My hand slides up and down and as hot water pelts against my back. I close my eyes and lose myself in the moment, pumping my fist over my cock in eager strokes. When I picture Mia’s round ass and lush tits I come so hard I have to fight to suppress the groan crawling up my throat.

When I emerge from the bathroom with a white towel secured around my hips, Mia is sitting in the center of the bed with a map of Paris unfolded in front of her.

“Plotting out your route?” I ask, grabbing my suitcase.

She looks up, sees my undressed state, and her eyes widen in surprise. “Uh-huh,” she mumbles.

“Sorry, I’ll get dressed in the bathroom, I just need to grab my clothes.”

After I’m changed, we head out into the sunlight, Mia snapping photos of every cathedral and fountain with her camera phone, and talking excitedly about how cute the quaint cobblestone streets and cafes are. I’m at ease in her presence, and I’m able to just relax before the big meeting tonight.

We stop at a patisserie, and I buy her a coffee and a chocolate croissant, ordering in French, something I’ve done a million times before, but the way Mia’s raises both eyebrows, you’d think I’d just flown to the moon.

“Why didn’t I take French in school?” she says. “It sounds so elegant.”

Then she sinks her teeth into the flaky pastry crust and moans as she chews. There’s something Tatianna would never do.

“Dear God, taste this!” she says shoving the pastry toward me.

I chuckle, but decide to humor her, biting into the other side of the treat. “Damn, that is good.”

After our little outing, we don’t have much time before dinner, so we head back to the hotel. We change into our eveningwear, and when Mia emerges from the bathroom, I almost swallow my damn tongue.

“Is this okay?” she asks.

She’s in a strapless black gown that falls all the way to the floor. The bottom half is loose and swishy, but the top is form fitting and the modest peek of cleavage makes me want to see more.

“That’s fine,” I bark out. I clench my jaw and fight the urge to adjust myself.

She frowns and runs her hand over the fabric. “I could change…”

I stand in front of her and place my hands on her bare shoulders. “You look beautiful,” I say, my tone softening. “Don’t change. You’re perfect.”

“Thank you,” she whispers, her eyes latched onto mine. “You look amazing too.”

Without my consent, my thumb begins skittering back and forth along her skin, rubbing little circles along her collarbone. “You’re so soft.”

She offers me a small smile. “I’m kind of obsessed with body lotion.”

I smile down at her. “Are you ready for tonight? You remember everything I told you about Pierre and his wife?”

She nods. “Of course. It’s going to go great, don’t worry, Coll.”

She grabs her handbag and we head toward the elevator. All I want to do is cop a feel and attack her in the hotel suite, but I’m trying to be on my best behavior. I’m technically still with Tatianna and I won’t betray that. I’m not a cheater, and I wouldn’t want to start a relationship with Mia that way anyway. The look in her eyes tells me that if I did make a move, she wouldn’t stop me. That information is dangerous.

We arrive at the restaurant early, so I guide Mia toward the bar. “Would you like to grab a drink first?”

“Sure,” she says, lifting up on her toes to slide onto the bar stool gracefully.

She’s so easy going and up for anything, it calms me, even though I’m about to negotiate a thirty million dollar deal with a man whose first language isn’t English.

When I’d discovered her packing up her suitcase two days ago, ready to flee for home, something inside me snapped. I knew I couldn’t let her go. I realized in that moment that if I lost Mia again, I lost my connection to the past. And I don’t want that. I’ve barely been living these past few years. Sure, I’ve been going through the motions, but there’s been no real joy in it. Sitting here with her, watching her swirl the ruby-colored wine in her glass, I know I’ve made the right call bringing her with me.

We enjoy a glass of wine together, Mia’s eyes floating over the bar and restaurant.

“Collins?” she asks.

“Hmm?”

“Will you help me order if the menu is in French?”

“Of course,” I say, taking her hand.

She smiles up at me. “Don’t worry. You’ve got this.”

I smile, despite my nerves. On the outside no one would know I’m tense and anxious. I always get this way before a big deal, but my colleagues have always applauded my ability to remain calm and collected. Only Mia knows me too well. She sees straight through me, to the man inside and somehow she knows tonight is important to me.

We finish our wine and head back to the hostess stand. Pierre has just arrived. I recognize him from the headshot on his company’s website.

“It’s show time, baby,” I say to Mia, taking her hand and guiding her to the front of the restaurant.

“Monsieur Ducharme,” I say, stopping directly in front of him.

“Ah, Collins Drake,” he says, his voice deep and heavily accented. “Please call me Pierre.”

We shake hands, our grips firm and our eyes centered on each other’s. There are a million nuisances that pass between us at the seemingly innocuous handshake. His eyes implore mine, as if to inquire if I’m as good as he’s heard. And I give an imperceptible nod, as if to say fuck yeah I am.

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