Rocks crunching beneath their shoes, they walked in silence. Despite Remy’s mood, Amy was enjoying the brightness of the sun, the vivid red geraniums and the sweetness of the lavender as they topped the hill in search of the Alfa Romeo.
Just as they reached it, she heard a roar, and a green Renault careened straight at them. Swerving almost into Remy the driver hit the brakes at the last minute. Jumping out of the way, Remy grabbed Amy and circled her with his arms protectively.
Yelling Remy’s name, the driver charged out of the Renault like a bull.
The solid fellow looked tough enough to do real damage even though he barely came up to Remy’s shoulder. He wore rough, faded work clothes, and his blue eyes burned so hotly Amy wondered if he’d already been drinking.
“Murderer! You think you’re smart because they let you off? You think your money can buy anything, even justice for my son’s death!”
“I’m as sorry about André as you are, Maurice.”
“You! You don’t know anything!”
Maurice held up a fist. Then he took a step backward and slammed it down on the hood of the Alfa Romeo with so much force he dented it. He began to hurl further abuse at Remy, making violent hand gestures as he did so. His vernacular French was not entirely comprehensible to Amy, but Remy turned so pale she began to tremble.
White-lipped, Remy grabbed Amy’s arm. Leading her around to the passenger side of the car, he yanked her door open and said, “Get in.”
When he raced back around to the driver’s side, Maurice hurled himself at Amy’s window.
He spat heavily on the ground. “Stupid girl! You should have nothing to do with this man. He killed my son! He’s dangerous! He hurts everybody he touches—especially women! He drives like a maniac!”
Remy strode back around the car. “Maurice, you’d better leave her alone.”
“Or what? You’ll call the police? You think you’re safe because you own this town, don’t you.”
“If you want to talk to me, make an appointment with my secretary.” Remy held out a business card. “I’ll be happy to see you anytime.”
Maurice grabbed it and shredded it, then hurled the bits at Remy. He spat on the ground again. “I’ll see you in hell. That’s where I’ll see you.”
“Fine.” Remy got into his car, slammed the door and jammed his key in the ignition. The engine roared to life.
Careful of Maurice, whose bulk was blocking half the lane, Remy shifted and drove up on the curb to avoid the man and get away. Only when they were outside the village did he speed up, but his face remained grim. He gripped the wheel so hard, his knuckles punched the skin like bleached bones.
Even when the village was several miles behind them, his fury, grief and self-loathing remained such a presence in the car that Amy grew close to tears. What must he have suffered this past year?
“Are you cold?” he asked her. “Do you want the top up?”
She pushed her braid back. “No, I’m fine.”
“Right.” Jamming his foot down on the accelerator, he sped toward Château Serene as if chased by demons.
She thought he wanted to be rid of her so he could be alone. But when he pulled up in the curving stone drive of Château Serene and stopped, he reached across her to open her door.
“I wish I could have spared you that little scene,” he said.
He drew a deep, resigned breath. For the next few minutes he was silent. “Look, if you’ve changed your mind…about seeing me for a month, I’ll understand.”
She buried her face in her hands and shook her head.
“I can’t see you until tomorrow. Apparently I have a previous engagement today.”
“Oh.” Looking up, she fought to hide her disappointment. Not that she asked questions. He had a life.
His jaw was set. His expression was so dark and cold, her eyes began to burn. Determined to escape before she broke down completely, she quickly scooted toward her open door. But when she would have gotten out, his arm snaked across the back of the seat and pulled her to him.
“You’re not crying, are you?”
“No!” When she felt dampness oozing down her cheeks, she sniffed. “Sinuses. I’m allergic to the cypresses.”
“Liar.” He crushed her to him, stroking her face and hair. “I’m sorry. I had a great time until my mother called and Maurice showed up. I’ll miss you today.” He kissed each cheek, tasting her hot, salty tears. “What will you do with all your free time?”
“You’re sweet. I don’t deserve you,” he whispered. Then he let her go.