Notorious in Nice - Excerpt

Posted by Jianne Carlo | 12:12 PM | 5 comments »

Suresh had made reservations at a restaurant near the tram stop.

An intimate, twenty-seat haven off one of Nice’s busy streets with open, burnished oak stable doors, Terry had first introduced the Internet wunderkind to the establishment a few weeks earlier. Suresh termed it “The Bottle Restaurant” because of its wall-to-wall display of miniature liquor bottles dating back over a hundred and fifty years.

Terry and Thomas had to duck to enter the bistro.

Geoff Stanford, all aristocratic and haughty, sat at a circular table with a burgundy leather-bound wine list in front of him. He and the proprietress discussed his selection, Geoff in flawless, Parisian-accented French, the matron in a more provincial tone.

Seated to Geoff’s right, Suresh Singh stood, threw his napkin on the table, and halted all movement when he caught sight of Thomas.

Terry’s mouth curved, and he and Thom swapped grins at Suresh’s almost-comical surprise, mouth open, one hand doing a questioning wave, while his eyes did a rapid-fire examination of each twin.

“I didn’t know you had a brother, far less an identical twin,” he said, walking forward and clapping Terry on the shoulder.

“Yeah, I’m full of surprises. Thomas, this is Suresh Singh, Internet billionaire, and a decided pain in the backside.”

“Nice to meet you.”

The men shook hands.

“What’s the occasion?” Terry inclined his head to Geoff, now joined by James Lockheed.

“I’m launching a charitable organization to eliminate illiteracy. It’s pioneered around under eleven inner-city soccer leagues.”

“Interesting concept.”

Su-Lin and Emma had stopped to look at jewelry in a window case. Terry knew the moment she entered the restaurant.

Suresh’s head did an exorcist whip, and his jaw dropped open. “Crimey, tell me she’s not your wife, Thomas.”

He uncurled one bent knee and strode forward, his gaze pasted on Su-Lin.

Terry clamped his hand on Suresh’s shoulder, effectively halting his momentum.

“She’s mine,” he growled.

“You got married?” Charcoal eyebrows separated and lifted. “You?”

“We’re not married, but she belongs to me.”

“Uh-uh, don’t pull that Rolan crap on me. I told him and I’ll tell you, unless there’s a wedding band, no one’s off limits. Unhand me, man.” Suresh shook Terry’s hand off and ate up the distance to Su-Lin.

“She’s in love with you, you know,” Thomas said, his voice a bare murmur.

Sizzling sounds preceded the scent of searing meat.

Thomas sniffed. “Lamb, if I’m not mistaken. Su-Lin’s good for you, Ter.”

“She’s in lust. The woman has had no life, no childhood. She’s stayed on the sidelines all her life. With her looks, it’s amazing she went through adolescence without being groped or raped. Do you know she’d never even been kissed until a few days ago?” He couldn’t take his eyes off Su-Lin. She wore a soft green sundress with spaghetti straps and a curved neckline, which revealed cleavage that had his mouth watering the minute he caught sight of her.

She needed a pendant to match the emerald earrings, he decided. And a ring. He choked back the thought, but it formed anyway, a big-ass emerald ring, and a thick wedding band, a symbol no man could mistake. Maybe one of those collar necklaces, one with his initials engraved all over it; a smile captured his mouth as he pictured it.

“Ter, have you heard a word I’ve said?” Thomas shook his arm.

“Sorry, boyo. What?”

“Su-Lin’s cocked onto Suresh’s idea. She wants to buy a gym and teach gymnastics to children who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn. Children in foster homes.”

“When did this come up?” The notion had his sixth sense pinging away, but he couldn’t pinpoint what disturbed him about the idea.

“When Emma mentioned the masked ball, she explained what Suresh wanted to do.”

“She spoke about her idea in front of her relatives?” He rolled his shoulders, but the uneasy feeling persisted.

“I’m not sure if she’s told them. When we were waiting for you in the entertainment area, she told me about her plans. She’s so excited. You should have seen her. I swear if she hadn’t been wearing a dress, she would have done a cartwheel.”

“Thom, I’ve been trying to find a way to tell you this for a while. I saw Carol-Ann today, near the train station.”

“Bloody hell,” Thomas muttered as he stumbled backward. “If our step-mother’s here it means she’s up to something.”

“Nothing makes sense.” Terry shook his head. “Why is she here? Why is Father here? He’s ignoring you as much as he’s ignoring me, and you’ve been the good twin, the heir, and all that.”

“He wants me to sire another Gore. Get married, settle down.”

“Are you going to? For the sake of the title?”

“The last thing I want is to follow in his footsteps. I have no desire to have a child. The title will go to your first son, if you don’t inherit it sooner.”

“You are not going to die on the operating table, Thomas, not if I have anything to say about it.”

“We have to face reality. And talk about the consequences.”

“Do you think I don’t fricking know that? But not here, not now, and there’s no sodding way you’re getting off the hook so easily. You’re the earl, not me.”

“We’ll table the issue. Everyone’s sitting down, and a second ago, you lost your chance to sit next to Su-Lin.”

Terry mugged a scowl Suresh’s way, and the young billionaire gave him a victory salute as he scooted Su-Lin’s chair closer to the round table.

Thomas took the empty seat next to Emma Lockheed, while Terry schlepped into the chair next to Harry.

“Suresh has his eyes on our woman.”

“No ‘our’ about it. You stole one kiss, and that’s all you’re ever going to get.”

Geoff, on his left, asked, “Ever? Sounding pretty long-term there, chappie. This one’s going to last longer than a week?”

“It’s a three-week charter,” Terry hedged. “You know the relatives?”

“I’d never heard of James Lockheed until a few weeks ago, myself. He Skyped me about chartering the Glory. Said a friend had recommended the yacht.”

“He never mentioned anything about speaking with you. I engineered a meeting with him in Antibes after I met Su-Lin and found out they controlled her schedule.” Terry thumbed his jaw and stared at James Lockheed. “I thought I manipulated the man into the charter.”

“Did you now? I arranged the Glory charter for Thomas the minute he made the request. I let Lockheed know the Glory wasn’t available that same day. Something doesn’t add up.” Geoff drummed his fingers on the table. “Could this be some sort of setup?”

“To what purpose?”

“Su-Lin. The usual. Marriage?”

Terry’s stomach caved as if he’d been sucker punched. His mouth soured.

“Doesn’t make sense.” He forced out the words. “They’re rich. Don’t need the money.”

“One easy way to clear this up, Terry. Let’s ask Lockheed why he didn’t mention his phone call to me. Wait a minute, when I canceled the charter, I spoke with the wife, not Lockheed. It could be a simple case of miscommunication. How do you want to proceed?”

“Not worth pursuing the matter at this point, Geoff, not with Lockheed being hostile about my relationship with Su-Lin. Sleeping dogs and all that.”

The matronly proprietress strolled to their table, a bottle of wine clutched to her chest, two crystal goblets dangling upside down from her fingers. She deposited the glasses on the linen-covered table, nudging them into correct positions, and brandished the label on the bottle in front of Geoff.

Terry waited until the woman finished pouring wine for the whole table, filling their balloon glasses a third of the way. Thomas refused the alcohol, holding a palm over his glass.

“Carol-Ann’s in Nice, Geoff. I saw her this morning.” Terry took a fortifying glug of the Bordeaux vintage.

“She found you?” Geoff’s normal reticent expression changed, and his mouth curled into a sneer. “She’s the reason I flew in. Couldn’t find her in Singapore, and I had business here and wanted to warn you in person. That’s all you need added to this ticking situation, Carol-Ann.”

Harrison’s head whipped around. “What’d you say? Carol-Ann? Big hair, boobs out to here, long cheerleader legs?”

“Yes,” Geoff answered.

“You know her?” Harry arched a brown eyebrow.

“She’s been my stepmother for the last dozen years,” Terry said, and he knew the minute he saw Harrison’s face that Murphy’s Law had slammed them all. Things were about to get roller-coaster worse.

Harry’s Texan sun-bronzed complexion greened right before Terry’s eyes and his iron-pit cowboy stomach seemed ready to upchuck all its contents. He shoved out from the table and took two lunging strides through the only door in the back of the restaurant.

Metal clanged onto the stone floor in a blistering inferno. A woman shrieked. A man shouted in a furious combination of Franglish. Harrison stumbled out the doorway he’d careened into, looking like doused rawhide.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Harry screwed your stepmother?”

“I should have known when Thomas said she had the hots for some cowboy. What a fricking mess.”

5 comments

  1. Mary Ricksen // March 30, 2009 at 3:14 PM  

    It's not just because Jianne is my critique partner that I say this.
    At first when we became partners and I saw that she wrote erotica. I was like oh man, I can't read this stuff.
    But then I read it, and read it, and when I got to the end of the story I was cheering for both hero and heroine. Jianne writes they stuff I love to read. I am really big on imagery, if I am gonna go there I have to have a picture in my head. Not only does she go there, but I smell the flowers, I hear the rush of the ocean, the sound of the rain. I love her stuff, sex and all. What can I say, Jianne, you are one great author.

  2. Scarlet Pumpernickel // March 30, 2009 at 5:14 PM  

    Jianne, great excerpt! Boy you know how to put a guy between a rock and a hard place.

    Scarlet

  3. Cyrano // March 30, 2009 at 6:15 PM  

    Jianne,
    I truly enjoyed the excerpt. You put me right there in the bistro. I smelled the lamb, saw the characters, their clothes, their mannerisms.
    Very good!
    have a nice evening,
    Tamara

  4. Mary Marvella // March 30, 2009 at 10:47 PM  

    Girl, you are great with characters and atmosphere.

  5. Joanne // April 1, 2009 at 9:15 AM  

    Jianne,
    I really admire your writing. Great characters, and I love your settings.