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Chapter 12


My muscles stiffened. His fiancée?!? And I’m just now learning about


“Okay, what about her? Where is she now?”


“She’s gone.”


Out of the corner of my eye I could already tell he was crying, his
tears staining the dark blue satin. Wow. Whatever had happened with her and him
must have been bad. Maybe I was being too hard on him…




It suddenly dawned on me that his fiancée hadn’t just run down to the
corner store. Gone… As in gone forever… Gone, as in passed away.


“You asked me why I opened this halfway house to those people who need
it. I told you the truth, but it wasn’t all true. It was Danica. I did it
because of her,” he began, as he sloppily wiped his face. “I couldn’t help her,
so I help others.”


This sounded like it was about to get really serious, really fast. I
braced myself.


“We were together for almost two years. I never knew her family had
abysmal ties with the Italian Mafia. Her brother was a thug, one of their
favorites I think. He ended up being used by the police to lure one a higher-up
into a trap. They decided to take it out on his family. Danica went to visit
home, and she never came back...”


Jesus. How could I even respond to that?


Julien was openly sobbing now, his shoulders heaving. It didn’t matter
that this was about a woman he was probably still in love with, or that he was
drunk as a skunk… I considered Julien a friend, and I hated seeing him in such


Without thinking twice, I leaned over and put my hand on his shoulder.
I told myself that it was just because I wanted to comfort him – a little lie
to keep myself in check. He seemed to relax under my touch, but he wasn’t ready
to stop just yet.


“I didn’t want to tell you about her. I didn’t want you to know why I
pulled strings and had you brought here… I don’t want you to feel sorry for
me,” Julien said, his head hanging low.


I wanted to push the hair away from his face and to tell him I’m here
for him, but instead, I just sat there with my hand on his shoulder. I couldn’t
bring myself to pull it away.


He lifted his head up and I swear I could actually feel his eyes lock
on mine. The pain in them was too real.


“You can talk to me about her. I’m here to listen,” I said, my mouth
trying to ease its way around the words. I didn’t know why it was hard for me
to say that—I should be supportive of him.


He sniffed, nodding his head. “I want to, but I can’t. It’s too hard.
Elle est la poussière. Elle est palready. Je
ne peux pas


His French was even harder to understand through the slurring, but I
understood the last sentence.
Je ne peux
…I cannot. Something else popped into my head, and I thought about
Julien choosing the candidates to stay here during their transitions with the
witness protection program.


“Julien? You said that she was…that it was someone from the mafia… Was
it one of the Five Families? Did you pick me because of that?”


He cocked his head to the side, reminding me of a puppy. “I didn’t
want to see another person hurt by those bastards.”


I guess I should be thankful for that, instead of jealous in some
weird way. My thoughts were all over the place enough as it was.


The tears kept coming, but Julien quieted down, his eyes sliding away
from mine and finally closing after a few minutes. It was only then that I felt
comfortable enough to push back that stubborn lock of hair from his face,
swallowing around the lump in my throat when his eyes fluttered underneath his
lids. Touching him like this was like walking up to a sort of boundary between
us, and smudging it with my hand.


I stayed there just like that… It was comforting. I
couldn’t help but smile when Julien started to lightly snore.




Back to Table of Contents


Chapter 13


When I woke up the next morning, it took me half a second before I
realized that Julien was no longer lying next to me on top of the covers. I
shivered as I sat up, trying to warm up my arms by rubbing them quickly.


As I stretched my arms out and tried to scoot out of bed I saw a piece
of paper float down to the floor. I hopped down to pick it up, intrigued.




I’m sorry about
last night. I don’t remember too much, but I know I wasn’t acting properly
towards you. Please let me make it up to you. Everyone needs a day off every
now and then. Even you.




I couldn’t even hold back the grin that pulled at the corners of my
mouth. I knew I shouldn’t be so gung-ho, but it didn’t matter. As Julien fell
asleep next to me last night I made a decision: I was going to trust him. I
felt like I could finally open up and be real with him, and believe me, even
before the shooting that was no easy feat.


I wasted no time getting ready. I didn’t know what Julien had in store
for me today, but for the first time in what felt like forever, I found myself
excited about the prospects of the day.




When I pulled up the heavy wooden front doors, I was pleased to see
Julien waiting for me. I took in his appearance, my eyes sliding down as I saw
that perhaps I was underdressed after all. Well maybe not. I was wearing a
sundress after all.


He was wearing a simple pair of black slacks and a dressier
button-down shirt with the cuffs rolled up, giving him a more casual look. The
sun glinted off of the lighter highlights in his brown hair, giving off a halo
effect. I had to admit, it totally worked for him.


Of course the best part about what he was wearing was that sexy
crooked grin of his, which he only seemed to show when it was just the two of
us. He tilted his head to the side, getting a good look at me now.


I tried not to be too fancy, especially since I didn’t know where we
were going after all. It was pretty warm out thankfully, so the yellow sundress
and white cardigan I had picked turned out to be perfect. I swept up my hair
off of my neck, figuring you might be outside for a while today. And okay…
maybe I threw on some makeup just because. I had the right to try and look
pretty every now and again, didn’t I?


When I got up to the car I realize that it wasn’t just any car. It was
a flashy new BMW, the kind that my old boss would’ve driven around the city, as
if it proved something to someone. But with Julien leaning up against it, it
wasn’t pretentious at all. It actually fit him quite nicely.


He had the sort of look on his face that made me blush. He wasn’t
saying anything, just taking me and with his eyes. I didn’t know what to think
of that, so I cleared my throat and began talking up a storm, just like I
always did when I was completely nervous.


“So a BMW, huh? I should’ve known. I like the blue color though. It’s
an icy blue, but my favorite shade has to be royal blue. Do you have a favorite
color? If I had to guess it would probably be green. I don’t know why, it just
suits you for some reason. Oh my gosh, I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Ugh, sorry
about that.”


Julien laughed, shaking his head at me. “It’s quite all right. I think
it’s amusing, really. I’d rather you be chatty than completely silent. It lets
me know you’re settling in… Shall we be on our way?”


I loved the way that he could easily make me feel as though I wasn’t
crazy. “We shall,” I replied, sliding into the passenger seat after he opened
the door for me.


The scenery leading out was just as beautiful to watch pass by as when
I first came to the château. Even still, it was hard to keep my gaze on our
surroundings when all I wanted to do was look at Julien.


Every time I glanced over at him from the corner of my eye it was like
I was learning something new about him. I looked over and saw a small mole
right on the underside of his jaw, and the next time I looked I noticed that a
piece of his hair curled just so behind his ear, making me wonder if maybe he
had curly hair that he kept trimmed back. It was all these little things that
started to add up for me.


It was starting to add up to possible heartbreak.


I had to remind myself not to get too close, even though it would only
be too easy with Julien. This was only a temporary thing, anyway. How silly
would it be for me to fall for a guy I would never see again? I sighed, not
wanting to think about actually leaving the château… or Julien.


“Is something the matter?” he asked me, without taking his eyes off
the road.


I quickly shook my head. “No, I’m fine. I’m actually curious about
where we’re going. Is it supposed to be a surprise or can you give me hints?”


The corner of his mouth quirked up as he glanced at me. “Would you
like it to be a surprise?”


“I may be the only woman in history to is ever said this, but I don’t
like surprises. Not anymore.” Dang it, did everything I say always have to come
out so serious-sounding?


If he took notice of it, he didn’t say. “In that case, I was thinking
we could start out at one of my favorite cafés in town. They have the best
coffee around. And believe me, I’ve tried plenty of places. None better than


Coffee sounded amazing…


After that I thought we could just walk around the city. It’s small,
so it won’t take too long. If you get tired we can always catch one of the
historical carriages they have going around every now and then.”


I smoothed out a nonexistent wrinkle on of my dress, wondering how he
could be any more perfect. It sucked to have to admit it, but he was the exact
type of guy I’d always looked for. And he was so out of my reach that it wasn’t
even funny.


“That sounds like a good time to me. Sure beats scrubbing
baseboards around the house,” I said, trying not to sound as hopeless as I


Back to Table of Contents


Chapter 14


I knew I was going to have a good day with him, but that was problem.
Even just talking to him while dusting some of the furniture was a good day for
me. What was this kind of day going to feel like? And how would it be any good
for me?


The rest of the drive was pretty quiet, mostly because Julien turned
on the radio so we could listen to some music. It was light and fun, a possible
precursor for the rest of the day. At least I hoped so.


The road into town while it was beautiful, also curved a lot, and I
had to close my eyes, trying not to get carsick. That certainly wouldn’t do. I
think Julien sensed that I was feeling nauseous because he seemed to pick up
the speed, and before I knew it we had made it to the café.


Looking around at the different French signs and older architecture
was a truly unique experience. The café itself was still clinging to scraps of
originality from the old building, probably put up in the mid to late
eighteenth century. I brushed my hand along the outside wall, feeling the
gritty texture of the stone work. It almost felt fragile even though I knew it
wasn’t, given its standing against time.


Even though I didn’t see him I knew Julien was watching me, trying to
make sense of me probably. Here I was this silly American girl trying to fit in
among everyone else, but still petting the walls as if I had never been outside
of a barn. Then again… I truly didn’t care what others thought of me anymore.
After my life was pretty much taken away for me, I figured there was no point
to that.


Julien ordered us his favorite roast of coffee, ordering it in the
most fluid and beautiful French I had ever heard. Okay, so all French sounds
the same pretty much, but coming out of Julien’s mouth… it was almost like art.
It moved something inside of me.


Or maybe a few things
, I thought,
trying not to blush.


Julien handed me the coffee, and I could already smell the intense
aroma wafting in the air. It smelled so good, I was surprised I didn’t start
drooling. I wasn’t that much of a coffee fan, but this just smelled
otherworldly. I took a tiny sip, braving the heat to test it out. It was bold,
very rich, not at all like the regular dark roast that I was used to getting
back home. I closed my eyes and took another small sip, licking my lips


When I looked up I saw Julien’s smug face, practically saying ‘I told
you so.’ I rolled my eyes, glad to take another long draw from the drink.


He found us an open table outside in the front, underneath a large
maroon umbrella that read ‘
Nata Lisboa,

in large, fancy lettering. I eyed the small brown paper bag he placed in the
middle the table, wondering about its contents. I had totally forgotten to grab
anything to eat, so of course by now I was starving.


“What’s in the bag?”


He held his finger up, tsking me and my impatience. “We’ll get to that
in a moment. First, what do you think of the coffee?”


As if to make my point, I took a long drink from the toasty warm cup
in my hand, giving him a thumbs up. “I haven’t been all over the world, so I
don’t know any better . . . but it’s pretty damn good.”


He chuckled, nodding along with me and taking a sip of his own cup.
“It is pretty damn good, isn’t it?”


We sat there for a few minutes, drinking more of the coffee and
people-watching. Julien looked so at ease here, around other people. Even
though I was with him and I had already told myself that I should feel safer in
his presence, it was hard for me to feel as comfortable as he was.


Julien reached for the bag on the table, slowly opening it, his eyes
on me.


I pouted. “Are you trying to openly tease me or something? What’s in
the bag?”


He wiggled his eyebrows at me, slowly pulling out something inside.
“Why, it’s only the most delicious croissants you’ll have ever tasted.” He
almost sounded like one of those guys you see on infomercials trying to sell
you a weird heat-less oven.


“I’m not sure how delicious a croissant could really get, but what the
heck, I’ll try it. You were pretty on point about the coffee,” I admitted,
taking the small piece of baked bread from him.


I bit into it cautiously, surprised to see that it was actually pretty
good. Usually bland foods like plain bread did nothing for me, but the
croissant had a slight, buttery taste behind it. Not like the large waxy kinds
I had tasted over the years back at the hotel. This was fresh-made.


“See? I am never wrong about the food. You’ll learn that,” Julien
said, making me laugh around the food in my mouth.


We finished off the croissants, and began the short walk around the
town. He noticed my fascination for the architecture of the town, and even
threw out some tidbits of historical facts, clearly trying to impress me. At
least I hoped so.


While Julien went off to find a bathroom, I walked past a small window
display of beautifully handcrafted jewelry. I was used to seeing the large
glitzy diamonds already in place, but these pieces were different. There were
more unique pieces, more brilliantly colored stones set in the jewelry, and I
had to stop myself from going inside to get a better look. What was the point
anyway? I was never a fan of the idea of window-shopping… but now I could
definitely see the appeal of it.


“Holy crap. What. Is. That?” I asked Julien once he was back, pointing
to the man standing on the corner across from us. “And why is he covered in


Julien shrugged, leading the both of us over to get a better look.


The man in question was about six and a half feet tall, with long hair
pulled back into a bun on top of his head, but that wasn’t the weirdest part.
He was only wearing a pair of small silver Speedos and was covered from head to
toe in shimmery silver glitter. He was currently leaning over to turn on a
small radio by his feet.


I practically squealed when Billie Jean came on through the speakers,
immediately making me tap my foot to beat. The man froze in place, before starting
to moonwalk down the curb. I was completely entranced, watching him move. He
went from one dance to the next, totally fluid with his motions. I hadn’t seen
someone dance like that since I was teenager, hanging out with my friends on
the stoops.


I nudged Julien, making sure that he was paying attention to the guy.
Anybody that moved like that definitely needed to be seen. Julien pulled out
something from his wallet, before walking up to the man and putting what
must’ve been cash into the small jar by the radio. The man did some sort of
cool move with his arms, sort of like the robot, and gave Julien a wink.


I grinned at him and gave him a little wave, to thank him for his
performance. When the song ended he sat down, and Julien I continued our stroll
down the street.


Julien paused for a moment, in mid step. His eyes widened, lighting up
the rest of his face. “I just thought of something. It’s not far from here, and
I think you’ll enjoy it. Let me see… I believe it is down this street. . .” his
voice trailed off as he shaded his eyes from the sun, looking this way and
that, before finally settling on a road to our left.


“That sounds suspiciously like a surprise,” I said.


He shrugged his shoulders again, trying to hide a smile. I
crossed my arms but continued to follow him anyway. Surprise or not, I was
still curious to see where we were going.

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