My head was spinning or was that the bed? I’d been to a work event the night before and now, lying here, didn’t remember how I got home, or for that matter, why I was clad in only a t-shirt – and not even my t-shirt! As a matter of fact, I didn’t recognize the sheets and I didn’t recognize the view.
Did I get home? Wait! Where am I? And wait a minute – good – I have underpants on. So, did I fall completely out of character and go home with a man – a stranger? Didn’t sound like me. I was reliably responsible. Plain Jane with the morals of a nun. But it was unsettling to wake up in someone’s bed, in someone’s t-shirt and with no memory of how I got there or who else was here – and it wouldn’t be good for anyone to know this wasn’t par for the course for me. After all, I’m CeCe DeLuc – romance writer. Well known world-wide and the main event for the book signing last night.
So. Moving as little as possible, I looked around. It seemed like a hotel room. There were no clues about; no pictures on the bedside table. No eyeglasses, or hand lotion. No book – oh, was there a book? Something was beginning to tug on my consciousness. Something about a blowhard author, with the looks of a god and the attitude of a king. He was even named as a king would be – Edward Reign. Outwardly a defender of democracy, decency and right. Inwardly, and whenever he was around me – the devil.
Our shared animosity, was rooted in one word. Cute. As in ‘yes, I read your little story and thought it was ‘cute’. He didn’t like it when I said it and I didn’t like it when he told me that ‘usually romance writers were hotter.’. What did he know? He was the man with the book about a bee – not a spelling bee. A bee. A honey bee. And I thought it was cute, and so I told him. His illustrations – his own, it turns out, were charming and well-executed. The story, although written for children was interesting, informative and had a moral. So I liked it.
“Edward, or Mr. Reign, I don’t know why you’re offended by the word cute. Is your book not a children’s story? You should want it to be considered cute. It will guarantee sales.” He was not mollified. At which point he resorted to insults.
“Ms. DeLuc. Writing a romance book does not qualify you to judge the worth of a scholarly work like mine. Of course it was written to appeal to children, because children have parents and parents can learn about the environment and global warming and how that is endangering bees. Ultimately, I am teaching the parents through the child. What are you doing except encouraging the dumbing down of the female population? And, I thought that romance writers were supposed to be hot. You dress like a nun.”
“Oh, a ‘scholarly’ work. For children. With cute bees. And what do you mean a nun? I dress in black like Audrey flipping Hepburn!”
The conversation suffered from there on. Edward, not a scientist or a beekeeper. Just a stuck up corporate raider – turned enlightened environmentalist. And that was my last memory of last night.
Please, please, Guardian Angel or Fairy Godmother or karma – please don’t let me be at his house! Let there be an explanation that I won’t have to live down. Let there be a moment where I triumph instead of shrivel.
I became aware of voices talking and one in particular was familiar. A deep tenorous voice – that sent shivers down my spine; that caused my toes to curl.
I thought about how to make a graceful exit. One that wouldn’t alert Edward of the excellent voice, to how humiliated I was but that would make him instantly respect me for my pluck! But first, pluck required pants.
When I swung my legs to the side of the bed to get out, the dizzy head I had, became worse and my legs began to really ache. I felt as if there were a million pieces of glass in my legs. And now I began to feel as if I had been punched in the stomach. I looked down at my legs – now out from under the covers and found them bandaged with many large and small bandages. My arms were heavy and felt as if they had been wrenched backwards and my stomach pains were bothering me too much to sit up straight, so I laid back down again.
What had happened to me? I had no memory from last night, except a conversation about my book with the handsome devil, in whose bed I’d awoken.
At that moment, I heard the rattle of the knob and realized I was about to meet the man I’d slept with. I wonder how he’d take to knowing how unremarkable last night was for me?
“Well good morning! You look a damn sight better than you did when I dragged you in here last night. How are you feeling?”
Sexy voice, handsome face, evil heart. Those impressions passed through my mind – veering off (thankfully) before they reached my mouth. So I kept it to accusations. “Well I would feel a lot better if I knew how I ended up in this condition. I feel as if I was assaulted, and although I don’t necessarily fear you, I have to ask – have I been beaten? And was it you?”
“Actually, no. It was not me. There was an incident at the restaurant we were in last night. A fire, a stampede and windows broken for escape.”
I had noticed a wince as he entered the room, and now I realized that over the black Hugo Boss suit jacket he wore, was a dark sling on his left arm.
“You’re hurt too! What happened?”
“There was a Molotov Cocktail thrown into the restaurant. It started a fire and a panic. People were pushing each other out of the way to escape, and one of the casualties was you. I found you at the bottom of the heap and extricated you. I’m sorry that you landed in glass. I had a doctor here last night who bandaged you up and gave you a sedative.” Edward’s voice had a seriousness that indicated to me that worse news was coming.
“Are you ok? I don’t have any memory of what happened, but thank you for rescuing me. Is there any indication of who would have done it?”
“I’m fine, but more than a dozen people died in the fire. The police believe it was an act of terrorism.”
“Why would terrorists attack a quiet book launch party?” I asked, not realizing that the other shoe was about to drop.
“Sadly, it was a night of violence across the world and here in Paris there were more than a dozen attacks, leaving scores maimed and at least 500 dead.” Edward’s demeanor had changed as he revealed that news.
I was speechless. The room was quiet. My heart started beating faster and my veins began to pulse with the extra pressure. I became quite lightheaded and found myself lapsing into unconsciousness.
When I woke the next time, we were in a car.
“What’s happening? Where are we going?” I asked, unable to hide the petulance in my voice. There was much I didn’t understand right now and much I was beginning to fear.
“I’m taking you out of town. It’s a dangerous place right now. Too many plots and protests. There seems to be a plot to destroy Paris. Police are everywhere and our world has changed in 24 hours. Time to get away.” Edward had a weariness in his voice.
My sister Georgie and mother Mary, would be wondering about me. But there was no husband or kids at home – just them. I lived a quiet life in a luxury condo overlooking my favorite shopping mall. I worked from home in a well-appointed study with a view of Nieman-Marcus. When I went out it was with a driver and I was returned home with an escort to my door. – Yes I was spoiled, but I preferred to think of it as sheltered. I had one pet – a marmalade long-haired cat named Rock. He was staying with Georgie while I travelled.
“People will need to know where I am. Can I call someone? My family? They’ll be worried knowing where I am.” I asked.
“I spoke with Georgie an hour ago. I assured her you were fine, that I was getting you out of harm’s way and would have you call her when we were settled.
The car was slowing down and I became aware of grape vines, warmth and the buzzing of bees.
“Where are we?”
“We’re arriving at my farm in Provence. Fortunately for you, you slept through the ride from Paris. Usually I go back and forth by helicopter, but all flights have been grounded while we are in this emergency.
Something didn’t make sense. And then it hit me. “How do you know Georgie?”