“I have no plans, and I’d love to go shopping.” She sounds genuinely eager.
“So there you go,” I tell Chris. “I have an experienced Paris shopper as an escort. I’m set for the afternoon.”
Heavy silence ills the line and I can almost hear Chris struggling with himself. “I’m really ine,” I murmur softly.
“Don’t beat yourself up over this.”
“Here’s the thing,” he inally replies. “I could throw every dime I have at children’s cancer, and I won’t beat it. It takes worldwide awareness and involvement to make progress. The museum supports the cause, and this donor is well connected in an international company.”
“Then you need to do this, and if I can do anything to help, I will. So go ix what’s broken and Chantal will keep me company.”
“Tell her we’ll pay her.”
“I heard that,” Chantal says. “And no. I’m not going to take money to go shopping.”
I snort. “You’ll deserve a big bonus if you ind a way to get me to speak French.”
“That bad?” Chris asks.
“Worse,” I conirm. “Maybe some real-life situations will help.”
Chris lowers his voice. “I might have to come up with a reward system for learning new words.”
I bite my lip. “Be careful. I might not let the board have you.”
“Please,” he groans. “Don’t let them.”
“You’re on loan only,” I assure him.
“Fill that closet,” Chris orders. “Make me feel like you want me for my money.”
I laugh. “I do. You didn’t know that?”
“I thought you wanted me for my body.”
“Actually it’s the Harley.”
“Now you’re just feeding my other obsession.” I hear someone speak in the background. “I can still tell them ‘no’ and come home.”
Home. Our home. I like that. “Don’t. I’ll be here when you’re done.”
“Be careful, and text me when you get back to the house so I know you’re safe.”
I open my mouth to make a “Yes, Master” joke I’ve made on several occasions, but snap it shut. The memory of Rebecca calling Mark that is just too fresh. Instead, I simply agree.
“He’s a Harley guy?” There is an excited lift to Chantal’s voice. While I’ve been on the phone she’s been inspecting the rows and rows of books, many of which are interesting art and travel editions.
“Chris loves his Harleys,” I conirm, and it’s my turn to ofer a cat-that-ate-the-canary smile. “And I love him on them.”
Chantal sighs and walks back to the couch to perch on the edge of a cushion next to me. “There’s something about a guy on a Harley. I think it’s the whole ‘bad boy who’s so good but destined to break your heart’ fantasy. Which doesn’t sound like much of a fantasy when you put the broken heart part in the picture, but it is. It so is.”
My gut tightens with that same damn memory of Chris showing up on his Harley after our breakup. It’s a destructive memory and I will it to stop showing up. “Sometimes it’s the ones who look the least dangerous who really are,” I warn her, thinking of Mark in his perfectly itted suits and with his perfectly chiseled body. “The suave, debonair ones.”
Her eyes ill with longing. “I’d like to get my heart broken by both kinds at least once. But since I have no men in my life, I think we should go eat lunch and inish with macarons. Then we shop.”
Her naïve welcoming of heartache is again so like Ella that for a moment I can only stare at her, and when I recover, lunch and shopping are the last things on my mind. “Would you know where one would get a marriage license?”
“Sure. City Hall. Are you getting married?”
Am I going to marry Chris? “I . . . No. Well, not right now.”
I have to digest this question for a moment. Chris and I haven’t talked about it any further, but I ind myself smiling at the idea. “I’d say a very strong maybe, that leans toward yes.” I 94
don’t let myself think about how painful it would be to embrace forever with Chris and have him shut me out again.
Chantal grins. “So hot Harley men don’t always break your heart, huh?”
“No, they don’t.” At least not intentionally. “But that doesn’t mean you should go chasing them. They aren’t all like Chris.”
“I know. I’ve never met him, but my mom says he’s special.
She’s gotten to know him through Katie and John and a series of charity events.” Chantal pulls her laptop from her briefcase.
“Speaking of Chris, I think he might need to be with you if you’re iling for a marriage license.”
“It’s not my wedding I’m interested in right now. I’m looking for a friend I lost touch with, who came here to get married. I thought the licensing oice would be a good place to start to ind her. What do you think?”
“You have to have a legal ceremony at City Hall before a religious one can take place, so if she got married here, a record would be there.”
Hope ills me. I may be one step closer to inding Ella.
I don’t like crowds. I think it comes from a childhood of being trapped in my house under my father’s lock and key. Sitting in a tiny café across from City Hall with Chantal, I feel like the fel-low patrons around us are sardines in the same can. My unease started when we climbed into a taxi to head toward City Hall.