I open my mouth to speak and Chris steals my question from my lips. “What happened to Ella’s iancé?”
Neuville snorts. “If you mean the idiot who’d upset her the night I met her, I have no clue.”
“Where exactly did you meet Ella?” I quickly ask.
Neuville licks me a look. “I was in her hotel on business.”
Chris jumps on that. “What hotel?”
Again, no hesitation from Neuville as he replies, “Hôtel Lutetia.”
Chris frowns. “Her doctor iancé could aford Hôtel Lutetia?”
Neuville shrugs. “I have no intimate understanding of this man’s wealth or lack thereof. I was in the lobby when Ella exited the elevator in tears and ran smack into me. She was upset, and I ofered to buy her dinner at a nearby restaurant. When we returned to the hotel, her iancé had checked out and left her with no money and no passport.”
My jaw drops. “What? He took her passport?”
“He did,” Neuville conirms. “As you can imagine, she was devastated about the entire situation. I ofered to have her stay with me and she accepted.”
This doesn’t sound like the Ella I know—but then, the Ella I know would have called me weeks ago, too. “She just said ‘yes’
to staying with a stranger?”
“I don’t believe she saw me as a stranger, Ms. McMillan.”
His lips twitch.
Something in his expression sets me of. I lean forward, one of my hands resting on the table, my blood pressure probably of the charts. “You’re saying she slept with you when she thought David was waiting for her at the hotel?”
“I wasn’t aware I said she slept with me,” he replies. “Simply that we became fast friends.”
“You implied more.” My tone is biting.
“You assumed.” His tone is crisp.
Chris takes control of the conversation again. “She was with you how long?”
“Three weeks,” Neuville replies.
I narrow my eyes on this stranger who wants me to believe Ella to be someone I know her not to be. It doesn’t sit well with me. He doesn’t sit well with me. Why isn’t he complaining about all of the questions? Maybe Chris is right. He practiced.
He expected us. He was ready.
“I’ll be able to ind witnesses who saw her with you,” Chris points out. “If there are none—”
“Dig around all you wish,” Neuville interjects.
He’s too conident. I don’t know why I feel this, when hon-esty breeds conidence, but everything about this feels of. “Did Ella replace her passport?”
“Not while she was with me.”
My brow furrows. “That makes no sense. She was due back to school.”
He leans back in his chair, the long ingers of one hand resting on the table. “She wasn’t in a hurry to return to the States.”
Disappointment ills me as my hope of inding Ella through this man fades. “You really have no idea where she is?”
“Why else would I hire someone to look for her?”
“That’s the question of the hour, isn’t it?” Chris drawls softly, and Neuville’s eyes narrow on him. The two men stare at each other, and I stare at Neuville, and several tense seconds pass before Chris says, “Sara, we need a few minutes alone. I’ll meet you at the bar.”
My gaze jerks to Chris’s, but he’s still in his stare-down with Neuville and I barely bite back an objection to leaving.
I have to force myself to let go of my need to hear everything and try to control what I clearly cannot. I trust Chris. If he can get something out of Neuville by speaking to him alone, I want him to.
I stand up and walk away without another word. I’m pretty sure it’s as surprising to Chris as it is to me.
At the bottom of the stairs is a waiter. I make a drinking motion with a pretend glass, and he points me in the direction of the bar, which is on a lower level. I discover the spacious basement level illed with a cluster of six tables and enough beautiful people standing and sitting around to need twice that, all wearing expensive dresses and tailored suits. Suddenly, my jeans feel out of place. No, not suddenly. The doorman started my walk down Awkward Lane and it simply continues.
I head to the U-shaped bar and lag the bartender for help with my escape. “Toilette?” I ask. I’m becoming quite a master at this one-word question.
The bartender points and I head behind him and down the hall to his right. I’m gaining a powerful appreciation for the art of pointing and its ability to break the language barrier.
Inside the bathroom I ind two large sinks to my left, and my nostrils lare from the scent of the cinnamon candle burning in the center of the marble counter. Three fancy wooden doors are farther inside the room and, after listening a moment, I determine the stalls are empty. Thankfully.
I lean on the sink and my image comes into view, then immediately fades as I replay everything Neuville has said to us, trying to igure out what bothered me most about him and the conversation. Three weeks, he’d said Ella had been with him.
Three weeks. Hmmm. That feels of. Ella left San Francisco in late August. It’s October. So Neuville’s claim that he’s been looking for her for a week might work, but it means that Ella and her iancé broke up almost immediately after arriving in Paris. It also means that if Ella intended to come back to school for her October 1 schedule, she had waited until the last minute to have her passport reissued. But wouldn’t Blake have discovered it had been reissued when he investigated her travel?