Holly, Present day
“I have many plans for you tonight,” Adrien declared.
I looked up from my spot on the bed as he came back into the bedroom, he sauntered in with his sweatpants hanging low on his hips and chest still glistening from the shower. We’d gotten home sometime after three that morning, and didn’t get much sleep, I wanted to make the most of out my final nights and talked him into bringing out the paddle again. I deeply regretted that when I felt the full force this afternoon and could barely sit.
“Do these plans include being gentle with my poor, abused butt? Because honestly, it could use some more tender love and care.”
He flopped onto the bed beside me, pulling me tight against him. “The derriere will be given the utmost civility and gentlemanly treatment, and the rest of you will be thoroughly romanced and swept off your feet.” He kissed my forehead pointedly.
I snorted. “You’ve already done that with me, I think it’s only really required once.”
“I don’t want you under the impression that I’m only in this for sex, and it’s been a while since I got to show off my wooing abilities.” His crooked grin and the way his hair flopped in his face was far too cute, who could say no to that face?
“Your ‘wooing abilities’?” I asked, amused.
“Courting skills, romancing of the ladies, or as the Americans say: pickin’ up chicks.” His mock accent threw me into a fit of laughter.
“I promise you that no guy ever said that, and I mean any of that.” I bopped his nose. “Is that what you think I sound like?”
“No, your accent is cuter.” He paused. “Your French accent is terrible though; it needs a lot of work.”
I scoffed, only a bit offended. “Excuse you, you seemed to like my French accent when I was showing off the new words I learned.”
His hand splayed out across my stomach, stroking up and down my naked flesh. “They sound different when you say them, almost sweet - innocent like you don’t actually know what you’re saying.” He pushed himself up and rolled on top of me, his leg pressing between mine as we kissed. “How someone can make the word ‘whore’ sound sweet is beyond me...”
I wrapped my arms around his torso, feeling the ripple of his muscle he moved against me. My mouth opened at his urging and I stroked my tongue on his. We were lazy, slow, and I didn’t want it any other way. My hand slipped down to the waistband of his pants, pushing slightly but unable to really get them off from my position.
He chuckled and pulled away. “Not until tonight, ma chere. We’re going out for dinner, sightseeing, and back here where I plan to treat you like a filthy slut and then to bed to be treated like royalty.”
I felt my cheeks getting hot as I blushed, butterflies filling my stomach. There was something about anticipation games that I found almost more fun than anything else.
The restaurant he made reservations at was upscale and my luggage was woefully ill-prepared for such an event. The restaurant we had gone to before was upscale as well but not to this degree and the former prided itself on being trendy, so it wasn’t an issue to wear a dress that could be classified as a shirt. I laid out everything I had and poured over it, again and again, eying my credit card in frustration. Adrien kept saying I could take his if it was that important to me, but I wouldn’t take it no matter how hard he pushed. I heard the buzzer for the apartment go off and glanced at him in confusion, he shrugged and pulled on a shirt before going to get the door. I pulled on my leggings and his white t-shirt before following him.
Adrien’s irritated voice carried through the living room, ”Ma mere--”
“Holly!” Blanche glanced past Adrien’s shoulder and pushed her way over to me.
I couldn’t say anything as the wind got knocked out of me in her fierce embrace. This woman loved her hugs, even if it made me a bit crazy. She was in a cherry red pantsuit and matching pumps, with her hair pulled up into a tight bun. I hoped she didn’t mind my lazy day clothes.
Adrien pinched the bridge of his nose and braced himself against the counter. ”Ma mere, you can’t just show up here unannounced.”
“I own the apartment; I can come here anytime I wish - especially to see mon ange.” She smiled warmly at me.
I couldn’t help but smile back. “It’s nice to see you again Blanche, but you didn’t need to come all the way back from Marseille for me.”
She waved her hand. “Nonsense, it’s your last day in Paris and I just had to say goodbye in person.”
“Which you did yesterday,” Adrien said bitterly.
She cast him a withering look. “Stop trying to hog her, we haven’t gotten to spend any time together, and I’ve missed mon ange very much.”
“Aw, Blanche that’s so sweet!” I said, my heart swelling. As I opened my mouth to continue Adrien cut me off, a sudden smile breaking out across his face.
"Maman, if you’d like to spend some time together I believe Holly wanted to go shopping for a dress.”
Fuck you! I clenched my jaw and glared at him over Blanche’s shoulder. He was such a bastard, if he couldn’t convince me to spend his money then he would have his mother spend money on me instead. Blanche took the bait instantly, glancing from him to me with growing excitement.
“Shopping? I have the driver out front; you can get anything you want - and I know the most fabulous place to start!”
I couldn’t say no, I’d tried many, many, times before when she wanted to go shopping. I sullenly agreed to meet her down in the car after I got changed. When she was out of the apartment I pinned Adrien with a sour look. “That was a dick move.”
He smirked. “Oui, that it was. But now you don’t have to worry about not having a dress.”
I crossed my arms bitterly as I continued to stare him down. “I could call the whole night off you know, dinner, sightseeing, sex, all of it.”
His face fell and I felt remorseful, he just wanted me to have a good time, but he didn’t have to try and force things on me to do it. “I’m sorry, I didn’t plan on her coming here, and I shouldn’t have said what I did. I just knew you wouldn’t let me buy you anything, I understand if you’d like to stay in tonight instead.”
I defrosted at his defeated and apologetic tone, reaching out for a hug. ”Mon amour, I can’t do that to you. But at some point, you and I are going to have a very long conversation about money and the way you use it on me and against me.”
He tilted my chin up for a quick peck on the lips. “I don’t want to use it against you, but we can talk about it later. Try and have some fun with her, she needs it right now.”
I went back to the bedroom and pulled out a gray wrap tunic and my knee-length brown boots. I pulled my hair back into a low ponytail as I grabbed my purse and said goodbye. Blanche was ecstatic to have me to herself for a few hours, asking a million questions about what I had been up to and how everything was back home.
She insisted on getting us lunch before heading out to a friends boutique, the store wasn’t open but the owner made an exception to come and meet us. It never ceased to amaze me the connections she had or what she could do, because when we stepped into the shop her friend was armed with wine and the most infectious smile I had ever seen. Clearly, we weren’t an imposition.
“Genevieve, bonjour!” Blanche said excitedly, kissing the woman on each cheek.
Genevieve was stunning; with a chestnut-coloured pixie cut, wide hazel eyes, and taller than me with a lithe and willowy figure, probably a former model. Unfortunately, she spoke very little English, making Blanche my translator but she didn’t seem to mind one bit. Nothing ever bothers that woman.
I accepted a glass of the chardonnay and wandered around the shop, it was a cute store - intimate, with pastel colors and mirrors behind every inset rack on the walls. Several small chandeliers hung throughout, casting warm golden light and softening the space. I could hear the women talking as I looked at several dresses, my heart nearly stopped when I saw the price tags. I swallowed hard and turned away, wiping my suddenly very sweaty hand on my pants.
I turned to Blanche, startled, she came up to me and reached out to stroke the fabric of a silver dress. “Sorry, I was just browsing,” I said softly, trying not to show how uncomfortable I was.
She patted my arm and pulled several dresses. “Why don’t you try these on? The purple would look darling on you.”
I nodded and brought them to the change room robotically. It was like being with my own mother, I didn’t have a backbone and I couldn’t tell her what I really wanted. The dresses were all awful, and I hoped that it was the dresses fault and not mine. I hung them back up and went back to browse. It struck me as I was looking around that she had left Charles to come see me, despite it being their actual anniversary.
“Did Charles come with you to Paris, or did he stay in Marseille?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Neither. He’s gone off to London and I’ll be leaving tonight to meet him at the house, we’re trying to find full-time nursing staff to have on hand, and we want to get that ready before treatment officially starts.” Her tone was upbeat, no indication that she was bothered by it at all.
I frowned slightly and turned to look at her. “Blanche, I know it’s not my business or anything but if you want to talk to someone about the treatment - well I’m always here. I went through it with my dad a few years ago, and you’re just as much my family.”
She paused and glanced at me sideways. “That’s very sweet of you mon ange.” She paused and held up a royal blue gown, assessing it closely while she spoke. “I don’t want to worry Adrien; he gets a bit upset when I mention it at all. Charles is the same, but he maintains that everything will be perfectly fine this time next year.”
The air was heavy with everything she left unsaid. I still hadn’t mentioned anything to Adrien because I didn’t know how he would feel, and I was unsure what I was supposed to say. But I could hear it in Blanche’s voice, the same my dad once used, she was worried - scared, and alone. Her husband wanted to pretend that everything was okay, and her son didn’t want to acknowledge that anything was wrong for fear that something worse would happen.
I reached out grasped her free hand tightly in mine, she squeezed back but wouldn’t meet my gaze. “Can I ask what type?” I asked softly, unsure if she wanted to share that much.
“Lung cancer, it’s still early...” Blanche trailed off. She turned to me suddenly and smiled widely holding out the dress. “Why don’t you try this on? It would match the necklace you had the other day.”
The one Adrien gave me, that I’m sure you helped pick out. It was a beautiful gown; I took it back with me to the change room - pretending that I didn’t notice her quick change of the subject. If she wasn’t ready to talk about it in too much detail that was okay, she knew how to reach me. But the knowledge that it was lung cancer haunted me; Adrien dabbled with cigarettes and I suddenly couldn’t stomach the thought of him touching them.
As I finished zipping up the dress, I caught myself in the mirror, my breathing hitched and I stroked my hands down the soft material. It was perfect; A-line, cap sleeves, shimmering tulle skirt, and stunning beadwork on the bodice imitating a flower and ivy pattern across the waist and up one side, and all in royal blue. I gathered the skirt in my hands as I stepped out into the corridor to show it off, Blanche clapped her hands over her mouth when she saw me.
“You’re not leaving here without it; I won’t have it,” she demanded.
She called for Genevieve so both women could dote on me, rushing around to find the right shoes and jewellery to go with it - several pave bangles, and glossy nude color Louboutin’s. I wanted to cry when I saw the total for everything, but Blanche wouldn’t hear it, trying to insist that she was making up for missed birthdays and Christmases.
Afterward, we wandered a bit longer around the plaza, she picked up things here and there for herself, telling me all about the romantic dinner her and Charles would be having once she got to London. I was happy for her, as much as her husband couldn’t stand me, I could still see how much he loved his wife.
When we finally parted ways she got misty-eyed, pleading for me to call when I got home. I got choked up, “Thank you for everything, Maman.” I held her tight for a long while before I went up to the apartment alone.
Adrien was in the walk-in, going through a collection of suits. “Should I match you? I feel like I should but tell me what you think.” He looked at me like a deer in headlights.
I giggled and kissed his cheek. “Find something grey or silver, maybe a dark blue dress shirt, and no yellow gold.”
“Because you’re wearing white gold?”
“That, and yellow gold is hideous,” I chirped happily, setting my bags down on the beige ottoman behind him.
He smirked and I helped him pick out a light gray suit with a royal blue dress shirt to match my dress and black leather shoes with a bit of a heel and matching belt. No tie, I wanted him to look like he was having a nice date, not going to a business meeting.
I shooed him out of the closet so I could get ready in private, the bathroom and the walk-in were adjoining which made everything much easier. I worked slowly, not wanting to rush myself into screwing up. I went from a hot bath to blowing out my hair into soft waves pinned back with glittering floral clips and only light makeup. I didn’t want to do it as heavy since I seemed to be cursed with sobbing every time I did, but the cranberry lipstick and light cat eye went well with my understated hair.
The lingerie was basically a few scraps of material held together by the grace of God. The lacy black bra swooped over each breast, barely covering my nipples and mostly sheer everywhere else. The thong was similar, but I had gotten the matching suspenders and stockings. I checked the time; I was right on schedule shockingly enough. I stepped into the dress and assessed myself in the mirror once I had it and the shoes on, I felt like royalty - all primped and pampered. I pulled my jewellery out of his cabinet, fastening my earrings and adjusting the necklace length slightly. With one last reassuring glance in the mirror, I brushed the front of the gown and went to meet him in the living room.
"Ma amour tu es resplendissante, you look absolutely gorgeous,” he whispered, reaching out to grasp my hands.
I smiled at him, leaning forward to give him a quick kiss. “You as well, mon amour.”
We went down to the car after spending far too long wrapped up with each other, I had to fix my lipstick, but I had to admit the color looked good on him too.
The Aston Martin was left at the Marseille estate, in the city, he kept a Jaguar XJ - because apparently people just like to have cars that cost six figures collecting dust in a garage. Or a hangar as he not so subtly corrected me. Rich people are weird, why have multiple cars if you rarely drive any of them? I was almost a bit jealous at his attachment to it by the time the valet took the keys from him and he glanced back longingly.
“I think I’d prefer to see you checking out another woman than your car,” I mumbled, slightly bitter.
“I have room in my heart for more than one beautiful woman, but she doesn’t purr nearly as well as you,” he whispered close to my ear.
I couldn’t help my laughter; he was such an ass at times, but I loved it. We didn’t have a private room this time since we probably would have gone straight back to the apartment acting like cats in heat if we did. But the restaurant was exquisite; deep maroon walls, dark hardwood, white silk linens and warm light emitting from the wall sconces, it was also mostly empty which I was thankful for.
He took me through the menu patiently, this time around I recognized very little beyond the foie gras. Once our wine was served and orders placed, I reached across to hold his hand. It was hard to believe everything was real, and that it was going to be over so soon.
“So where are we going sightseeing? I can’t imagine much will be open too late or easily accessible in formal attire,” I asked, trying to make him cave.
He smirked and rubbed his thumb along the back of my hand. “Wouldn’t you like to know; I promise it is open late and our clothing won’t hinder us.”
I stuck my tongue out at him childishly. “Keep your secrets then.”
I watched his eyes move from my necklace upwards, a crooked smile forming on his face. “Those look beautiful on you, I’m happy you wore them.”
I blushed, unable to meet the heat in his eyes. “Well, I was informed by this guy I’m screwing around with that he liked seeing me wear them, something about me being his or whatever,” I said, striving for a nonchalant tone.
He turned my hand over, tracing quick swirls across my palm. ”Ma chere, if you don’t like it; the jewellery, or anything else, I will stop. I had time to think about it while you were out and I don’t want to push things on you, I want you to be happy and if that means firm boundaries on gifts then I understand.”
The waiter brought out our meals and we thanked him; the coq au vin smelled amazing. I ran over Adrien’s words in my head from the night before, I stewed for a bit, trying to find the right words. “I don’t mind the gifts, and if we’re being honest, I really like them. But I don’t want you buying them as some game to piss your father off or using it as some marker that I belong to you. I don’t need you pissing on my leg like a dog,” I weighed my words carefully.
“I’m glad you like them, but I don’t want you to think I buy them to piss him off, that’s just an added bonus for me. The marking isn’t a territorial thing, I don’t need other people to view it as a leash.” His lip twitched. “I’m secure enough to know you’re not going to fuck some other guy, I’m not particularly jealous when I know you’re coming home with me and not them. Like I said last night, it’s a symbol that you’re carrying me with you, that I’m in your thoughts.”
I smiled at my plate. “You never stopped seeing my necklace like a collar, you were pretty torn up about it last week.”
He nodded. “It was hard to see if I’m being honest. Jarring almost, because in my mind I couldn’t shake the image of you kneeling naked on the floor with it on.”
I was thankful I had just swallowed, or I would have choked on my food. We enjoyed the rest of our meal together slowly, savouring every minute. Eventually though, no matter how clammy my hands got or how many butterflies filled my stomach, Adrien wanted to take me to the Eiffel Tower. I knew that was where we were going, even without asking him. He was sentimental, and the Tower was a powerful memory for both of us.
As he parked and helped me out of the car I felt my breathing quicken, and tears welling up. Not now! Not yet! I squeezed my eyes shut as I looked away, desperate to not cry in the elevator with strangers, I tightened my hold on his waist and tucked my head into his shoulder. The others got out ahead of us and stepping out on to the metal platform on the top floor sucked the air out of my lungs. Adrien didn’t say anything, just guided me gently to a more secluded spot away from the hordes of tourists. I gazed out over the city, the river twinkled with the lights around it and every building glittered like stardust.
“Holly,” he murmured.
Adrien brushed a lock of hair behind my ear as I turned to him, speechless and not wholly convinced that this wasn’t a dream. I covered his hand with mine and as my eyes met his I realized his were watering and threatening to spill over.
“J’taime, ma chere. I love you so much,” he choked out, pulling me in for a kiss.
Tears rolled slowly down my cheeks, I held his head between my hands as he pulled away, I needed to touch him to feel grounded. “I love you too,” I whispered.
He buried his face in my hair and I heard him release a shaky breath. “I want you to stay, I need you--”
“I can’t,” I interrupted as I sobbed. “I miss my home Adrien, my family, Mya, my life is in New York.”
“Then let me come with you,” he begged desperately. “We can find a way to make this work, whether its winters in New York and summers in Paris. I want to make this work; I don’t want you to run away again.”
I sobbed hysterically as I clung to him, I wanted it to work too, I didn’t want to run this time. He was willing to compromise, and it was incredibly overwhelming. I pulled away to wipe my face, feeling like I was drowning under his gaze.
“We can make this work.” I kissed him hard, my fingers threaded in his hair as he pulled me against him.”