Guarded Hearts, Part 33

Summary: Alice attends Liam’s second bachelor party in Paris, but the party doesn’t go as planned.

Notes: I used some of the original PB dialogue and bedazzled it a bit. This section is full of drama but also fluff. So much fluff. Seriously, you could stuff a futon with all this fluff.

New to the series? Catch up here: Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8,Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13, Part 14Part 15Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32

The following night, Alice put the finishing touches on her hair before stepping back to examine her reflection in the mirror. She’d borrowed a long, silver dress from Hana that Hana had sworn looked vintage enough for Liam’s second, Gatsby-themed bachelor party. Alice had been skeptical but now that she’d curled the waves into her hair and added the accessories…well, she wasn’t mad at it. However, if she stood in front of the mirror for much longer, she was going to start micromanaging her appearance and before she knew it, she’d be going overboard and adding glitter where glitter had no business being. Instead, Alice picked up her phone a snapped a photo of herself and texted it to Frankie. A minute later, she got a reply.

You look great! Step away from the glitter!

Alice chuckled and tucked her phone into her clutch. Then she picked up her second phone, the burner phone Bastien had given her. She flipped it open and sent Bastien a text.

How are things there?

It only took him a few moments to write back.

Jay Gatsby himself would be thrilled. Are you on your way?

Almost, just finishing getting ready.

Send me a picture?

And ruin the surprise? No way!

Can’t wait.

Alice put the second phone in her bag and eyed her makeup. No, stop it, she scolded herself. Before she could do any damage, she thankfully heard Maxwell’s familiar, rapid-fire knock on her door. She opened it to find both Beaumonts standing on the other side.

“Wow, you look great!” Maxwell exclaimed. “Very on theme.”

“Is that Hana’s dress?” Bertrand asked, cocking his head to the side as he gave it an appraising look. “It’s nice.”

“Thank you,” Alice said. “Are we ready to party like the stock market is about to crash?”

Bertrand smirked. “I guess so.” He offered his arm to Alice who took it and together with Maxwell, they disembarked the train and headed towards the waiting limo. “Oh, I did find out some good news–Madeleine won’t be in attendance tonight.”

“Really?” Alice asked. “But this is a co-ed party, right?”

“Yes, but Madeleine said that co-ed wedding parties are terribly gauche and as it’s a closed party–meaning no press–she didn’t see a point in attending,” Bertrand explained.

“Kiara and Penelope aren’t coming either,” Maxwell added. “Madeleine forbid it.”

“She forbid it?” Alice asked as she slid into the limo. “Christ, she’s a pain in the ass. What about Hana?”

“Hana was smart enough to avoid her all day so Madeleine wasn’t able to tell her anything one way or the other,” Maxwell said, sliding in after her with Bertrand bringing up the rear.

“Smart,” Alice said with an approving nod. “So, anything else I should know about tonight?”

Bertrand shook his head. “No, it’s just a party.”

Alice gave him a look. “Since when is any event we’ve attended ‘just a party?’”

“This one actually is,” Bertrand said with a shrug. “I mean, don’t do anything to embarrass yourself, but the press won’t be there. Just…have fun.”

“Does this mean we get to see your party persona tonight?” Alice asked hopefully.

“Let’s not get carried away,” Bertrand said, although Alice noticed a hint of a smile on his mouth. She then glanced over at Maxwell, wondering if he’d told Bertrand yet. Considering Maxwell was sitting next to her and not six feet under, she figured he hadn’t.

Tick tock, Alice thought. She wanted to be in a good mood for the party, but it drove her crazy that Bertrand still didn’t know that he had a son. But she’d promised to give Maxwell a few days, so she was giving him a few days. Even still…tick tock.

Soon, the limo delivered Alice and the Beaumonts to a fairly nondescript Parisian side street.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Alice asked as she and Maxwell followed Bertrand over to a side door.

“Oh, yes,” Bertrand said. He knocked on a door and a moment later, a gruff security guard opened it.

“Password?” the guard asked.

“Fire and ice,” Bertrand said.

The guarded nodded and opened the door, quickly ushering Alice and the Beaumonts inside before shutting the door behind them. Then he pointed to another door across the room where another guard waited. They headed over and the guard opened the door, music suddenly spilling out into the outer room. The three of them entered and Alice was momentarily stunned as she looked around. For such an unassuming exterior, the inside was opulent and ornate, true art deco style as music pulsed through the room so thickly that it filled the spaces between party guests. The light odor of cigar smoke wafted through the room, the smoke rising to hover around the lights, giving them a hazy glow.

“This is amazing!” Maxwell said, leaning in so Alice and Bertrand could hear him over the music. “We really have to do more theme parties.”

“I’ll consider it,” Bertrand said. “I’m going to go get a drink. Alice, do you want anything?”

“Just water for now, thanks,” Alice said. “Something tells me that if I don’t start hydrating now, I’m going to be sorry.”

“I’ll go with you,” Maxwell said. He left with Bertrand, giving Alice’s arm a squeeze as he walked by her, and Alice turned to face the rest of the room. She scanned the room for Bastien, but she couldn’t find him amidst the crowd at first. Then she found him on the other side of the room, a smile already on his face as he looked at her. She wouldn’t have been able to feel her phone buzz in her clutch with the pulse of the bass, so she checked it just in case. Sure enough, there was a quote from The Great Gatsby  waiting for her.

“You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known and even that is an understatement.”

Alice thought for a moment before responding with her own quote from The Great Gatsby.

“There I was, way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute, and all of a sudden I didn’t care.”

She put her phone back in her bag and watched as he pulled his out. He read her text and smiled and although she couldn’t be sure due to the lighting, she thought she saw him blush.


She turned to see Olivia beside her in a gorgeous red flapper dress, fringe swishing with each step as she approached Alice.

“Olivia, hey,” Alice said. “Nice job with the password.”

“Thought you’d like that,” Olivia said. “Did you just get here?”

“Yeah, Bertrand and Maxwell went to go get drinks,” she said. “This party is…”

“I know,” Olivia said smugly. “Liam asked me to help organize it.”

“You guys seem to be spending a lot of time together,” Alice said, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, we’re friends,” Olivia said. Alice didn’t say anything, but continued to level her gaze at Olivia. “Stop looking at me like that.”

“I’m not looking at you like anything,” Alice teased. Olivia sighed, exasperated.

“Fine. We’ve been spending more time together, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” Olivia said. “He’s made it very clear in the past that we’re just friends.”

“Okay,” Alice said, holding up her hands in surrender. Olivia glared at her. “I’m just saying…’we don’t get to choose whom we love.’”

“You’re seriously quoting Jaime Lannister at me right now?”

“If I’m not annoying you, are we even really friends?”

“We’re not friends,” Olivia said automatically.

“Yes, we are,” Alice said as Bertrand and Maxwell returned with drinks. “Get over it.”

“Olivia,” Bertrand said, nodding at her. “It’s nice to see you.”

“I know,” Olivia said. “Enjoy the party.” With that, she turned and left.

“What was that about?” Maxwell asked. “She seemed pricklier than usual.”

“She’s mad because I told her we’re friends,” Alice said as she accepted her glass of water from Bertrand.

“Right,” Maxwell said. “I’m going to go hit the dance floor. Wanna join me?”

“Maybe in a bit, “ Alice said. “I want to find Hana first.”

“Go, both of you, have fun,” Bertrand said. “I’ll see you later.”

Maxwell took off towards the thumping dance floor and Alice slowly made her way through the crowd, keeping an eye out for Hana, whom she soon spotted.

“Hey!” Alice said as she joined Hana on one side of the room.

“Hi!” Hana said, smiling at Alice before returning her gaze to the room.

“Looking for someone?”

“Actually, yes,” Hana said. “Rashida said she was going to stop by tonight, but I haven’t seen her yet.”

“It’s still early, I’m sure she’ll be here soon if she’s not already,” Alice said. “Then again, it’s busy enough in here that for all you know, she’s already here.”

“How are you, by the way?” Hana asked. “The dress looks great on you.”

“Thank you so much for lending it to me,” Alice said. “Even Bertrand approves of my outfit tonight.”

“What did someone else think of your outfit?” Hana asked, raising a teasing eyebrow at Alice, who grinned.

“I think he’s suitably impressed,” Alice said, allowing herself to glance over her shoulder towards Bastien.

“Lady Hana!”

Alice and Hana turned to see Neville joining them. Alice resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

“Lovely to see you again,” Neville said, picking up Hana’s hand a placing a wet kiss on the back of her hand. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I think it’s time we get to know each other a bit better, don’t you?”

“Hana, there you are,” Rashida said as she joined their group.

“Rashida, hi!” Hana said, her face brightening.

“I have something terribly important to discuss with you,” Rashida said, winking at Hana. “Would you mind if I borrowed you for a bit?”

“Of course not,” Hana said. “Please, excuse us, Lord Neville.”

Rashida quickly led Hana away, leaving Alice alone with Neville. Rashida glanced back over her shoulder at Alice and mouthed, “Sorry!” at her. Alice nodded, suppressing a smile. She glanced over towards some chairs and noticed Liam and Drake sitting there.

“Excuse me, Neville, I need to talk to King Liam for a moment,” Alice said, leaving without waiting for him to respond. She hurried away and made her way over to Liam and Drake, both of whom stood as she approached.

“Alice, you look lovely as always,” Liam said as he leaned in to kiss her cheek. “How are you enjoying the second round of the bachelor party?”

“It’s certainly more exciting than the one in New York,” Alice said.

Drake shrugged. “I liked the other one better.”

“But this time, you get to dress up,” Alice said, nodding to his suit.

“Oof, don’t bring up the suit,” Liam said with a chuckle. “It’s been a…point of contention today.”

“Oh my god, Drake, it’s not going to kill you to participate in a theme party,” Alice said.

“Hey!” Drake protested. Alice could already smell the whiskey on his breath. “I’m wearing the suit, aren’t I?” He sighed. “I need another drink.”

He turned and headed towards the bar, stumbling slightly, and Alice faced Liam again.

“How many has he had?” she asked.

“One too many,” Liam admitted with a sigh. “I don’t know what’s going on with him, he won’t tell me.”

Alice glanced back to watch Drake retreat into the crowd. She was pretty sure she knew what was going on, but this wasn’t the time or place to get into it.

“Hey, so I heard Olivia helped you out with tonight,” Alice said, changing the subject.

Liam smiled. “She did. She’s really great at this kind of thing. Plus, I think some part of her has been dying to think of speakeasy passwords. I wouldn’t be surprised if it became standard practice in Lythikos.”

“You guys have been spending a lot of time together lately,” Alice said lightly as she sipped her water.

“I know,” Liam said, sounding a little surprised as a grin started to spread across his face. “It’s strange; I feel like I never really thought about her as anything other than a friend because we grew up together. In my mind, she was kind of like Drake, you know?”

“You do seem to have an affinity for cranky people,” Alice conceded, making him laugh.

“God, I really do, don’t I?” he said, giving her a teasing nudge. “But now…I don’t know. Since she came back to court, I’ve been hanging out with her more and I’ve finally started to let myself see her more as she is now instead of just my childhood friend…does that make sense?”

“It does,” Alice said, smiling. “For what it’s worth, I think you two balance each other out well.”

“Thanks,” Liam said, blushing. “I haven’t done anything about it yet, but I like being with her.” He paused. “Hey, do you want to dance?”

“Are you sure I’m the one you want to dance with?” Alice asked.

“Olivia went to put the fear of god into the caterer,” Liam explained with an affectionate smile on his face at the thought of her. “And since Bastien is working and you two are trying to be discreet, I figure we’re two spares that could use a dance.”

Alice grinned and set her water on a nearby table. “Let’s go.”

Liam led her out to the dance floor where Maxwell was already holding court and showing off his dance moves. Alice quickly fell into step with Liam as they danced, letting herself enjoy the music. They stayed out on the floor for several songs and Alice was about to beg off when she suddenly noticed shouting. She and Liam both turned towards the bar where Drake and Bertrand were arguing.

“Uh oh,” Alice said, hurrying towards the bar with Maxwell and Liam close on her heels.

“I found my sister, you asshole,” Drake snarled at Bertrand.

“Savannah?” Bertrand asked, his mouth falling open with shock.

“Drake, hey, what are you doing?” Alice asked quickly, still slightly out of breath from the dance floor. Bertrand cleared his throat awkwardly.

“That’s splendid news,” Bertrand said. “Is she well?”

Alice’s heart nearly broke when she saw the look on his face. She could see there was so much he wasn’t saying under his polite exterior.

“Like you’d care,” Drake practically spat at him.

“Seriously, Drake, what are you doing?” Alice asked.

“We all do,” Bertrand said, straightening himself up to his full height. “Her disappearance was quite a mystery.”

“She told me everything that happened between you two,” Drake said, pointing an accusing finger at Bertrand.

“Drake, stop,” Alice said, putting her hand on his arm. He ignored her as Bertrand’s composure fell.

“She was in love with you!” Drake exclaimed. Alice was suddenly aware that the music had stopped and the entire room had turned to watch them. “How could you let her leave with her heart broken?”

“Drake, this is not the time, now fucking stop it,” Alice hissed at him.

“Drake…” Liam said, putting a hand on Drake’s shoulder, but Drake shrugged him off.

“After she left, I realized I’d made a mistake, but I couldn’t find her. She disappeared from everyone, including me,” Bertrand said, lowering his voice as his face flamed at the realization their conversation was at the center of attention.

“Not everyone. Maxwell knew,” Drake snapped.

“Wow, hey…what the heck, man?” Maxwell asked, hurt.

“He…what?” Bertrand asked, turning to his brother, who seemed to physically shrink in front of them. “Maxwell Percival Beaumont. Tell me he’s lying.”

“Bertrand, I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to tell you,” Maxwell said, his voice weak and apologetic.

“Liam, go get the music turned back on,” Alice said quietly.

“But they look like they’re going to hit each other,” Liam whispered to her. Alice nodded towards Bastien who had already made his way through the crowd to them.

“I’ve got it. Go.”

Liam nodded and hurried off towards the DJ table as Bastien reached their group.

“Maxwell actually had the heart to support her, which is more than you ever did.”

“Drake!” Alice practically shouted. He finally looked at her. “He didn’t know. He literally just said he tried to reach out to her but couldn’t find her. It’s not his fault your sister decided to shut everyone out.” Drake looked back to Bertrand but Alice stepped between them. “Drake, this is not the time.”

“Drake, I think you need to go take a walk,” Bastien said quietly.

“What do you mean support her?” Bertrand asked, confused and suddenly aware he was missing a big piece of information. The music suddenly blared to life again, isolating their conversation a little. Alice glanced over to see Olivia making her way through the crowd, trying to divert people’s attention back to the party and away from the confrontation at the bar. Hana and Rashida quickly followed Olivia’s example.

“I’ve been sending her money,” Maxwell admitted. “Actually, that’s been most of my spending. I didn’t really buy a dozen peacocks,” he joked weakly.

“Why were you sending her money?” Bertrand asked. “Is she alright? What happened?”

Fuck, fuck, fuck, Alice thought as she looked at Bastien helplessly. This wasn’t the way she wanted Bertrand to find out, but it was too late to stop it. Bastien shook his head. There was nothing they could do now.

“She needed help raising your kid!” Drake shouted at him.

“Drake Walker, what the actual fuck is wrong with you?” Alice demanded.

“A…a child?” Bertrand asked slowly. Alice looked over her shoulder at him. Bertrand looked like he’d had the wind knocked out of him. “When did…Savannah was pregnant? I didn’t know. You have to believe me, I didn’t know.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alice said, turning to face him.

“Savannah told me you gave a nice long speech about how you two could never be together,” Drake said, still angry. “What was she supposed to do?”

Alice had a lot to say to that question, but she was more interested in Bertrand at that moment. She’d never seen him so flustered or hurt before and she felt like she was going to split in two watching him.

“You don’t understand,” Bertrand said, swallowing hard. “The last time I saw her…what I said…she misunderstood.”

“Don’t give me that bullshit!” Drake snapped.

“Haven’t you done enough?” Alice asked furiously, whirling around to face Drake. This time, it was Bastien who stepped between them, but Alice just stood up on her tiptoes to look past Bastien’s shoulder at Drake. “I cannot believe you’re behaving like this. You’re just trying to be an asshole and guess what? You’ve succeeded. Great job, Drake. I don’t know what started this argument, but back off.”

“How is this any of your business, Ayers?” Drake demanded.

“You made it my business by making me go with you yesterday! And I’m not going to sit here and let you attack Bertrand when it’s not his fucking fault that your sister made the selfish, shitty decision to keep his kid a secret from him!”

“Don’t talk about my sister like that!” Drake snapped.

“You know I’m right,” Alice argued.

“No, I know that the nobles all think they can just play with us commoners and throw us away when they’re done,” Drake said. “I’d think you of all people would understand that.”

“Drake, stop,” Bastien said in a low, warning voice.

“What I understand is that when I was at my lowest point, you and Bertrand and Maxwell did everything to take care of me,” Alice said, angry tears filling the corners of her eyes.

Drake laughed bitterly. “You really think he would’ve done anything for you if it didn’t benefit House Beaumont?” he asked, pointing at Bertrand. “He only cares about titles and reputations.”

“How dare you?” Bertrand snapped, rage storming across his face. He took a step towards Drake but Alice stopped him.

“I’ve got it,” she said quietly to Bertrand before turning to face Drake. “You’re projecting your own issues onto everyone else.”

“You’re delusional.”

“Why don’t you go sleep it off?” Alice retorted. “I think you’ve had enough to drink tonight.”

“Okay, this is over,” Bastien said, taking Drake by the arm. “Let’s go.” Drake tried to pull away, but Bastien held firm. “Now.”

Alice turned around to look at Bertrand but discovered he was already halfway across the room, heading for the front door. She hurried after him, pushing her way through the crowd before finally bursting out into the cool night air of Paris.

“Bertrand!” she called hurrying after him. He didn’t slow or turn around. “Dammit, Bertrand, don’t make me run in heels!”

He finally stopped, turning to her.

“You knew?” he asked, his voice quiet.

“I just found out yesterday,” Alice said. “I wanted to tell you right, away but Maxwell asked me to give him a few days to figure out what to say to you.” He looked away from her. “I’m so sorry.”

He looked back at her and Alice saw he had tears in his eyes. “Why didn’t she tell me?” he asked in a shaky voice. Alice pulled him into a fierce hug, holding him tightly. She could feel him crying against her shoulder.

“I don’t know,” Alice said, feeling her own eyes grow hot and wet.

“Why didn’t Maxwell tell me?”

“I think he was scared,” Alice said.

They hugged for a long time until Bertrand finally stepped back, rubbing at his eyes.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cry all over your dress,” he said, trying to use the sleeve of his jacket to wipe his tears from her shoulder.

“It’s fine, it’ll dry,” Alice said. “What can I do for you?”

He took a shaky, steadying breath. “I don’t know. This is just a lot to process. I didn’t think I’d ever see Savannah again and now I find out…what’s he like? You saw him, right? My…son?”

Alice smiled. “His name is Bartie. He looks like you.”

“Damn,” Bertrand said, forcing a chuckle. “I was hoping he’d look like Savannah.” He paused. “Did she really name him Bartie?”

“Yup,” Alice said. “She didn’t confirm it, but I’m pretty sure it’s after your dad.”

He smiled a little but it quickly dissipated. “I wish I’d known she was pregnant. I’ve missed so much.”

“I know, but you don’t have to miss anymore,” Alice said. “Things can be different now.”

“Can they?” Bertrand asked. “She clearly doesn’t want me to know.”

“Tough shit, he’s your kid, too,” Alice said. “And whether or not she wanted you to know, you know now.”

He smiled sadly. “I was in love with her. Had been for a long time, but I didn’t think she’d ever look twice at me. Then that night happened in the study…”

“Remind me to never go in there again, by the way,” Alice interjected, making him laugh.

“Shortly after, my father passed away and I was left in charge of the estate. I was so overwhelmed with everything and I…well, I didn’t think I had anything to offer her. I didn’t think I was good enough for her.”

“I’m going to stop you right there,” Alice interrupted. “Don’t you ever talk about yourself like that again. You are one of my favorite people on the fucking planet and I know you hated that I just said ‘fucking’–twice–but too bad. Yeah, you’re grumpy and sometimes say the wrong thing, but you’re also really compassionate and protective and generous and driven and my life is better with you in it. Anyone who doesn’t see that is a fucking moron.”

He hugged her again. “Thank you.” He let her go and stepped back, running his hands through his hair. “I think I’m going to take a walk.”

“Want me to go with you?”

“Thank you, but no,” he said. “I just need a minute to process everything.”

“Okay, well call me if you need anything,” Alice said. Behind them, the front door of the speakeasy opened and Drake stumbled out, Bastien holding his arm. They looked back and Bertrand grimaced.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Bertrand said. He offered her a weak smile before turning and heading down the street, hands shoved in his pockets.

“Is he okay?” Bastien asked as they reached her, nodding towards Bertrand.

“I don’t know. I hope so,” Alice said. “What about him?” she asked, nodding at Drake.

Him has a name,” Drake said sullenly.

“I’m just putting him in a cab to go back to the train,” Bastien said, putting up his free arm as a cab approached. The cab slowed to a stop and Bastien opened the back door, helping Drake inside, before shutting the door and leaning through the open front window to talk to the driver. Bastien handed him some cash and gave him the address before backing up.


Alice looked over to where Drake had unrolled the back window. “What?”

“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” he said, his words stringing together like cursive letters.

“I know,” she said. “We can talk about it tomorrow.”

He leaned his head back on the leather seat of the cab and, once Bastien was finished talking to the driver, the cab pulled away from the curb and down the street.

“Well, that was…exciting,” Bastien said, putting an arm around her shoulders. Alice slid her arm around his waist and leaned into him.

“Now don’t you wish I’d just told Bertrand myself?” she asked. He laughed and kissed the top of her head.

“Do you want to get out of here?” he asked.

“Don’t you have to work?” she asked, looking up at him.

“I told everyone I was taking off at ten, and it is…” he checked his watch. “10:23.”

“Then yes, I’d love to,” she said. “Where are we going?”

He shrugged. “Want to take a walk?”

“With you? Always.”

After wandering through the Paris streets for a while, they happened upon a small used bookstore.

“How is this place still open?” Alice asked as Bastien held the door open for her.

“Everything stays open later in Europe,” he explained, following her into the shop. “Some restaurants won’t even open until ten in places like Spain.”

“This place is amazing,” Alice said as she looked around appreciatively. Every possible surface was piled high with books, with random paperbacks shoved into nooks and crannies in an effort to make it all fit. The woman behind the counter looked up from her book to nod to them in greeting before she looked back down. Alice wandered through the crammed aisles, letting her eyes drift over the titles. Most them were in French, but she recognized a few titles in English. She paused, pulling out the occasional book to flip through its worn pages. Alice loved bookstores in general, but there was something about a used bookstore that spoke to her on a deeper level. She could get lost for hours, flipping through previously well-loved pages, finding copies with other people’s notes in the margins, wondering why they’d chosen to highlight a certain phrase, why it had spoken to them.

After a while, she realized Bastien wasn’t beside her. She looked up and didn’t see him so she started to wander through the tall shelves, peering around pillars of books until she found him near the back of the store, engrossed in a paperback.

“What’d you find?” she asked as she joined him, slipping her arms around his waist.

Les Misérables,” he said, turning the book to show her the cover.

“You’re reading Victor Hugo in Paris? How very cliche of you,” she teased. He smiled.

“I was looking for a specific line,” he explained. “I just found it.” He cleared his throat and began to read. “Le pouvoir du regard a été tellement mal exploité dans les histoires d’amour qu’il en est venu à ne plus y croire. Peu de gens osent maintenant dire que deux êtres sont tombés amoureux parce qu’ils se sont regardés. Pourtant, c’est de cette façon que commence l’amour, et de cette manière seulement.

“I have no idea what that means, but I love listening to you read French anyway,” she said. He leaned down and kissed her.

“It means, ‘The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.’ It reminds me of the night we met.”

Alice let the words wash over her, leaning her head against his shoulder for a moment. Then she reached up to gently cup his face, pulling him down to her and she kissed him. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close.

She pulled back and took the book from him, examining it’s cover. “I’m getting this for you.”

“You don’t have to do that,” he said. “I have a copy back in Cordonia.”

“Yes, but you don’t have this copy,” Alice said. “Besides, you need something to remember tonight by because, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this is kind of our first real date.”

“What?” Bastien asked, confused. “No, it can’t be. I haven’t planned anything.”

“Of course it is!” Alice protested. “We went to a party, we broke up a fight, we went for a walk, and you took me to a bookstore. What else do we need to make it an official date?”

Bastien sighed, smiling at her. “At least let me take you for a drink after we leave here so it has some semblance of a real date.”

“Deal,” she said before she turned and headed for the counter at the front of the store, book in hand.

After they left the bookstore, they wandered around for a bit longer until they found a quiet cafe. Bastien headed to the bar to order their drinks and Alice found an empty table near the window. She sat, looking out onto the street as pedestrians strolled by, illuminated by the streetlights like passing shadows. Shortly thereafter, Bastien arrived at the table and set Alice’s glass of whiskey down in front of her before sitting across from her with his own. He lifted his glass.

“To our first trip to Paris together,” he said. She smiled and clinked her glass against his.

“If we’re going to come back, I should probably learn some French,” she said. “‘Croissant’ and ‘baguette’ will only get me so far.”

“I dunno, I feel like those will get you most of what you want,” he said with a cheeky grin. She swatted at his arm playfully and he laughed, catching her hand in his and kissing her palm. “Fine, what do you want to learn?”

“Anything,” she said. “Dealer’s choice.”

“Okay,” he said. “Try this: je t’aime plus qu’hier et moins que demain.

Je t’aime plus qu’hier et…”

Moins que demain.”

Moins que demain. What does that mean?” Alice asked.

“It means, ‘I love you more than yesterday and less than tomorrow,’” Bastien explained.

“I’m never getting rid of you, am I?” she murmured as she leaned across the table to kiss him, smiling against his lips.

“Never,” he said.

Part 34

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