Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sneak Peek: Chapter 3 of Derailed

In celebration of my completing round one of Derailed revisions, I bring you a sneak peek at chapter three! Later this week, I'll be revealing the cover. One more round to go, then it'll be time to bring out the ARCs.

Previously posted: chapter 1, chapter 2.

Chapter 3

Relief washed through Lou when they reached their station at last. Exhausted from all the travel, Lou had been unable to stop Benoit and Melinda from coaxing from her the details of her spectacular exit from Wayne State, leaving her even more wrung out. They had both listened attentively, studying Lou with looks of horror and sympathy, and while talking to them had brought her some relief, it had also left her determined not to touch the topic again for a while. Blaine and Julia had left Michigan a few days earlier and were waiting for them in Provence, but Lou didn’t plan on telling them about what had happened. It could wait until later, when the three of them were in Paris, and both Benoit and Melinda had agreed not to say anything to Blaine. Lou knew he and Julia would be every bit as supportive as Melinda and Benoit had been, but she was sick to death of talking about it and eager to focus on something more positive.
“So she’s graced us with her presence at last!” Blaine boomed, as Lou, Melinda, and Benoit emerged into the main part of the station.
“What are you doing here?” Lou asked, surprised and pleased to see them.
“We thought we’d surprise you,” Julia said, smiling at Lou.
“Look at you!” Lou exclaimed, taking Julia’s hands and examining her belly. “You’re starting to show!”
“I know,” Julia said, radiant with happiness. With her blond hair and cherubic face, she looked like a pregnant angel.
“I still can’t believe you’re going to be a father,” Lou said to Blaine.
“It’s shocking how lucky one child can be, isn’t it?” he replied in a deep, pretentious accent that sounded odd coming out of such a gangly body and adolescent-looking face. His sandy hair stuck up in the back.
Lou rolled her eyes at him and hugged Julia. “Five more months, right?”
“Just under,” Julia said.
Melinda looked worried. “Be sure to let us know if you need anything, Julia.”
“I will.”
“Relax,” Blaine said. “You know I wouldn’t have agreed to this trip if her doctor hadn’t okayed it.”
“I know,” Melinda said. “I just don’t want to wear her out.”
“Um, hello. She’s married to Blaine. If anything’s going to wear her out, it’s that,” Lou said.
Julia smiled, used to the teasing. She slipped her arm around Blaine’s waist. “Actually, I think it’s the other way around. He has trouble keeping up with me.”
Laughing, Lou said, “Yep, you’re a lucky man, Blaine.”
“You bet I am,” he said, rubbing his wife’s belly. They’d been married for two years but still acted like newlyweds, and Lou was glad to see Blaine so happy. Once upon a time, he’d had an unrequited crush on her and, as much as she liked him, he couldn’t have been less her type. Julia, however, was perfect for him, just as Benoit was perfect for Melinda and, though she’d never been one to pine about not having a boyfriend, Lou couldn’t help but experience a twinge of something that felt suspiciously like envy as she looked at the two happy couples in front of her.
“We’d better get back,” Melinda told Blaine.
“Last I heard, your mothers weren’t exactly arguing about the flowers, but they weren’t exactly agreeing either,” Blaine told her.
Benoit winced. “Yeah, we’d better.”
The drive to Benoit’s Uncle Georges’s estate was short. He lived in a tiny town, and Lou marveled at the ancient-looking farms. The modern cars looked strange parked in the long gravel driveways, like alien ships from a distant planet, and it was anachronistic to watch people wandering cobblestone streets as they chatted on cell phones. The reception would be held in Uncle Georges’s lavender fields, and Lou was dying to see them. When Melinda had told her about their plans, Lou had been swept away by a flood of romantic images. She hated how much like her mother she could sometimes be.
“Thank God you’re back,” Melinda’s sister, Susan, said as they got out of the car. “I thought Mom and Mrs. Carelli might have a fistfight over the flowers.”
Melinda groaned and buried her face in her hands. “Where are they?”
“In the back. I’ll take you to them. Hi, Lou,” Susan said, giving Lou’s hand a quick shake, the warmest welcome Lou had received from Susan in years. Melinda’s sister looked relaxed for someone who’d been busy mediating maternal drama, but as a lawyer, she was probably used to dealing with fractious people. Her brown hair was longer than Lou had ever seen it, and she looked very pretty with it down around her face, the bright sunlight setting off her fiery highlights.
“Hi, Susan,” Lou said. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I’d suggest lying low,” Susan said in a dry voice, surprising Lou with this unexpected burst of humor. “Dem and Yves are looking for you, Benoit.”
“I’ll be right there, babe,” Benoit said, dropping a kiss on Melinda’s temple. “I want to introduce Lou to Yves first.”
“Next time you get to head into the minefield first,” she groused.
“Done,” he said, grinning at her. She shook her head but couldn’t suppress her own grin as she turned and followed Susan away.
“This place is unbelievable,” Lou breathed, staring around her, unable to take it all in. Benoit’s uncle lived in a stone farmhouse that looked like the definition of charming. It was old but meticulously maintained, and Lou fell instantly in love with the vines trailing over the weathered stone and the flowers blooming in the small front garden. Fields of lavender stretched out behind the house, perfuming the air, the fragrance so powerful it almost made Lou dizzy.
“Hey! There he is!” a familiar voice called. Benoit’s best friend, Dem, strode over to them, smiling broadly. It had been at least a year since Lou had last seen him, and he seemed even more beefy and masculine than ever, if that were possible.
By contrast, the guy following behind him was very tall and lean. Though he wore khaki pants and a button-down shirt, he carried himself as if he were wearing a tuxedo. His wavy hair was dark blond and thick, swept back from his forehead in that careless way that was usually only achieved by hairdressers styling models for male fashion magazines. He had dark green eyes and a handsome face, his mouth sensual, his nose long and straight, his cheekbones chiseled to an almost ludicrous degree. Lou was singularly unimpressed. He looked like the sort of guy who was used to women fawning all over him, the sort of guy who promised to call but then never bothered.
“Lou, this is my friend, Yves Betancourt,” Benoit introduced, pronouncing the name with a French accent.
“Sorry, I didn’t quite catch his name,” Lou said, confused.
“It’s Y-v-e-s, pronounced ‘Eve’,” Yves said, his accent surprising Lou with its diamond-edged Englishness.
“You’re French? I wouldn’t have expected your accent to sound like that,” Lou blurted.
“You Americans really do think you’re the only beings on the planet who speak English, don’t you?” Yves asked.
“No,” Lou said, smiling through gritted teeth. “We don’t think that. It’s just that I would have expected your accent to sound more French since, you know, you are French.”
“Way to make her think you’re a dick—sorry, prat,” Benoit said, rolling his eyes at his friend. “Yves’s been living in London too long. He thinks he is English now, down to their dry sense of humor.”
“Please. Why would I want to be English?” Yves asked.
“What you really want is to be American. When are you going to admit it?” Dem asked, grinning and sending Yves a challenging look.
“You Americans always think everyone wants to be American,” Yves said, his tone one of supreme boredom.
“Just like you French guys always think everyone wants to be French,” Lou shot back. “Hey, Dem.” She made a show of throwing her arms around him and hugging him while dropping a loud kiss on his cheek. “Long time no see.”
“Too long,” Dem said, looking her over. “You look fantastic.”
“So do you.”
“Sorry, I don’t mean to give the wrong impression,” Yves said as Lou turned to him and stared him down. His mouth quirked. “Though I must admit that I suspect I might very much enjoy sparring with you.” She didn’t bother to keep the disgust from her face as she extended a hand to him. He took it, giving her a grave, dry handshake. “Perhaps the feeling isn’t mutual.”
“How do you two know one another?” Lou asked Benoit, ignoring Yves.
“His mom and mine grew up together in Normandy. They’ve known each other since they were little girls. Whenever we visited, Yves and I were kind of thrown together.” Benoit grinned at his friend.
“The horror of being stuck with an American,” Yves said. It was beyond her how someone as sweet as Benoit could be friends with such a stuck-up prick.
“He eats at McDonald’s at least once a week,” Benoit whispered to Lou, none too quietly. Yves affected a shudder. “I’d better go rescue Melinda or I might not have a honeymoon.” Slapping Yves on the shoulder and giving Dem a one-armed hug, Benoit hurried off after his bride.
“Come on, let’s find Uncle Georges so he can show you around,” Dem said, putting an arm around Lou’s shoulder and steering her in the direction opposite the one Benoit had taken. Yves followed, and Lou cast a speculative glance at him as she passed, deciding that she didn’t like him at all.