Authors: Alyssa Linn Palmer
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Erotica
"The Paris Game is a sexy noir romance--a gritty, thrilling peek between dangerous Parisian sheets." -Tiffany Reisz, Award-Winning and International Bestselling Author of The Original Sinners series (Mira Books)
"Dark, mysterious, sexy. Noir at its best." -Roxy Boroughs, author of A Stranger’s Touch
“Sophie’s not interested in you.”
He chuckled. “So you keep saying. Let me offer you a wager then, ma chère, since you seem so certain.” He ran a hand down her bare arm and she tried to keep from reacting. Goose bumps rose on her skin and she hoped he hadn’t noticed. “It’s been so long since our last one.”
“And that turned out so well for me,” she said dryly. “Why would I want to?”
“I’d give you the choice of terms,” Marc offered.
“Anything?” She tried to think of something appropriately damning and to get him back for having lost their last wager. She didn’t want to spend 24 hours on her hands and knees again.
“Whatever you like, ma chère.” He was so easily confident that he would succeed. She wanted to wipe the smirk off of his face.
The Paris Game
A Le Chat Rouge Novel
Alyssa Linn Palmer
To Tiffany—merci beaucoup, mon coeur.
To Paris—the city of my dreams.
And to my family.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
“Royale wants to see you.”
The maître’d caught Sera at her dressing room door, blocking her way. She tried to step around him, but he persisted. “Now. You have time.”
“I should be on stage. Our next set starts in a minute.”
“I’d love to tell him that you wouldn’t come when he ordered. Have it your way.” He turned and she caught his arm.
The back corridor of the jazz club frightened her, claustrophobic and dark. It seemed to stretch forever, until she turned the corner and a sliver of light shone from under a door. She moved towards it, her footsteps in her high heels echoing off the scuffed parquet. Cigarette smoke, and something more rancid, like rotting meat, hung in the air.
The wet sound of coughing greeted her as she opened the door. Monsieur Royale, the club’s owner, covered his mouth with a linen handkerchief. When he saw her, he tucked it away in his pocket and gave an imperious wave towards the chair in front of his desk. Sera took a seat, pushing a lock of her dark hair back behind her ear. Her gaze wandered as she tried to look at anything but him. She could pretend he wasn’t undressing her with his eyes, or calculating the money he could make from her.
The office was cramped and untidy, and it reeked of a combination of smoke and body odor. The rancid smell she’d noticed out in the corridor seemed to be from a forgotten plate on a shelf behind him, holding the remains of a meal. Her eyes followed Royale’s hand as he grasped the packet of Gauloises on the desk, bringing one to his fleshy lips. A diamond pinky ring glinted in the light. He dug a gold lighter from the pocket of his expensively tailored jacket and lit the cigarette.
“Mademoiselle Durand,” he said, clearing his throat. “You’ve disappointed me.”
Sera dared a glance at him. He glowered at her from under bushy brows, his eyes dark.
“What have I done?” Her fingers tightened on the folds of her black dress and she made herself relax. She hadn’t done anything wrong.
“When I lent you the money, mademoiselle, I told you quite clearly that it needed to be repaid swiftly. And you’re such a good girl, I thought you’d obey.” He coughed again and reached for a snifter of brandy that sat on a pile of old ledgers. “The €200
payment you left me this week is not what I would consider swift.”
“It was all I could afford,” Sera retorted, though she tried to keep her voice even. Work had been slow.
“That’s not my concern, just yours. Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear when you came begging.” He leaned forward, filling her field of vision. “If you default on your loan, you’ll pay up in other ways.”
Sera remembered, her stomach churning. He’d pinned her to the wall and yanked up her shirt. “A bit small,” he’d said as he groped her bre
ast, his rancid breath washing over her. Now, his lewd gaze slid over her cleavage.
“I’ll give you more this week,” she replied, straightening in the chair. His eyes flicked up to her face, weighing her words.
“If I have less than €300 in my hand, I’ll consider you to have defaulted.” He looked at his watch. “And if I’m not mistaken, you have work to be doing, mademoiselle.”
Sera rose, swallowing against the bile that threatened. She smoothed her dress, anything to keep her from showing her fear to Royale. “Good night, monsieur.”
She backed from the room. Turning away from Royale always made her uneasy. Though his bulk meant he didn’t move quickly, she didn’t trust him. She pulled the door closed and hurried down the corridor. She could already hear Benoît warming up on the piano and the low tones of Patrice’s cello. She turned the corner and stepped out into the small club, nearly colliding with the bartender as he shifted a case of liquor.
He smiled at her, the dimple showing in his olive-skinned cheek. “You’re late.” He scolded her gently. She hurried down the three steps and across to the stage, darting around a table full of carousing men. One tried to pinch her buttocks, but missed. Serge, the drummer, held out a hand as she ascended the stage, helping her up.
“It’s our last set,” he said. “Then we can relax. Are you ready?”
He gave her a look and she squared her shoulders and looked back. “It’s Piaf first, then the Billie Holiday,” she replied. Any doubt in his eyes faded.
',” he replied in a low tone. “Let’s wow them—make them glad they tore themselves away from M6’s cop dramas.”
Sera laughed. “Yes, let’s.” She stepped up to the microphone and looked out into the club, pretending that its faded crimson walls were instead the bright gloss of a club in Monte Carlo and the tarnished candelabra were glittering chandeliers.
A smattering of applause accompanied the first few bars of the song. She smiled, mostly to herself. One day it might be Monte Carlo. She wanted to leave this all behind.
Her euphoria faded as the set ended; her fantasies overtaken by the club and its worn appearance. The dim lights hid the worst of it: chairs that hadn’t been varnished in years, sags in the floor and the faded burgundy velvet of the banquettes along the wall. The small crowd had already begun to dissipate as she made her way to the bar. Edouard set a bottle of Coca-Cola in front of her as she slid onto a chair. She took a grateful sip.
“You were fantastic,” he said.
“The Piaf was good,” the maître’d added as he set down a pair of dirty glasses on the bar. “But the Dietrich you did earlier needs work.”
Jean hated Dietrich. He’d never be satisfied, and she refused to make the effort for him. “I’ll talk to Benoît about it.”
“Do.” The maître’d straightened his tie. “Edouard, I’ll need you to work the closing shift tomorrow, and Saturday.”
Edouard’s smile disappeared. “Jean, Raymond was supposed to take those shifts.”
“And he’s quit. I’ll expect you here at six.”
Edouard glared at Jean before he turned on his heel, pulling a mobile phone from his pocket as he walked away, rapidly dialing a number.
“You couldn’t have gotten anyone else?” Sera asked.
“I had to get those shifts covered. What do you care?” Jean left, and she watched him turn on the charm as he escorted a couple to the door.
“What an asshole.” Edouard returned and began loading glasses into the dishwasher. “I was supposed to go out with Paula tomorrow, but now I can’t. She’s pissed.”
“What happened?” She hated that her matchmaking wasn’t working out.
Edouard grimaced. “She broke things off. Tomorrow was my last chance to try and get her back.”
“Maybe she’s not the one for you.”
“She is the one,” he replied, suddenly earnest. “You know that I’ve never met anyone like her.”
Sera found it hard to argue the point, though she decided to try anyway. “You’ll meet someone better.” Easy for her to say, when she couldn’t give up the man she loved. She searched the bar, but Marc wasn’t there. He hadn’t been by in months and she found she thought of him less and less. But he still lingered in her mind, the flash of his smile, his dark blue eyes, the low chuckle he made when amused.
“I doubt it.” Edouard hung the rest of the wine glasses in the racks over the bar. He turned away to straighten the bottles and grab a rag.
Sera let her gaze wander. A man with short blond hair standing at the rail turned and their gazes met. His intense blue eyes startled her. He smiled at her briefly, lifting a glass of bourbon to his lips. She returned his smile, but was interrupted as a man sidled up next to her.
“You were marvelous, mademoiselle,” he said, leaning against the bar. His dark hair fell over his forehead and he was unshaven. What had been an elegant dark suit looked slightly the worse for wear, and his tie had been loosened. “May I buy you a drink?”
She was about to demur, but stopped. Royale’s admonition rang in her ears. She glanced back at the man at the rail, only to find him gone, his glass empty on the nearby table. She turned back.
“Just a drink?”
The man grinned broadly and slipped an arm over her shoulders. “Darling, I love the way you think.” He tossed back the rest of his drink. “Your place or mine?”
Sera forced an amused chuckle, though her stomach churned. “I don’t even know your name.”
“Anton Morel,” the man volunteered instantly.
“Let me get my things, Anton, then we’ll go.” She stood, letting his arm fall from her shoulders. “Meet me at the door.”
Once outside, Anton drew her close, sidestepping into a dim alleyway. He tried to kiss her, but she turned her head. Undeterred, he dropped kisses on her cheek and down the side of her neck. She caught his hand as he tried to delve past the neckline of her dress.
“Why not?” He looked like a child denied his favourite sweet. “I can’t convince you?”
“It’ll take some convincing,” she replied.
“How much? I want you to suck me here, if you won’t fuck me.” He waited, his hot breath brushing her cheek.
“That much?” He pinned her against the wall and she shivered at the touch of the cold stone. “Thirty.”
Sera pushed him away. “Good night, monsieur.” She readjusted her shawl, stepping around him. She’d only gone a few paces when she heard him call out.
She spared him a glance over her shoulder. “Forty or nothing.” He reached for his wallet and she retraced her steps, taking the bills from his hand. She tucked them into her purse before she pushed him against the wall.
She brushed her lips over his before she lowered herself to her knees, dragging her palms down his shirt and over his dark trousers. His cock bulged against the zipper and she caressed it before she undid his belt, feeling him strain against her fingers. She freed him and wrapped her hand around his length. He was of a good size, but not so large that she’d have trouble accommodating him.