Paris Was The Place I Met My Billionaire Lover (My Sweet Billionaire Love Story Series) (4 page)

BOOK: Paris Was The Place I Met My Billionaire Lover (My Sweet Billionaire Love Story Series)
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“Well, I guess lobster is my favorite food, which isn’t so different from
escargot
; kind of a big bug that lives under the sea, I guess.  My favorite color is green, deep forest green.”

“Because it is the color of life,” Julien said.

“Yes, I suppose so,” Caitlyn agreed, giving it some thought.  “Trees, oceans; green, the color of life.”

“Yes,” Julien affirmed softly.

“And my favored possession?” Caitlyn asked rhetorically.   She’d been raised comfortably, with as many possessions as she needed or wanted, many of which she adored.  But none rose above the others, or above the things which meant even more to her.  “My family, I guess,” Caitlyn said.  “My freedom.”

Julien nodded.  “
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
."

Caitlyn considered, recognizing the phrase from a history class as the slogan of the French Revolution; liberty, equality, fraternity.

Julien added, “
Magnifique
.”

“What about you, Julien?” Caitlyn said.  “What are the things that bring you pleasure in life?”

Julien leaned back as the server arrived with a tray carrying two entrees, each covered by a silver dome.


Pour mademoiselle,
” the waiter said, setting a plate down in front of Caitlyn and raising the silver dome to reveal a golden-brown rosemary chicken under a pale, creamy sauce and surrounded by red-skinned potatoes.  “
Coq au Vin.  Et pour le monsieur,
Boeuf Bourguignon
.  Bon appetite.”

“Merci,” Julien said as the waiter backed away.

Caitlyn said, “Like a lot of Europeans, I guess red meat is pretty high up on the list.”

“Of things that bring me pleasure? 
Oui.
They say it is bad for the heart; but it is good for the spirit and good for the soul, and what is good for the spirit and soul must also be good for the heart, no?”

No
, Caitlyn wanted to say, but merely offered, “That makes sense,” instead, adding, “but that doesn’t tell me very much about you.  Do you have family here in Paris?”

“Alas, I have no family at all, Caitlyn.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to -- ”

“No no, it’s quite all right.  My parents died when I was quite young, killed in a car crash in London, of all places.  I was raised by resentful neighbors here in Paris until I could run away and fend for myself.”

“For yourself?  Ever since you were a kid, you’ve been on your own?”

Julien looked around with an ironic smile, ironic because there was not a trace of joy in it.  “Paris raised me, fed me, kept we warm, gave me all the education I need.”

Caitlyn raised a forkful of chicken to her mouth, the tender meat nearly melting in her mouth.  “You must be a real success story, coming up from the gutter all alone to become... um, what is it that you do, exactly?”

“I am a
conseiller d'entreprises.

“A business consultant?”


Exactement.
  Different companies hire me to increase their productivity and their profit.”

“And how do you do that, exactly?”

Sipping his chardonnay, Julien said, “It depends, Caitlyn.  For every need, there is a unique set of satisfactions; for every desire, there is a particular release.”  He stared at her again, staring almost through her as his gorgeous green eyes cut through his pale skin.

“And you?” he asked, not needing to explain.  She told him about her parents, about her kid brother Robbie, about her uneventful life in Los Angeles.  He asked how it was that she came to be in Paris without a boyfriend either in tow or awaiting her return.

“There was a young man I was pretty serious about, Patrick.”  Caitlyn gazed into the darkness of her memory, ugly images jumping out of the deliberate darkness.  “Things didn’t work out.”

“With young love,” Julien said, “they rarely do.”

“Well, they don’t usually
not work out
this badly.  I was never dishonest with him, and he was in college, at UCLA, he was pre-law!  Who’d think he’d act like such a child over a simple break-up?”

“You lacked chemistry,” Julien said, his voice calm, low and certain.

“Yes, that’s right,” Caitlyn was once more struck by the keenness of Julien’s insight, which could only have been hard-won by years and breadth of experience that Patrick and the other boys Caitlyn knew just didn’t and couldn’t possibly have.

“Did the young man remain in touch?”

“On the contrary, he lost touch all together.  Dropped out of school, disappeared from his family, like he completely dropped off the map.  I feel like I ruined his life.  Feel like it?  I
definitely
ruined his life.”

“If you didn’t lie or deliberately mislead him,” Julien said, “you cannot be held responsible.  To be a man is to risk pain and then endure its inevitable time upon your soul.”

“It’s no less the case to be a woman,” Caitlyn said, her voice flat and unamused.

“Of course, you are right again.  And to lose you, Caitlyn, that would be a pain that most men could not endure.  Perhaps he’ll find his way back someday, but if he does or does not should have no sway over your own life.  You both took risks, as you point out, you both faced the same challenges and you both deserve the kind of happiness you could not find with the other.  For every champion in love, there are a thousand faceless failures, alone in the night, lonely in the shadows.”

The food and the conversation and the wine went down easily, time drifting by with no sense of hurry, as if they had all the time in the world. 

“And what about you, Julien?  How is it that I should find you... alone in the shadows, as it were?”

Julien sat for a moment in the sorrow of his own memories, digging through images to find those he could share, those he could express without compromising his sense of privacy or decorum.  With a sad sigh, Julien refilled their wine glasses. 

“Gabrielle was most beautiful.  When I met her, my heart lost the power to function, my lungs became useless.”

“She took your breath away.”

“And then, she gave it back; the very breath of life itself.”  He took a sip of the chardonnay, light refracted in the tiny droplets of condensation on the glass.  “But her career took her to different parts of Europe, with different men, for weeks on end...”

Different parts of Europe?
Caitlyn repeated,
with different men?

Then her confusion melted away under the scrutiny of her insight.  “She was an actress?”


Oui.
And still is.”

Caitlyn gave it some thought, reviewing famous actresses named Gabrielle.  “Wait a minute, Gabrielle St. Germaine was your girlfriend?”  The cover girl, model and actress had just starred in
Summers in Newport
, a romance that was a sleeper hit back in the States.  “I thought she married that director she always works with.”

“She did,” Julien said.  “But not before marrying me.”

An awkward silence passed, thick and slow and heavy, like a fog born of a million tears.  “Julien, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No, Caitlyn, you had to ask.  I want you to know everything about me, down to the smallest detail.  Please, I want to share these things with you, Caitlyn.”

Caitlyn couldn’t help the tears she felt welling up in the corners of her eyes, but didn’t dare wipe them away, nor could she let them collect and draw a black line of mascara down her cheek.  She turned away and started digging through her purse.  “I’m sorry, I’ve got something in my eye,” she said, pulling out a tissue.

“Too much pepper in the food, perhaps.”

It was past the normal operating hours, but a nod and a few more muttered words from Julien got them into the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  At the top, a 360-degree view of Paris stretched out before them; deep and mysterious, alive with flickering activity and incandescent vitality. 

“Have you ever lived anywhere else?” Caitlyn asked, as if unable to imagine anybody ever doing so after living in this romantic wonderland. 

Julien shared her gaze out onto the sea of Earthbound stars beneath them.  “Milan, for a time.  London, with my parents.  I was there, when it happened.  They were crossing the street, I was on the other side, coming out of a movie house.  They waved at me, to stay where I was, that it wasn’t safe, that they’d cross to me.”

Caitlyn could only take in the somber light that glanced off of Julien’s unmoving expression, his eyes locked on memories burned into his brain. 

“Mother was the first to see the truck, holding her hand out as if she really could stop it.  By the time my Papa tried to push her out of the way, it was too late.”

“Julien, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to drudge up painful memories.”

Julien turned to her with a fragile smile.  “Everything, Caitlyn.”

“Right,” Caitlyn said, casting her own sad gaze back out over the lights of Paris.  “I haven’t got as much to share, thank God.”

“You’re young, Caitlyn.  Time will remedy your condition, I’m afraid.”

Caitlyn titled her head and sighed.  “Well, at least something will be happening.  I know life is painful sometimes, but there’s another kind of pain, when you’re not really living at all; just kind of... existing.”

“Impossible!”  Julien’s voice was suddenly flexing sharply, as if he’d been insulted.  “For a young woman such as you, so vivacious and full of life, to be trudging through life, miserable like an Englishman!  I won’t have it, Caitlyn!”

Caitlyn tried to toss it off with a shrug.  “Oh, it’s no big deal.  I just... I just don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, with myself.  Everybody I know wants to do something, be someone, I just... I just don’t know.”

Julien took her small hand in hers, they were big and strong around her, reassuring, protective.  He said, “Look out at Paris, Caitlyn, it seems endless, alive with possibility.”

“Yes,” Caitlyn said, “that’s it exactly.”

“And beyond it, all the cities in all the world; all of them bursting with opportunities, meetings both personal and professional, both chance and fated...”  He squeezed her hand a little tighter, his handsome face closer to hers.  “If all the possibilities of life have run dry where you are, in Los Angeles, then perhaps it’s time you thought about leaving.”

“Well, actually, that’s why I’m here.  I’m thinking about where I might want to finish my education.”

“Oh, sweet Caitlyn,” Julien said, kissing the back of her hand, “your education has only just begun.”

It was only a few dreamy moments later that Caitlyn was stepping off the banks of the
Seine
onto a cruise boat, the type that normally would be occupied by a hundred or more gawking tourists.  Now it was empty and dimly lit, rocking gently on the famous river as Caitlyn and Julien stepped on, Julien giving the captain a nod and several bills, crisply folded.

They went to the back and stretched out, Caitlyn reclining in the crux of Julien’s arm as the boat slid out onto the dark river, the concrete banks rising up around them, lights always flickering and blinking from somewhere; the rod iron street lamps, lanterns on the bridges as they glided beneath, the majestic Eiffel Tower above them.  The boat rocked on the curves of the river’s surface, riding the same waves that carried the dreams of a million poets and playwrights and painters, many dead and even more not yet born.  These were eternal waters, free of the limits of time or space, love or loss.

And they carried Caitlyn onward, toward her destiny.


La Seine
,” Julien said. “The lifeblood of the city, pulsing life into the streets, fueling the passion and pleasures that are Paris.”

“I keep thinking of the scene in Chaplin’s
City Lights
, where he rescues the millionaire from drowning himself in the
Seine
.”

“Chaplin was a true genius, his work is still unmatched.  What a blend of humor and heartbreak, bittersweet triumph and eternal defeat, optimism in the face of certain failure.  Glorious.”

Caitlyn looked at Julien slightly differently now, sadness rising to the surface to reveal itself as the guiding force of this otherwise dominant alpha male.  But he was as much a frightened child as anything, it seemed to Caitlyn.  And that aspect, that contrast, was even more alluring to her.  It gave him a depth she didn’t expect, but which made him all the more human, and all the more attractive. 

Like a lot of little girls, Caitlyn had dreamt of princess who would rescue her, carry her away from her dull, dreary life and onto adventures in far-away lands.  Now that she was living that very fantasy, in that very moment in that very city with this very man, she realized that it was only that, fantasy.  And that the reality of the man was much more enticing, much more engrossing; because he was not a fantasy but a reality, not a prince but a man.  A man who’d lived, who’d loved, who’d lost.

A real man.

And apparently a man of some power.  Caitlyn looked around to notice that there was hardly any traffic at all on the
Seine
, and even the streets were quite calm.  “What time is it?” she asked, looking around.

BOOK: Paris Was The Place I Met My Billionaire Lover (My Sweet Billionaire Love Story Series)
10.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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