Also by this author: Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe, Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe, The Bookshop on the Corner, Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe
Series: The Little Paris Collection #2
Also in this series: The Little Bookshop on the Seine
Published by Carina on 30th June 2016
Genres: Chicklit, Humour, Love & Romance
Escape to Paris this summer and prepare to be swept off your feet…
Anouk LaRue used to be a romantic, but since she had her heart well and truly broken her love life has dissolved into nothing more than daydreams of the perfect man. Retreating to her extraordinary Little Antique Shop has always been a way to escape, because who could feel alone in a shop bursting with memories and beautiful objects…
Until Tristan Black bursts into an auction and throws her ordered world into a spin.
Following your heart is a little like getting lost in Paris – sometimes confusing and always exciting! Except learning to trust her instincts is not something Anouk is ready to do when it comes to romance, but the city of love has other ideas…
“Well you haven’t met Claude yet. And…” she paused for effect “…his brother Didier lives in Paris, and just so happens to be an art critic. Art. He likes art. You like art!”
As if that was enough to jump into bed with someone, which is what she constantly nagged me to do. I shook my head in a vigorous no.
“Don’t do that thing you do, not again, please.” It was her mission to set me with up with a man, any man, the only prerequisite seemed to be that he was breathing. So far she’d introduced me to a sixty-year-old count with a handlebar moustache, a dreadlocked guitarist who spoke in tongues, and the last and most explosive no: a magician who kept threatening to make my clothing disappear. I shuddered at the thought of such paramours.
We walked in silence, enjoying the hazy sunlight on our faces. Twenty minutes later we arrived at one of our favorite restaurants, Mille, near Les Invalides. Inside the various buildings that made up Hôtel National des Invalides there were museums and monuments pertaining to the French military, and deep within its walls lay Napoléon Bonaparte’s tomb. It was a hallowed place and steeped with history, a popular spot for tourists who could wander most of the expanse for free.
Mille served traditional French food, and a selection of fine wines, perfect for a slow lunch, and it was a good vantage point for people watching, which was one of my favorite things to do.
The maître d’ recognized us and hurried over, motioning to a table by the window. We thanked him, taking proffered menus. Lilou ordered white wine without consulting me, and fluttered her lashes at the poor smitten man, as was her way. “Vin blanc, OK?” she asked, leaning her head on her hand, giving me a lazy smile.
“Well you’ve ordered it now, haven’t you?” I furrowed my brow, trying to appear disapproving, but failing.
“Oui, I have.” She laughed, and it lit up her blue eyes. We were similar in appearance, but Lilou had a playfulness to her that made her radiant, which I had never had, even in my teens. While our facial features were alike, our style was markedly different. I tended to wear vintage clothing, forties style, and Lilou was very a la mode, and kept up with the latest fashion trends even on her limited budget. Her hair was always loose, and shiny, like a shampoo model, and mine was curled or coiffed. She favored natural makeup, and I preferred the dramatic smoky-eyed, scarlet-lipped look. Though many a time she’d pilfer my wardrobe for scarves or dresses – a younger sister’s rite of passage.
Perusing the menu I decided on the dish of the day – let it be a surprise – and Lilou went for the beef fillet with béarnaise sauce and potato dauphinoise. For such a lithe specimen of a girl she could eat as heartily as any man. She’d have entrée first and finish the meal with a rich dessert, of which I would steal a bite, and then she’d order yet another bottle of wine. I had her measure, and knew without doubt I’d pay for the lunch, and its accoutrements. It was nice to be able to shut off for a few hours, with someone who knew me inside out.
I enjoyed our sisterly time together, and the fact we could be ourselves and relax into the afternoon. I wondered if that might change if we lived together. The thought of Lilou wreaking havoc inside my pristine apartment, where everything was just so, was enough to make me rue my choice not to say no to her – but how could I? Parisian apartments were expensive, and I knew she couldn’t keep up paying for hers for any length of time. I calmed myself, promising there’d be rules she’d have to adhere to. She would be on her best behavior surely?
We ordered our meals, and the waiter filled our wineglasses. I sat back feeling my limbs loosen with the first sip of crisp white wine.
“As I was saying,” she said, giving her hair a customary flick, “I know my match-making choices haven’t been ideal but this Didier…” She pretended to pull her collar out as if she was hot, and waggled her eyebrows suggestively. “Whoa! Seriously, you have to meet him.”
I clucked my tongue like my maman would do when Lilou was being too Lilou. “No thank you. Your choices have been downright hideous.” I gave her a withering stare. “A magician? A sixty-year-old count? You might think I’m mature but I’m only twenty-eight for God’s sake. I don’t think we need to reach for the fringes of society just yet. And certainly not a man old enough to be my papa!”
She leaned forward and whispered, “Some women find silver foxes very attractive, I’ll have you know.”
It was like speaking another language with Lilou. “Silver foxes?”
“Oui,” she said. “Silver foxes, you know, a man with a sprinkling of gray, a little mature but a whole lot of sex appeal.” She slapped her hand on the table and let out a roar of delight.
“Hush, Lilou. Mon Dieu!” All eyes were cast toward us.
“What?” She blew out her cheeks. “You can’t nurse a broken heart forever. Six months is enough grieving time, too much time for a man like him. You need to have a passionate affair!”
I shriveled in my seat, hoping no one could understand her fast-talking sentences. “I’m not grieving –” I scoffed “– far from it. I don’t have time for it, that’s all.” Lilou knew the intimate details about Joshua because the petit espion had found my diary and read every single word. If not for that she’d know zero, because who would tell the world a horror story like that? “And if I did have time for a relationship, I wouldn’t reserve it for the type of men you’re suggesting. A silver fox, I mean…?”
Laughter burbled from her. “You said you wanted someone extraordinary! Gray is the new black, non?”
I arched a brow. “I don’t think so, Lilou.” Really, she was so adamant about the most ridiculous things.
Tugging her dress down as she sat back in her chair, she said, “Sister of mine, I hate to say it, but you are only twenty-eight. Not eighty-eight. Why can’t you have a little fun while you’re waiting for Mr. Right? Even Madame Dupont beds more men than you do, and she is almost eighty.”