Exactly twenty four hours had passed since I‘d come to Paris to take Nicki’s life. But how extraordinary is the unraveling of fate and my own traitorous heart. He still slept in the room beyond and the sense of familiarity in that simple fact tightened within me to something painful and electrifying.
The apartment was typically Parisian, of course; all painted paneled walls and creaking floors with a balustraded balcony leaning several floors above the tireless and narrow streets of the old Rive Gauche. I could clearly hear the raucous laughter of Quartier students mingling with the bellicose roar of distant traffic and the whispers of strolling lovers; distilled human essence rising on a teasing breeze. The room behind me was bathed in muted modern light, but I could imagine old shadows flickering about the plaster walls and the ghost of thick tallow smoke wreathing from a candle to the high ceiling. A ghostly vision flared of wine-soaked laughter in the muddy Boulevard St. Germain, of dark eyes liquid with unfathomable desires.
A woman’s sleek reflection moved to dissolve the memory, setting aside her drink in a cloud of sweet and musky perfume, bedroom eyes drawing from me an epicurean smile. She was drug store beautiful, a pretty painted eyes, plastic nails, plastic heart. Her mouth was a cute little furnace. What a hot parcel of flesh and sighs to writhe sweetly in my arms. I laid aside her auburn hair to kiss the sweep of her little neck, her breathing shallow with appreciation as her hands explored the hardness of my flesh. A little crucifix gleamed against the ripe swell of her breasts and I kissed that too. She closed her eyes in swooning surrender to my hungry ministrations.
Outside, the old bells of the church of Saint Séverin sounded the hour and the shadows danced.
I turned her body towards the fluid shimmer of the smiling mirror, encircling her waist firmly from behind. Her heart thudded through the thin cotton shirt she wore, her gaze electric at the sight of us entwined in the panel of glass. I could see the abandoned slash of a silk scarf pointing red towards the room beyond.
Then her eyes and mine fixed on the opening door as our mirrored selves fled like startled wraiths. She tensed against me at the sight of Nicki framed in the arch to his bedroom, his expression riotous. My mouth curved into a smile beside her ear. But this time, it wasn’t for her.
He moved close with the command of purpose, his finger touching her lips to silence the protest that didn‘t quite come, his shoe crushing the little wisp of red silk on the floor. My painted beauty pushed minutely into my chest as if I were the refuge from an unexpected shift of events. Nicki’s eyes were a little too feral beneath the showy veneer of charm but when he bent to kiss her she held her breath. Her hair softly tickled my cheek as I whispered to her. What else is French but the language of love?
I released her to his embrace, his arms greedy enough to squeeze a questioning gasp from her lips. She tottered to find a balance, caught between tremulous fear and sensual promise. Ah, but my attention wasn’t really focused on her at all.
I took her hand from where it clasped his shoulder and raised her smooth little wrist to my lips; a single kiss to the tracery of delicate veins. And my eyes met his with a predatory jolt.