Authors: Juliette Sobanet
Sleeping with Paris
Kissed in Paris
Dancing with Paris
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2013 Juliette Sobanet
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance
PO Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
For you, my loyal readers.
You are the reason I get to do what I love every day.
December 24, 1937
Rosie Delaney stood on the empty platform, gripping the handle of her cherry-red suitcase with ice-cold fingers. She desperately wished that she’d remembered her gloves.
Thick, heavy snowflakes poured from the black winter sky, dusting the tracks in an eerie white glow. Save for the giant clock ticking overhead, the silence in the Swiss train station that night was deafening to Rosie’s ears, which had never been so alert.
Despite her nerves, Rosie was certain she’d covered her tracks well. She’d put on quite the show with Alexandre before slipping out of the annual Morel Holiday Gala unnoticed. She’d even resisted the overwhelming urge to say good-bye to the one person she would miss.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Rosie thought of the lovely sights of Paris and the even lovelier man who would be waiting for her there, in her favorite city, in only a few short hours.
She’d made the right choice.
Of course she had.
She’d left behind a closet full of shimmering evening gowns, fur coats, jewels, and high heels. Her meager suitcase contained only a few changes of her most practical, modest clothes and a box of letters.
Those letters meant more to her than any jewel-studded closet ever could.
Running her thumb over the newly bare skin on her ring finger, Rosie remembered how suffocating Alexandre’s elaborate diamond ring had felt on her left hand. And it wasn’t only the ring that had been suffocating.
The memory of him made her forget how to breathe.
If only the train would get here.
A nervous glance at the clock revealed that it was 11:37
They would surely be wondering where she had gone by now. She could almost see Alexandre’s dark furrowed eyebrows, his beady brown eyes combing the party, searching for his fiancée, his
Rosie was finished being Alexandre’s treasure, his doll.
She was finished keeping him and his elitist, power-hungry family happy.
A train whistle thundered through the night, and adrenaline shot through Rosie’s veins as she glimpsed the steam locomotive barreling down the snow-covered tracks.
Only one word soared through Rosie’s mind at the sight of the Orient Express on that snowy winter night in the Swiss Alps.
December 23, 2012
Blinding white snow surrounds my sister’s silky chestnut locks, her violet eyes screaming out to me.
“Jillian…Jilly. Come! Please come.” Isla’s delicate red lips form another sentence, but the blustering winds are unforgiving as they swallow up her quivering voice. Iridescent flakes stick to her long lashes, blanketing the tips of her ears, her pink nose, and finally resting atop her high cheekbones, until that beautiful face—the face that I love more than any other—vanishes.
I see only white as I reach for my twin, shouting her name until my throat hurts. “Isla, come back! I’m here, Isla. I’m here!”
Combing through the mountains of snow gathering at my feet, I curse the flakes, which fall in huge, thick clusters, making it nearly impossible to see even a foot in front of me. My feet are as heavy as bricks, stuck to the bitter, wet ground, the snow swallowing them whole.
“Isla!” I scream once more into the white blasts. But a tornado of wind and snow whip around my head until the cold turns my fingertips blue, my tongue freezing inside my mouth. I cannot scream for Isla any longer.
The freeze travels up to my eyelids, transforming my tears into ice.
I’ve been crying these frozen tears for Isla our whole lives.
Isla’s face appears one last time, a single drop of scarlet blood rolling down her pale cheek.
She doesn’t speak this time. Her violet eyes say it all.
“You’re too late, Jilly. You’re too late.”
My eyes pop open, two fresh tears leaking from the corners. Dread coats my stomach as I spot Natalie, my editor, hovering nearby. Disapproval is written all over that scrunched-up forehead of hers as she crosses her bony arms and takes one purposeful step closer.
“Jillian Chambord. In my office.
I lift my head from its resting place between three lipstick-stained coffee mugs, a scattered assortment of pens, and stacks of newspaper clippings. I clear my throat to speak, but my feisty boss is already jetting across the newsroom in her tall black boots.
I tie my wavy brown hair back into a messy bun as I chase her through the bustling offices of
The Washington Daily
, my place of employment and second home for the past six years. The sounds of fingers tapping furiously on keyboards, the ringing of phones, and the exchanging of story ideas comfort me as I ignore the fatigue that threatens to swallow me into a black hole of endless sleep.
What I wouldn’t give for just one full night’s rest.
But this would be worth the past two weeks of insanity.
It has to be.
Inside Natalie’s upstairs office, which overlooks the madness of the newsroom, she nods for me to sit, but I ignore her, instead pacing in front of her desk. A flurry of snow gathers on the windowsill; her view of the snow-dusted grass on the National Mall leaves an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach…but I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve already had two cups of coffee this morning on an empty stomach. Or the fact that I can count on one hand the number of hours I’ve slept over the past two weeks.
“Jillian, what is going on with you?” Natalie starts in, tapping a sharp black pen against a stack of rival newspapers on her cluttered desk. “You’re running yourself into the ground, and I have yet to receive a page of decent copy from you this week. This isn’t like you.”
I open my mouth to respond, but a vision of my twin sister’s deep violet eyes—exact replicas of my own—forces its way into my consciousness. Sparkling white snowflakes fall around her troubled face, making her blink as red tears pour from her eyes. I stop pacing, gripping the edge of Natalie’s desk while I try to erase the scary image from my mind…but I can’t shake the notion that I’ve already seen Isla’s face drowning in the snow once today.
“You have five minutes, Chambord. Spill.” Patience has never been Natalie’s strong suit, but that’s what makes her such a damn good editor.
I clear my throat, forcing the eerie image of my sister’s snow-covered face and blood-red tears out of my mind. It must’ve been a nightmare I’d had earlier.
I’m always having nightmares about Isla.
“I’m one step away from breaking the Senator Williams story,” I say, feeling the adrenaline pumping through my veins, drowning out that nagging voice in the back of my head, telling me to call my sister back. “You have no idea how huge this is.”
Natalie’s razor-straight, shiny black hair swishes atop her crisp white blouse as she shakes her head at me. “I told you two weeks ago to leave that story alone. You already covered the murder of those two teenage girls, and you don’t have any evidence to link Senator Williams to their death. That anonymous tip you received isn’t going to cut it. So unless you have something else for me, cut the bullshit and get back to work.” Natalie dismisses me with a flick of her wrist, then turns up the volume on the flat-screen television mounted on her back wall, the constant stream of news blaring through her chilly office.
“I have a source who’s willing to go on the record that Senator Williams,
the aid of his chief of staff, is funneling money from a child prostitution ring directly into his campaign.”
Natalie stops her violent pen tapping, turns the volume back down, then raises a perfectly lined brow at me. “Go on.”
“The two teenage girls who were murdered two weeks ago, as you already know from my coverage of their story, were a pair of sisters from Anacostia. They’d been sold into an underground prostitution ring by their mentally deranged mother. What we didn’t know at the time was that there’s a
. She was present when the girls were killed that night, and she claims that Senator Williams is not only behind the murders but is also heading up the prostitution ring with the help of his chief of staff.”
this is even true, why has this alleged Sister Number Three waited until now to come forward with her story?”
“Apparently, Senator Williams has his own private room at
the high-end gentleman’s club where the sisters were murdered, and the three girls had been taken there often, against their will. This particular night, they had a plan to drug the senator and escape, but things got messy. One of them was killed by the senator’s security detail, and the other was strangled by a masked Williams. The third managed to get away, but not before stealing a glimpse of Williams without the mask on.”
Natalie’s stone black eyes show more than a flicker of interest.
“The senator fled the scene immediately, of course,” I continue. “Sister Number Three has been hiding out ever since. She’s terrified of coming clean because she believes Williams will have her murdered. And based on conversations she overheard at the nightclub between Williams and some of the other men, she’s certain he’s in cahoots with local law enforcement to keep his record clean at all costs.”
“So how in the hell did you find her?” Natalie asks.
“I’ve been out every night for the past two weeks doing exactly what you’ve trained me to do—find a story.”
“Which means what,
I don’t have the energy to recount the past several evenings I’ve spent in the slums of Anacostia looking for the third sister or the shady things I’ve done only to have one face-to-face meeting with her. Nor do I possess the desire to tell Natalie about the late nights I’ve spent undercover at that vile gentleman’s club since it reopened last weekend, meeting equally vile men and trying to dig up dirt on what goes down in those private, expensive rooms…or more specifically,
“You know I’ve never played by the rules, Natalie. That’s what makes me such a damn good reporter. Who else would’ve drudged up this insane story for you?”
“One of these days, Chambord, your inability to follow rules is going to bite you in the ass.”
Ignoring my boss’s ridiculous prediction, I drive my point home. “What matters is that I’ve reached the third sister, and she’s agreed to give us an exclusive with her statement.”
realize that Senator Williams and his staff have the power to ruin you, me,
this entire paper if we go to press with this and even one tiny detail in this girl’s outrageous story doesn’t check out. You’re playing with fire here.”
A tired smile graces my lips. “He
his chief of staff can throw all the fire they want when they’re spending the rest of their lives behind bars, the sick bastards.”
“Let’s hope that’s the outcome,” Natalie quips. “Otherwise you’ve missed three deadlines this week, all for some trashy girl who wants to cash in on a few murders.”
I smack the palm of my hand on her desk, startling the smug expression off her face. “She isn’t lying!”
“How can you be so sure? Claiming the senator is running a child prostitution ring, funneling money from said prostitution ring into his campaign, and having sex with and
teenage girls is a monumental accusation. This isn’t just another story to advance your career, Jillian. This is the type of story that will end that man’s life. Do you understand?”
“I understand perfectly, and I could give a damn about advancing my career. I became a reporter to expose the truth. To expose despicable human beings like Williams.”
A heavy silence settles between us, and I wonder if Natalie can smell the hatred that boils in my bones every time I say Williams’s name. I wonder if she can see the desperation in my eyes…the desperation I feel to see him and everything he stands for go up in flames.
I don’t care if I’m putting my career in jeopardy. For what that perverted man did to Isla, and now to another innocent set of sisters, I would stop at nothing to put him in prison.
I lean over Natalie’s desk, narrowing my eyes at her. “In all the years I’ve worked for you, name one time when I’ve reported a story that was less than one hundred percent truth.”
Natalie doesn’t speak. She doesn’t speak because she knows I’m right. And she knows she’d be a fool not to allow this innocent girl to come forward with her story so that we can be the paper that brings down such a nasty, demented politician.
“I know I don’t have as many years in this business as you do,” I say. “But I know one thing for sure: if we don’t break the story first, someone else will.”
“Desperate girls looking for money are capable of coming up with the best lies, Chambord. Breaking a story full of meaningless accusations—”
t lying,” I say once more, feeling a fierce need to protect her. It’s a need I can’t explain to Natalie. A need I can’t and
explain to anyone.
Only Isla will ever know the truth.
“She’s coming in today at 3:00
to go on the record with her statement,” I continue. “And she’s requested that we notify law enforcement as well. She’ll need protection once this story breaks. We’ll need someone clean, someone she’ll trust. I’m thinking Officer Reynolds. This is the real deal, Natalie. I wouldn’t have taken it this far if I weren’t absolutely certain.”