Authors: Kristy Phillips
Text copyright © 2015 Kristy Phillips
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
I looked up from my paint palate and turned down my iPod. Yeah, it was the doorbell. Why would Nan and Pops be ringing the bell? I hadn’t locked the door... Wiping my paint-smeared hands on a rag, I stuffed it in the back pocket of my trusty painting overalls and headed through the hall to the main house.
I caught sight of an unfamiliar car in the drive as I passed the bank of windows at the front of the house. Our place was well enough off the beaten path that visitors were rare. Who could this be? Opening the door I came face to face with the most gorgeous man I had ever seen. He was tall and had broad shoulders, but he was lean. His piercing green eyes, almost the exact same color as my own, were made even more dramatic by his thick dark eyelashes. His black hair was just this side of too long to look professional, which was just as well, because it helped to take the focus off his full, pouty lips, and strong jaw line.
My mouth popped open into a surprised “o”, and before I could stop myself, I drew back my fist and punched him as hard as I could in his beautifully shaped nose. I heard a crunching sound and pain exploded in my knuckles. I clutched my wounded paw to my chest and sucked air through my teeth.
“Ouch! You sonofabitch. I think I broke my hand.”
He let out a few choice words of his own.
“Porca puttana Lara!
What’s all this?” He gingerly felt his left cheekbone and blinked back stinging tears in surprise.
I gave him my iciest glare, reserved for pedophiles and politicians. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He gaped at me in confusion. “Well, I came to see you, naturally. Though to be honest, this isn’t the reception I was expecting.”
My traitorous body responded to his innuendo, even as my brain was struggling to decide whether to punch him again and risk my left hand too, or to settle for spitting in his face. “I don’t know what you were thinking to accomplish by coming here unannounced, Julien, but you can turn right back around. You can’t see him.”
His brow furrowed in confusion. “See whom?” then a realization flashed in his eyes. “Oh. You have someone. But of course you do. It was foolish of me to have assumed otherwise... A man can dream, no?” His flirty smile and sheepish shrug brought me back to our time together in the Mediterranean. For just a second I forgot to hate him, but only just a second.
“I have someone? Yes I have someone, you stupid man. Was that supposed to be funny?” Julien just stood there as if watching a crazy person muttering to an empty room. I sighed in sad frustration. “Just go, Julien. If you want visitation then take it up with my lawyer.” I wanted him gone. It was sweet torture looking into his deceptively beautiful face, and I didn’t want to explain his presence to my grandparents who were going to be home any minute.
, I don’t understand your anger. I thought we had left each other on good terms...”
I snorted with derision. “Good terms? You mean the money? Yeah. I certainly appreciate the money, but if you think it in any way serves as a substitution for being a-” my rant was cut short by the crunch of my grandparents’ tires on the gravel drive. Shit. They were home. There would be no getting around this. They’d know who he was even before he opened his damned French-Italian mouth.
They parked near the garage. My Nan hopped out of the passenger side with the energy of a woman half her age, no doubt eager to greet our unexpected visitor. Pops was on the far side from us, and much slower to come around the car as he was unbuckling Alex from his car seat.
Nan gasped as Julien turned to greet her. “Sweet Lord! It’s like looking into the future. Why, if Alex isn’t a carbon copy. Oh, and look at those eyes. You know, I always thought he had your eyes, Lara, but now I see I was mistaken.” Nan had the tenacity of a terrier. Julien stood politely by with a look of mild amusement on his face as Nan poured over him like a farmer inspecting livestock. “Daniel!” she called to my grandfather. “Hurry with that, and come get a look at this man. Tell me he isn’t the very image of our Alex!”
Julien was starting to look uncomfortable. He shifted his weight and turned back to me. “Alex?”
I stared stoically back at him. I could feel bright patches of heat high on my cheeks, and knew I was doing a terrible job of masking my inner turmoil. “Your son.”
As I spoke the quiet words, the son in question came careening around the car and bounding into my arms. “Mama! Good morning!” he said, even though it was late afternoon.
Julien blanched. I had heard of people turning green around the gills before, but had never seen it first hand until now. He looked from Alex back to me and started speaking in rapid Italian. I put a restraining hand on his arm to shut him up. “Nan? Could you take Alex inside for a minute, please? I need a few more moments alone with Julien here.”
My Nan and Pops collected Alex and filed into the house. As exuberant as my grandmother was, she knew when to give a situation the necessary space. I could see her curiosity bubbling in her face as she passed me. Pops was more reserved. He paused briefly to take in Julien up close, then closed the door gently behind them to give us privacy.
The second the door closed Julien started up again, this time in English, but he reverted back to Italian almost immediately. He was obviously very agitated. “My son? You’re telling me I have a son?
Oh dio mio.
What story is this?
Come può essere? Perché dovresti tenere questo da me?”
As good as an actor as I knew he could be, he wasn’t acting now. It was abundantly clear to me that he was only this moment learning of Alex. I began to feel a bit light-headed. Suddenly everything I thought I knew to be the truth in my life was being called into question. How could this be? I had told him myself of my pregnancy. He had made his feelings on the matter quite clear when he had demanded I get an abortion, and when he had finally accepted the fact that I intended to keep the baby, he had faithfully wired money into my account every month, never so much as a day late, but adamantly refused to be otherwise involved in either Alex’s or my life.
We stood there on my porch, both of us shocked and confused for very different reasons. Shakily, he ran a hand through his tousled hair. “Lara, forgive me, but I must ask you... You’re sure he is mine?”
It took me a minute to muster the appropriate amount of indignation at his question. I squared my shoulders and fixed him with another glare. “Positive. Aside from the fact that he is quite obviously a clone of you, you are the only man I have ever been with.”
I could see this information slowly penetrating his very flustered psyche. I blushed crimson, but refused to break eye contact with him as he gave a small gasp, no doubt remembering our first time together; my first time
I was wearing a borrowed, scandalously short, strappy sequined dress in a nightclub in Cassis France. Having never been to a club in the states before, I had nothing with which to compare this one. It was loud, and the crowd was boisterous. Svetlana, a traveling party girl I had met at the hostel, and I had been enjoying cocktails courtesy of the sweaty man near the bar. Feeling our groove, we hit the dance floor, determined to work up a sweat of our own.
There was no rhyme or reason to the music. It would flow from a drum and bass song to a current one hit wonder. I didn’t care. I just let my body flow to whatever came on. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirrored ceiling. My hair was tousled and my eyes were bright and wild. Who was this girl?
The music changed again. Now it was a salsa beat. He came up behind me, seamlessly molding himself to my back while keeping in perfect time to the music. I could feel his hands on my hips and his breath on my neck. This man could move. Grabbing my hand, he spun me to face him. The crowd made a small clearing around us as we danced against each other in a sexy, violent, rhythmic trance.
The music pulsed around us and I became aware of a shift in my consciousness. My body was responding to his of its own accord. It was as if we were two bodies being controlled by one brain. I knew where he was going to move before it happened. When the song ended, we kept dancing, changing our pace to match the following song. We went on like that for several songs. I lost count after four. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. He seemed to sense I was growing fatigued. When the current song ended he put his hand on the small of my back and led me back to where I had been sitting at the bar.
As he gave instructions to the bartender, I realized what it was about him that seemed out of place. He was wearing a tux. His jacket and bow tie were missing, his sleeves rolled up and his collar undone, but the shirt and pants were definitely those of a tuxedo. He turned back to me and pressed a cold glass into my hand while positioning his mouth right next to my ear so I could hear him over the music.
.” His voice was smooth and authoritative. I took a large swallow of the proffered beverage. It was minty, and I couldn’t taste any alcohol. I wasn’t so naive as to assume that there was no alcohol in it, but the mint masked it completely.
“You speak English.” I spoke as loudly as I could without actually yelling.
He smiled a lazy, sexy smile that curled the edge of his full lips. My stomach flopped at the glint in his eye, and my heartbeat sped up as he leaned in to be heard again. “I find it the easiest way to be understood by pretty American girls.” I could feel him take a deep breath in before pulling away again.
Wow. Well played, sir.
I was emboldened by his obvious interest in me. This time, I leaned in. “Is it so obvious that I’m American?”
He cradled my jaw with his hand, keeping my head in place as he turned the slightest bit so he was speaking near my ear again. “A lucky guess,
ma chérie. Je pourrais tout aussi bien pu ai dit en français.”