Monday, September 23, 2013

Sneak Peek: Chapter 8 of Derailed

Derailed is available for request on NetGalley, and I was originally planning on releasing it October 9, but I'm now thinking about moving up the release date, so stay tuned. If you own a Kobo, 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.

Chapter 8

The weather was beautiful the next day: sun and clear blue skies without a cloud in sight. Given that Melinda had been stressing about their decision to hold the party outdoors, Lou knew this would be a big relief for her friend, freeing Melinda up to fret about something else. Thinking about it made Lou smile and filled her with affection for the woman she had known ever since she had just left diapers behind.
“Can you believe Melinda’s married? How weird is that?” Blaine asked as he, Lou, and Julia ate breakfast.
“It is kind of weird, isn’t it?” Lou asked. Despite that Lou had been there for the ceremony, she hadn’t really thought of Melinda as being married, not like she had when Blaine and Julia had gotten married. His wedding had been strange, provoking an uncomfortably adult sensation in her. Watching him exchange vows with Julia had proved to her that her friends were moving on to a new stage in their lives, that they were advancing. Lou had believed herself to be advancing too, until everything she had worked for had gone up in smoke.
Don’t think about that right now, she commanded herself.
“It’s not that I’m surprised that she’s married. She’s an awesome person, always has been. It’s just weird to think that we’re, like, grownups now, isn’t it?”
“Some of us more so than others.”
Julia smiled. “That’s why Blaine will be such a great dad. He’s still a kid at heart.”
“You don’t deserve her, you know,” Lou told him.
“Oh, I know it. Trust me.” Blaine slipped his arm around his wife and they exchanged an adoring gaze.
“Are you sure there’s nothing we can do to help set up?” Julia asked.
“I’m sure. Have a quiet morning, enjoy some time to yourselves. You’ll be stuck with me in Paris soon enough,” Lou said.
“You sure you don’t want to come with us to Switzerland? The offer still stands,” Blaine said.
“You should. It would be a lot of fun,” Julia said.
“Thanks, but no,” Lou said, smiling at them. “I’m going to head back to Michigan like I planned. I’ll need to start looking for another job.”
“Feel free to change your mind. We’d love to have you with us,” Blaine said.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” She appreciated the offer but had no intention of joining them. It was their last chance to take a vacation alone before the baby came, and Lou didn’t want to infringe. She’d only booked a week in France because it was all the time she’d been comfortable taking off from work, not that it mattered anymore.
“You ready, babe?” Blaine asked Julia.
“I am.”
“We’ll see you this afternoon,” he told Lou.
“See you guys then. Have fun.”
Lingering at the table, Lou sipped her coffee and thumbed through the Paris guidebook she’d brought with her. Benoit had to pick something up in town, so he’d stop at the inn to pick Lou up and take her back to his uncle’s place with him, but he wouldn’t arrive for another twenty minutes or so. It felt good to sit and enjoy her coffee, savor the rest of her pastry. Lou couldn’t remember the last time she hadn’t been in a big hurry.
Once the coffee was gone, Lou headed outside to wait for Benoit in the square. Lifting her face to the sun, she closed her eyes and basked in its warmth, trying to wipe her mind blank.
“It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?” a voice asked, and Lou’s eyes popped open.
“Yves? What are you doing here?”
“I told Benoit I’d pick the food up for him, leave him to run interference between his family and Melinda’s.”
“Oh God,” Lou groaned. “Are things that bad?”
“Just a few too many cooks in the kitchen, I’m afraid.”
“Why, exactly, are we going to go back there?” He let out another of his rich laughs, and Lou found herself smiling.
“You know, I’m glad you and I have come to a better understanding,” he said as Lou rose and followed him to the butcher.
“I am too,” she said, meaning it. He had turned out to be a much nicer guy than she’d given him credit for being, even if she did sometimes have to stop for a minute and consider the things he said. He wasn’t as easy to be around as her friends, but she now understood what Benoit and Melinda saw in him.
“What, do you expect me to carry this?” he asked Lou when the butcher put the order on the counter and she gave him an expectant look. Rolling her eyes, she grabbed one of the packages and thrust it at him.
“Yep, I sure do. But I will take that one.” She pointed to the smallest package.
“If I’d known I’d have to act as your servant, I might have thought twice about offering to pick everything up.”
“I’m going to guess you’re using your dry British humor right now.”
“Excellent guess. Full marks for you. You are a rather quick learner, aren’t you?” Before she could take the package she’d said she would carry, he plucked it from the counter and added it to the stack in his arms, ignoring her protest. Exchanging goodbyes with the butcher, he led her out of the shop.
“I am. I even know French now. Je voudrais un cafĂ©.”
“Well done. Now that you know how to order the most important of all provisions, you’re ready to conquer France on your own. Shall I put these in the car while you pick up the bread from the bakery?”
“Not on your life. I have no idea how to tell that woman what I want, and she looks kind of terrifying,” Lou said, cupping her hand around her mouth so no one else would hear.
Yves raised an eyebrow. “So much for American boldness.”
Lou helped him load the meat into the car, then they picked up the bakery order, heading back to Uncle Georges’s house at last. The countryside flashed by in an alarming purple blur, and Lou clung to her door handle.
“Remind me to never again get in the car when you’re driving,” she gasped as he jerked the wheel to the left, flying past a tiny tin can of a car meandering along the narrow road. Clamping her hands over her eyes and peering between her fingers, Lou said a quick prayer, sure they would die, but Yves somehow got them back to their own side of the road a fraction of a second before they collided with a car going the other way.
“Nonsense. I’m a perfectly proficient driver.”
She moved her hands back to the door handle, looking up in time to see the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye. “Arrogant French bastard,” she muttered under her breath.
“I’ve always wanted to hear an American woman say that to me.”
Turning her head to stare out her window helped settle her queasy stomach a bit. It also concealed her smile.
Uncle Georges’s house was a hive of activity. A huge delivery truck blocked almost all of the road. Unruffled, Yves maneuvered the car around it, coming within a hair’s breadth of mowing through the lavender field belonging to Uncle Georges’s neighbor. Lou shook her head in disbelief at the other farmer’s cheerful smile and the jaunty wave he gave Yves.
“This country is weird.”
“Says the woman who comes from a land where people willingly eat things like deep fried chocolate bars.”
“What’s the word you kept saying to me? TouchĂ©?”
“That’s the one.” He made no effort to conceal his own smile.
“I’m so glad you’re here! Come with me,” Melinda said the second Lou stepped out of the car. She seized her friend by the hand and hurried her off toward the back of the house, leaving Yves to wrangle the food on his own. Lou glanced over her shoulder and shot him an apologetic look, but he just smiled and opened the trunk.
Melinda kept Lou busy for the rest of the day. When they were finally finished, Benoit dropped Lou off at the inn so she could shower and change before the party.
As hard as Melinda had worked her, Lou was glad she was able to be there for her friend. Bitterness left a metallic taste in her mouth as she thought of how she’d had to rush to Chicago and back for Melinda’s ceremony, unable to stay longer than overnight because of her precious work project. At the time she had been sure the sacrifice was worth it; after all, she was still able to witness Melinda exchanging vows with Benoit. She’d even attended the surprise party Melinda and Benoit’s Chicago friends had thrown that evening. Because she had to drive back to Michigan the next day, she’d only had a couple of drinks, but even those hadn’t eased her up. She hadn’t been in the moment, had been too focused on what she needed to do next for her project, leaving her distracted. All that effort, all that time. All of it for nothing.
Well, no more. She was done with that. Lou’s career had meant the world to her, but it had also taken things from her, moments she would never get back. If nothing else she now had the opportunity to do everything all over again, to do it better. She vowed that she would learn to compartmentalize, that she wouldn’t allow work to overshadow everything else in her life. From now on she would be in the moment. She was in France, about to go to her best friend’s reception, and she wanted to focus on celebrating.
The thought cheered her so much that she felt a sort of indulgent affection for her French bathroom, even as she once again struggled to wash her hair without soaking the room. She took great care drying her hair, getting dressed, and applying her makeup. It was time to wash away the old Lou and to become a new Lou, she decided. Things would work out for her. She had worked too hard for them not to work out in the end.