Gone was her casual vintage look that made her look too much like an unfashionable hippie. Before her stood a sophisticated woman who could appreciate the best things in life, including a very sensual Frenchman.
Still wearing the same stone-washed jeans, now with a black jacket, Remy arrived fifteen minutes after the hour.
“Eight o’clock sharp?” she teasingly reminded him as she took the chain off the door.
“I did try to warn you.” His grin was sheepish as she stepped back to allow him to enter.
He handed her a bottle of Pinot grigio. “I intended to return to Château de Fournier, change and grab my bathing suit, but when I stopped in the village to buy the wine, of course, Faustin, the wine seller, invited me to share a pastis. And when one led to another, he started in on politics, as he always does, and I ran out of time. Every time I come home, Faustin and I must have this same frustrating conversation, which he, at least, enjoys so much.”
“And you don’t?”
“What is the point of arguing? You can’t change someone’s mind.”
The damp air smelled of rain and lavender and pine and him. She smiled, savoring his scent as she had when he’d lain beside her in London. “I suppose you’re right,” she said.
“You look beautiful.” He grinned as he stood inside the foyer. “I drove through some heavy rain on the way over,” he said, attempting polite conversation. “But that’s normal for August.”
She stared past him at the black sky and swaying tops of the pines and cypresses, but said nothing. He pulled the contract out of his briefcase and handed it to her. Silently she thumbed through the pages and then tossed it on a low table near the door. “Later. How about a glass of wine?”
When he nodded, she carried the bottle of Pinot grigio into the kitchen, where she tried to open it. But her hands shook with such excitement that all she accomplished was drilling out bits of cork. Her ineptness made him laugh.
“Allow me.” When he swept the corkscrew and wine bottle from her, his hands grazed hers. Then he deftly yanked the cork out. “It just takes practice. Obviously you need to drink a lot more wine.” Quickly he poured two glasses.
“Feel like watching the storm?” she asked, not wanting to be confined inside with him. Without waiting for his answer, she picked up a platter of cheese and crackers and glided past the stacked boxes out onto the terrace under the eaves.
He was slow to catch up because he stopped to admire the copy of the Matisse. A burst of wind sent leaves flying across the terrace when he came out of the house.
“I can see you’ve been busy packing,” he said.
She led him to a small green table near several potted tangerine trees and sat in one of the chairs.
“I’ve made some progress, but there’s a lot more to do. I can’t stay here forever. I talked to my mother today. Luckily she’s okay with watching my store for the rest of the month.”
He leaned closer. “You’ll be here a whole month?”
“Hopefully no longer. So I’m anxious to come to an agreement that is mutually satisfying—to both of us—within that time frame.”
“And the Matisse?”
“Like I told you. It belongs to the world.”
“An idealist.” His dark eyes glinted.
“I don’t know anything about art or museums, so it might take me a while to figure out the right thing to do.”
“Maybe I can help you.”
Their gazes met, and immediately she felt as if he lit her being.
“And the château and vineyard?” he continued.
“I’m willing to part with them.”
The wind howled, causing the cigales to stop chirping in the cedars. She lifted her wineglass, and the Pinot grigio slipped down her throat like cool silk.
“Then I see no reason we can’t wrap up this negotiation tonight,” he said.
“I don’t think so,” she replied.
“Look,” he said. “We want this property. Very much. The price has always been negotiable. You say you’ll sell. So what will it take to make you a happy seller?”
When he gave her a quick, uninterested glance as he sipped his wine, she lowered her eyes and hesitated for an awkward moment.
“You,” she said, staring at the flagstones like a shy schoolgirl, instead of a wanton seductress. “For a month.”
She looked up, hot-faced and terrified.
Equally startled, he raised his eyebrows and gazed at her so long the air between them grew charged. “Me? I don’t understand.”
Her mouth felt dry, and she ran her tongue over her lips. Taking another quick gulp of wine, she said, “Remember when I told you that my boyfriend accused me of being boring and old?”