Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : A. J. Llewellyn
Word Count :25869
Publication Date :2018-11-09
Series : #
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-4874-2296-7
Can a man tormented by love find a second chance in the city of light?
Teddy Bardin married Auguste, who he thought was the man of his dreams, and to start a new life with his husband, he moved from New York to Paris, the city of light. Now, on a rainy afternoon, a life-shattering telephone call arrives, and Teddy learns that Auguste has been in a car accident.
After racing to the hospital to visit his stricken husband, Teddy is in for another emotional shock—listed among Auguste’s injuries is a nearly severed penis. It comes as an even bigger surprise when Teddy learns that Auguste was with another man who was orally pleasuring him at the moment of impact. And that’s only the beginning in a series of heartbreaking discoveries.
Teddy quickly comes to realize he must make some tough decisions about his future, especially about his marriage and unfaithful husband...and also his growing obsession with Pierre, the other important man in Auguste’s life...
The call came at four o’clock in the afternoon on a cold, drizzly Wednesday. Nothing had felt right from the moment I’d opened my eyes that morning. My husband, Auguste, had been listless and so anxious when he’d hit the snooze button a few too many times. He’d grumbled about everything. He loved Paris, but lately, he griped about it. Come to think of it, in recent weeks, he’d griped about everything. I couldn’t understand why.
I stared at the cell phone screen and set aside my paintbrush.
“Are you Teddy Bardin?” The female voice on the other end of the call struggled with my non-French first name.
“Oui,” I said, remembering to respond in French. Even though the caller spoke in English, her careful, halting cadence suggested she’d be a lot more comfortable talking in her native tongue. It wasn’t a big problem for me. My French was getting better by the day.
“You are the…ah…next of kin of Mr. Auguste Bardin?”
“Yes, I am.” What the heck is going on?
“You are his brother?” It sounded like ees brar-ther.
“No, I’m his husband.”
A sharp intake of breath came from beside me, and on the other end of the phone.
My student, Max, held his paintbrush between his teeth. When I glanced at him, his eyes conveyed sympathy and pain. He knew it was bad news, even before I did.
“You must come to Le Hospitel-Hotel Dieu. Your…ah…husband has been in an accident.”
“What do you mean? What kind of accident? Is he all right?” I forgot all my French fast.
“He is having emergency surgery. He is in excellent care,” she said in more confident English.
I had to push for more information. I was stunned when she finally said, “He was involved in a head-on collision.”
“Oh, my God.” I gulped. “He was driving?” My thoughts swam. I wondered what the devil he’d been doing in his car at this time of day.
“Of course he was driving.” The woman paused then gave me instructions to the hospital, and I turned to Max and his mother, Melisande.
“Go,” she said, “don’t worry about us.”
My brain fell apart. “How do I get to Le Hospitel-Hotel? The woman just told me, and I couldn’t take it all in.”
Melisande put her hand on my arm. “We’ll take you. This time of day, it’s impossible to find a taxi. Especially in the rain.”
I thanked her, watching Max drop his paintbrush onto his palette.
“Teddy,” he said, “you have yellow paint on your bottom lip.”
When had we used yellow paint? An odd thought crossed my mind. Colors represented all kinds of hidden agenda in France. Yellow roses signified betrayal. You never gave those to a dinner-party hostess. What did yellow paint mean?
I felt like I was moving in slow motion, my student and his mother staring at me.
“Oh…thank you.” I plucked a baby wipe out of the box on the easel in front of me, blotting my mouth. My job as a physical therapist involved teaching children who’d suffered traumatic injury how to enjoy their favorite hobbies in spite of severe restrictions. Max was my poster child for inspiration. A quadriplegic since a devastating pool accident, he could paint, write, type and draw with his mouth. At sixteen, he’d reinvented his life. I reminded myself of this as I locked and closed everything. I threw on a raincoat at Melisande’s gentle suggestion and ran outside.
Max wheeled himself to his mother’s van. He was very self-sufficient and resisted help getting any place. Me, I had all my arms and legs working, but Melisande had to help me into the front passenger seat.
Rain licked the windshield in long, indolent drops.
Out of nowhere came the sound of hooves. Melisande slammed on the brakes, and we all lurched forward. I turned to my right, my heart in my throat at the vision of twelve men on horses thundering past us.
“Garde Républicaine!” Max whispered.
For one brief moment, the world stopped, even the rain, as this relic of Paris’ military history filled my heart and mind. I’d heard about these magnificent horses but had never seen them before. I’d assumed they were some kind of Parisian urban myth. The pristine steeds traveling in three rows moved past us as though on a desperate mission. I’d always wanted to see this, but not when I was having a real emergency myself.
“Incroyable!” Max’s eyes shone like beacons in the dark afternoon.
The Garde disappeared, and people and traffic moved again, but for one shiny moment, I believed in fairytales again.
“I have never seen them before, but Maman has. When I was sick. She said it was good luck. Didn’t you, Maman?” Max’s throat sounded scratchy, which happened when he overdid things in our lessons.
“C’est ça, that’s so. It will bring you good news too, Teddy.” She said all the right things as we made our way across the city. “Maybe it’s not bad. Maybe when you get there, you’ll find he’s okay. Trauma patients often look worse than they are.”
I nodded. She was right. She knew.
A chill crept through me. I knew the hospital had the best casualty department in all of Paris and was the only hospital that serviced the first nine of the city’s many arrondissements. But what the hell had he been doing out of his office in the first place?
We crossed the little bridge to the separate island, the Ile de la Cite, which contained the city’s oldest hospital on the left bank next to Notre Dame Cathedral. Late afternoon church bells chimed as we pulled up out front. I had a weird image of Quasimodo going nuts up in the bell tower yanking on the bell cord. The frantic sound rattled me as it, just like the rain, suddenly stopped. From somewhere I heard drop, drop, drop.
Was Quasimodo crying?