Dawn pulled her phone out and hit ignore…again. She didn’t know how he did it, but Gabe had got her cell phone number and hadn’t stopped calling, leavingher creative, cute and charming messages for the past couple weeks. Then there were the gifts; ridiculously adorable gifts. She still remembered theembarrassment as she tried not to be moved and ignored the fluttering of her heart when the delivery boy handed her the two-dozen red and yellow balloons.Before the balloons it had been the strawberries and then that little pink, porcelain pig. Flowers she could have ignored. Not that she didn’t love flowers, butballoons, pigs, strawberries, how did he know just the sort of thing that would appeal to her? If he thought he was going to win her over with silly presents andclever little notes…he was absolutely right, dammit!It was her last day in France. All she had to do was ignore him for one more day and then she’d be… alone, miserable and still upset that she let Don Lothariouse her. She shook the thought away. She didn’t need, or have time for a relationship right now. She was putting her life back together and getting her careerstarted. That’s what she’d come to Champs Les Sims to do.
It was time to be firm; very, very firm. She’d call him and demand he stop. She’d say he was annoying…no boring her. Boring was unforgivably insulting.As she pushed the buttons on her phone, Dawn worked herself into a haughty mood, determined to break the spirit of the unbelievably handsome man that wastouching her fractured heart.“Hello Dawn.”The sing song way he said her name made her grinded her teeth. “Gabe, this has to stop.”“Does it? It hasn’t even started.”“Gabe…” She tried to remember her decision to be firm. “I mean it! You have to stop sending me things. You’re only wasting your time.“I have a bit to spare” he said mildly.“I’m leaving tomorrow, so nothing is going to happen between us.”“Then there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a late lunch with me today.”“I don’t want to, that’s why.”“I get off work at two so I’ll come pick you up around three at the Nectary” he announced and hung up the phone.
“The nerve of that man! Assuming I would cancel my plans…”“You don’t have any plans” Elliot pointed out, enjoying Dawn’s little show of indignation. He might have only known her for a short time, but he could seeGabe was wearing her down, whether she liked it or not.“That’s not the point Elliot! What if I did? I refuse to go. He can’t force me to go out with him…”Elliot just listened as his friend continued to rant about the insufferable man who had so heedlessly sent her adorable gifts. Elliot would have totally agreedwith her, on principle, if he hadn’t seen the way she had lightly caressed the porcelain pig, or how her cheeks turned as pink as the balloons he sent danced inthe air or how she had touched up her make up and brushed her hair not five minutes ago. Elliot knew Gabe and he was no Don Lothario. It was time Dawndiscovered how a man is supposed to treat a woman.
“Elliot!”“Je suis désolé! I’m sorry my love. What did you say?”“I said… What should I do?”“I think you should go. Then I think you should let him take you home and make you forget that there is a man whose name is Don Lothario” Elliot said witha twinkle in his eye.
Dawn was unnerved by Elliot’s statement; it had burrowed an image of Gabe and herself in a most provocative situation which made her cheeks flush withembarrassment. “This is no time for jokes Elliot, he’ll be here in a couple minutes and I need your help!”“I’m not joking Cheri, I think you should go out with the man. He deserves at least that for all the hard work he’s done to get your attention. What harm can itdo? Like you said, you are leaving tomorrow. The second part is up to you, but I am sure you would be more relaxed after” he said, the sparkle once again inhis eyes. “Dawn didn’t know why she was so upset. There was something about Gabe that called to her, that made her ache with need. The last time she acted on suchfeelings she had her heart broken. “What happened to “Men, who needs them?” she asked.“I lied Cher, we all need a good man now and then.”“I don’t want or need a man!” she exclaimed “I want to go home and get my life back on track and start my business. I don’t want some attractive Frenchmentaking me out or…anything else.”“So you think he’s attractive?”“That’s not the point Elliot!”“Well, you better think of what is, because your “attractive” Frenchman just walked in the door.” He chuckled and stepped back to watch the show.
Dawn turned suddenly and noted that, yes the attractive Frenchman had just walked in the door. Her heart did a little flutter as she watched him walk towardsthem; his effect on her no less potent than the first time she had seen him. He had an athletic build and filled out his clothes well. His thigh muscles strainedagainst the fabric of his dark trousers, she noticed, as her eyes lingered over him. Her mouth was dry when she finally looked into the sage green of his eyesthat were accentuated by the deep green of his shirt. The smile he aimed her way let her know he noticed her appraisal and it quickened her pulse. Shescowled at him.“Elliot” he said as he tore his gaze from her. She felt like someone had turned off the sun.“Hello Gabe” Elliot responded. “I heard you had a hot date tonight.”Gabe smiled at Elliot, happy Dawn had talked about him and that he had Elliot on his side. He turned his attention back to Dawn as he answered. “Yes, I do.You look very nice Dawn” he said giving her his own survey. “Are you ready to go?”
Dawn waited until she was sure she had herself under control before she spoke, the lie would be more effective that way. “I’m sorry Gabe, but I can’t havelunch with you today. Elliot and I have plans.” She turned her attention to Elliot, her eyes pleading with him to go along with it; “Don’t we Elliot?”“No, I’m sorry Chéri. I forgot I have a much more important thing to do with someone else” he lied back. “You go ahead with Gabe and…have fun” hewinked at her. Elliot was sure that if Dawn could kill him with the look in her eyes she would.
“Well then, that’s settled. Shall we?” Gabe asked and held his hand out to Dawn.She ignored it while her mind raced. She thought about just turning around and running when she couldn’t think of a more dignified way out. Her pridewouldn’t let her do that though. When she realized she had no other choice she huffed out her breath and walked towards to door.Gabe winked at Elliot, a silent “thank you” for his help, and followed her.She was sure he was going to take her to some chic French restaurant where the air was a stuffy as the clientele. He surprised her when he pulled up to aquaint little Bistro, one of her favorites while she had been in Champs Les Sims. The outdoor seating butted up to a park she liked to sit in and read during herfree time.“I thought you would like this better than sitting inside some stuffy restaurant” he said as if reading her mind. “They have amazing food and the lady who runsit is very nice.”“Yes, she is. I love this place” she said softening a bit towards him. “I came here often to sit on that bench and read. Do you come here often? I am surprisedwe didn’t meet sooner if you do.”“I don’t get to come as much as I would like, because of my work hours. Hungry?” he asked.
If she was going to have a meal with him, she might as well enjoy it, she decided. She nodded her head and let him led her to an empty table, enjoying the feelof his strong hands on her back. He was attractive, had a good sense of humor. He had sent her balloons hadn’t he?“Thank You” she said, smiling at him as he pulled her chair out for her.Almost immediately a plump middle aged woman ran out to greet them. Dawn recognized her as the owner of the Café, Mrs. Dubois. She spoke very quicklyin French to Gabe so that Dawn only caught a couple words. Petite amie or “girlfriend” which made Dawn fluster and Bella which made her cheeks flush.When the stout hurricane that was Mrs. Dubois left to fill there order, Dawn turned her steely eyes to Gabe.“Did you tell her I was your girlfriend? She asked scowling at him despite his grin.Gabe continued to smile at her, enjoying the discomfort he could see radiating off of her. “You use that look to shut me down, but I like it!She simply lifted her brow at his smiling face. She had decided to enjoy her free lunch, but that didn’t mean he could spread rumors around town that theywere an item. “Did you imply we were together?” she asked again.“We are together, no, having lunch.”“Gabe!”“Oh mon Dieu! No, I said you were just a friend. She was a little upset, of course. She recognized you and said you were very sweet and very beautiful.”Dawn flushed again, despite herself, at the way he looked at her.“She told me my mother would have been lucky to have you as a daughter in law.”
Dawn didn’t know what to say. Before she could put together a coherent thought another woman and a little girl approached the table and spoke to Gabe.“Bonjour Gabriel. Est-ce votre nouvelle petite amie?Dawn noticed Gabe’s eyes flicker a bit with annoyance and decided he wasn’t enjoying this attention any more than she was.“Bonjour, Mrs. Morel” he said very politely. “This is Dawn, she’s just a friend. She is from Riverview in Simerica and is here studying nectar making withElliot St. James.”“Aw yes, I remember now. You helped me pick out the nectar for my little dinner party last week. It was well received, merci.“Votre accueil” Dawn replied, practicing her very limited French vocabulary.“Elle est très belle” the little girl said to Gabe.“Pas aussi jolie que vous.” (Not as pretty as you) he replied and flicked her nose playfully. Dawn’s heart melted.“Allons-y Amelie!” Edith Morel said to her daughter. “Au revoir Gabriel. It was nice to meet you Dawn” she said as she winked at her.
“I am sorry. They were friends of my mothers” Gabe said after Mrs. Dubois personally delivered there food.“Were friends” “would have been lucky” past tense, Dawn noticed.“Your mother is gone?” she asked hesitantly.“My parents died in a car accident a year ago on their way back from Paris. It was there twenty fifth wedding anniversary.”She immediately regretted prying. She simply covered his hand with hers and said the only thing she could think of “I’m sorry.”“Thank you” he said, more moved by the simple statement than the multitude of condolences he had received over the past year. “Tell me about your family.”
“Well, I live with my parents in Riverview. My dad is retired and spends most of his days playing in the sprinklers of my garden. My mom is a surgeon andwill retire soon too. They are probably very worried about me since I up and left for France in the middle of the night.”She froze, realizing what she said.Gabe noticed the panic in her eyes. “Did you run away from something?” Or someone, he thought.“I had already planned to come, I just decided to come earlier than planned” she said. It was a half truth, but a truth none the less.There was a story here he was missing, Gabe was sure, but he let it drop.Dawn was relieved he didn’t ask her to elaborate. She realized that she hadn’t thought of Don once since she had been with Gabe. She pushed the thought outof her head and continued to talk about her family.“My three older brothers also live in Riverview.”“The baby of the family” he teased.Comfortable again, she smiled at him. “Yes, my mom really wanted a little girl. How about you, do you have any siblings?”“Only child” he stated matter of factly.“You have no family?” she asked.
“No, no family.”And no ties left to this town anymore, he thought. He didn’t know why he stayed here or at a job that was his father’s passion, not his. Out of respect? Heguessed. He stayed and put up with nosy, very well meaning friends trying to hook him up with their sister, daughter, cousin, etcetera. He hadn’t wanted anyof them…but Dawn…he wanted her. She had awakened a passion in him with her scowls and sneers. He knew she had a soft center; he saw it when she talkedabout her family and work. He liked the juxtaposition of the two different sides of her. However, she was from across the ocean and would be crossing backover too soon for his taste. Lousy timing and lousy luck! He would make the most of the time he had with her now and think about the rest later.
After lunch they walked back to the base camp where Dawn was staying.“So, do I get a kiss goodbye?” he teased as he played with a strand of loose hair.“Gabe…” Dawn kept her voice mild and patient as excitement ripped through her “…I’ve already told you nothing going to get started between us. Don’t takeit personally, you’re a very attractive, but I’m leaving tomorrow. And even if I wasn’t I’m not looking for a relationship right now.
“No?” With his free hand, he circled her wrist. “Your pulse is racing.”Her annoyance was quick, mirrored in the sudden flare in her eyes. “I’m always happy to boost an ego” she said evenly.“Boost it a little higher” he suggested and drew her closer. One kiss and he’d be satisfied. He knew it was a lie as he thought it.She hadn’t expected the fierce tug of longing when his breath fluttered over her lips. She let out a quick sigh of annoyance that she hoped would infuriate him.So, the Frenchman wanted a little fling with the foreign girl. Relaxing, she tilted up her chin. She’d give him a kiss that would knock him flat, right before sheturned and walked away.But he didn’t touch his lips to hers yet, only looked at her. Then his tongue traced a lazy line over her lips and she could do nothing more than close her eyesand experience. How could she know a mouth could feel so much? How could a kiss, that wasn’t a kiss, make her… ache? His thumb was running up thendown over her vein in her wrist; his finger tips skimmed the base of her neck. Her whole body hummed and he still hadn’t pressed his lips to hers.Then they were mouth to mouth, spinning from arousal to passion at the instant of contact.
He’d known her mouth would taste like this hot and hungry, her body soft and strong against his. That’s why he’d woken up thinking of her, why he couldn’tget her out of his head, why he slowly chipped away at her resistance until he agreed to spend this afternoon with him. Now he wanted more. His tongue methers and her taste was all the tastes he’d ever covet.She hadn’t expected this. She could have evaded the smooth moves of seduction, but there was no resisting passion, need, desire. “Gabe., enough.” She drewback when all she wanted to do was step closer and submit.“Non, pas près! Not nearly done” he corrected, trapping her closer to him. “Stop…please.” she begged.“Merde!” It was the please that did it. Her breathing wasn’t steady, her pulse racing, but the resistance suddenly in her body was very real. Gabe felt a flash offrustration, which he controlled, and a sharp stab of desire, which he had more trouble with. “Daccord, why?”
Even out of his arms she had a hard time relaxing “You kiss very well” she said with a forced casualness.“You didn’t answer my question. Why stop? We are too old to play these games. You want me, I want you.”“Perhaps I haven’t been clear. I meant everything I said Gabe. I’m not interested.”“You are lying, but your body can’t. You are very interested. You must be quite an expert on holding grudges.” He noticed when she stiffened, but continued.“Someone hurt you badly and you have decided to blame all men”“You don’t know what you’re talking about and it’s none of your business!”He saw the hurt and anger. It was difficult for him to remember he’d know her only a short time and had no right to pry, or to expect anything from her. “Idon’t normally press on old wounds. I’m sorry.”Her rigidness vanished with the simple statement. “That’s alright. Well, it’s been nice. Thank you for lunch; don’t let me keep you.”
He had to grin. “I’ll see you again Dawn” he stated simply, as he crossed to her again.“It’s a possibility.”“A certainty” he corrected.“Then we’ll both know where we stand.”He cupped her chin in his hand to hold her face still as her gave her a last hard kiss that seemed suspiciously like a threat. “Till next time” he said and abruptlywalked away.Dawn realized Gabriel Goulon was going to be very serious trouble.
It was a long flight, but she made it home in one piece. She should have known her father would be up waiting for her. “Daddy!” she exclaimed and threwherself into his arms.“How was your trip?” he asked her.“It was great! Elliot is awesome, you’ll love him. I learned so much. Where’s Mom?”“She’s on call. I really wish she’d retire.”“She will soon. Then you both can spend all day outside in those sprinklers.”Deaglan didn’t want to bring this up right away, but he knew she needed to be prepared. “Don’s called and been over looking for you.”She tried to keep her face neutral. She was embarrassed and ashamed of what she had done. It was a HUGE mistake; one she didn’t plan on repeating “Whatdid you tell him?”“Just that no, you weren’t home and that no, I wouldn’t tell him where you were.” Deaglan looked at his daughter. Something had obviously happenedbetween her and Don Lothario to cause her to flee to France so suddenly. He was afraid he knew what it was. A man like that had a way with women.Someone as innocent and good as Dawn would be a perfect target. He was sure his baby girl hadn’t been the first or last he would turn his charm on for.“I only bring it up now, because he’s been over every day this week. Most likely you’ll see him tomorrow.” He watched the emotions play out on hisdaughters face. “Would you like to talk about it?”
“No!” she said a little too forcefully. “It was a huge mistake I don’t plan on repeating, so there’s nothing to talk about.”Deaglan decided to let the matter drop.Dawn quickly changed the subject. “How’s the garden? I’m sorry to leave all the work for you and Mom.”“Don’t worry about it Dawn. We enjoy the garden.”“I brought some samples back from France I want to plant.” She said excitedly. “I also ordered a Nectar Maker. When it gets here I can show you what I’vebeen doing all month.”Dawn was glad her father hadn’t pressed her to find out what had happened between her and Don. She hoped to forget it and never speak of it again.