Chapter 09

It were the tiny things that made life so much more fun for him. The sheer experience of having Bella in his life, every single day – or most of them, actually, made him feel something that he hadn’t felt for a very long time. Probably never. It was intoxicating, but that settled after a few weeks together. Not entirely, but it still settled, and it was easier not to get sidetracked.

Bella had surprised him one night that she wanted to feel what it would be like if she couldn’t see. She rationalized that living with him that being with him was inviting her into his world, but only able to stay at the door and she wanted in. There were no words that could fully explain how Auggie felt, how he saw, how he experienced things without his vision and even though she could see how he was doing, what Auggie was doing and how he did it, she wanted to experience it for herself.

So he blindfolded her.

He did it as a joke. He thought it was sweet that she wanted to see what he saw – or not seeing, it was something none of his previous girlfriends, flings, had asked of him and it had been a special, one-time deal only. He showed her how he moved around the apartment. He let her feel the tags in his clothes. He showed her around in the kitchen, even made her feel the tiny buttons on the coffee machine that he had given up on trying to figure out.

And then they had sex.

A couple of days after her experience, she asked him if it was inappropriate and disrespectful of her wanting to have their home a level playing field, with her not being able to see while she was at home when it was just the two of them. He thought that the hint of embarrassment in her voice was endearing and flattering at the same time. It wasn’t easy not being able to see; it was something that had been forced upon him, and she wanted to do it voluntarily. For him.

He didn’t want to ask that of her, and she told him that he hadn’t. It was her choice, and she wanted to do it. Another reason for her to do it was that every time he cooked or made her coffee on his own machine was that she wanted to take things like that out of his hands while he was more than capable of doing it by himself.

So unless she were on her laptop or making coffee on the fancy coffee maker, she’d wear a blindfold.

He was pretty sure that she was covered in bruises after the first week. Loads of stubbed toes and bumping into things, and yet she didn’t give up. She had the opportunity to fool him by taking off the blindfold and pretend, but she didn’t. She was determined to struggle until she’d be able to do it. Just like he had to learn everything, she was going to be patient and learn it all too.

It made her realize that sometimes when she was trying to help him, she wasn’t. It made her understand him a lot better; it also made her understand his responses a lot better. Sure, she had a psychology degree and could give great insights, but now her ideas could come from experience. Meet him halfway, or even all the way.

Auggie thought it was beautiful. A beautiful thing.

It was a good thing that Bella and Jai were currently on a fishing expedition in Brussels because Bella would have hurt Annie for her behavior. After Sri Lanka, Guam and everything that happened with Ben Mercer – damn him, she threw herself right back into work, and he feared that the happenings were affecting her judgment. She was gravitating over the line between paranoia and intuition, and she could really mess things up for herself, or for the asset that she believed was in danger.

Or was it a good thing? After her assignment, Joan sent her to France to cultivate an asset and Jai and Bella were going to follow her there from Brussels. It meant that Bella wasn’t coming home for another week and that he was now all alone with both his friends overseas. It sucked, and all he could do was wait at his desk while he worked on other projects and be amused by Joan’s invitation for jury duty.

Joan could easily pull some strings to get out from underneath it, and yet, she was going through with it and head for the selection because she ‘wouldn’t be selected’ anyway but wanted to go because it was her civic duty. He thought it was optional. Worse of all; she was going to leave the DPD in his hands while she was gone. Not that he couldn’t handle it or that he wasn’t welcoming it, it was just that he was already so busy and to fill in for Joan scared him shitless.

“Somebody remind me again why we are babysitting Blondie?” Bella commented as she stared at the woman’s reflection in the shop window before finding herself distracted by the coat on display.

“Because she’s never cultivated an asset like this before,” Jai reminded her kindly. “And because according to Auggie, she’s been behaving a little bit erratic since her return.”

“Her boyfriend dumped her again without so much as a fuck you. She’s allowed to be inconsistent and pissed off,” she murmured, having been in a similar position. “I want that coat. You stay here and wait for me,” she smiled up at him, patting him on the cheek before slipping into the shop.

Jai sighed and leaned against the wall as he looked at the street and the people on it. Women and clothes, a dangerous combination.

A few doors down, across the street, Annie left the store she had been in with her targeted asset and begun walking in their direction. It hadn’t been long, but Bella soon exited the shop with a large bag on her arm and a smile on her face. “Sorry. I just really liked that coat,” she blushed as she made her way to his side, looking down to check her purse that she had everything before they moved on.

“That’s okay,” he smiled at her and offered his arm. “We need to cross the street; they’re heading our way.”

She grinned as she wrapped her arm around his and leaned into him as they moved to avoid the two women. “What shall we see next while we are in town? Certainly need to make the most of the trip while we can. Lord knows someone else is,” she hinted knowingly.

“Well, have you ever been to the Louvre? Or maybe climb the Eiffel Tower?”

“Like our friend, I’ve never been here. I’d have liked to have come here with Auggie but… sightseeing isn’t as fun. I feel bad as it is because I can’t share the city with him as it should be,” she admitted as she gazed out at the sun. “The tower sounds fun.”

“Why not? Just because he’s blind, doesn’t mean you can’t sightsee,” Jai said with a light chuckle as he steered them into the direction of the tower. “He goes on holidays on his own and sightsee. There’s a jazz festival in Istanbul that he likes to go to, for example.”

She looked thoughtful as she considered what he said, laying her head on his shoulder as they walked. She hadn’t thought of it that way, even with the changes in her life she had made for him. Smiling, Bella started planning potential ideas for his birthday or a weekend getaway.

“I mean, you and I are blessed with good vision, we use our eyes to enjoy things, but if you’d have him up on that Eiffel Tower, he’d tell you that Paris is beautiful. He takes in everything by smell and sound. He would feel the vibration of the metal tower due to the wind even better than you and I ever could.”

“I’ll have to plan something special for him when later. I think I have some direction now. Thanks, Jai,” she replied, hugging him closer.

“You’re welcome,” he smiled smugly. “Go bungee jumping or something.”

“Uh, no,” Bella scoffed. “I already went skydiving once with him. Don’t care for a repeat of that.”

“But you’re attached to a wire when you go bungee jumping, not a lot of wiggle room there,” Jai grinned. “What happened? Wait, was this at the Farm? That little incident?”

“Little incident my ass,” she muttered, glaring away.

“Then maybe we shouldn’t go up the tower, you might throw up all over me,” he laughed as he looked across the street. Annie was alone now and on her phone, likely to Auggie. “Let’s grab some food instead.”

Bella eyed the woman and sighed. “Sure. And for the record, it wasn’t because of the height. I’ve gone cliff diving back home plenty of times. I just had bad food the night before, no thanks to him.”

Jai took her to a brasserie after Annie took off and ordered them coffee while they looked at the menu. “You know, I get the idea why Joan would want us to babysit and be a team with Annie and Auggie, but it’s seriously constricting us with our own jobs. I’d rather be stateside.”

“I’d rather be stateside too. I just got my job set up again at the Smithsonian. Luckily, it didn’t take much and there were a few faces there that still recognize me from my last stretch, so it helps.”

“We should call Auggie for an update,” Jai said as he took his phone out and dialed his number while putting him on speaker.

If it isn’t my least favorite person… wait, am I on speaker?”

“Yes, you are. How’s Annie doing?”

Oh, great. She’s taking her new friend to the party tonight.”

“Party?” Bella asked.

Art, black tie event. You have invitations in your email, aren’t you checking your emails?”

She snorted and took a sip of her tea. “We are in Paris, Auggie. I may not be nearly as bad as Annie, but I – sometimes get distracted by the pretty. We just stopped for lunch. It got boring watching her shop all morning.”

You’re still working. Emails are efficient. As long as you’re paying for the pretty yourself, you’re golden. Don’t want Joan to have a coronary when she returns because Annie spent 6000 euros on a bag to make a new friend.”

Bella spat out her tea, almost getting it over Jai across the table. “How much? We’re here almost a week and I bought myself one coat and two dresses while being stuck on her tail. We’ve seen her come out of almost every shop with a bag on her arm. Holy fuck!” she snapped, looking around for anyone overhearing. “Forget a coronary. Joan is going to murder her. She’s going to be the next star on the wall!”

I’ll just file a request to deduct it from her salary and Joan will be happy,” Auggie said, amusement evident in his voice. “Check your email for those invites. Buy a new dress or whatever. Suit.”

“And I paid for my own things… Yeah, yeah. This new dress is on work’s dime right?” she hinted as she grinned at Jai.

Yes.”

“Anything else we need to know, Auggie?”

Not really. I’m quite busy at the moment now that Joan’s out of the office. She left me in charge because she wants to do her civil duty and not get chosen for jury duty. If she gets chosen, I’m going to laugh so hard.”

“Why would she-”

Exactly! I tried to talk her out of it, but you know her.”

“Enough. We have preparations for tonight now and this is wasting valuable time. You gave me a reason to go into Parisian shops and while I’m not a fan of shopping, you don’t exactly turn an offer like this down when someone else is paying. I’ll call you later,” she said as she reached over and disconnected the call. Looking at her friend, she smirked. “You coming with or you going back to the hotel?”

“I have a tux packed and ready to wear,” Jai said, clearly entertained. “I’m going to order food and then I’m going to do some sightseeing while you shop and then head back to the hotel.”

She checked her watch before searching through her phone for the email her boyfriend mentioned. “Can you pick something up for me on your way back? I should be done by then. It’s one dress, really. How hard can it be?”

“What do you need?”

Hesitating, she bit her lip. “Time. I don’t want to pick just any dress and go. I get to keep it, so if I go to another event and have to wear it again, I want something I like,” she answered though her tone had a hint of vagueness.

“I understand, but what do you need me to pick up for you?”

“Food,” she blinked.

Jai laughed and nodded. It was clear that she was already suffering from the ‘woman in spending mode’ syndrome. “I’ll pick up some food for you. Have fun.”

~o.O.o~

Bella and Jai walked in, arm in arm. Looking around, she let out a dramatic sigh. “I have to hand it to you. I don’t know how you were able to stomach so many of these events with your father growing up,” she murmured. “I’d have gotten my dad’s gun, and shot him. By him, I mean, yours.”

“Quite easy, the trick is to head straight for the bar and stay there all night,” Jai smiled at her and gently pat her arm. She looked gorgeous; Auggie would have gotten a heart attack if he could have seen her like this. “However, since this is an art institution and there is actual art on the walls, brush up and look at them.”

Snatching a flute of champagne from a passing waitress, she smiled. “Of course, Darling. As you wish,” she replied before gliding off and disappearing into the crowd to look at art and subtly listen in on conversations.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” A familiar voice said from next to her. “The subtlety of the lines on the canvas, the way they curve and highlight every important aspect…”

Bella’s breath let out slowly through her nose as she smiled. “I suppose. However, I believe it’s more a matter of opinion. One that can be misconstrued and known to result in fractured noses.”

Eyal smirked and pointed at the painting. “I doubt that the painting could give me a fractured nose unless it’s wielded by someone quite strong,” he mused. “However, you do look exquisite, nashama.”

She looked around for anyone in immediate earshot, and Jai, before glaring at him. “Cut the nashama crap. You know I don’t like it, and I made that quite clear the last time I was forced to work with you. Why are you here?” she demanded.

“I am working,” he said with a smile on his face. “I haven’t seen you for quite some time; I must say that I was worried.”

“I’ve been out of touch,” she answered evasively, a shrug of the shoulder to dismiss it. “Sorry, I forget to send you a postcard.”

Jai made his way over from the bar to join Bella and protectively put his arm around her as he looked at the Mossad agent. “We can’t even have a holiday without you showing up?” He asked the man before planting a kiss on top of Bella’s head. “You alright, sweetheart?”

“Just peachy. I’d be better if I weren’t so worried about getting my dress bloodied,” she murmured under her breath just loud enough for both men to hear as she kept her eyes on Eyal. “He’s here working,” she smiled mischievously.

“Then he should leave us alone, since we’re not,” Jai said, not taking his eyes off of Bella. “In all honesty, I hate it that you insisted for us to go here, I’d rather rip off that dress in the hotel room,” he teased her.

Eyal blinked. “Enjoy your holiday. Forget you ever saw my face,” he said quickly before walking off, red faced.

“Asshole,” she grumbled before turning to look up at her friend. “And you!” Bella started, her mouth open in shock. “Could have laid it on a little heavier. He’ll be back before the night is over.”

Jai couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah, but your actual boyfriend might want to kill me if he ever finds out about this and boy, for a blind guy, he knows exactly where to punch to make it hurt even worse.”

“That’s my man,” she commented proudly. “Catch anything here yet? Besides Israeli roaches?”

“Not yet. Annie came in with her friend, she’s at the bar right now,” Jai said as he looked over his shoulder. “And the roach has found her, it seems.”

“$100 says they’re working the same asset,” Bella bet as she turned to take a look for herself. “Only question is what he has in this.”

“Well, the asset is worth cultivating. No doubt he threw his charms at her. I’ll see your 100 and add 50 bucks for the potential boyfriend.”

She watched on for a minute and sighed. “No need. You’d win. It’s his M.O. Well, that or violence. As friendly and charming he may be, he has a lot of anger in him that he uses his job to get out. He’s a liability and our friend is going to get caught up sooner or later.”

“Perhaps, or she could make it into a perfect work relationship. Our friend has some screws loose in her head anyway.”

Bella didn’t want to give away what she knew about the man, what personal details he had revealed to her over the time they’ve known and had to work together. “She needs to walk on glass around him, regardless. She will get burned by his actions, and he will sell her out to save his hide,” she warned with a sigh and turned away to look out to the ballroom.

“Let’s dance,” Jai said as he took her hand and gently pulled her towards the dancefloor. “Have some fun.”

She let him guide her, sliding her arms up to his shoulders. “There is one thing about these events. The food is fantastic, and I can’t complain about the company tonight, infestations aside.”

He smiled at her. “The art world can be quite a fancy party, yes,” he agreed. “And unfortunately, infestations are part of the job.”

“You know,” she grinned as she leaned in closer as they danced. “You never did tell me what your father thought of my present I sent him. He must love it.”

“I try to stay out of my father’s business; you know that,” he muttered in her ear. “But I promise that the next time I’m at his place, and he’s not, I’ll mount it to the front door.”

“Pictures. Oh, I need pictures of that. Please?” Bella begged as turned her eyes up to him. “If you could get video of his reaction, that would just be the icing.”

“Bella? Is that you?” a male voice sounded surprised. Jai narrowed his eyes on the man as he straightened himself and pulled her closer.

Her eyes fell closed as she sucked in a breath. “Fucking hell,” she muttered to herself as her nails dug into his arms. “I come home after a year only to need to find a damn exterminator.” Turning around, she kept her face carefully neutral as she took in the pair she hadn’t seen in person since high school. “Emmett. Rosalie,” she acknowledged, who stood silently beside him.

“Wow, you look great!” He said excitedly as he looked over to his wife. “Doesn’t she, Rose?”

Rosalie gave her a soft smile and nodded. “Yeah, you do,” she agreed as she took in the sight of the girl, then the man who held her. “Are you living in France now?”

“We’re on a vacation,” Jai replied as he extended his hand towards them. “Hi, Jai Wilcox. Always good to meet my girlfriend’s friends.”

Emmett happily shook his hand and looked like he wanted to hug Bella, but she remained glued to Jai’s side as she stared at them. “Likewise. You have a great girl here. My brother was a real dick, still is, but hey! That’s family, right?”

“Emmett,” Rose warned. “We made an agreement that we wouldn’t talk about them whenever we’re away from the family.”

“You live in the States? It’s just that Bella rarely talks about things,” Jai said pleasantly, gently squeezing Bella’s side to remind her to breathe.

Bella let out a sigh and turned her head away from the two to his shoulder but only enough that they still heard. “With good reason,” she huffed, before glaring back. “Don’t tell me that you haven’t heard that I’ve been traveling Europe from Alice after my run in with her and her blond Puli in London.”

“You’ve seen Alice?” Emmett blinked. “Was she alright? Did she look okay?”

“We’re not due to come home for another month or so,” Rosalie explained as she shrugged. “While we’re traveling, we don’t have any contact with the rest of the family. Nice and quiet.”

She narrowed her eyes at them and nodded. “Alice was the same yapping chihuahua that she was in high school. It took about all the restraint I had not to shove the heel of my shoe into her eye socket.”

Emmett chuckled. “That’s my Bella!”

“She’s mine if you haven’t noticed,” Jai deadpanned, pulling Bella even closer to him.

“Now, there’s no need to go all neanderthal on me… yet. You’ll have to wait,” she smiled up at him.

“We were thinking about disappearing completely, find some remote village in Alaska or something,” Rosalie muttered. “But they’ll find us wherever we go.”

Bella looked over at them, wrapping her arm around Jai and her fingers digging into his waist. “I heard Sri Lanka is pretty nice. Last I knew, they didn’t have any business that far out. And it’s not cold.”

Jai looked at her, surprised. She used to constantly rage about the Cullens and their entire family, and now she was willing to throw these two a bone? Or maybe she wanted to turn them. With them in Sri Lanka, they’d know at all times where at least two Cullens hung out. “Sri Lanka is wonderful,” Jai agreed. “I’ve done some business there, the beaches are endless, and the food is to die for.”

“Really? I’ll have to look into it. I would have to find a way of getting us there, secretly, of course. In time. We still have to make our obligatory family appearance next month but right after I plan to start looking and will take your advice and look at that area,” Rose said looking a little too hopeful.

“You know what,” Jai said as he fumbled in his pocket to retrieve his business card. “Should you need some help, call me. I have contacts there, and I’m sure we can figure something out.”

Bella cleared her throat and glared at him after he handed off the card, raising an eyebrow.

“Or you could call Bella at the Smithsonian,” he said as he took the card back and scribbled the number on the back of it. “I think it’s better to call her; she is the best at planning secret escapes.” He then looked at her and winced.

Emmett couldn’t help but chuckle at the quick turnabout. “She’s already got your balls in a vice, don’t she? You’re as good as married to her if she has that look down. Good luck with that little spitfire.”

“Why do you think jockstraps and cups are on our wedding registry?” Jai said amused.

Bella opened her mouth as he just dug them in deeper with their role he’d already carved for them and let out a breath. Closing her eyes, she knew Auggie was going to blow a gasket, but the words were spoken.

“You’re getting married?” Emmett said enthusiastically. “Oh wow, that is great, Bella!”

“We haven’t made any announcements so if you see anyone, kindly keep the news to yourselves. I haven’t even shared this with my own dad yet because I was hoping to do so in person the next time I go home,” she explained, driving her nails into Jai’s hip deeper.

Jai sighed when Bella’s phone went off. “I swear, if that’s the Smithsonian, I’m going to go over there and thank them for interrupting our holiday. Again.”

“I didn’t bitch at you when your job called us away from an exciting lunch,” she glared at him as she answered. “Hello…? Mr. Anderson…”

Oh, I like it when you call me Mr. Anderson,” Auggie grinned at the other end. “Say, Annie called me to tell me that Eyal is at the party and that he seems to be cultivating our asset, anything you can do about it?”

Bella reached up to brush off some invisible dirt from Jai’s jacket and smiled mockingly. “Unfortunately, for all the guff the city gives, we have experienced a pest control problem. They do need to call for an exterminator that specializes in pesticides. What can I do for you, Sir?”

Auggie sighed. “You can’t talk freely, can you?”

“No.”

“Are you in trouble? Need me to call Annie?”

Bella looked up at Jai, then over at Emmett and Rosalie. “No? Do you remember that broach that you gifted me in the office Christmas party? It goes lovely with the dress for this event…”

“Bella, I don’t really have the time to listen in, if you can’t help, I’ll have to disturb Joan in court.”

“I just thought you really would like to know. It came in quite handy, unexpectedly,” she said, sounding as bored as she could.

“Fine. Give me a moment; I need to call Joan too.”

“Joan is a big girl and can take care of herself. What is the problem?”

“Eyal is the problem! We probably need more money to buy the asset, seeing how they work.”

Her eyes grew large at that and looked up at Jai. “And how much was the asking price for the painting?” she asked. “How much did acquisitions jack it up at the auction?”

“I don’t know, but we probably need double.”

“I need a number.”

“Let’s just say that I need to set up a line of credit in case Annie goes into a bidding war. Basically, bottomless pit.”

She let out a groan and shoved the heel of her hand to her forehead. “No painting is worth that much. I don’t care who made it. Joan is going to have her head. Where is she that she can’t be dealing with this herself?”

“Court date, I told you. I’m in charge, but I need her approval for this. Or actually, I don’t. But yeah.”

“Call Arthur.”

“Fine. Talk to you later and your broach has been activated and is recording.”

“Yeah. Let me know what the final number was and that it doesn’t come out of my budget. I seriously need a bottle of Jack after this,” she groused before hanging up. “Someone is in trouble,” she sang as she looked up at Jai with sparkling eyes.

“Wait, was this about that French painting you told me about? The one, you and your colleagues, basically drooled over?”

She shrugged a shoulder. “I know enough to walk away when the price goes above what we’re allowed to use company money on,” she insinuated. “She doesn’t. So, we may be overpaying for something that might not even be the real thing until we get it authenticated.”

“I always admired that in you,” Rosalie smiled at Bella. “Your way with people, standing your ground. Knowing when enough is enough.”

“Yeah, well, I was more or less forced into this by his brother. Don’t get me wrong; I like who I am now, but if I could change high school, I would light that bastard on fire the moment I laid eyes on him. It’s been ten years now, and he hasn’t bothered me so I can’t say that I’m still mad. I’ve moved on, but Alice was rather insistent on being more friendly than I wanted to be with her. Make no mistake, and if you see her, you can express my feelings. She and I are not friends. Nor will we ever be.”

“Are you kidding me? Emmett nearly has to tie me up whenever we meet with the family because Alice makes me want to claw my eyes out,” she responded as she apologetically looked at him. “I’m sorry honey, but you know how she grinds my gears.”

“It’s fine. I can take only so much, and she’s my sister. Why do you think I’m so eager for our extra long vacations?” he asked with a shrug. Looking at Bella, he was sincere as he had a pained look in his eyes. “We visit wherever we could, using the excuse of traveling the world, just short of some relatives in Italy. You remember that summer. Haven’t been back there since.”

“Well, you have our numbers,” Jai said with a smile. “If you feel like you want to stop running, we can help you disappear in Sri Lanka.”

“Thank you. We’ll be in touch,” Rose smiled, pulling on Emmett’s arm. “We should move along and let you back to your evening. And congratulations.”

“Yeah! Congratulations on your impending marriage, taming Bella isn’t easy, but you look like a decent enough guy!” Emmett grinned as he allowed himself to be pulled away.

Jai smiled and nodded. “Thank you. It – hasn’t been easy,” he assured him. “Come on, Dear. I think we could use a drink after that little reunion.”

“We are going to be in trouble…” Bella’s phone rang again, for some reason, the sound was sounding even more insistent than before. Answering it, she held it up to her ear, biting on her lip and said nothing as she waited. She already knew who it was with the timing.

Wedding! You two undercover and you’re engaged?! Couldn’t you have thought of something else!”

“Blame Jai. Once it came out of his mouth in front of them, I didn’t know what else to say so I went along with it. I was too busy trying to figure out what angle they were acting in the family.”

And are we seriously going to help them go into hiding? Oh man, Joan is going to kill me.”

She let out a sigh and rested her head in her hand once they reached the bar. “I don’t know. At least, with us sticking them somewhere, we know where two of them are. The way it sounds, they want nothing to do with the rest so there is a chance that maybe we can turn them. Rosalie, I’m sure, but Emmett can go either way. Family versus his wife.”

Endless Long Island Ice Teas are waiting for you when you return. And tell Jai that he better not show his face at work.” Auggie said after a moment of silence. “I caught Annie walking off with Eyal and Selma; you’re free to do whatever you want for the rest of the night. Maybe seal the deal on your engagement.”

“Well you know that isn’t going to happen. Why the hell are you pissed at me?” she snapped.

Because I have you on the phone and not Jai!”

“Yeah, well, as his friend, I’m going to play Devil’s advocate and not put him on and tell you the God’s honest truth, in that I insisted you listen in on. Because what was supposed to be a fun evening, babysitting, turned into work for us. You think I was happy about the turn, and the details that we have to play out when they show face again?” she whispered into the phone.

No, of course not. I am sorry,” he let out a breath. “Look, I’ve booked you return flights for tomorrow, Annie can handle the rest; the asset should be a done deal unless something strange happens tonight.”

Bella’s eyes narrowed. “Okay… Do you want to talk about this when I get home? Because this honestly was just work. When it crossed a line, not just to them, I wanted you in, so you knew it was only work.”

“No, I’m good. I know all of this. Of course, it’s just work. It just frustrates me that I’m stuck here and I can’t be in the field with you, or Jai, for that matter. I’m in way over my head here at work, and I’m sorry that I snapped. And the flights were booked after your lunch, so don’t think that I booked those flights because I don’t like your cover story.”

“It’s fine. Why don’t you take a break and get some coffee downstairs? Other people can answer for you for fifteen minutes while you get your head on straight,” she reassured him. “And I got the email about the flights when we arrived at the party.”

“Ah, so you do check your email then,” he said with a grin. “Enjoy your last night in Paris and I promise you, I’ll make up for my outburst when you get home.”

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