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Audrey Hepburn once said that Paris is always a good idea. So when Zoe wants to shake up her life she takes that advice and heads to France.
In Paris she soon meets Grey who wants to fulfill her every forbidden fantasy. She succumbs to his sexual pull and falls under his control.
Thrilled with the intense passion, but wanting more than an affair, she must make a choice. Is this stranger really the man she wants?
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About the Author
Tiffany also writes under the name Anna Eberhardt.
Read an Excerpt
"WHO IS THAT GUY?"
"What guy?" Zoe asked absently, used to Lauren-Claire's endless fascination with the opposite sex. Lauren-Claire noticed all men. In the months since they'd become friends, then loft mates, Zoe had been awed by Lauren-Claire's passion.
The two women had met in a drawing course at the Museum of Decorative Arts just after Zoe had arrived in Paris six months ago. Having put her failed marriage behind her, Zoe's goal was to find herself; to find what it was she really wanted. Clichéd, yes, Zoe admitted, but necessary.
A typical Parisian, Lauren-Claire was a romantic, while Zoe didn't have an ounce of romance left in her soul.
"That guy... the très gorgeous one I saw watching you skate the other day. Remember, I told you about him."
"Mmm ..." Zoe pulled her attention away from the ornate carousel they were riding to look at the crowd. "And I told you that you have an overactive, ah, imagination."
"I do not. I tell you I just saw him again. And he was watching you."
"Okay, so where is he?"
"Back over there." Lauren-Claire pointed. "Wait, you'll see him once the carousel goes back around."
But when the gaily painted horses went around again the man was gone.
"Well, he was there," Lauren-Claire said in exasperation. "Why doesn't he introduce himself? He certainly doesn't look like the shy type to me. He looks like a guy used to getting anything he wants."
"Great. Just my type ... Neanderthal erectus." "Zo-o-e! I'm being serious. He looked intense — kind of dangerous. Maybe you ought to be concerned."
"I promise I'll keep my eyes open. Now will you please forget about this supposed mystery man? I'm starved. Let's get something to eat."
"Okay, but I get to choose," Lauren-Claire insisted, her dark eyes surveying the crowd as they got off the carousel.
"No, no, no," Zoe protested, her golden-blond hair swirling as she shook her head. "I want French food. I'm not eating at McDonald's again."
"So we'll have le burger, les fries, and le shake." Lauren-Claire linked her arm through Zoe's with an affectionate giggle.
Lauren-Claire was ten years younger than Zoe, the baby sister she'd never had. Zoe gave in. Lauren-Claire's love for all things American was an endearing quality and one not widely shared by most of her countrymen.
"You're going to burn out on fast food before you even leave for your holiday in the States next week," Zoe warned when they arrived at McDonald's on the Champs Elysées.
"No way," Lauren-Claire scoffed as they placed their orders.
Once they were seated, Lauren-Claire returned to the subject of her upcoming holiday. Her parents, wealthy vineyard owners, sent all of their children to the States after graduation from university. "You promised to tell me the best place to meet cowboys."
"I can't believe you're really serious about this cowboy business."
"Sure I am. I've been wanting me a cowboy ever since I saw my first Clint Eastwood movie."
Zoe swirled the straw in her shake. "Lauren-Claire, there aren't any gunslingers like Clint Eastwood. The Wild West is a thing of the past, and none of it was like the movies."
"I don't believe you. I think 'y'all' Yankee women just want to keep the cowboys to yourselves," Lauren-Claire said, fluffing her short black curls.
"I give up," Zoe said, rolling her eyes at Lauren-Claire's attempt at a drawl complete with French accent.
"Tell you what," Lauren-Claire wheedled, stealing one of Zoe's fries. "If you tell me where the best cowboys are, I'll tell you, ah —" She snapped her fingers "— where the best ice cream in Paris is," she said in a rush. "Maybe even the best ice cream in all of Europe."
"Alors, that was easy."
"You know ice cream is my weakness. Come on, give ... where?"
"Berthillon ... 31 rue Saint Louis-en-l'Île, to be precise."
They returned to their loft in an old warehouse, after eating the best raspberry ice cream Zoe had ever tasted and Lauren-Claire pulled her well-worn map of the States from her bag. Kicking off her shoes, she made herself comfortable on the sofa as she studied the map.
The loft was furnished sparsely with family castoffs from Lauren- Claire and a few items from Conran's. Zoe hadn't been prepared for the expense of staying in Paris; her nest egg was shrinking at an alarming rate. Lauren-Claire's offer to share had been a real relief.
"Hey, wait a minute! Texas isn't out West."
"Lauren-Claire, you go looking for Clint Eastwood out West and you'll end up with a Malibu cowboy. Trust me, chérie, a Malibu cowboy is not what 'y'all' want."
THE NEXT MORNING the older gentleman in a beret smiled when Zoe handed him the sketch she'd drawn. Nodding his satisfaction, he paid her and added a handsome tip.
"That's a great gimmick you have there. I wish I'd thought of it," Lauren-Claire said.
"Gimmick? I don't know what you're talking about. I have the sight. Sit for me and I'll show you."
"Yeah, come on, it'll be fun."
"Okay." Lauren-Claire posed saucily.
Zoe worked slowly, taking her time with each aspect of the drawing until she was satisfied, before moving on. Her deft strokes captured Lauren-Claire's essence on paper. Passersby smiled when they glanced at her work.
"Aren't you done yet?" Lauren-Claire asked, squirming impatiently. Lauren-Claire specialized in sketching pets who never sat still. As Parisians treasured their pets, she supplemented the allowance from her parents quite handsomely.
"Almost done." Zoe added the finishing touches to the sketch with a smile. It had taken her a while, but now she was used to standing on the cobblestone streets of Montmartre, plying her trade as an artist to make a living. She'd traveled to Paris on a whim, but had grown to love the ambience of the Left Bank, its small, winding streets and cafés. Sometimes in nice weather she and Lauren-Claire would sit on the steps of Sacré Coeur and people watch ... Well, Lauren-Claire would man watch.
"Okay, I'm finished."
"Finally. I was beginning to feel like a statue. I even saw some pigeons eyeing me speculatively." Jumping up, Lauren-Claire came around to see Zoe's sketch of her.
"Oh, Zoe! It's fantastic!"
Zoe's specialty was sketching people as they would have looked in a past life. She'd drawn Lauren-Claire in a provocative red dress trimmed with feathers — a dance-hall girl who could have stepped out of a saloon during the gold rush days.
"You can't really see into the past, can you?" Lauren-Claire asked in a speculative tone.
"I figure there has to be some reason you have this fixation with cowboys," she answered noncommittally.
Lauren-Claire's eyes took on a far away look. "Oh Zoe, wouldn't you have loved to have lived back then?"
"Not on your life," Zoe answered, folding her easel. "And neither would you ... there were no McDonald's."
The two of them gathered up their art supplies and headed for the metro station. Their car was packed and Lauren-Claire began flirting outrageously with three young men, university students.
Zoe hung on to the strap and smiled, watching her. It hadn't been all that long since she'd been a dreamer like Lauren-Claire. Maybe that was why she enjoyed her company so. Maybe here in Paris she would find herself again. Begin to live again.
She had come to Paris because of its reputation. She'd wanted to sit at an outdoor café while idling away an afternoon of people watching, ride in an open boat on the Seine, have dinner on a café terrace ... She'd wanted to soak up the city's energy and bustle, to enjoy the romance that was Paris.
In Paris the possibilities were endless. She could do whatever she wanted. Her husband wasn't here to object, to make her put his needs first.
It had been foolish of her, Zoe now knew, to marry so young. But no one could have stopped her. She'd been so in love, so anxious to start married life. Her husband had wanted a stay-at-home wife because of his irregular hours as a cop. It was also a part of his cultural background.
She had been happy in the traditional role at first. But then things had started to go wrong. She'd taken off her rose-colored glasses to find herself trapped and lonely.
She might have been able to bear the loneliness of being a policeman's wife, if only he had talked about his job. But he had refused to discuss his work with her. He'd said he wanted to spare her, that she was a part of his life untouched by the grim realities he had to face everyday on the street. He had wanted to keep their home a haven.
When he became a detective their married life worsened. He was hardly ever home, staying away for longer and longer stretches of time in his undercover work.
Days would go by without her hearing from him. When he did come home, he was uncommunicative and withdrawn, shutting her out completely. His work overshadowed everything until he became his work.
One day, coming home from a cooking class — one of many classes she'd busied herself with — to an empty home, she had snapped, unable to take another day of the endless waiting.
Unable to continue to live her life on hold.
At that moment she had been forced to admit that their home was little more than a convenient hotel, where her husband stopped off to change clothes, make love and eat. She no longer knew him and he no longer knew her.
They had become complete strangers.
The last time she'd tried to tell him how unhappy she was with the state of their deteriorating marriage, the discussion had escalated into a full-blown argument ending with another of his punishing silences.
The argument had started when she'd introduced the subject of fantasies, telling him that in his long absences undercover she sometimes pretended she had a fantasy lover. Someone who took her down off the pedestal her husband had placed her on and treated her like the passionate woman she was — or suspected she could be.
He hadn't understood what she was trying so desperately to tell him.
Instead of realizing she wanted him to treat her differently, he'd understood her to want another man. That hadn't been the case at all. She'd loved her husband. The fantasy lover of her daydreams resembled him physically, the difference was emotional. The lover she imagined was emotionally open and available to her.
He was a lover who didn't pat her on the head and dismiss her worries about the dangers of his job. He talked to her. He didn't take her for granted. Instead, he paid careful attention to her. This exquisite attention met her needs as well as his. He allowed her to explore the intimate boundaries of her emotions and sensuality without censure, encouraged her, even.
But it was all just a fantasy.
While her husband was a daringly brave cop, she sensed that her needs and the fact that she had needs at all, frightened him.
The lurch of the subway car pulling into their station pulled Zoe back to the present as she followed Lauren-Claire out of the car. A man brushed past behind her; a fleeting but intimate touch. His cologne lingered in her senses, invasive and sexy.
"Zoe," Lauren-Claire said, motioning to gain her attention.
"That was him."
"The guy I've been telling you about," Lauren-Claire's voice was impatient. "Did you see?"
Zoe shook her head. Had he been the one who had ...? Oh, for heaven's sake, now Lauren-Claire had her imagining things. The metro car had been crowded, that was all.
"Zoe, quick! There he is!" Lauren-Claire pointed.
All Zoe saw when her eyes followed Lauren-Claire's finger was a pair of broad shoulders in a leather jacket, then he was lost in the surge of the crowd.
"Are you sure?" Zoe asked, turning her attention back to Lauren- Claire.
Lauren-Claire nodded. "Why do you suppose he's following you?"
"You're making too much of this. I'm sure its just some bored Frenchman playing at giving an American a thrill."
"I hope your cowboys are as hospitable," Lauren-Claire said with an engaging grin. "I wouldn't want my holiday to be boring."
"I hardly think there's any danger of that," Zoe said, pulling out a wooden slat chair at a sidewalk café. Digging into her bag, she came up with a handful of francs. "I'll order us coffee if you'll get us a copy of Le Figaro."
"Maybe we can catch an early movie," Lauren-Claire suggested. Their coffee had arrived by the time she returned with the newspaper. After careful deliberation they decided on the movie showing at the Gaumont Ambassade on the Champs Elysées.
Zoe kept an eye out, but there was no sign of Lauren-Claire's mystery man.
She was almost disappointed.
And very foolish, she admonished herself as they rose to leave. Her thoughts had been traveling down reckless paths. She wasn't that lonely ... was she?
Surely it was only that she missed the times with her husband that had been good. The short stretches of time they'd spent together had been when she'd really lived. But even so, she'd always sensed he was holding back. He had been a sweet and gentle lover, but he had treated her as if she might break.
His abandonment had broken her heart.
And now she had to learn to live without him.
She had to learn to live for herself.
ZOE WANTED to pinch herself to see if she was dreaming. A year ago she would never have imagined her classes would have led to this!
She was at the famed Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. The school had only recently begun offering daily cooking demonstrations to visitors. As soon as she had read about it in Le Figaro, she had set aside an afternoon to treat herself.
A chef was demonstrating how to make boeuf bourguignon. For the tourists his French was translated into English. From her seat, Zoe watched the large mirror over the chef's station as he took them through the steps from ingredients to presentation.
There it was again.
Someone was watching her.
She shifted in her seat, resisting the urge to look over her shoulder. She didn't want to miss what the chef was doing. It didn't matter, she realized; she was missing it, anyway. It was hard to concentrate with the hairs on the back of her neck signaling she was being watched.
She had dismissed the same feeling as being nothing more than her overactive imagination when she'd watched another chef prepare la terrine de canard au foie gras. But now she was certain she was being watched.
Surely it wasn't him.
No, she was letting Lauren-Claire's fanciful notions make her paranoid. There was no "him."
Zoe forced her attention back to the cooking class that was drawing to a close. There would be time enough to check out the others in the class during the tasting that was to follow.
But when the class began to sample the food, she saw no one she could assume might have been her watcher.
Maybe she was going round the bend.
Having lost her appetite, Zoe decided not to stay for the tasting. Outside the Cordon Bleu, she was getting her bearings as to which direction the nearest metro station lay when she felt someone tug her arm.
"Mademoiselle ... mademoiselle." A small boy shoved a bouquet of fresh flowers and a white embossed box into her arms, then started to leave.
"Wait ... I ... who?"
The young boy turned and pointed to the flower stall. "Ce monsieur."
There was no one at the flower stall but the old woman who sold the flowers.
The boy looked surprised, then scurried off into the crowd.
The old woman at the flower stand continued to smile. Zoe waved and started toward her. "Madame qui ... le bouquet?" she asked with her limited French.
The old woman shrugged to indicate she did not know.
"Merci." Zoe handed her a tip anyway.
As soon as she was out of sight of the woman, Zoe tossed the bouquet of flowers into a trash receptacle. Flowers held bad memories. Her husband had used them as hollow apologies whenever he'd worked too much. She was also tempted to do the same with the white box, but decided instead to save it for Lauren-Claire to open, knowing she would get a big kick out of this latest development.
As she rode the metro back to the apartment, she speculated as to who her secret admirer might be. With her luck, it was probably the little old man in the beret she'd sketched as a French king.
Or was it the man with the long dark hair and wide shoulders leaving the metro? She glanced around the crowded car, but no one fitted the description.
Having a secret admirer was flattering, even exciting. She shook off the little thrill that traveled up her spine at the thought that it was also a little dangerous.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Forbidden Fantasy"
Copyright © 1991 Anna Eberhardt.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
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