“Charlotte, I regret that I must say goodbye.”
She looked over at him, startled. “Has it been that long already? I hadn’t realized.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry if I kept you longer than I should have.”
“Please do not say you are sorry. I would stay much longer if I could, but I will have more than one person cross at me if I do not arrive on time. I enjoyed speaking with you very much.” He hesitated, not sure why he suddenly felt so insecure. He feared pushing this any further, but he also feared leaving his next interaction with Charlotte up to chance. “Could we do this again?” he asked finally.
Her fingers paused in their stirring of her lemonade. She did not look up at him right away. Even when she did, there was indecision in her eyes. That same strange pain blossomed in his chest again. Did she really not believe what she had said about him, that he was not the cavalier and arrogant version of himself he portrayed?
“I… I would like that,” Charlotte said. She met his eyes squarely, showing him her fear, but also her anticipation.
“You would?” He could not keep the surprise from his voice.
Charlotte laughed. “Yes, why wouldn’t I?” She said it casually, but it was clear from her expression that there were definitely reasons she would not. Guy did not know what they were, but something was pushing her to turn him away.
Before she could change her mind, Guy pushed his mobile phone across the table to her. He kept his hand on the phone, ready to pull it back if needed. “Would it be too brash of me to ask for your number?”
Charlotte tapped her fingers on her own phone. After a moment’s hesitation, she pushed it toward him. “Not if you give me yours as well.”
Smiling with relief, Guy abandoned his own phone and picked up hers. He heard her let out a breath as he worked on saving his number into her contacts. By the time he had finished, she was holding his phone out to him. They traded phones once again and Guy felt great relief as he slid it into the pocket of his suit coat. “Merci beaucoup, Charlotte. For talking with me, and for your number. I am looking forward to doing this again.”
“So I am,” Charlotte said, and Guy was almost sure she meant it.
He forced himself to stand after leaving enough cash on the table for both their drinks. Charlotte followed, and Guy hoped he was not imagining her regret at having to end their time together. Neither one spoke as they exited the restaurant. It was not until they reached the sidewalk and were faced with the prospect of going their separate ways that they both attempted to speak at the same time.
Charlotte laughed and allowed Guy to speak first. He had meant to say a simple goodbye, but instead, he said, “You know, you can call me if you need to talk about anything, yes? You have been so kind to listen to me the last few times we have met. I would be happy to exchange the favor.”
“Return the favor,” Charlotte corrected with a smile that seemed to tremble at the corners. “Thank you, Guy. I really appreciate that.”
Reluctantly, he extended his hand toward her. She took it and they shook slowly, neither one eager to part. “Aren’t you supposed to be kissing me or something?” Charlotte asked, her playful smile returning.
“Excuse me?” Guy asked, surprised, yet not at all reluctant to answer her question.
“I thought the French were always kissing each other on the cheek when they said hello or goodbye. Perhaps you’ve been too Americanized for that, though,” Charlotte said.
Guy stepped closer, and this time he was not teasing. “Not at all,” he said as his free hand slipped to the back of her neck. He heard her breath catch, felt her body go completely still. Yet he did not pull back. His lips pressed gently first to one cheek, and then the other, lingering a fraction of a second too long.
He pulled back slowly. Charlotte’s breathing came haltingly, but his had stalled altogether. For too long, neither one could do anything but stare at the other. It was Charlotte who finally broke the silence. “Well,” she said shakily, “that answers that question.”
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“When it comes to choosing between obsession and passion, some lines should be crossed.”
“The one woman capable of capturing his attention, may be the only one who can truly break him…”