“Yes, Mr. Aubert. We are prepared to decrease our offer by twenty percent, if that’s what it takes to gain your business.” I steadied my hands on the armrests of the opulent chair across from him. Behind him, the Paris skyline stretched out in both directions. One could even see the Eiffel Tower from here with a bit of contorting. Right now, though, my eyes were locked on the older French gentleman sitting with his hands steepled on top of his desk. “We are more than happy to work on the new building project with you under the terms you’ve set forth, so long as we can agree to the materials I’ve outlined in this document.”

His face was statuesque. I couldn’t read his thoughts at all. In a moment, he would either accept the terms and our two companies could move forward, doing business together, or I’d be sent right back to the drawing board. I kept my stoic smile in place as well.

Winters International Architecture Firm had a reputation that spoke for itself. The fact that I’d flown all the way from New York City to Paris to meet with the president of Aubert Constructeurs myself should speak volumes about how serious I was about taking this project on. I could’ve sent someone else, but being the CEO, I wanted to handle a project of such magnitude personally.

Not to mention, who didn’t want to visit Paris for a few days in the spring when they got the chance?

Jean Aubert’s face finally melted. Scratching his chin, he pursed his lips for a moment before he said, “I like you, Logan Winters. I like your company. I think we will do good business together.” His expression was still thoughtful, so I waited, hoping the next word out of his mouth wasn’t “but.” His thick French accent was difficult to understand, but his English was a thousand times better than my broken French.

Continuing to smile, I added a head nod, waiting… praying… hoping.

“Very well.” Mr. Aubert broke into a hardy laugh, clapping his hands together. “Let’s do this together. Your company and mine. We will build the finest business complex La Defénse has ever seen!” Standing, he offered me his hand, and I took it, both of us laughing and patting one another on the back.

“That’s wonderful news, Mr. Aubert.” Once I pulled my hand away, I offered the paperwork to him, waiting for him to sign. When it was finalized, I offered him a gracious, “Merci!” one of the only words I knew in French.

After a few more pleasantries, I told him goodbye, picked up my briefcase, and headed out the door.

The grin on my face was uncontrollable. I couldn’t wait to get to a location where I could call my best friend, Trevor, and let him know the good news, that I’d secured the account. Not that he’d know a damn thing about how hard work like this was when he hadn’t done a single day of it in his life. Sometimes I envied him, coming from money. Still, he’d be happy for me.

Waiting until I was out of the building so I could navigate the unfamiliar terrain a bit better, I took my cell phone out of my pocket and clicked on his name. Doing the math quickly in my head, I figured it was mid-morning back in New York. He should be awake by now, I hoped. With Trevor, one never knew.

“Yeah?” His groggy voice told me I had, in fact, woken him up.

Chuckling under my breath, I asked, “Hungover or just tired?”

“Mom?” he joked. “Nah, just got up a few minutes ago. Dude, what time is it there?”

“Almost four, man.” Looking around, I oriented myself to make sure I was walking in the right direction. My hotel was close by, so there was no reason to flag down a cab. Dozens of people rushed past me on the sidewalk. Locals, tourists, all races and nationalities blended in with one another. Seeing all of the different cultures melt together was one of the things I loved about big cities like Paris—and New York.

“It’s four? In the morning? Why the hell are you up, dude?” Trevor exclaimed. “Did you just leave the bar? Don’t you have a meeting today?”

Shaking my head at his idiocy, I reminded myself he was much brighter when he’d had some coffee. “No, man. It’s four in the afternoon. Listen, I was just calling to tell you I nailed it. I was able to lock up the contract with Aubert Constructeurs!”

“Dude!” Coming from Trevor, “dude” was about the best compliment one could get, especially when said with that particular tone. “That’s awesome. Congratulations!”

“Thank you. This is going to be huge for the company. We’ve worked with builders in Europe before, but never anyone as well established as Aubert. This could turn out to be the biggest deal the company has ever made.”

“Phenomenal.” I could picture Trevor’s goofy grin in my mind, his blue eyes twinkling in mirth. “That’s excellent. The rest of the board is going to be psyched when you tell them.”

That reminded me. I did need to call the office soon to let them know the good news. I’d do that once I got back to my hotel. “Yes, it should make our quarterly numbers look fantastic.” Not that Trevor knew enough about business to know what I was speaking of.

Looking up ahead, I saw my hotel on the right and wanted to get off the phone before I went into the lobby. It seemed that most people in France didn’t appreciate it when people spoke loudly on their cell phones in tight places. Though Marignon was an amazing hotel, nothing near the Eiffel Tower was exactly spacious by American standards.

“What are you going to do now, bro?” Trevor asked as I stepped over to the side. “Party, I hope.”

“You know it. That’s my plan anyway. I’ve heard there’s a pretty cool bar not far from here I’m planning to go check out once the sun goes down.” My eyes scanned the busy streets of the most famous shopping district in the world, Les Champs Elysees. Soon enough, the stores would be closed, and all of these people would be heading to local bars and clubs, making the City of Lights party central.

“Well, have fun, dude. Maybe you’ll find a couple of hot French babes and they’ll introduce you to the ménage à trois.” He laughed so loudly, I had to give him a second to stop before I bothered to attempt a response, or else he wouldn’t have heard me anyway.

“Uhm, we’ll see about that, Trevor. I’m back at my hotel, so I’ve gotta go.”

“All right, all right. Have fun, brother.”

Hanging up, I slid my phone into my pocket, running a hand down my face. Surely, no one around me could see my cheeks turning red. I liked to party with the best of them and had enjoyed my fair share of women, but unlike my best friend, I preferred my women one at a time, not in pairs or groups. Trevor was something else.

Stopping by the front desk, I grabbed my room key and headed upstairs. The rule in Paris that you had to turn your key in at the front desk was always strange to me, but I went with the flow with most things.

Upstairs, I dropped my briefcase and headed out onto the balcony. A beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance greeted me. Breathing slowly, I let my lungs expand to release the nerves from earlier while I admired the architectural wonder. I’d been in love with the tower since I was a little kid, always sketching it, building it with my Legos. In a lot of ways, Eiffel’s work had been what inspired me to become an architect myself. Though I’d visited Paris a few times before, gazing at the Eiffel Tower would never get old for me.

After several minutes of staring at the incredible buildings around me, I headed back inside and gave the office a ring. Everyone was ecstatic to hear that I’d been able to negotiate the contract. The number Aubert had agreed to wasn’t even our lowest offer, though he obviously didn’t know that. I told everyone, “I’ll see you on Monday,” and hung up with a grin on my face.

A few hours later, after a nap, a shower, and a good meal, I headed out to this local bar I’d heard so much about. L’Eclair was a bistro during the day but a swanky hangout at night that served beer, wine, and other spirited beverages. The last time I was here in Paris, almost two years ago, I’d wanted to visit the place but hadn’t gotten the chance. Tonight, I had every reason to celebrate.

Approaching the door, I could already hear laughter and music coming from inside. A couple stepped out, their arms around one another, the man whispering something that sounded romantic in French to the woman. Grinning, I walked around them and headed inside. Falling in love in Paris was a dream for so many people. Tonight, I was just looking to drink. But if I found a beautiful femme to share the night with, well, so be it.

Inside, the place was exactly how I’d pictured it. Friends and lovers grouped at tables, laughing and talking, sipping on a variety of drinks from glasses and bottles. Music played over the speakers. A few couples were even dancing near their tables, despite the lack of room. Low lighting gave the place a romantic feel. I could see why this place had such rave reviews.

Then my eyes landed on her.

A petite brunette with curls cascading down her back, her perfect profile was enticing. Porcelain skin, long eyelashes, and a glittery pink dress that hugged her curves in all the right ways. I didn’t even need to see the woman’s face to know she was a knockout.

Clearly, she was also frustrated. Waving her hand, she stomped her foot, her high heel banging on the wood flooring. “Sir? Monsieur?” Shaking her head, she swore under her breath and turned to look back at a table where a few similarly dressed, though not as lovely, women were sitting, which I took to be her friends.

Her light brown eyes scanned across mine as she turned back around. For just a moment, a flicker, I held her gaze. My heart raced in my chest, my breathing staggered, and butterflies chased one another through my abdomen. This woman was a beauty, that was for damn sure.

She was also a damsel in distress. Who didn’t want to come to France to save a poor woman in need of assistance? Gallantly, I marched across the bar, my eyes glued on the bartender who was clearly preoccupied with a group of people he knew well enough to be telling jokes and laughing.

Shaking my head, I took matters into my own hands. First, I reached into my wallet and pulled out a crisp bill, holding it up for him to see. That caught his attention, but he wasn’t yet moving.

In my broken French, I asked the woman, “Combien de bières?”

Those dazzling eyes stared into mine for a moment before she giggled and said, “Uhm, two, please.” Her English was perfect—just like her.

Grinning, I reached over the counter and grabbed a couple of bottles of beer that were within my reach and then dropped the money down where he could see it. The bartender shook his head at me, but he didn’t even come over to stop me.

“Here you go.”

“Thanks.” Her ruby-red lips split into a gorgeous grin, sending my heartrate into overdrive.

“You’re welcome.” She was welcome to the beer—and so much more.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *