scratch the whole kissing-sans-umbrella bit off the list since this was no longer a romantic vacation. The rainy liplock fantasy was actually very unlike me, since I always plan ahead and don’t tend to get caught in inclement weather without proper raingear. But there’s just something so romantic about being swept away by a kiss in the middle of a downpour, so swept away that you don’t even care you’re getting wet—in fact, that only makes it better.
Once, one time, when we were first dating, Tucker and I were hiking near Tahquamenon Falls when it began to drizzle, and we made out for about thirty seconds, but the whole experience was sort of ruined by the way he kept wincing and glancing skyward at the darkening clouds. He could be kind of fanatical about his hair. Truth be told, I couldn’t stop thinking about my hair either, because I’d just blown it out that morning, and it’s such a chore. So I was sort of glad when Tucker said, “I’m getting wet, babe. Did you bring an umbrella?”
Of course I’d brought an umbrella. I always bring an umbrella.
The plane lurched again and I clenched the armrests with both hands. “Oh!”
The woman next to me patted my white knuckles on the armrest between us. “It’s just some turbulence. We’ll be through it in a few minutes.”
Or we’ll all suffer death by unnatural impact with the Atlantic Ocean. That could happen too.
But I just nodded, unable to speak.
Oh God, why did I think I could do this alone?
Somewhere in my purse was the sleeping pill Erin had given me, but I was paralyzed with fear and couldn’t seem to let go of my armrests.
“See? All smooth now.”
I looked over at the woman with the soothing voice. She was about my mom’s age, maybe a little older, with a neat gray cap of hair, beautiful skin, and a stylish blue scarf wrapped around her neck.
She’s sitting in Tucker’s seat.
Shoving that unwelcome thought from my head, I smiled weakly. “Nervous flyer.”
She nodded. “I have a friend like that too. Never flies anywhere without a stiff drink first to calm her nerves.”
“That sounds good.”
“Let’s get you one then. What’s the point of sitting in first class if you can’t get a little tipsy before dinner?” She smiled, revealing beautiful white teeth.
She signaled the flight attendant, who brought us champagne in glass flutes a few minutes later. Trying not to gulp, I imbibed the fizzy golden liquid quickly, and my glass was refilled just as fast. Gradually, a warm buzz replaced the clammy anxiety.
“First time to Paris?”
I nodded. “Yes. It was…a gift. The trip was a gift.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about Tucker. “I’m just a little unsure of myself, traveling alone.”