Good morning and welcome back to Tuesday Tales. We’re only 13 days away from the first day of spring, but winter has a firm grasp on my little corner of the world as we put up with another freezing rain warning.
Each week, a group of talented writers share a snippet from their works in progress with you, snippets defined by a word or a picture prompt. This morning, the word is TREE. I’m continuing with Wedding Bell Blues.
I’ve skipped ahead a page or two. MJ and Paul are now in the room awaiting details about the treasure hunt. Enjoy.
“Bonjours Messieurs et Mesdames. It’s a pleasure to welcome all of you participating in the Lacorneille Treasure Hunt. We have ten teams of eight vying for the treasure. If anyone else wants to join, you have until six o’clock this evening to sign up. Monsieur Leroux will be here shortly to go over the rules. Merci.”
“I think that’s my cue to go to the ladies’ room,” MJ said.
“I’d better go with you,” Cindy said. “Lord knows I’ll have to go the minute he starts talking.”
“I’ve got to go back to the bungalow for another lens. I’ll see you shortly,” Lindsay said, standing as well.
“I have never had a breakfast like the one they brought us this morning,” Cindy commented as they moved across the room. “My friends back home won’t believe it, so I took pictures. You know, I always laugh when people do that, but it was amazing. My apple was cut to look like a swan and the other fruit looked like flowers. It was almost too pretty to eat.”
MJ laughed as they entered the powder room. “You’ll be taking lots of pictures before you’re done. Lindsay is a professional photographer.”
As soon as they were finished, MJ followed Cindy out of the lavatory only to stop dead at the sight of the last man she wanted to see.
“MJ?”he said, almost as if he wasn’t sure it was her. “I heard you were here.”
“I’m sure you did.” Mama would’ve wasted no time reporting to her cronies last night, and one of them would have forwarded the information to Mark’s family and friends. “Go ahead, Cindy. Tell Paul I’ll be right there.”
She swallowed her nerves. They were in the middle of the reception area with people all around. She would be safe enough.
As soon as Cindy entered the dining room when everyone waited, Mark grabbed her arm and pulled her behind a wall of of miniature potted trees.
“What the hell are you playing at?” he demanded through gritted teeth.
“You’re hurting me,” she said and felt her pulse hammering and her lungs starting to constrict. “Let go of my arm.” If anything Mark squeezed harder.
“Bitch, I asked you what the hell you were doing here.”
“I’m on my honeymoon,” she answered defensively, cowed by his fury. “I was married last night, now let go of me.”
“I heard all about that dog and pony show. It’s not legal I know the rules. This whole setup is a scam and I’ll prove it.”
“Darling, is something wrong?” Paul materialized at her side, and Mark released her arm. Her fingers moved to rub the tender spot, and Paul frowned.
“Buzz off, buddy. The lady and I are having a conversation.”
“The lady is my wife,” Paul said, his voice deadly calm.”Anything you have to say to her, you can say to me.”
“So you’re the gigolo she picked up for this charade. That little circus last night? When people find out they’ve been conned, you’ll go to jail. You’ve been had. She may seem sweet and loving, but the bitch has ice water in her veins and between the two of us, whatever she’s promised you for this little gig is a lie. Now, why don’t you cut your losses and crawl back under whichever rock she found you? ”
Paul stared at Mark, reached to pull MJ away from him, and tucked her into his side. He looked down at her, smiled to show her he was in control of himself. Kissing her quickly, he turned to address Mark, the steel in his voice unmistakable.
“Get your facts straight. Our marriage is legal, done under special dispensation from the French ministry. I suggest you apologize to my wife right now before I make you eat your words,” he whispered barely loud enough for MJ to hear. “Otherwise, I have no compunction about taking you outside and beating the living shit out of you. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.”
Mark’s face reddened. “Sorry,” he mumbled, no doubt not meaning it, before straightening his spine and drawing on some store of bravado. “Who the hell do you think you are? You can’t threaten people like that. It’s illegal.”
“So is identity theft and assault, but that didn’t stop you,” Paul answered. “As to who I am, the fact you don’t recognize me doesn’t ruin my day in the least. I’ll only say this once. Never come near my wife again. I remember you only too well and know exactly what you’ve done. Just to refresh your memory Markos Theopolis, I’m Paul Davis.”
“I remember you too. We need to talk, MJ,” Mark said, his anger barely held in check.
Paul smiled. “I can’t imagine what you and Marilyn have to discuss,” Paul said smoothly, “unless it’s how you plan to repay her the money you stole from her, in which case, you’ll be dealing with both of us.”
He dismissed the man and escorted MJ out onto the veranda through the open French doors, leaving the bully sputtering like a faulty engine.
“I think that should give him something to think about.” Paul handed her another mojito from the tray the waiter carried.
“I’m so glad you showed up when you did.” She rubbed her arm where Mark had grabbed her.
“Did he hurt you? I’ll kill the bastard if he did.”
She reached up her hand and touched his cheek. “It’s nothing. See, the marks are all but gone.” He bent his head and kissed her arm making it tingle.
“When Cindy came back to the table alone and said you’d run into some guy you knew, I saw red. He’s lucky I didn’t rip his arm out of its socket.”
“Well, you saved me again,” she said, standing on tiptoe and kissing his cheek. “Seeing his cower before you reminded me that bullies usually only pick on the defenseless people and I’m not defenseless anymore.”
Paul took her glass and placed it next to his on the cocktail table closest to them. He bent his head and captured her mouth filling her with desire. His lips were soft and tender, and when his tongue teased at them, she opened and let him carry her away on a sea of sensation only he could create. This wasn’t simply a kiss. He was making love to her mouth, and she was enjoying every second of it. The kiss was full of passion and desire, and she reveled in the unexpectedness of it.
“No, you’re not. You’re my wife, MJ, and I’m very protective of what’s mine. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll keep his distance. Now, ready to join the others?”
MJ nodded, too confused by Paul’s words and actions to say or do anything else.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on Tuesday Tales.