Authors: Annabel Fanning
Copyright © Annabel Fanning 2014
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced
or transmitted without prior permission
from the author.
First published in October, 2014,
by Annabel Fanning
Cover artwork supplied by Shutterstock
Cover designed by Annabel Fanning
Find Annabel online at:
1. Begin Again
2. My Funny Valentine
5. Tell Me
6. Ready For Love
7. Nothing At All
8. You Shook Me All Night Long
13. You Got It
1. Begin Again
What a prick
, I think heatedly, replaying our last conversation over in my mind. It was less of a conversation and more of a confession: Jerry cheated on me.
! And not just with anyone, oh no, of course not, but with the evil cow, who can only be described as my nemesis: Mimi Pims.
I, Gemima, had to leave the office party early due to some sort of food poisoning, while Jerry, who doesn’t even work there, said he’ll join me at home later. This seems odd to me, but too consumed in
throwing up in front of everyone I work with, including the nemesis, Mimi, I leave. And while I’m hurling my guts out into the toilet bowl, Jerry is fucking Mimi in the toilets at the party, coming harder than he’s ever come before.
“I couldn’t believe it, Gem,” he soon confesses to me. “I’ve never come so much in one go!”
I stare at him, my eyes wide. Which part of his pea-sized brain (which, incidentally, makes his brain bigger than his penis) thinks it’s necessary for me to know such details?
What a prick
, I think again.
In hindsight, I like to think that my purge that evening was actually of him. I was getting rid of every last, nasty, cheating part of him that I’d ever consumed. And then…it was time to start anew. A new house, a new job, both more satisfactory than the last. A new lover? No, not yet. I can’t fathom how I’ll ever manage to trust a guy again after Jerry.
I haven’t thought about him for many weeks, and I’m only doing so now because of where I am and what I’m doing here. I shuffle hastily down the narrow Parisian streets towards the cafe. It’s Wednesday; it’s lunchtime and it’s busy; it’s February and I’m freezing my ass off. Despite living here for the best part of eight years, my blood still thinks it’s in Florida, where I used to live. It never gets cold there, not like this. I curse inwardly for not wearing my warmer coat, and I curse again willing the street full of people to get out of my way. It’s OK, though, I’m on time, and when I finally break free of the crowded, claustrophobic streets I enter one of the large expansive spaces that the city is full of, and I spot the cafe: Genévrier.
It looks full with the lunchtime crowd. I expect I’ll have to wait to be seated, and I expect the man I’m meeting will be late, but as I close the gap between myself and the cafe, I’m taken aback to see him already seated, alfresco, under a glowing red heater. I know this is the man I’m here to meet because I recognise him; I’ve met him before, and yet, somehow, he is totally new to me. For example, I cannot recall previously acknowledging how beautiful he is. But, he
beautiful; beautiful not in a too-perfect european-model kind of way, but in a strong, sexy, manly way. Shit, he’s
, I think…and now I’ve forgotten his name! I’m shocked by my own reaction. Ogling is not usually my style, and neither is forgetting names. I pride myself on always greeting people by their names. I slow my walk slightly, giving me half a second longer to remember his. Logan! I smile, thanking myself. Logan…Logan…Logan…
! Logan Leary, that’s it!
In Paris there is an American Association of Builders and Designers, AABD, who get together biannually for what I can only describe as a piss-up. It was at one such event, a couple of years ago now, that I first met Logan Leary, who despite his youth owns one of the largest construction companies in the city. He’s worked with Jerry, who is a builder, several times, and Jerry, a real brown-noser, spoke frequently about Logan’s many and varied projects. I’m part of AABD too, as an interior designer, though before joining the company where I work now, my work was of little value to people higher up the ladder like Jerry, and the man who is sat before me.
Logan looks up, registers my face and smiles immediately. I hold onto the back of a chair to steady my legs. Jeez, he’s got a nice smile; dimples appear in his chiseled cheeks and there is familiarity and warmth in his eyes. Real warmth, the likes of which I’ve not often seen. It suddenly strikes me that this man, whoever he might turn out to be, is genuine.
Logan stands quickly and holds out a large, slender hand for me to shake. “Samuels,” he greets me enthusiastically. Samuels is my surname and what most people call me. Either that or Gem; to be called Gemima is a rare treat.
“Leary,” I smile, equally as enthusiastic and informal, and pleased with myself once more for remembering his name on time.
Our hands touch and I feel a strange heat there. The sensation creates a tingle throughout the rest of my body. It’s a sharp stab of excitement; it feels like a jolt of life force itself. It’s a
, the voice in my head coos. I want to roll my eyes at myself.
, I inwardly chastise. Our hands drop and the feeling is gone, but something lingers on between us. The mix of surprise and delight in his eyes tells me that he feels it too. There’s chemistry here. Real chemistry. And this time I do not scold myself for my bold thoughts.
“How’ve you been?” he asks me, as he walks around to my chair, which faces his, and pulls it out for me.
“Good,” I say, taking a seat and unwrapping my scarf; I don’t need it under the rays of the heater. “And you?” I ask as he moves gracefully back to his own seat.
“I’m fine,” he tells me, and I don’t doubt him. Something about his air tells me he has no problems in the world. He’s simple, uncomplicated…and oh, so gorgeous!
Taking me a little by surprise, he probes, “How are you really?” And I know he’s referring to my breakup with Jerry.
With equal candour, I proclaim, “I’m well shot of him.”
He smiles his dazzling smile again and I instantly cross my legs as though this will put a stop to the affect he’s having on me. His pale green eyes shine, standing out strikingly against his sun-kissed skin.
He must’ve holidayed recently
, I think absentmindedly. His medium blonde hair sits haphazardly upon his head, the same way most young professionals have it these days; somewhere between kempt and hippy. And I steal a glance at his throat, where his Adam’s apple jerks up when he smiles, sitting subtly under a fine layer of stubble which covers his cheeks, his chin and most of his neck.
“On that we are agreed,” he states, rubbing his cheek, looking ever-so-slightly nervous.
I lean back in my chair and stare at him. He doesn’t think I belong with Jerry…
. And it’s clear that he thinks admitting it, as he’s just done, is a nerve-inducing move. My god, he looks good when he’s nervous!
As far as candid comments go, I leave him in my wake, as I blurt out, “You are
He laughs, embarrassed.
embarrassed him, and I find myself thrilled by the fact that I’m able to do that. He shakes his head, and I raise my eyebrows at him, making him laugh again. A little colour flushes his cheeks, and I am on cloud-nine.
“Seriously,” I continue, unable to stop myself, “you’re beautiful. I actually can’t believe I never noticed that when we’ve met before.”
He looks back at me with humour in his eyes. His mouth is doing something between a smirk and a smile. His lips are full and light pink, and the longer I look at them the redder I feel myself going. It’s that damned heater, I tell myself, as I unbutton my jacket and pull it off.
“And here I was expecting that
would be the forward one today,” he says.
I can’t wait to hear this
! “By all means,” I hold my hand out, indicating that he should continue.
But he falters. He’s nervous, and he seems unsure of where to begin. A small, petite waitress saves him by interrupting our conversation. She stands next to the table, bobbing up and down, waiting. For a moment that feels more like a minute, Logan and I peer deep into each other’s eyes, before he blinks and looks down.
The waitress asks what she can get us.
I continue to look at Logan as his eyes scan the menu, and wonder what in holy hell is going on here? I’ve never,
, felt a connection like this before. I wreck my brain trying desperately to recall meeting Logan at the AABD party. I can vaguely see him in my minds-eye. He looks like he does now: gorgeous, sweet and oh, so sexy. But it had not registered that way at the time. Why not? Surely it’s not possible to look at this man and
see his beauty?
Maybe, I inform myself, I didn’t see him like this because I wasn’t looking to. I was in a happy relationship at the time, or so I thought. But I have to be honest with myself and note that Jerry has never floored me the way Logan is right now.
me…Me…Logan…on a floor!
, I shout in my head. I cross my legs tighter. Seriously, this charge between us is doing things to me. I’m getting hot under the collar, as well as other places, and I know I can only blame the heater for so much longer.
I distract myself by looking at the menu too. Logan orders a lemonade, I order a cola, no ice. The waitress is busy making eyes at the man opposite me. Disgruntled though it makes me, I cannot blame her for trying.
“No ice,” I repeat, as I’m pretty sure she didn’t hear me. “Or I’ll freeze my tits off.”
Finally she looks at me, her expression blank. I repeat my sentiment in French. She giggles a little, getting my point, and then leaves us alone.
I flush crimson. Did I really just say that in front of this dreamy man? Who, thanks to my big mouth, now knows I think he’s handsome! I admit, speaking my mind has never been a struggle for me. In fact, the opposite is true. I’ve always been forward; outspoken, even. I blame the overconfident American in me. Sometimes I wish I’d remember to think first before blurting out whatever’s running through my head. Think, think, think, I tell myself.
“I should really learn to speak more eloquently,” I say to Logan by way of an apology.
He shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it. You are, after all, American, and as such you have a certain image to uphold,” he says. He’s teasing me…I like it.
“You mean of being overly-candid, and often inarticulate?” I laugh.
He smiles and nods, studying my face of mirth the way I just did his.
The waitress returns quickly with our drinks. There’s goddamn ice in my cola! Despite the cock-up I lift my freezing glass and raise a toast…to us.
“Two Americans in Paris,” I say.
“Cheers to that,” he says, bringing his glass up to meet mine.
We tap them together. Neither one of us breaks eye contact as our lips part and we both take a quick sip of our drinks. On lowering his glass he licks his bottom lip. He does it without noticing.
notice. I find myself longing to lick his bottom lip too.
! I scold myself. I shake my head slightly, clearing my thoughts. Seriously, if I were watching the two of us from the outside I’d be in hysterics over how serious and suggestive we’re being. But I can’t laugh. Here on the inside of this strange bubble we’re in, it is far too intense to fathom laughter. All we seem able to do is look at each other, and again I’m unsure of how much time is passing.
Upon delivering our drinks the waitress stands idly by our table, waiting to take our food order. Logan orders a pasta dish and a glass of wine to accompany it. I tell her I’ll have the same. She nods and walks away as I look down at the menu to see how much that wine costs.
! Thirty euros for one glass! That kind of oversight would have had Jerry reeling. Never mind, I tell myself quickly. I’m an independent woman now, who can spend her cash any way she chooses. I don’t need to appease that prick anymore.
“Jerry is a prick,” Logan says to me. I am instantly convinced he can read my mind.
“I concur,” I say quickly.
“Did you know I fired him from our latest project?”
My eyes widen in surprise. Where’s he going with this? “I did not,” I confess. “But I’m glad you did,” I add coldly.
He smiles, his eyes smouldering. He’s lost his earlier inhibition; he’s confident and for the first time the conversation begins to flow freely. “I was going to fire him two years ago. I wanted to, desperately, but I couldn’t.”
“Ah, well, some of those contracts can be tricky to dissolve.”
“That’s not why,” he tells me. I look at him quizzically. He takes a breath and embodies his brave, bold and daring persona. We’re beginning to unravel why exactly he asked me to meet him today. “I was all set to fire him two years ago, I was going to do it after the winter AABD party, but something at that party changed my mind… It was you.”
I gape at him.
“That’s the first time we met, do you remember?”
“I do,” I stammer.
“Jerry walks in, smug asshole he is, and on his arm…is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” he says, and his sincerity does not waver. He frowns as he remembers, “But he’s so nonchalant towards her…so inattentive…as though he has no clue how radiant his girlfriend is. This shocks me. How can you be with such a stunning woman and act so coldly? And how come said stunning woman doesn’t throw her drink in his face, and choose a man more suited to her, who will dote upon her always?” His questions linger in the air, ringing in my ears. He takes another swig of his lemonade, and then shrugs.
He’s talking about me in third person. This makes his words sound sexier, though no less unreal to me. I am tempted to look around for hidden cameras. This is surely some sort of sick joke. But I cannot pull my eyes away from Logan’s. He has me captivated.
“It was strange to see you with him. He’s really not your type, you know?” he grins, and my body wants to groan. “I spent the whole night gazing at you, enamoured.”
“What—what was I doing?” I manage to say. I have no recollection of having his eyes on me.
“Sitting, mostly. Wringing your hands, perhaps waiting for your boyfriend to ask you to dance, which, of course, he never did.” He’s disapproving.
“He’s no dancer.”