Chantal exits the dressing room, a sexy vision in the clingy red dress. “Ooooh, that’s a devilish laugh you just gave. I’d love to have been on that call to hear what Chris said.”
“My lips are sealed.” I give her a once-over. “You’re looking pretty devilish yourself. I wonder if they have that in my size?”
Her expression lights with excitement. “Finally! Let’s get you out of denim and into red silk before you change your mind.”
Two hours later, Chantal and I exit one of many stores we’ve visited, and though it’s only ive thirty, we’re greeted by darkness, and the chilly weather makes me wish this black leather jacket was a bit thicker.
With seven bags of various sizes and weights now to my name, I am following Chantal to the entrance of a lingerie store, appalled to discover there is not a Victoria’s Secret in Paris, when Chantal’s phone beeps with a text. Chantal ishes her phone from her purse, her brow furrowing as she reads the message. “My mother’s sick with a stomach bug and needs me to look after my grandmother.” She looks up at me. “I’m sorry.
My grandmother had a stroke last month and she’s just come home from rehab.”
I can’t believe she’s apologizing. “Your grandmother is a million times more important than I am.”
“I feel bad deserting you, though. Do you want me to walk back to your house with you?”
“You are too kind, but no. I’m ine.”
And I am. It hits me that I haven’t been feeling watched for a while now, proving my theory that I get that sensation when feeling of-kilter. “I’ll see you of and shop a bit more before heading home.”
“If you’re sure, then”—she glances toward the road—“I need to cross the street to grab a taxi.”
We dart across the road together to a line of several taxis and Chantal lags the irst one in line. After tossing her bags in the back, she pauses. “It was loads of fun, Sara. I’m glad Katie called my mother and brought us together.”
I’m quick to agree. I like Chantal, and inding a friend this early in my move to Paris is comforting. “Me too.” I grin. “Even if you do eat snails.”
She snorts out laughter and the funny sound has us both grinning. With a quick wave, she starts to get in the car. “I’ll see you in the morning. Oh. Wait.” She pauses halfway inside the taxi and straightens. “I’ve started to ask this all day, and we keep getting of the subject before I do. Is there someone else helping you look for your friend?”
My brow furrows at the unexpected question. “We do have a private eye who’s been helping, but he’s not been able to get much information.”
“Oh, okay then. I guess he just crossed eforts with you today. The lady at City Hall said someone else had been by yesterday inquiring about Ella.” She disappears into the car with a inal wave.
Stunned, I stand there long after the taxi pulls away, my mind chasing Chantal’s words around in circles. Blake is in the States. He didn’t go by City Hall yesterday. Chris mentioned hiring someone here as well, but I’m certain he has no one on this yet. Did Blake go above and beyond and hire someone here we don’t know about? That has to be it.
A horn honks and shocks me back to the present. Shift-ing the numerous bags in my arms, I turn toward the row of shops and restaurants behind me. Squinting, I’m almost certain I see the green lady sign that would be my cofee destination.
A white mocha and a place to sit down and call Blake to see if he did indeed hire someone is perfect. I’d like an update on Ava anyway.
Ava—how have I managed to forget that she accused me of killing Rebecca? My only answer is self-preservation: my brain decided I can handle only so much at once.
I start walking, and almost instantly my skin prickles and the hair on my nape stands up. My steps quicken with that damnable sensation of being watched, and I glance around the busy sidewalk, surveying the people hurrying to and from destinations, and identify no obvious threat.
And why would I? This is just the control freak in me struggling with the unknown of a new city, paired with the stress of the past few days, triggered by thoughts of Ella and Ava.
Nothing more. I think. I hope. My reasoning isn’t comforting.
I’m three stores from Starbucks, counting the doors to a safe public place.
One more door and I’m at Starbucks, about to go inside, when I stop dead in my tracks. In disbelief, I blink at the sign hanging above the next store: THE SCRIPT. Amber’s tattoo parlor. The door to the parlor starts to open, and adrenaline surges through me.
Acting on pure instinct, I dart inside Starbucks, desperate not to be seen. Inside, warm air washes over me along with a strong dose of relief. I glance around the tiny café with limited seating, like everywhere I’ve been in Paris thus far, and I go to the counter.
“English?” I ask the tall, dark-haired man behind the counter, and receive a highly accented, “Yes. English.”
“Oh, thank you.” My stress level lowers instantly, my shoulders relaxing and my pulse slowing. It’s amazing how a little thing like ordering my favorite drink in English can be so im-mensely comforting. “White Mocha. Nonfat. No foam.”
I glance at the glass case by the register, delighted to ind all my favorites from back in the States. I’ve had macarons and chocolate today and don’t need anything else, but my inger has a mind of its own and points to an oversized sugar cookie with icing.