More Than Words
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“No, I mean from here. Let’s see a little more of the Loire Valley.”
“You want to sightsee?”
He shrugged. “Yeah. It’ll be our greatest adventure yet.” He smiled, a twinkle in his eye.
I thought about it. There was really no reason I needed to stay here this weekend. No one else was working; in fact, Ben had told me he was going on a sightseeing tour himself and would be away from the château. He’d even asked to leave a little early on Friday, and Dr. Moreau said he’d be using the basement conference room for meetings during the afternoon and so that worked fine. And I needn’t be afraid of spending the night with Callen. We’d been sleeping in the same bed for almost a week now and evidently he had little trouble resisting me. I was … resistible in that sense, it seemed.
That depressed me just a bit, but I was happy that he’d apparently found a way to move past his writer’s block. Each night I’d been with him, he’d slipped out of bed and written late into the night while I slept. I’d wake to find him hunched over that desk just outside the bedroom, looking sleepy but content, and it filled my heart with joy. I knew I couldn’t take credit, but I hoped I at least had a calming effect on him—one that allowed him to access his inner genius.
Callen and I enjoyed each other’s company, and I wanted to see more of the Loire Valley. We had agreed to make the most of what little time we had together, so why not? “Sure. Okay. I can get off a little early on Friday.”
Callen grinned. “Awesome. We’ll make it one perfect weekend.”
One. It would be the only weekend we’d ever have alone together, and that sent a shivery excitement whirring through my body and filled me with a cold despondency.
* * *
In the year of our Lord 1429, on the thirtieth day of June
My heart is beating so fast I fear it may explode straight from my chest.
Tonight, Captain Durand and several of his men went to a small village, where they were to obtain food for the army from local farmers. But they returned with pitiable rations. The farmers were not cooperative despite the king’s prise. I had been bathing in the nearby creek and joined up with their horses as they entered camp, and I expressed my disappointment that the farmers should choose not to feed their own country’s army.
“Why should they?” asked the captain in that testy way he has that brings to mind a porcupine right before it shoots its quills.
“Why should they? Because we fight for them,” I returned.
“We?” he asked wryly, and before I could offer a retort, he went on. “And what of the fact that they already pay taxes to fund the king’s army? How much more should they give? Should their own family go hungry so we can eat? Should they give us the shirts off their backs as well, perchance?”
“They should give that which they’ve been ordered to give,” I insisted. For should they not?
“Spoken like a pampered girl who expects hardworking men to do her bidding,” said the pompous arse, and I felt my own quills rising.
“A girl? Sir, I have explained to you that I am a boy,” I nearly yelled. And then he laughed.
The other men had ridden ahead, leaving us to our battle, and I was so angry, I took off my shoe and hurled it at him. The blackguard laughed even harder, so that I thought—hoped—he might fall right off his horse.
“All right, young sir, if you’re really a boy, go piss on that tree over there while standing up. Let me see how far you can shoot it,” he said.
I was disgusted and told him so. “You are lewd, sir, and no gentleman.”
He shook his head, dismounting and picking up my shoe, which he inspected with one arrogant eyebrow raised. I had to admit it looked quite dainty in his large hand, and I scowled and looked away. He brought the shoe to me, and before I knew what was happening, he’d taken hold of me and pulled me from my mount. I stood in front of him, ready to shred him to pieces with my outraged tongue when he … oh I can barely write it … he … kissed me!
And the worst part of all … I liked it. Oh, help me, Lord, I liked it very, very much.
Once I’d finished with work on Friday, I’d gone back to my room and packed a bag, still distracted by that breathless kiss between the girl and Captain Durand. I’d have stayed to read another entry, but unfortunately, Dr. Moreau had come into the room with a few colleagues for the meetings he’d mentioned, and so I’d reluctantly abandoned the girl and Olivier Durand with their lips locked and my heart beating out of my chest to be left on such a cliffhanger. But they weren’t going anywhere, so I’d turned my mind to Callen, excited—and still a bit apprehensive—about what this weekend would bring.
As I stepped out the front door of the château, I stopped in my tracks when I saw Callen leaning against a red convertible sports car parked at the curb.
His smile was slow and easy as he pulled his sunglasses off, pushing himself away from the car and walking toward me. He was wearing jeans and a casual dark gray T-shirt that hugged his chest and showed off his broad shoulders. His stride was smooth and masculine. Oh, dear Lord. I swallowed. He was so gorgeous that sometimes it startled me just a bit. He took my bag with a smile, and I laughed nervously. “Where in the world did you get that?” I nodded toward the sleek red car.
“Rental. We ride in style.” He opened the passenger-side door for me, and I sank into the soft leather and clicked my seat belt into place. After he’d put my bag in the trunk, he slid into the driver’s seat and pulled away from the château, down the long winding drive, and onto the main road.
“So where are we headed?”
“So impatient. Just sit back and let me take the lead this time, Princess.”
I glanced at Jessie and smiled, taking her hand in mine across the center console. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, but a few strands had come loose in the wind and were blowing across her cheeks. A pair of sunglasses that looked far too large for her face were perched on her cute nose. She wore a pair of tight jeans that showed off her slim legs, a blue-and-white-striped shirt, and a light tan jacket. She looked beautiful and carefree, and I couldn’t help the happiness that gripped me, knowing I had her all to myself for two full days. I was going to enjoy every second of it—it was the last real time alone we’d have. I’d be leaving the château a week from today, but I refused to think about that now. We had the weekend stretched out in front of us. It was our final adventure together, and I intended to make the most of it.
I’d written the entire first part of the musical score, and though my heart beat quickly with barely controlled hope, I also breathed an internal sigh of relief that the writer’s block had lifted. Not only had it lifted, but I thought the piece showed promise. I wouldn’t allow myself to get too excited because I still had such an uncertain grip on the entire score. But if I could just continue with the same inspiration and determine how to bring it all together … it might … it might not just be good, but great.
I had Jessie to thank for what I’d accomplished so far. She was my muse, and I couldn’t have done it without her. Something about her drowned out the self-contempt. Whereas awards, accolades, even a million screaming fans couldn’t convince me I had talent, Jessie’s sincere smile made me feel as if I could do anything. As long as she believed, I could as well.
What will you do when she’s gone?
Stop. Don’t think about that.
The beautiful scenery whipped by, gently rolling hills, small farms, fields of wildflowers, and quaint towns. Jessie and I chatted about mundane things as the radio played French ballads. I felt a sense of peace, of rightness with the world, and I wondered about the last time I’d felt this way. Had I ever?
The GPS led us off the main highway, down a winding road to a vineyard, the rows and rows of grapes stretching into the distance. A gleaming white stone castle loomed high in front of us, its turrets touching the clouds. “Oh my gosh,” Jessie breathed, leaning forward and gazing at the ancient structure. “This is gorgeous. A winery?”