Friday, September 13, 2013

Sneak Peek: Chapter 7 of Derailed

Derailed is now available for request on NetGalley! To celebrate, I thought I'd give you all a glimpse at the next chapter of the book. Release date is coming up soon. If you're an Amazon or Barnes & Noble shopper, you'll be able to get your hands on a copy October 9th. But if you're a Kobo user, the book is available for pre-order now! And don't forget to add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Missed the previous installments? You can find them here: cover reveal and book description, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6.


Chapter 7

“What do you think of it?” Melinda asked, nodding at Lou’s cocktail as Lou set it down.
“It’s good,” Lou said. “No wonder you’ve taken to it.”
Melinda nodded, a smile of satisfaction on her face. “One of the things I like most about France is that the restaurants here are unique—well, except for the invading American franchises, that is. Yves, as a representative of the French, I’m scolding you for eating at such places. How could you?”
“I humbly apologize,” Yves replied, bowing his head.
“There’s something to be said for fast food burgers,” Lou protested, feeling defensive.
“That they’re atrocious for your health and taste like an old gym sock?” Yves asked.
“Yes, well, it’s American, therefore it must be bad,” Lou said, her grip on her glass tightening.
“Damn. I didn’t mean to start a culture war,” Melinda said, holding her hands up. Her eyes flicked uneasily from Yves to Lou and back again.
“Sorry,” Lou sighed. “I think I’m still a little jet lagged.”
“And I seem destined to offend whenever I open my mouth,” Yves said, sounding nonplussed.
Looking down at her drink, Lou wondered why she was so quick to jump all over him. Much of what had come out of his mouth made him sound rather like an asshole, but he had apologized. Maybe he had a serious case of open-mouth-insert-foot syndrome. He was Benoit’s friend, and Melinda seemed to like him, so the guy couldn’t be all bad. Was it possible she was spoiling for a fight because she was in such knots over what had happened at work? What if her altercation with Dwight had unleashed her inner bitch and she was now determined to take it out on every guy she came across, outside of the choice circle of Benoit, Dem, and Blaine? If she kept this up, maybe she’d start taking it out on them too.
“I’m just kind of touchy right now,” Lou said, flicking a glance at Yves out of the corner of her eye.
“We probably should have told you that we have a tendency to do this,” Melinda said. “Benoit and I like to play cultural chicken with Yves. It’s sort of a thing.”
“You know what, let’s forget about it. Let’s wipe the slate clean and start over, what do you think?” Lou asked. Yves smiled and Lou’s heart did a weird stutter. She found herself staring into her cocktail again, as if it might help her divine the true nature of her feelings.
“Sounds good to me,” Melinda said, and Lou heard the relief in her friend’s voice. “I’ve had my fair share of polite disputes.”
Guilt rushed through Lou. So much for doing her part to make Melinda’s reception smooth and easy. “I’ll give you this, burgers have nothing on those pastries filled with chocolate bars,” she told Yves, anxious to set Melinda at ease.
“They are a favorite of children everywhere in France,” he said. A flush crept over her face, and she opened her mouth to protest, but then she noticed the gleam in his eye and settled on making a sour face.
“If there’s one thing you Brits and pseudo Brits need to learn, it’s how to use a sarcastic tone of voice,” Lou informed him.
“Maybe you could teach me?” His face was deadpan, and she had no idea how to take his words.
“Stop harassing Lou,” Melinda laughed, giving his shoulder a light shove.
A slight smile playing about his lips, Yves lowered his voice in a conspiratorial manner. “I like pain au chocolat too.”
Relaxing for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, Lou took another sip of her drink and let her gaze idle around the square. She couldn’t get over how different everything was, as if she’d stepped back in time and yet was still in the same century. It struck her as odd that everyone else walked around as if they didn’t notice. How could they live with all the ancient buildings, the seventeenth century statue in their square, and not remark on it?
And how can they stand sitting in the bathtub all the time?
Still, she had to hand it to what she’d seen so far of European bathtubs: they were deep, far deeper than the ridiculous tub in her own apartment, which didn’t seem suitable for bathing anyone who wasn’t a child.
“What are you thinking about?” Melinda asked her.
“It’s unbelievable,” Lou said.
“What is?”
“This, all of it.” Waving her hand around, Lou gestured to the square, the statue, and the cafe. “Everything’s so old.”
“I know. It’s as if we’re all stuck in the past here,” Yves said. He seemed to be testing her, and Lou frowned at him.
“Has it occurred to you that I wouldn’t accidentally misinterpret your words if you’d stop deliberately misinterpreting mine, Mr. Dry?”
He smiled. “Touché again. That’s two in a row, which is a rare occurrence.”
Turning her head in an effort to conceal her smile, Lou looked back at the square. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. When I go to Chicago to visit you and Ben, Min, it’s different but the same, if that makes any sense.”
“I know what you mean,” Melinda said. She surveyed the square with a smile of contentment. “Back in the U.S., things can be kind of generic. The buildings might vary a little, there may be an unfamiliar restaurant or two, but you can always count on there being certain things, like Starbucks on every corner.”
“I regret to inform you that we have Starbucks here as well,” Yves told them.
“What? How is that possible? It’s not like it’s tough to get a great cup of coffee here,” Melinda said.
“It’s true; I saw one at Charles de Gaulle,” Lou said.
“I don’t mind American chains here,” Yves said, his face contemplative. “Contrary to what I may have led you to believe, Lou, I don’t think of all things American as being bad. But I have traveled in America, and it is a bit dismaying how homogeneous it can be.”
The way he said homogeneous struck Lou as adorable. God, what a stereotypical American woman, turning into a puddle of goo at a sexy accent.
“Isn’t that one of the bad side effects of globalization?” Lou asked. “Doesn’t it make you worry that every place will end up looking the same after a while?”
“Discussing philosophy while having a drink at a cafe? For a moment there, you almost sounded French,” Yves said, giving her a sort of half smile.
Maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy. “Let’s say I wanted to go incognito, make my way through Europe without looking like a total American tourist. What would I need to do?”
“It would help if you spoke French.” He fixed an inquiring look on her and she shook her head. Melinda cracked up.
“You don’t even want to hear her attempt it,” Melinda said.
“I resent that,” Lou said, scowling at her friend.
“Seriously, you don’t.”
“It can’t be all that bad,” Yves said.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Flicking Melinda off, Lou turned her attention to Yves. “Teach me to say something in French.”
“All right then. Let’s start with something basic. If you want to order a coffee, you say ‘je voudrais un café’.”
Repeating after him, Lou tried to pronounce the words the way he had, but Melinda’s snicker told her she’d been less than successful.
“That wasn’t too bad,” Yves said, fighting back a smile. Lou made a face at him. “Honestly, it wasn’t. French can be difficult. The sounds are very different from English. The j in ‘je’ sounds more like a zed—sorry, z.” He demonstrated for her, and Lou repeated the word a few times.
“Well done,” Yves complimented when she managed a passable version, making Lou beam. “Now, let’s try the whole phrase again.”
“Je voudrais un café,” Lou said, stumbling over the words less than she had before.
“Better, but your pronunciation of ‘un’ is off. It’s nasal.” As he demonstrated for her, Lou worked hard to resist the urge to laugh, and he pulled a face. “I can see it in your eyes: you want to make a jest about it being nasal. Go on then.”
“No need for that now,” Lou said, tittering and waving her hand, causing him to smile at her again. “Un,” she repeated, her heart beating faster.
Several minutes of practice ensued before Melinda and Yves both agreed that Lou didn’t sound half bad.
“Now you’re taking away the one advantage I had over her,” Melinda said, smiling. “Whenever she went all scientist on me I could tease her about her terrible accent. What can I lord over her now?”
“That’s right, Melinda told me you were a scientist,” Yves said, gazing at Lou with new interest. “What’s your specialty?” He pronounced the word spess-e-al-ity, and Lou’s stomach dipped, as if she’d driven down a giant hill.
“Biomedical research.” The words stuck in her throat, tasting like ash. Melinda bit her lip, her face stricken.
“Is that so? What sort of research are you doing? I’ve been working on an immunological study for the past six months.”
“You’re a scientist too?” Lou asked, surprised.
“Guilty,” Yves said with a broad smile. Lou’s stomach started churning. The last thing she wanted was to discuss work, and it was obvious Yves was about to launch into another line of inquiry, so she knew she’d better do something fast.
“Do you mind if we talk about it later? It bores Melinda to tears, and I’m on vacation anyway, so I don’t want to think about work right now.”
“Oh, of course.” Looking taken aback, Yves sipped his drink. “Any other topics we can discuss without stirring up too much controversy?”
“Tell me more about this town.”
Obliging her, Yves talked about the town’s history, and Lou was surprised to find it was more interesting than she’d expected. She knew next to nothing about European history, and she asked Yves a lot of questions. The tension eased, and the three of them were soon caught up in an engrossing discussion.
“We need to get going or we’ll be late for dinner,” Melinda said a while later, checking her watch, and Lou was shocked to realize it disappointed her to have to cut their conversation short. Yves not only knew a lot, he had a flair for sharing interesting anecdotes.
“We can continue the discussion at dinner, if you like,” he said.
“That would be great,” Lou said.
He smiled and flagged down their server, giving Lou a moment to collect herself. Her heart was tripping along in her chest, and there was a slight tremor in her fingers. As promised Yves paid the bill despite their protests, and the three of them set off on foot for the restaurant, which was just down the street.
“Perhaps French men aren’t so bad after all,” Yves murmured, his voice pitched so low only Lou heard. She gave him her most disapproving frown, even though she agreed with him.