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Chapter 7


The knock at the door startled me awake. I turned over, trying to
place my surroundings before I realized where I was again. I had been moved
around so much lately that this was a common occurrence.


“Yes?” I called out from the bed. If it was just someone reminding me
to eat, that mess could wait. I was still exhausted as it was.


“Mademoiselle Jackson? Monsieur Malveaux said you were to work today,


I sat there in my bed for a moment before everything started coming
Oh crap
, I thought. I had
totally forgot about starting the housekeeping job today.
That must be Marie, the head maid.


“Oh, yes. I’m just . . . getting ready! I’ll be right out,” I answered


I quickly got out of bed and stretched out my back. I dumped the
contents of my suitcase out on the satin covers before I realized there was a
freshly-pressed maid’s uniform laid out at the end of my bed.


When did that get there?


I pulled the tight uniform on over my head, wishing I had just a
little bit more room to squeeze into it. Once I buttoned the front buttons
though, it wasn’t so bad. It looked like those fancy uniforms you see in old


I pulled the brush through my hair, wincing because I was rushing. My
mama used to hate that when I was little; she’d get so mad when I’d start
complaining as she did my hair in the mornings before school. Then she would
usually call me a tender-headed child, always muttering under her breath about
how even my baby sister Nia didn’t cry so much. I rolled my eyes at the memory,
but slowed down a bit on my own head. Maybe I was tender-headed. I’d give
anything to hear her call me that now.


Marie knocked at the door again. “I will be in kitchen. You know your


I thought about it for a moment, trying to picture how Julien led us
there yesterday. I was drawing a blank.


“Yes!” I’ll figure it out eventually.


Her footsteps click-clacked down the hallway, announcing her


The trek to the kitchen wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be,
thankfully. There were a few turns I had to go back and make along the way, but
all in all my memory wasn’t so bad.


When I got there, there was a woman opening up the large set of
curtains by the table, and busily moving around the rest of the room, wiping
down surfaces and straightening things as she went.


“Mrs. Belgard?”


She did not stop, but looked up at me and gave me a quick nod.
“Bonjour, Mademoiselle. You sleep well?”


I nodded, finding myself standing up straighter as I took in her
appearance. She looked like she would fit in as a headmistress at an all-girls
boarding school. Her gray and white hair was pulled back into a neat and severe
bun. She had a small, upturned nose that gave her the look of always finding
something unpleasant smelling. Her uniform was perfectly in place, her black
shoes shiny.


She finally did pause what she was doing to come up to me, sizing me
up at once. I nearly cringed, hoping she didn’t notice how scuffed up my white
sneakers were.


Her eyes narrowed as she looked back up at me. Even as short as she
was she made me want to look away from her cold gaze.


“I am Marie. Head maid of Monsieur Malveaux.
Mon mari,
ah . . . my husband, Alain, is his personal
I help you get to work. We
start in
, and work out from
there. Come, come,” she explained, her accent thick.


Yep. I definitely needed to learn French.


I followed Marie down the hall, surprised that I needed to hurry up to
keep up with her. She was a fast little old lady, that was for sure. In that
aspect she reminded me of my granny.


When we got to the foyer, Marie opened a closet door and handed me
different cleaning items.


“We start here. You clean with this, and we make sure everything
shiny. Okay?”


I chuckled to myself, taking the rag and can from her. “Make
everything shiny, got it.”


We worked like that in the foyer for a little while, before she
redirected me into another hallway I hadn’t been down yet. We worked room by
room before she finally announced it was time to take a break. After having
been on my hands and knees scrubbing baseboards for the last four hours, I was
excited for a little fresh air.


“Marie, what do you usually do on your break?” Okay, maybe I didn’t
need direction in how to take a break, but I was new here, and if there was a
TV in this castle I hadn’t found it yet.


Marie thought to herself, tapping her finger on her chin. “Take walk
outside. C’est une belle journée.”


Well I didn’t know what the last part meant, but her suggestion seemed
like a good one.


I let myself out somewhere around the middle of the château, not too
far from the path that led down to the horse stables. It was a pretty blustery
day, and I quickly wished I had a jacket with me.


I walked along the path, figuring that I could at least have a look at
the horses if anything else. I had never seen one up close and I was curious.
Were they really as big as they looked?


I took in a deep breath, enjoying the fresh air. The mountain air was
different, much different than what I was used to. I felt invigorated as I
jogged down the steeper part of the path…


But someone jogged along after me…


Back to Table of Contents


Chapter 8


I didn’t realize I was being followed until I rounded the corner of
the first horse stables building. I ran faster, my heart strained against my
chest. I hadn’t been this panicked in…. Well… A week or so anyway.


I finally risked a glance back, taking in a deep breath as I realized
it was Mr. Malveaux.


“Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”


He frowned. “I apologize, Miss Jackson…er, Miss Kyle. Amira. I didn’t
mean to frighten you.”


I huffed, trying not to roll my eyes at him. “I kindof feel likes someone’s
following me everywhere I go. So if you wouldn’t sneak up on me like this, it
would really make me feel better... Know what I mean?”


Okay, maybe I was being a little rude in my inflection with the last
remark, but dammit, I was already paranoid enough as it was.


I could’ve sworn I saw his lip quirk up in the corner, but he stood
there not saying a word.


I took in a deep breath. “I apologize. I’m not trying to be rude, it’s
just that I don’t want to feel crazier in my head than I already am. Did you
need something, Mr. Malveaux?”


“Julien, remember? Actually, I was just checking in on you and your
first day. Marie said you’d left the house and didn’t come back… I wanted to
see how everything was going. I know Marie can be a little demanding at times.
She’s pretty good with keeping a tight schedule, if you could imagine that.”


, I thought.
I’d be more surprised if she couldn’t keep a
good tight schedule.


“Marie is fine. I understand her demeanor. She’s got a whole giant
place to keep track of, and I’m sure she likes to have a little bit of a life
on her own as well. Or maybe she doesn’t, I’m not really sure about that part
yet,” I laughed.


I pulled my arms around myself, trying to guard my skin from the winds
that were blowing down the mountains around us.


“Would you like my jacket?” he asked me, already taking it off and
offering it.


I smiled, pulling it around my shoulders. “Thank you.”


“Were you coming down to see
? They are magnificent creatures.”


“The horses? I wanted to see one up close… Is that okay? That’s not
like frowned upon or anything is it?”


Julien laughed openly, shaking his head. “No, no—that’s fine. I can
show you them if you’d like.”


I hesitated. Part of me wanted to just kind of be on my own at the
moment, taking everything in a little bit at a time. The other part of me,
maybe even the bigger part, wanted to know more about Julien.


Maybe I was just lonely, but I agreed.


We walked along to the very ending building, Julien opening the door
for me as we walked into the closed stables. The stench hit me like a truck,
surprising me. I quickly covered my nose as Julien laughed at me.


“Yes, they are beautiful. But they also smell terrible. Or at least
their shit does.”


Ah, I thought. So Mr. classic gentleman has little bit of a foul
mouth, does he? Thank God. I was starting to think that he was a robot or


We walked along the stalls, Julien pointing the horses out by name.


“This is Jacqueline. She is my horse, or at least the one that I’ve
had the longest. She thinks of me as her baby, I think.
Bonjour maman! Comment sont l’avoine?


The horse just snorted at him with what looked like annoyance, and I
let out a little laugh.


“Ah, she’s having one of her days I guess. Usually she loves me. Trust


I walked up to her gate to stand next to him, still in disbelief at
how powerful the horses looked. Jacqueline was the biggest of them all, but she
was beautiful.


“Would you like to touch her?”


My eyes widened. I wasn’t really sure if I was ready for that.


“Um, should I do that while she’s eating? I don’t want her to bite my
hand off or anything.”


Julien carefully took my hand, guiding it up to the horse’s backside
where her tail was swishing this way and that. His skin was so warm, especially
against the chill in the air. I tried hard to focus on Jacqueline’s soft and
velvety fur under my fingertips, instead of thinking about the way my skin was
tingling from Julien’s touch.


“Wow,” I whispered under my breath.


We stayed there for awhile before finally making our way back up to
the château. Halfway there, Julien stopped to answer his phone. I stood and
waited quietly, pulling his jacket even tighter around me.


“I apologize for that,” Julien finally said, pocketing the phone.


“Is everything ok?” I asked, noticing the change in his demeanor after
the phone call.


“Just business as usual. I have to get back to my office. Do you know
your way back to where you left off?”


“Yeah I think I’ll figure it out. I guess I will see you around...”


Something flickered in Julien’s eyes, but he politely nodded at me
before walking away up towards the front lawn.


“Wait! You forgot your jacket!” I called out to him, meeting him
halfway to hand him his jacket back.


“Thank you. My mind just isn’t completely focused it seems,” he
replied, taking off again.


I didn’t know what he was so unfocused about, but I knew why mine was
feeling a little cloudy. This man was out of my league, but I’d never been good
about coloring inside the lines…


I sighed as I watched him disappear around the corner, already missing
his company. I had a feeling this was going to be a pretty lonely stay.


I was used to being lonely…


Back to Table of Contents


Chapter 9


That evening I had dinner completely by myself. Finishing up, I laid
in bed and dialed Agent Wilson’s number on the cell phone he gave to me.


“This is Agent Wilson.”


“Hello there sir, it’s Amira Kyle.”


“Ah, Miss Jackson. How’s the French life treating you?”


I snorted. “Busy. I’ve taken on a temp job at the château. Mr.
Malveaux hired me on as a housekeeper.”


He spoke to someone in background, laughing loudly in my ear. Did he
even hear me?


“Glad to hear that, Miss Jackson. How temporary are we talking here?”


“That I don’t really know. I think he said three months, but I don’t
know if that’s just how long she’ll take to come back, or if they’ll need me
after that. The point is I’ve given myself a little bit extra time to find
something else and I just thought you should know.”


“I appreciate that. I’ll go ahead and update your file then. Was there
anything else you needed to let me know?”


“Nope, that was it. So… How are you doing?”


“I’m doing pretty good. I’m actually pretty busy at the moment, so I’m
going to have to let you go. If you need anything else don’t hesitate to call.”


“Oh. Okay. No problem. See you in two weeks.”


“See you then,” he replied, the line going dead immediately after.


I thought.
I guess he really does have a life to get
back to.


I felt like throwing my phone against the wall, but I refrained,
knowing it was my only possible line out. It wasn’t that I was angry with Agent
Wilson, it was just my situation was frustrating. I had a life of my own back
in New York. It wasn’t much, but it was mine...


On the other hand… I had to admit that I was lucky to have gotten out
of it completely unscathed. At least physically, that is. I could be six feet
under, but instead I’m lying on this lavish bed far from anyone who could hurt


Things could be worse.


I kept repeating a mantra in my head as the days passed by.
Be thankful for what you have, Amira. You’ll
make a new life for yourself… A better life.


It was a dream, but it made me feel a bit better when I was busting my
ass to try and clean a stubborn scuff mark off of the floor.


I was pretty thankful that Marie had finally lightened up on me
somewhat. At least she wasn’t barking orders anymore, and I finally got to meet
her husband, Alain. He was the sweet to her sour it seemed. When the two of
them were together you could still see the love they had for each other…


Alan let me tag along with him for a couple of days, which was almost
like a vacation in comparison to his wife and her duties. He was a very chatty
old man, telling me stories about his childhood spent playing along the banks
of the Rhine River. I knew nothing about fishing, but I was very interested in
hearing what he had to say about it. I could see why Marie loved him so; he was
utterly charming, and always smiling and winking at you as if he was sharing a
secret. Heck, for a seventy-something-year-old man, he was very handsome too. I
bet he was a real looker when he was younger.


I was helping him pull some of the weeds in the main garden when my
cell phone rang in my pocket. I blushed, not really wanting others know that I
had it with me at all times.


“Go ahead and answer it,


I mouthed my apologies to him, flipping open the ancient phone to
answer it. “Hello?”


“I do believe it’s time for a little break. I have a small surprise
for you in the kitchen,” Julien answered, taking me by surprise.


I bit my lip, trying to hold back from smiling as widely as I wanted
Get a hold of yourself, woman!


“Oh… Okay. I guess I’ll be on my way then.”


“I’ll be here waiting.”


I took in a deep breath, hanging up the phone and shoving back into my
pocket. Did that really just happen?


“Alain? Mr. Malveaux just requested for me to meet him inside. I’m
gonna go ahead and take my break right now, if that’s okay.”


He shrugged, gesturing for me to go on. “Go ahead. There will be
plenty more for when you come back,” he laughed.


I looked around, realizing just how right he was. “Gardening sure is
hard work, isn’t it? It wasn’t something I ever had to do back in my old job.”


He rocked back on his heels, also taking a good look around. “Yes.
Gardening is hard work. But good hard work. Good for the soul,” he replied,
putting his hand over his heart.


“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.”


When I made it to the kitchen, I was surprised to see Julien sitting
there at the table in a pair of nice jeans and a dark blue T-shirt. He looked
so… normal. Attractive, obviously, but like a hot guy on the street.


He looked up at me and grinned. “There you are. I was wondering if
maybe you’d like to go have a walk around the gardens.”


Disappointed, I couldn’t help but laugh. “I actually just came from
there. I was working with Alain on pulling the weeds.”


Julien got up and walked over to Gervaise, who was hard at work
putting together some sort of meal, before shoving it all into what looked like
a picnic basket. I raised my brow.


Julien picked up the basket, thanking Gervaise. He turned towards me
and held it up.


“Yes, but I was talking about a different garden. Lunch to
go, perhaps?”

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