THE MARRIAGE CAPER, Chapter 1
Andre de Laurent hated these small, intimate dinner parties at the house. He was always expected to attend, even on nights like this when it was just the family and one of his sister Lecie’s friends.
The pre-dinner cocktails had barely started. He didn’t have to look at his watch to know dinner would be served in approximately thirty-five minutes. Enough time—as Tasha had once said—for everyone to get a good buzz going.
Tasha. He wished she was here. He missed her, never having the good fortune of seeing her often enough.
“Andre...” His brother’s voice broke into his thoughts. Funny, he hadn’t noticed when Julian had moved to his side in front of the majestic fireplace made of natural stone. In the winter, the heat permeated a calming effect along with the warmth. Too bad it was the dead of summer. Andre could use a little calming.
He looked up into Julian’s mirror-like eyes. Both were a Pacific-blue, but Andre’s were a shade lighter than Julian’s. The same with their hair. Julian’s was darker and curlier. Big brother was taller too. Even though Andre had heard more than one woman say that he, Andre, was the better looking brother, that hadn’t stopped women from throwing him over for Julian. Being the heir to the de Laurent fortune had its own appeal.
And then there was Lecie, Andre and Julian’s younger half sister. She was her mother’s daughter. Blonde hair and blue eyes, just like Claudette.
Andre had to admit that after Claudette married his father, she’d stepped in and been a wonderful mother to both him and Julian. All things considered, they were a close family, though Papa was prone to meddling in their lives.
Now that Papa could no longer interfere in Julian’s love life—thanks to Julian’s solid marriage with Camille—that could mean only one thing. Andre was next. But Andre wasn’t interested in marrying. Not in the least.
Andre leaned toward Julian, and whispered, “How long do you suppose it will be before we can make an escape?”
“Papa’s got his eye on you, little brother,” Julian said, almost laughing.
“I suppose you’ll be his new pet project.”
Andre groaned. “Tell me you’re joking.” He cast a quick, stealth-like glance around the grand salon where Papa liked to impress his guests. The main parlor was directly in the middle of Pacifique de Lumière, Andre’s family home—that Julian would one day inherit—and it had been impressing people for more than four hundred years.
“Papa has been up to something.” Julian paused to knock back his cocktail. “Mysterious trips up to Avignon. More than once in the last month.”
Avignon? That’s where Andre and Julian’s late mother was from. Why was Papa going up there? Andre shook his head. It mattered little. Nothing Papa threw at him could persuade Andre to become the subject of his experimentations.
Deidra, Lecie’s friend, sidled up to Andre’s side. She’d had a crush on Andre for years, he knew that, but he’d never wanted to hurt the mousy little girl’s feelings, and he wasn’t about to start now.
“Deidra, we haven’t seen much of you lately.” He gave her a friendly smile because he doubted she attained many of those. “I hope all is well with your parents.”
“They’re fine.” She glanced away as her cheeks turned red. “I’ve been spending some time in the States with my grandmother.”
Andre grinned. “I’ve been spending some time in the States myself. California.”
“I’ve heard. Florida here.” Deidra’s tone remained cheerful, but her face showed her remorse over his reason for the trips to the US.
“Who knows...maybe you’ll find your own reason for visiting Florida.” Andre gave her a wink. “Other than your grandmother.”
From the corner of his eye, Andre didn’t miss Parker, Pacifique de Lumière’s butler, whispering in Papa’s ear. Seconds later, both men scrambled out of the parlor.
* * *
Maurice de Laurent hurried down the hallway and slipped inside his study, closing the door behind him. Traversing the dimly-lit room proved no problem for him. His feet knew where every obstacle lay and instinctively avoided them.
He settled himself behind his desk and pulled the receiver off the telephone’s base, laying it against his ear. “Maurice de Laurent.” After the simple greeting, he listened intently, showing little emotion. Once the message had been relayed, he said, “thank you for calling,” and hung up the phone.
It was over. His late wife’s uncle, Edouard Renault had died.
Sandra is an award-winning author of romance. She has eclectic tastes, penning tales in a variety of genres such as paranormal (mostly time travel and reincarnation), contemporary and suspense. She lives in the U.S. (west coast) with her husband, two kids, four dogs and one very temperamental feline. Sandra's books often push the envelope and step outside the boundaries of conventional romance. For more info on Sandra's books, visit her website at www.sandrawrites.com.