Adele takes a sip of her wine, then looks over at the door leading to the private lounges. The door the men went through to talk about their business deal. She smiles warmly at me and says, “Your husband, Collins, is a very nice man. You are a lucky woman.”
“Oh, no,” I say. “We aren’t married.” God, if only.
“But you’ve been together a long time, no?”
I shake my head. “No. We’re just friends.” The words sting my eyes a little. The truth sucks. I take a sip of my wine and tell myself to hold it together. I don’t want to make this night about me, I’m supposed to be entertaining Adele. Keeping her happy.
Adele leans forward and puts her hand on my arm, narrowing her eyes. “Non,” she insists. “Surely you are together. I see the way you are. Your bodies know each other. And the way he looks at you...” She flicks her wrist as if it’s a done deal and she has just, in fact, married us. Then she holds up her glass to me--a wordless toast.
Her over-dramatic zeal makes me laugh. I can’t help it. I clink glasses with her and take a sip. Still, maybe there is something to what she says. If someone who’s just met us thinks we’ve been together for years... I recall Sophie telling me that Collins is in love with me, and now this comment from a practical stranger.
The way he’s been looking at me all night, though. It’s hard to catch it because he’s very skilled at guarding his emotions, but I’d seen it. Maybe she’d picked up on it too. Several times I caught him staring at me, his eyes filled with encouragement and interest. But his look also drifted down my neck on occasion. A look that sent tingles through my body. A look that made me cross my legs and savor that delicious throbbing. The looks got more intense as the night went on, and the last look he’d given me before he went to talk business with Pierre. That parting look said so much. Don’t move. I’ll deal with you later.
I swirl the last of my wine in my glass and wonder if it isn’t obvious to everyone. Am I looking at him with the same hunger? I don’t know how I can hide it.
Collins and Pierre burst out of the back rooms with their arms slung around each other’s shoulders like they’ve been drinking buddies forever, and singing some French song. Well, shouting the words to the song, anyway.
The expression on Collins’ face is slightly guarded, which is the only way I can tell he isn’t fully inebriated, but there’s a sparkle in his eye, and he’s smiling.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know they’ve decided to work together.
When Collins’ eyes meet mine, he continues singing, but swoops towards me and slides his arm around my waist, pulling me to my feet. He leans toward my ear, whispering, “Je t’aime, mon ange.” His breath on my neck sends heat through me. I have no clue what the words mean, but it doesn’t matter. If we were alone my dress would be in a pile on the floor right now. I take a deep shaky breath in effort to maintain control, but it’s no use. With him so close, I can smell the sweet cigar smoke and bourbon on his breath. A combination so masculine. My body leans into his without my permission. My arms circle his neck. Our eyes lock. My heart is beating faster than humanly possible. His jaw tightens as if he’s fighting the urge to pounce.
“Follement amoureux,” Adele says under her breath.
I don’t know what it means, but Collins seems to. He looks over to Adele and Pierre who are on their feet as well. Collins loosens his grip around my waist, standing up a bit straighter. As if he’s just remembered that we aren’t alone. God, I long for the moment when we will be alone together.
I bite my lip and force myself to look away from Collins, smiling once more at our dinner companions. Adele pulls on her shawl, Collins takes care of the tab, and we say our goodbyes. Then we are alone. Collins’ arm on the small of my back guides me out of the restaurant onto the dimly lit Paris streets.
“There’s a taxi stand.” Collins’ voice is low and he speaks in my ear. The taxi stand is several blocks down, and he puts a protective arm around me as we walk. For the first time in my life, I find myself tongue-tied. The only thing I can think about is Collins. It’s like a highlight reel. Collins’ wet body pressed against my bare chest in the ocean. His hot kisses. The image of him today exiting the hotel shower this afternoon with only a towel wrapped around his waist. His tan sculpted chest still had a few droplets of water clinging to it. I wanted to help dry him off. Hell, I want to shower with him.
Again I find myself leaning into him, pressing the side of my body to his as we walk.
The streetlights give the city a rose hue. Collins looks so good with his tailored suit and tie. It’s like a dream. I keep on expecting to wake up in my old apartment back in Connecticut.
“Did you and Pierre make a deal?” I ask.
“We did.” His face is relaxed and happy, like I haven’t seen him in a while. “Thank you, you were perfect,” he says, pressing a quick kiss to my temple as we walk.
At the taxi stand, Collins helps me into the car, following close behind me. The small dome light of the cab shows me the look on his face. There is so much hunger in his eyes.
“What did you say to me back at the restaurant?” I ask, my head feeling like I’m in a fog.
He takes a moment to consider my question. “My angel,” he says softly and I wonder if I’m getting the whole truth.
“And what did Adele say to us before we left?”
“Crazy in love,” he says, looking directly into my eyes.