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Authors: Angela Henry

The Paris Secret

BOOK: The Paris Secret
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The Paris Secret

By Angela Henry

Less than twenty-four hours after fleeing to Paris, Maya Sinclair is the prime suspect in a brutal murder—and targeted by the real killer. When she’s viciously attacked in the gardens of Versailles, Maya barely escapes with her life thanks to sexy French journalist Simon Girard.

Simon has been investigating the mysterious death of his brother, an art forger with ties to the woman Maya is suspected of killing. Still healing from heartbreak of his own, Simon reluctantly joins forces with Maya, who has awakened feelings within him he thought long dead.

Their search for answers uncovers the existence of a secret society, and puts them on a quest to find a missing crucifix rumored to hold the key to everlasting life. Together, Maya and Simon race through Paris one step ahead of a killer who will do anything to ensure some secrets remain buried forever…

Dear Reader,

A new year always brings with it a sense of expectation and promise (and maybe a vague sense of guilt). Expectation because we don’t know what the year will bring exactly, but promise because we always hope it will be good things. The guilt is due to all of the New Year’s resolutions we make with such good intentions.

This year, Carina Press is making a New Year’s resolution we know we won’t have any reason to feel guilty about: we’re going to bring our readers a year of fantastic editorial and diverse genre content. So far, our plans for 2011 include staff and author appearances at reader-focused conferences such as the RT Booklovers Convention in April, where we’ll be offering up goodies, appearing on panels, giving workshops and hosting a few fun activities for readers. We’re also cooking up several genre-specific release weeks, during which we’ll highlight individual genres. So far we have plans for steampunk week and unusual fantasy week. Readers will have access to free reads, discounts, contests and more as part of our week-long promotions!

But even when we’re not doing special promotions, we’re still offering something special to our readers in the form of the stories authors are delivering to Carina Press that we’re passing on to you. From sweet romance to sexy, and military science fiction to fairy-tale fantasy, from mysteries to romantic suspense, we’re proud to be offering a wide variety of genres and tales of escapism to our customers in this new year. Every week is a new adventure, and we want to bring our readers along on the journey. Be daring, be brave and try something new with Carina Press in 2011!

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to [email protected]. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James

Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com

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www.facebook.com/carinapress

UN

“What kind of an idiot goes to the most romantic city on earth all by herself to get over a broken heart?”

That would be me. And the slightly nasal voice in my head asking that question belonged to my best friend, Kelly. That voice continued to nag me about how dangerous it was to be in a foreign country with a broken heart as I stood in the long line at Customs at Charles de Gaulle airport. It even had the nerve to follow me when I boarded the tram to baggage claim. She wouldn’t shut up. I wanted to scream that I wasn’t an idiot and my heart wasn’t
that
broken. But shrieking like a crazy person in the middle of the airport? Not such a good idea, mainly because handcuffs and a straitjacket wouldn’t go with my outfit.

By the time I’d arrived in Paris that morning my emotions were bouncing from one extreme to the next. I was extremely tired from my sleepless overnight flight, extremely excited to finally be in Paris and extremely scared because I had come all alone to a foreign country—where I barely knew the language. Maybe Kelly was right. Maybe I was an idiot. But it was too late now. I was already here. And I was going to enjoy myself if it killed me. I just needed a little sleep and then Kelly’s voice would disappear just like my last boyfriend.

“Ah, Madame Sinclair, our solo traveler has arrived,” exclaimed a dapper Frenchman holding a clipboard when I finally managed to locate my tour group in terminal 2C.

The man’s badge read Sebastian Marcel, TransEuro Tours. He was dressed in a neat blue three-piece suit with a striped shirt and red bow tie. A white handkerchief poked out of his jacket pocket. He sported a head full of thick snow-white hair and wire-rimmed glasses perched on the end of his narrow nose.

“Bonjour,” I said to Monsieur Marcel and the group. Curious stares and a few friendly nods returned my greeting. My gray eyes, honey-colored skin and long, thick dark hair are always a source of speculation. I could see the unasked questions frozen in every furrowed brow and narrowed eye. But they’d be stunned to know that I was just as curious as they were about my origins. My mother had been African-American. I have no idea about my father. The answer to that mystery died with my adoptive parents.

“I trust your flight was pleasant?” the tour guide inquired.

“Yes. Thank you.”

A quick perusal of the twenty or so people gathered confirmed my worst fears. The tour was entirely made up of couples. And I wasn’t just the only solo traveler. I was also the youngest and the only one with a permanent tan. Thankfully, the tour was semi-escorted, which meant after we were escorted to our hotel and given info on optional group excursions, we would be left on our own to do as we pleased, meaning I wouldn’t have to stick out like a sore thumb for much longer.

“So you’re on your own?” asked a middle-aged woman with glasses and short brown hair. Her accent was Australian.

“Yep, just me. Couldn’t find a friend to bring,” I replied with as much cheerfulness as my exhaustion would allow.

Actually, I was supposed to be on this trip with Ben, my boyfriend of a year. However, since he’d recently gone back to his ex-wife, he was no longer in the picture. Apparently, much like a pair of cheap magnets, Ben and his ex just couldn’t stay together or apart for any great length of time and reconciled and split up every few years. Ben had felt so guilty about dumping me that he’d attached the e-tickets for the trip—paid in full—in my “Dear Maya” email as a lovely parting gift. More than likely he just wanted to avoid me coming to his dental practice and acting a damned fool if he tried to take his ex on
my
trip. Either way, I still felt like a losing game show contestant who’d wanted the grand prize and instead ended up with the set of Ginsu steak knives—plunged into my heart. I’d actually thought Ben was going to propose to me in Paris. He’d proposed all right, just not to me.

Since no one I knew was able to go with me, I cashed in Ben’s ticket and bought a new wardrobe for the trip. A free trip and new clothes hardly made up for the two months’ worth of tears I’d cried. But they were certainly a step in the right direction. And besides, who am I to stand in the way of two idiots in love? Heavy emphasis on the
idiots
part.

“Well, good for you! Don’t think
I
could go it all alone, though. Be too scared. I’m Meryl Berman, by the way, and this is me husband, Ted. We’re from Brisbane. This is our first trip abroad.” She held out her hand. Ted Berman smiled and nodded wearily though I couldn’t tell if he looked tired due to the flight or to his wife’s babbling.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Maya Sinclair from Columbus, Ohio. This is my first time overseas, too.” I shook her hand.

Monsieur Marcel quickly gathered us together and escorted us through the crowded airport and down to the lower level parking lot where the air-conditioned bus that would take us to our hotel sat waiting.

“So what do you do in Columbus?” asked Meryl as we stood in line waiting to board the bus.

“I’m a reference librarian at Capital College.”

“Oh, a librarian. How lovely. You must be awfully smart.”

Not when it comes to men,
I wanted to say but didn’t.

Ten minutes later, we were boarded and on our way. I was happy to be sitting by myself so I wouldn’t have to make small talk. I could just stare out the window and keep an eye out for Paris landmarks.

And then after what seemed like miles of factories belching smoke and corporate-looking office buildings, there it was. Off in the distance, coming up on the right side of the bus, was the Eiffel Tower in all its glory. Of course, I’d seen replicas of it in Vegas and at Kings Island. I never dreamed I’d see the real thing in person and it took my breath away. I pulled out my digital camera and started snapping pictures. I could feel myself relaxing. A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. I was
really
in Paris. Maybe this would be okay after all.

Something hit my foot. A tube of hair gel.

“Sorry,” came a voice next to me. One of my tour mates leaned across the aisle. His artfully spiked blond hair indicated that the gel was his.

“No problem.” I smiled and handed him the gel.

“I can’t believe you found room for all your damned hair care products but forgot to pack the camera. Our first view ever of Paris and no pictures to show for it,” said the older man sitting next to him. He was pissed. The blond just rolled his eyes.

“I told you the camera is in my suitcase under the bus. Quit being so melodramatic. Frowning makes those wrinkles in your forehead look like trenches.”

“I’m happy to share my pictures,” I blurted. “I can send you a digital file if you give me your email address.”

“Oh, that would be great! Thank you,” exclaimed the older man. “I’m Brian Mitchner,” he said, reaching past the blond to give my hand a firm shake. “And this gel junkie is my partner—”

“Jarrod Perlman. Nice to meet you,” interrupted Jarrod.

I introduced myself. And there was an awkward silence while Jarrod stared straight ahead with his arms crossed against his chest. It wasn’t any of my business but if I was traveling to Paris with my boyfriend, I’d hate for our trip to start out on the wrong foot just because of a mispacked camera.

“Well, you know what they say?” I said, making an attempt to lighten the mood.

“What?” they asked.

“Paris is for lovers.” We all laughed.

And then Jarrod had to go there. “Babe, if Paris is for lovers, why are you here by yourself?”

“Because I’m an idiot.”

 

Our tour group was staying at Bienvenue Hotel located in the 7th arrondissement, within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. I could see the tower peeking over the rooftops of the buildings, teasing me, as the bus navigated the traffic. We finally stopped on the corner of a busy street right next to the elevated metro tracks. The bus was unable to make it down the narrow back streets to get to our hotel, so the driver unloaded our luggage on the sidewalk. Some of my tour mates weren’t happy about carrying their bags to the hotel, but I was too happy to finally be in Paris to care about a short walk.

The area was more residential than touristy. Numerous small shops and ethnic restaurants lined the streets. Sidewalks were cluttered with small tables where people lingered, enjoying wine and cigarettes. A
boulangerie
displayed long dark loaves of crusty bread next to stacked jars of jewel bright preserves. Fresh, produce of every variety and color was displayed in baskets in front of the corner shop. Another enticed passersby with whole chickens roasting on spits. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach and mine growled loudly.

I did my best to ignore the sighs and mutterings of the locals as I maneuvered my large suitcase through the crowds, around the corner and past a tiny store no bigger than my living room to a small doorway marked by a gold-and-black awning. The smell of garlic from the Italian restaurant directly across the street filled the air. I could have passed out from hunger.

I pulled out a candy bar from my purse while I waited to check in. The hotel’s dimly lit lobby was small but around the corner a dining area and courtyard out back were visible. It was still fairly early, not quite noon, and some of my group had gone out back to sit and wait for their rooms to be available. Lucky for me, I did pre check-in online at home. My room was ready.

“I show a Dr. Julius Price also on your reservation,
madame.
Will he be joining you later?” asked the pretty dark-haired desk clerk as she handed me my key card.

I completely blanked for a few seconds before I remembered Julius was Ben’s much-hated first name. He always went by his middle name, Benjamin. Ugh! I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten to let the hotel know I was arriving solo. I’d just assumed Monsieur Marcel would inform them.

“Uh, yeah,” I said quickly. “In a few days.” I shouldn’t have lied. Maybe it was denial, embarrassment or simply wishful thinking, but I couldn’t bring myself to cancel Ben’s reservation.

 

After shunning the rickety-looking, closet-sized elevator, I dragged my suitcase up four winding flights of stairs and down an unbelievably narrow hallway to room 5B. I leaned panting and sweating against the door for a minute or so before I was able to open it. Once I was inside, it was as if I’d stepped back in time to my college days. This was no hotel room—it was a small, neat and clean room the size of my freshman dorm. A large bed dominated one wall. But on closer inspection the large comfy-looking bed was actually just two twin beds pushed together.

Pastel stripes of pink, purple and blue decorated the curtains and bedspread. A small wooden desk with a chair and a phone sat by the door. No closet but a nook behind the door held a metal bar for hanging clothes and a shelf overhead with an extra pillow and blanket. A small TV was mounted on the wall opposite the bed. A small desk was positioned underneath. The tiny bathroom consisted of a narrow shower stall, toilet and pedestal sink.

The room’s one large window overlooked the hotel’s courtyard. I opened it to let some fresh air in. Conversation and laughter floated up from the courtyard below. I unpacked and sat on the bed. Big mistake. The plan had been for me stay awake until later that afternoon and then take a short nap before having a late dinner. I had every intention of walking over to the Eiffel Tower and finding someplace to eat lunch. But I was just too tired. I’d been up for 24 hours. Instead, I lay back on the bed and closed my eyes. I told myself it was only going to be for a few minutes. I was fast asleep in no time.

 

A sharp poke to my shoulder woke me. When I opened my eyes a woman was staring down at me. She must have been in her mid-fifties with hard blue eyes that flashed with anger. Her frosted blond hair was pulled into a messy bun and her thin scarlet-coated lips wore a frown. Being jolted from a deep sleep made me instantly cranky. According to my watch, it was a little after one o’clock. I’d been asleep for less than an hour.

“Are you housekeeping?” I sat up and rubbed my eyes.

“Certainly not!” the woman replied. She might have been pretty but I couldn’t tell since she now looked like she was trying to smell her upper lip.

“Then what are you doing in my room?” I was now awake enough to get a better look at her. She was wearing a stylish tan-and-burgundy-checked suit and black flats, not a uniform. Still, I was very confused.

“Your room?” she spat out. “What are you talking about? Check out was at eleven o’clock this morning. This is my room now. You need to leave immediately or I’m calling the manager!”

“Manager?” What the hell was she talking about?

“You heard me. You’ve got two seconds to clear out of here or I’m calling the manager.”

“Look, lady—” I grabbed my key card from the desk and waved it in front of her face, “—I checked in
this
morning. This is
my
room.”

“Like hell it is!” She pulled her own key card from her blazer pocket and flashed it at me. “If this isn’t my room, then how could I have gotten in here?” Two red suitcases sat just outside the open door.

“Okay,” I said slowly. “Obviously they’ve put us in the same room by mistake. There’s been some kind of mix-up. I’m sure they can straighten this out at the front—”

She turned and charged out of the room before I had a chance to finish my sentence, leaving her suitcases in the hallway for me to trip over. She must have run down the steps as though her tail was on fire because she was already giving the desk clerk hell by the time I got down there.


Madame. Madame,
” repeated the poor desk clerk, a different person than the woman who’d checked me in. This clerk was a man who couldn’t have been much out of his teens and was completely terrified. He was holding his hands up as if he were trying to stop the flood of words spilling from her mouth. He couldn’t get a word in.

“It’s ‘Doctor’ to you,” she said haughtily. “Dr. Juliet Rice! I reserved a single and you’ve put me in a room with a stranger!” She gestured toward me. “I demand to speak to the manager!”

BOOK: The Paris Secret
12.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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