We release hands, and Mia surprises me by lifting up on her toes and air kissing each of Pierre’s cheeks, as is the French custom.

“Pierre, I’m Mia. Collins has told me many wonderful things about the success of your company. It’s my pleasure to meet you.”

He looks down at Mia, and his mouth curls into a grin. “Mia, c’est tres jolie. Beautiful name,” he says. He introduces us to Adele and Mia treats her to the same greeting and compliments her dress. They are soon chatting happily as the hostess leads us further into the restaurant and seats us at a table in the back.

There’s a moment of stillness, as a quiet hesitation falls over our group. The four of us are relative strangers. As I regroup and gather my thoughts, Mia, the sweet and thoughtful girl that she is, pays a compliment to their beautiful home country. This seems to break the ice. I listen as Mia asks thoughtful questions about art, history, local customs and the French parliament. She is hungry for knowledge and a great conversationalist. Pierre leans forward on his elbows, immediately riveted with this beautiful, intelligent woman. Adele and I exchange polite smiles, and I ask about her work. She teaches at the university—finance. I smile, knowing her and Mia will also have much to discuss when Pierre and I retreat to the lounge with a cigar later to talk business.

Throughout dinner Mia continues to impress me. Not only is she stunning in that floor-length dress, but she’s professional, polished, excellent at making small talk, and sets everyone at ease. It’s very unlike taking Tatianna to events like this. Being in the presence of a supermodel makes everyone uncomfortable—from the women wanting to drive a pitchfork through her skinny body to the men eye-fucking her all night. It was always a headache. This is refreshing and nice.

Polishing off the last bite of my meal, I realize this has been fun. In a way that most business dinners are not. We argued over the absurd trends in American music and laughed at the silly childhood stories Mia told. The wine flowed easily throughout dinner, though I limited myself to two glasses so I’m clear-headed, and I noticed Mia doing the same. Politely accepting each glass Pierre offered her, but taking small sips of water in between.

I don’t know what will happen tonight when we’re alone and slightly tipsy from the wine. All I know is that I want to be alone with her. I can’t help my eyes watching her mouth when she speaks, or from falling down to the front of her dress where her breasts are nestled so enticingly. There is only one thing standing in the way of me and Mia heading back to our hotel—the business I need to settle with Pierre.

“Shall we.” I meet his eyes and gesture toward the back rooms.

He nods. “Yes, let’s.”

I lean down and my lips brush past Mia’s cheek. “You are amazing,” I whisper. “Will you be okay?”

She glances up at me, playfully. “Go get ‘em, tiger.”

I laugh, despite myself. Confidence surges through me and I give a tight nod.

As I lead Pierre away to the lounge, I can feel Mia’s eyes on me the entire time, sending warm darts of pleasure zipping through me.

Chapter Fourteen

Mia

This evening is important to Collins. It’s not that he needs this deal, obviously, for Collins it’s more about the challenge. I can see it in his eyes; this is a big one. He wants this deal. And what Collins wants, he gets. Going out to dinner with him and his prospect made me nervous as hell, but I refused to be the reason for failure, so I swallowed my fear, and dove into the challenge with him. Dinner was amazing. I was worried Pierre and Adele would spend the evening looking down their noses at me, but they proved that although they are billionaires, they’re still human. They humored me, and all my prying questions, and even let me go on telling silly stories about Collins as a kid.

By the time Collins and Pierre excuse themselves to talk business, I‘ve begun to really like the French couple. My eyes follow Collins as the men head back to the lounge. I can’t help but wonder, as I watch his confident yet relaxed stride, if in another life--one where my parent’s hadn’t had to move us when I was a teenager--I would be here as Collins’ wife. Pierre and Adele would make great couple-friends with us in that alternate reality.

“You are an accountant, no?” Adele asks, pulling my attention back to the present, true reality.

“No,” I say. “Yes,” I add. I laugh, unable to believe I’ve held it together the whole evening, only to be tripped up with a yes or no question. “I have been. I’m between jobs. You are an economics professor, right?” My question smoothly directs her attention away from my complex and undesirable situation, and guides her into discussing the differences in European economic structures.

She manages to talk for over an hour on the topic. We order another bottle of wine and, as a money geek, I am fascinated to hear how the cultural differences have woven their way into her theoretical framework.

“I’m sorry,” she stops herself. “I didn’t mean to go on about this for so long. It’s just such a nice surprise that you have a finance background.” She takes a sip of her wine. “Pierre had the impression you were a model or something like that. I admit, I was a bit worried we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. I’m so glad I was wrong.”

“Are you kidding? I could talk about this stuff all night,” I say genuinely. It feels great knowing that I’m doing my part, or at least I’m not messing it up too miserably. I also can’t help but mark down a score for Team Mia that Tatianna wouldn’t have fared as well if she’d come.

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