Had she thought about him at all? Did she miss him, at least a little? Or had some newspaper article or old photograph of him she’d found in one of her aunt’s albums made her hate him? How stupid he’d been to seek her out in London.

“Remy, what are you thinking about?” Céline’s sweet voice chided when she asked him a question and caught him staring past her.

Muttering a swift curse under his breath, he forced his attention back to the lovely Céline. “Sorry,” he said.

“It must be difficult…coming home, facing everybody…even me.” She laid an affectionate hand on top of his. “It’s too soon, isn’t it?”

He froze, unable to answer until she lifted her hand.

She continued to flirt under his mother’s pleased, watchful gaze, and he played along.

Thus they made it through their long, elegant lunch.

Did the comtesse hate her or what? Or did she simply despise having to deal with someone she considered so much her inferior?Amy held the phone against her ear with growing impatience as the comtesse told her how disappointed she was that they could not come to an agreement, disappointed being a euphemism for very pissed off.

If only Remy would call, instead of his mother or his agent, who were always so unfriendly and snobby. But no, he, apparently, was avoiding Provence. And her.

Well, if she couldn’t have Remy, she’d much prefer to enjoy her breakfast in the garden in peace.

“Bless you, Aunt Tate,” Amy whispered to the ghost, who she believed was still very much in residence, “for having stood the comte’s first wife as a close neighbor for so long.”

“My agent informs me that you are going to give the Matisse away and that you still refuse to sell us Château Serene,” the comtesse was saying.

Did she know Remy had contacted her in London? She would probably have apoplexy if she knew the whole story.

Bees droned in the purple lavender. A fat tabby licked its fur on a terra-cotta wall beneath the deep shade of a cherry tree. A plump black dog lay in a lazy coil under the rosemary hedge with a plump paw over his eyes.

Amy hadn’t had her coffee yet, and the heat was making her feel as lazy as the animals.

“My agent informs me that you refuse to sell Château Serene,” the comtesse repeated.

Amy pushed the phone closer to her ear, but the comtesse’s tone was so strident she pitied Remy and was soon concentrating on the purple shadows and sparkling sunshine, instead. What would Matisse have captured from this scene?

“I’m having breakfast in the garden alone. Do you mind if I put you on the speaker phone?” Sipping her strong, steaming-hot espresso, Amy punched the appropriate button.

“Are you alone?” the voice barked from the center of the table.

Much better.

“Quite alone!”

“Why do you refuse to sell?”

Amy stared at the pool and chaise longues surrounding it. Not that she really saw them. No, instead, she imagined Remy’s darkly chiseled face and glowing dark eyes as he’d held her in his arms after making love to her.

Last night she dreamed that he’d come here and seduced her on one of those chaise longues in the moonlight.

“I had forgotten how divine the early-morning light is here,” she said. “It’s a gold haze, really. And I love the smell of warm pine needles, wild thyme, baked earth and lavender.”

Happily the château with its crumbling biscuit-colored walls, its rambling garden and vineyard were in much better shape than she’d been led to believe. From the terrace Amy had a view not only of the pool, but of the lavender fields that stretched to the woods on one side and to the vineyard and village and purple mountains on the other.

“I asked you a question.” Clearly Amy’s enthusiasm for the place did not delight the comtesse.

“Oh, yes.” Amy bit off the tip of her fluffy brioche swirled with chocolate and suddenly found herself dreaming of lying in Remy’s arms again. “Some things are hard to let go of.”

“That is how we felt when my ex-husband gave the Matisse to your aunt on their wedding day and willed the château and vineyard to her upon his death.” The comtesse’s soft tone bit like a viper’s hiss.

“I cannot sell you the Matisse. It is priceless, and my aunt’s last wishes were for it to be given to the French people. As for the château, I like the way it has been modernized since my last visit, especially the bathrooms. Have you seen the skylights and the deep stone tubs and the showers? Well, they’re really quite lovely. Last night after Etienne gave me a tour, I took a long, hot bath staring up at the stars.”

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