Dressed in a skintight red leotard, black tights, and my sparkly red heels, I stood at the edge of an empty stage, my newfound cleavage overflowing and my confidence waning.
What in the hell was I doing here? I was a fraud. And the minute I stepped out onto that stage, everyone would know it. I stared down at the three-inch glittering red heels on my feet and wished I could click them together three times and be magically transported back to San Diego—to the life I was comfortable in, to the life where my grandma was actually my grandma and not my best friend.
But again, that only worked in fairy tales, didn’t it? And sending me onstage to do a solo song-and-dance routine, that was a nightmare.
I peeked out from behind the curtain and spotted Jean-Pierre leaning over the piano, talking with the accompanist. I probably only had a few more seconds until he’d summon me.
What am I going to do?
Closing my eyes, I forced myself to inhale, but my breath caught in my throat when a warm hand landed on my arm.
I opened my eyes to see whose hand was resting on my skin, whose deep voice had whispered in my ear. But by the lack of arrogance in his tone, I knew even before I saw his face that it wasn’t Jean-Pierre.
Before me stood a tall, distinguished man, his black top hat, crisp black suit jacket, and red tie giving off an air of professionalism I hadn’t yet encountered in this dank, smoky nightclub. His dark-brown hair shone in the low light of the wings, and the tiny lines surrounding his smoky-gray eyes crinkled as he gazed at me in anticipation.
Before a simple Yes, I’m Ruby could escape my lips, I realized that I knew those tiny lines, those smoky eyes, those classic, yet unbelievably handsome features.
My heart raced as his name shot into my brain.
Was this the Antoine Richard? The renowned surgeon I’d read about in the newspaper article? Gisèle’s brother?
And possibly the A. from the note who I was not supposed to speak to?
“Suivez-moi,” he whispered, as he gestured toward the darkest area of the wings, where we wouldn’t be seen by any of the dancers milling around or by Jean-Pierre.
My hand effortlessly slipped into his as I followed him into the shadows. We squeezed behind the last curtain, and as I breathed in the scent of cold air and cologne on his clothes and felt his hot breath grazing my cheeks, I felt as if my legs might give way underneath me.
What was it about this man that was making me feel so…off-balance?
“Where were you this morning?” he whispered in my ear. “I waited for you at the café, and you never arrived. I need to know what you were about to tell me yesterday…what you saw before you found Gisèle.” He glanced over his shoulder, and as the sounds of the dancers’ heels and Jean-Pierre’s voice shot past us, he squeezed even closer to me, his lips barely brushing my ear. “There is something else…something important that has come up today, after my meeting with the police. But now is not the time to discuss this. I know what Jean-Pierre will do if he finds me here with you, so we will talk later. Meet me at Café de Flore at five o’clock. And remember, don’t tell anyone you’re talking to me, especially the police.”
Our eyes locked in one final, intense gaze, and it was then that I noticed the pain in his regard, the pain that permeated his entire being. He’d lost his only sister, Gisèle, and I’d found her dead in these very wings. Of course he wanted answers. I would too.
And even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk to him—that doing so could endanger me further—I felt an instinctual pull toward this man. I wanted to hear his deep voice echo through my ears again, feel his hand brush against my skin once more, breathe in his cool, masculine scent. But most of all, I didn’t want to lose the strange sense of comfort and familiarity I felt from these few brief seconds in his presence.
Of course, I had no idea what information I could give him, seeing as how I wasn’t actually Ruby anymore and her memories were only coming to me in short, jagged pieces, but even so, I knew I couldn’t refuse his request. I had to help him.
“I’ll be there,” I said, recognizing that the sensation coursing through my veins at that instant was a feeling I’d only experienced one other time in my life—when Édouard had taken me in his arms and danced with me.
And since nothing had ever made me feel so complete, so whole, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay away from this man if I tried.
With only a nod and a whisper of a good-bye, Antoine disappeared as quickly as he’d come, leaving me alone in the wings trying to catch my breath.
I stepped out of the shadows and set my gaze on the stage as the spotlight flickered on. In the front row, Jean-Pierre glanced down at his watch and took a puff of the cigarette dangling from his thin lips. As I watched his building impatience cause his nose to twitch, I dreaded ever having to speak to him again. Instead, I found myself wishing it was five o’clock so that I could find out more about Antoine—the mystery man who’d appeared like a lightning bolt straight out of the sky.
“There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you.” Titine slid up beside me and placed a microphone in my hands. “It’s time.”
I wrapped my sweaty palms around the microphone, holding on to it for dear life, and wondered how I would fill up the stage with a song I didn’t have the words for and a dance I’d never done.
But as my long legs carried me toward center stage, I figured I was about to find out.
Excerpted from DANCING WITH PARIS by Juliette Sobanet (July 2013). Reprinted with permission from Montlake Romance.
Juliette Sobanet earned a B.A. from Georgetown University and an M.A. from New York University in France, living and studying in both Lyon and Paris. She worked as a French professor before turning a new page in her career, penning romantic women’s fiction with a French twist. She is the author of Sleeping with Paris, Kissed in Paris, Midnight Train to Paris, Dancing with Paris, and the upcoming novel Honeymoon in Paris. Today she lives with her husband and two cats in San Diego, where she devotes her time to writing and dreaming about her next trip to France. You can find her on her website, Twitter, or Facebook.
Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook
To enter to win one of two Kindle copies of Dancing with Paris just complete this simple rafflecopter.