“It’s fine,” I interrupt. “It was a stupid childhood promise. It doesn’t mean anything.” My voice shakes over the last words and I suck in a quick inhale. I won’t let myself cry in front of him.
This time he does take my hand, pressing his palm against mine. “Gremlin?”
My eyes lift to his.
“I don’t want you to go anywhere. I lost you once when I was fifteen, and I’m not ready to let you go again. Stay. Please. As long as you want. As long as you need to.”
“But won’t it be weird with Tatianna? Doesn’t she think it’s weird?”
“You’re my best friend, Mia. There’s nothing weird about you being here. Besides, this is my house. I decide who stays and how long.” He narrows his eyes as he looks at me, and pokes me in the arm. “You stay as long as you want.”
“Fine,” I say. A smile finds its way to my lips. He can’t poke me like that, the way he did when he…
I’m not happy with the way our talk has gone, but the fact that he doesn’t want me gone is something. And honestly, I still don’t have anywhere else to go, so it’s also a relief.
“Good,” he says. “Don’t unpack. I want you to come to Paris with me Monday. Tatianna backed out, and I already made travel plans for two.” He explains that it’s a business trip he’s been planning and that she has a shoot. His eyes fill with irritation as he talks about her last minute cancelation. It’s frustrating to watch how little regard she has for him.
It only takes me a second to nod my assent. “Paris? Of course.” I’d do anything for him, and convincing me to go to Europe on a free trip wasn’t exactly a hardship.
“What’s this?” He pulls my scrapbook onto his lap and opens it. He chuckles into his fist, his eyes growing warm. “I can’t believe you still have The Gremlin Files. I’m so glad you brought this.” I blush at the silly name he has for my scrapbook. I sit down next to him and he leans in so that I can see as he leafs through the pages. His arm brushes against mine and I revel in the heat coming from his touch. I try to tell myself this touch is innocent. We were best friends as children, we could be just friends again. But as my body leans in next to his, I know there’s nothing just friends about the way I want to nuzzle my nose along his jaw line and inhale his scent.
At each new page, we gasp and laugh, remembering the past and all the wonderful memories.
He pauses on the page with the ticket stubs to our first concert. “This was the best show. This book is great. Can I borrow it?”
“Sure.” I shrug.
“Look, I have to go take care of a few things for work, but I’m so glad you’re coming to Paris.” He steps out, and closes the door behind him.
I’m glad I’m going too.
I know the right thing to do is give him the space he needs to think about his relationship with Tatianna. But spending a whole week alone with him in a romantic city like Paris? The temptation will be nearly overwhelming.
When we arrive in Paris, the joy on Mia’s face is incredible. She’s like a little kid in a candy shop, her eyes wide and her mouth curled into a silly grin. I can’t help getting swept up in her excitement, my own mood lightening despite having been here many times. Even after a twelve-hour flight, she’s full of energy and ready to explore.
“Where are we going first?” she asks, as the driver cruises down the highway that leads from the airport to the city.
“The hotel.” I chuckle at her. “I thought we could drop our luggage, and then I’ll show you around a little, but we have a business dinner in a couple of hours.”
On the plane ride here, I told her all about Pierre and the successful European firm he runs. I would like to take over managing his company’s investments stateside and need to show him why that would benefit him. But first I need to win him over. The French are much more relational when it comes to business. They don’t get in bed with just anyone. His wife’s name is Adele, and I explained that I needed Mia to keep her happy and occupied. Happy wife, happy life, and all that. I know by tonight we will both have our game faces on, but for now, I’m happy to indulge her in the role of tour guide.
When we reach the hotel and step into the opulent marble lobby, Mia’s eyes dart over the elegant paintings and the finely upholstered furniture. I stand at the check-in counter, waiting, as the clerk types something on the keyboard.
“Monsieur, the luxury king suite you’ve requested has been prepared. The bellhop will bring your luggage up.”
Shit. My assistant booked the room for me and Tatianna months ago, of course it’s just one room—with one bed. “Actually, I need a bigger suite—something with two bedrooms.”
She looks down at the monitor and begins typing again. “I’m sorry, but we’re completely full at the moment.” She frowns.
“Okay, then just a regular room with two beds?”
She shakes her head. “We have no occupancy other than the suite you reserved.” She explains that there’s some big fashion convention happening this week and many of the hotels are full.
I consider searching for another hotel, one outside the city, but with my meetings all being in the business district, I realize that’s silly. Mia and I are adults. We will be fine sharing a room. Shit, we used to have sleepovers all the time when we were little.
“Fine,” I say to the clerk. “Please send up our bags.”
I find Mia admiring an oil painting at the far end of the lobby.
“The colors are amazing,” she says when I get close.
I love how she can find such simple joy in things. I realize if I was here with Tatianna, she’d probably be complaining that our room wasn’t quite ready and her nose would be stuck in her phone.
“I have some news,” I say, guiding her toward the elevator with my hand at the small of her back.
“The reservation was made months ago by my assistant, and now the hotel is completely full.”
Her eyebrows draw up. “So? Spit it out, Collins.”
“How do you feel about sharing a bed?”
“Oh.” She lets out a nervous laugh and staggers back a step, her hand curling around the railing inside the elevator, like she needs the support to remain upright.
Before she has time to respond, the doors open to our floor. We walk in silence to the room, and I slide the key card into the slot beside the door.