Happy Valentines Day
To celebrate the day, I am having a Scavenger book contest!
The first ten lucky readers to get all twelve answers correctly will receive an ebook of my new release:
Behind The Mask
winners will be notified by 2/15 by email
Please fill out the form
if, for whatever reason, the link doesn’t work just email me your answers at Riteromance@aol.com
In order to receive your prize of one eBook of Behind The Mask you must:
- Answer all twelve questions correctly.
- Be one of the first ten people to smend in your response to Ms. Petit before 2/14/16
- Fill in the form on the contact me link with your name and email address
- Winners will be posted on the webpage on 2/15/16 and notified by mail
- In chapter one: what did Yvette buy?
- In chapter one: where did the driver say they were headed?
- In chapter two: André has Marc over his shoulder, they wind up in what, next to who?
- In chapter five: What was her father’s nationality?
- In chapter five: What did Perrier do?
- In chapter six: what operation did the Germans lose?
- In chapter fourteen: what are the names of the three rivers?
- In chapter fourteen: André looked at her as if she was?
- In chapter seventeen: Who were they meeting?
- In chapter seventeen: Why does André hate cemeteries?
- In chapter nineteen: Where does this scene take place?
- What is André’s last name? What is Yvette’s last name?
May 28, 1940
As an artist, one couldn’t help but admire the massive round windows of Notre Dame. When the sun shone through the stained glass, the vibrant red, blue, purple and green brilliances were breathtaking.
It was cool inside the massive church, despite the promise of summer’s breath of air. People sat and prayed in the various aisles separated by slender marble columns. Light filtered through multiple stained glass windows softening the cathedral’s long halls and vaulted ceiling.
The serenity here, so different from the noisy streets, softened the memory that last September, after the Germans invaded Poland, France and Britain declared war on Germany. Other than the navy paint covering the street lamps and black cloth, covering shop windows, this phony war had little impact on Yvette Matikunas’ life. Even though rumors of German advancement was the talk of the town, she refused to dwell on such depressing thoughts.
Deciding to go shopping, Yvette dipped her finger in the holy water, made the sign of the cross and stepped outside.
The church bells tolled, echoing throughout the square. The resonant tone reverberated through her body and sent a startled flock of white birds into the air.
It took her a good thirty minutes to reach the Champs- Élysées. The boulevard and stores were bustling with shoppers and as the sales clerk neatly wrapped two pairs of silk stockings in white paper, a red leather bag caught Yvette’s eye.
“And this.” She pointed to the large pocketbook with a big brass buckle. She didn’t need a new bag, but it was only money, she reasoned. One had to keep up appearances, didn’t one?
The woman behind the counter walked over to the table and picked up the pocketbook.
Yvette couldn’t help but notice the run in her stocking that ran from the back of her knee to her heel. How could anyone walk around in such a state of disarray? Yvette’s nose wrinkled. So unkempt. Unbefitting, mother would say. Why didn’t she just purchase new ones? The discount, as a sales person, had to be worthwhile.
“Good choice mademoiselle, this is one of our finest.” The sales clerk smiled.
Though the income this sale would generate probably put a month’s worth of food on the woman’s table, Yvette could tell the smile was forced. Was it her fault money was of no consequence? Was it her fault her apartment was in the best part of Paris and her family owned a large country home? No. So why the attitude she encountered from people who couldn’t hide their jealously? Everyone, including herself, had issues to deal with and she would not apologize or feel guilty for being among the privileged few. Having money was freedom; freedom to do as she pleased. Money got her away from her mother.
Yvette returned the smile, paid for her purchases and walked outside.
Bored. She was bored, she thought as she bit into the warm freshly baked baguette. She’d come to Paris to buy a few pieces of art. Since no one was buying, she’d met a few desperate artists willing to sell, all except Picasso, who had refused her. The art and history lectures she had taken at the Sorbonne were over. Perhaps she would go back to Pablo’s studio and try to convince him to sell.
Maybe she should just go home. Surely, René missed her. After all, they’d spent the entire winter snuggled up together making plans for the future. Yvette sighed. René. The love of her life and the man her mother disapproved of. The butcher’s son, she’d said, and so beneath you. Well, she didn’t need her mother’s approval. Thank God, Grandpère was on her side. A buffer between parent and child, his love, no matter what, fortified and kept her going when kind words never fell from her mother’s lips. Life without her grandpère would prove miserable.
Pushing thoughts of her mother from her mind, Yvette stopped in front of a bookstore and peeked inside, admiring the leather bound and gold leafed covers. About to step inside, a woman’s stifled cry caused Yvette to slowly turn toward the street.
A plump woman, nicely dressed in a black striped dress and matching hat, clutched a newspaper in her gloved trembling hands. “Our troops are evacuating the harbor at Dunkerque.”
“What does that mean? I don’t understand.” Yvette muttered, unable to grasp the meaning behind the woman’s words.
“Belgium’s King, Leopold the III, has surrendered to Germany.” The woman’s face fell, as though the news sucked the life from her pronounced cheeks. “It has begun,” she mumbled under her breath.
“What? What has begun?”
“War,” she replied as she turned and shuffled away, her back hunched in defeat.
For five days, Yvette deliberated whether or not to leave the city.
Standing on the balcony of her apartment, she glanced to the streets below. Chaos ruled the boulevard. The streets were choked with people towing their belongings, animals on leashes, cars piled with people who hoarded bags of food and their belongings and horse drawn wagons exiting the city.
On June first, the government closed the schools and soldiers, ragged, defeated from the battlefield, poured into the streets. German troops had been seen advancing toward Paris.
Numb, in disbelief, Yvette stood in silence, staring, but not really comprehending the scene beyond her window. Refugees, vagabonds, thieves flooded the streets and soon German soldiers were said to invade, plunder and burn the city to the ground. Some of her friends were staying put. Rumors suggested Hitler was an avid lover of the arts. Surely, he would not destroy Paris they reasoned. Who knew what horrors one would encounter in the outskirts of the city?
Distant explosions jerked Yvette back to reality. The bombings were getting closer. She hurried inside, pulling the big glass double doors behind her.
She sat down at the carved mahogany desk, opened her diary and dipped her pen in the ink well.
The exodus has begun. My beloved city of Paris is dying. I went to bed last night calm, this morning I have given into my fears. I am going home.
A tear slipped from her eye and splattered on the page blurring the black ink. Unable to write another word, unable to believe the happenings outside her window, she stood. Her movements forced, she gathered up her diary and aimlessly walked around the room, her fingers trailing the gilt framed artwork she’d so painstakingly purchased. She thought about taking down a few of her favorites, but their size and the time needed to properly pack them would take too long.
They’re coming. The Germans are coming. The thought rolled around and around in her head. So surreal. So unthinkable. Emotion welling in her throat, she pinched the bridge of her nose, shook her head, then straightened her stance. It was time to go. Her family was probably frantic with worry.
Yvette stopped at the long gold framed mirror and checked to make sure the seam, running up the back of her silk stockings, was straight. Heaven forbid she left the house in any sort of untidiness. She could just hear her mother’s disapproval. She slipped on her navy coat, then gathered up her two suitcases. With a final glance at the mirror to assess her appearance, satisfied her navy and white brimmed hat sat perfectly on her coiffured blonde hair, and her makeup was perfect, she locked the apartment behind her.
At the curb, Yvette glanced up and down the noisy street looking for a taxicab and waved her hand to get their attention as they whizzed past her.
People on bicycles, their shoulders burdened with sacks of food and clothing, pedaled in between bottle-necked cars. Horse drawn wagons brimming with supplies left little room for the stunned men, women and frightened children. An old truck, filled with people and household items, stopped. Yvette noticed the sales clerk she’d made her purchases from days before among the riders.
“Come on,” gestured the driver, waving down toward her. “There’s room for one more.”
She eyed the cramped truck, where a dog sat on its owner’s lap. A child, with a runny nose, wailed about as loud as the air raid now screeching through the streets. The boy’s mother, oblivious to his discomfort, stared over his head, her expression haunted.
“Where are you headed?” Once again, Yvette glanced up and down the street, hoping a cab would stop and whisk her away.
“As far away from here as we can get,” someone mumbled.
“South,” the driver answered.
South was closer to her family, who were probably in a panic thinking about her.
“Well?” the driver asked.
Yvette stepped up behind the truck trying to figure out how she was going to climb in. A scruffy bearded man held out his hand. His fingernails were black, his hands cracked from too much sun and hard work. Not wishing to dirty her white gloves, she grasped the wagon’s side.
“You leaving your bags, mademoiselle?” the driver asked.
“Your bags, I am not your chauffeur.”
Despite the pitiful looks on the faces of those above her, chuckles erupted from the truck.
Yvette lugged her suitcases and with difficulty shoved them in a sliver of space between some pots and pans and an old woman whose gray hair looked like it hadn’t met a brush in days.
No one offered her a hand as she struggled to hoist herself onto the truck and as the vehicle jerked to a start, she nearly fell out.
Indignant, she settled next to the store clerk and pressed her skirt neatly against her legs. That was when Yvette noticed the large hole in her own newly purchased stocking.
The congested streets hindered their movements. It took hours before Paris faded into the distance; a city forgotten.
Shrouds of black smoke, from distant fires, stung Yvette’s eyes and nose.
A fine drizzle fell and water dripped from her hat like tears splattering on her dusty jacket.
Casual conversation grew to a staccato chatter as the realization of the severity of their plight began to sink in. Others, like herself, stared into the distance, silent, and numb. Yvette was unable to comprehend anything, but that she felt cold and wet.
Behind them, broken down trucks were pulled by horses, people walked, shuffled in silence, while others too tired to continue gave up and sat weeping on the side of the dirt road. Young and old, struggling to stay a foot amid the pressing crowds and motorcars. Abandoned overturned cars, their wheels still spinning, and some vehicles burnt from previous bombs, lay in adjacent fields. Suitcases, pots, and clothing littered the ground. French and British soldiers covered in sweat, blood and mud, but with resolve and pride in their eyes, marched against the massive tide, impeding passage.
Her mind muddled, scarcely comprehending the gravity of her plight, she heard someone whisper, “the military is retreating; they have given in.”
“No,” a man argued, “they are heading toward Paris. Vive la France.”
Dawn broke with a hailstorm of bullets and shrapnel raining on the freighters and British navy vessels gridlocked in Dunkerque Harbor.
Colonel André Rinaldo darted for cover among bales of blankets stacked along the jetty. Around him, men scrambled on the decks trying desperately to haul frantic soldiers to safety. Hundreds of men thrashed about in the water trying to catch a ride, while dive-bombers knocked out ships.
Land and sea vibrated.
André watched, sickened, as men, wounded or merely too weak to sustain their weight, clung to rope ladders. Some men fell back into the sea and drowned.
A German fighter plane, looking for its next victims, drew white circles in the sky then dove. Whistling bombs dropped overhead. Engines screamed across the sky.
André buried deeper into the blood and sweat-stained blankets trying in vain to cover himself completely only to have a leg or arm in plain view. He listened intently as the planes flattened out, zeroing in on their next target. He held his breath as anti-aircraft blasted their guns. To his left a blazing storage house collapsed, adding flames and smoke to the already huge, dense clouds hanging low over the harbor.
The deafening air raid at a reprieve, André calculated he had about eight minutes before another squadron crossed over.
Though his men had stood fast in the face of danger, it became clear to him, they didn’t have a chance against the German aircraft, so he gave the order that every man save himself. He’d helped several get onto ships crossing the channel to England. Others were laid up in makeshift hospitals where ambulances waited to take them to safety. Others hid. Those were the ones he had his sights on.
For one solid week, with no time to clean his blood soaked leather jacket, his feet swollen in his muddy boots, he secured his men’s locations. He promised not to leave any man behind and he planned on keeping his word. One man remained, hidden under a burnt-out jeep.
With a quick glance to the sky André ran. He slid beside his comrade to the pelting of bullets at his heels.
Marc Porteret, a young man of about sixteen, had joined the war thinking, like many Frenchmen, they would win over Hitler because they were stronger. They’d had a rude awakening.
“Colonel Rin, you’re a sight for sore eyes.” The desperation on his soot-freckled face gave way to hope.
André glanced at the mangled leg. “Think you can put any weight on that?”
“Don’t know, Sir, but I’ll give it a try.”
André nodded and eyed the torn-up dock where shards of wood lay scattered. “Keep your head down,” he ordered, then dashed toward the water.
A German Messerschmitt flew overhead gunning the dock. Men stampeded across planks, jumped into the nearest vessel and over the side of the pier. André dove into a small Dutch fishing boat and landed on rags and nets stinking of fish.
When the raid ended and the docks crowded, André stepped from the boat. Back at Marc’s side, he rigged together a splint from the wood he collected.
“I’m not going to England, Sir. France is my home. No, sir. I’d rather die on French soil.”
André felt the same way. This was his home. He’d be deserting his country, his countrymen. “We’ve got about five miles, maybe more. Think you can make it?”
Marc’s response was a slight nod and grimace from obvious pain.
“We’ll head to those dunes. With any luck, we’ll take cover in the woods. There’s a village not too far. We’ll hole up there till I can get a better look at your leg.” Odds were against them making it off the beach.
After the rain of fire, when the deafening roar of planes diminished, André hoisted Marc to his feet. “Let’s go.” He slipped his arm around Marc’s waist and they ran. They maneuvered among hoards of men, jeeps and ambulances.
Fortunately, the bombs did nothing more than blow up loads of sand, which made it difficult to see, but it gave them some cover. What he feared was the machine guns blasting the top of the dunes where men huddled together.
Marc’s leg lagged behind, slowing them down and he wasn’t sure if the lad would make it much farther. He tightened his hold on Marc and picked up his pace.
More fragments of debris and bits of shells rained from the thunderous sky. André threw Marc into a bomb crater and landed on top of him, shielding him from the streaming bullets that by some lucky miracle missed them.
Hours later, as they dodged bullets from German snipers, they spied a house up ahead. André paused at the edge of the woods. The silence didn’t feel right. Stepping out into the open didn’t feel right. His gaze darted toward the house, then back at Marc. His wound bled profusely, it was only a matter of time and he’d bleed out; they had to get shelter. With Marc at his side, they moved forward.
Sunlight glinted off metal, catching André’s attention. He swung Marc over his shoulder and ran, zigzagging through the sudden gunfire. They collapsed in a dugout trench alongside the dead body of a British soldier.
When the firing subsided, the front door of the house opened and an old woman stepped out. In her hand, she carried a pitcher and glass. She had to be crazy André thought as he watched her walk straight toward them, her bright white apron flapping like a flag of truce against her black dress. With a toothless smile, she handed them water and headed back to the house. She stopped, spat and shook her fist. “Nazi bâtard” she screamed, then slammed the door.
Bastards. He couldn’t have said it better.
Thankful for her braveness, he brought the water to Marc’s lips.
A fast approaching bomb whistled. André never saw the plane coming. The earth seemed to leap skyward. Debris tore into his right hip and his world went black.
The train slowed as it approached the station. On the platform, German soldiers stood at attention. As they boarded the train, people shuffled through their belongings for their documents. A hush settled over the compartment in anticipation. Yvette’s proof of citizenship shook in her fingers. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and dropped her hand in her lap.
Pierre was quiet; thank the dear lord, for her nerves were taut enough without his high-pitched chirping. The last thing she needed was for him to draw attention. The last thing she needed was to have someone find Grandpère’s message hidden in the bottom of the cage. The words, written with a shaky hand, made no sense. The grapes are rotting on the vine. It’s time to bring them in. The wine is ripe. But her grandpère’s warning was embedded in her brain. Trust no one. Whatever cryptic message lay hidden under the paper, it put her in danger.
The compartment door slid open and Yvette’s heart skipped a beat.
Two soldiers stood in the corridor. One man, decorated with metals that would way down a rock, appeared to be the superior. He had a wide pronounced brow. His chin melted into his neck and his short-cropped silver hair seemed plastered to his head. A long gray mustache turned slightly down over a frown.
Yvette’s gaze slid past the elderly man to the light-haired soldier who studied her with intense blue eyes. Broad-shouldered, about six feet, two, lean and muscular, he dominated the small doorway. His countenance rigid, like one accustomed to enduring the routine of war, he stood at attention, his eyes assessing everyone and everything.
His superior entered the compartment with an air of bitter disgust.
The routine was common place. Everyone held out traveling papers. Her heart pounding, Yvette waited and hoped her American papers would be of no interest to them.
The interrogation began in German and she didn’t respond, which brought a heated tone to the superior’s voice. He snapped something to the soldier who stood silently at the door. The younger man stepped forward, his gait like one of the wooden soldiers from the Laurel and Hardy movie Babes in Toyland.
“My commandant wants to know what kind of name Matikunas is,” he said in French.
Her father’s name was Lithuanian, a country annexed by Nazi Germany and placed under German civil administration. The Poles, especially the elite, became subject to mass murder. Was he fishing to see if she was Polish?
“I am an American,” Yvette insisted without further commentary.
Her remark brought a scowl to the commander’s face. He pointed to her birdcage and Yvette’s pulse leapt.
When he ripped off the cloth cover, the startled bird darted back and forth in the cage. Pierre’s loud chirp filled the compartment. The German opened the door and stuck his hand inside.
“How dare you,” Yvette spat, in English, knowing he could not understand her. She did not care. “I hope he bites you.”
He turned a sinister look upon her and her body tightened.
The nervous bird hopped from one perch to the other.
The German began to peel up the newspaper lining the bottom of the cage.
Color drained from Yvette’s face. If he finds the note…dear Lord… what will he do? Her teeth cut into her lip. She had heard horror stories of people brutalized, thrown in prison for far less. Grandpère’s death flashed before her eyes. Thinking about the possibilities brought a cold sweat to her brow. Calm down, she told herself. Breathe. Breathe.
The German’s fingers were inches away from discovering the hidden message.
Yvette held her breath…
…and Pierre pooped on his hand.
The scene played out in a comic rush. Red-faced, swearing, or so she guessed, the German pulled out his hand and snatched a handkerchief from the breast pocket of the gentleman sitting opposite her, who, in French, called him a German pig.
Yvette suppressed a grin.
Pierre broke out in song.
The commander spun on his heel. He said something to the handsome soldier in the corridor, stomped outside, then slammed open the next compartment.
The train whistle blew and the clanking of wheels, picking up speed vibrated throughout the compartment.
The soldier, who had stood at attention, strode in.
A jolt of fear attacked Yvette’s chest, yet she was struck by the strong sensual lines of his face. A muscle clenched in his narrow jaw. Eyes, like chips of glacial ice, hard and sharp, stared at her. This man seemed far more dangerous than his superior on so many levels.
André sat in the smoky room and ordered whiskey. This, being an establishment that served German officers, he figured the bar would be well stocked and he needed the drink to drown out the disgust he felt wearing the German uniform. Across the bar, topless women danced in front of a group of officers who treated them like dirt beneath their fingernails. They called them derogatory names, filthy peasants, dirty immigrants, and all the while they laughed and fondled the young girls.
André itched for a fight, but his mission was clear: learn what you can about Operation Sea Lion, the planned invasion of England.
A short, balding man wearing spectacles over his hooked nose weaved his way to the bar and sat. He ordered a drink, then turned to André. “Good? Huh?” His bushy eyebrows arched as he tilted his head toward the women.
André forced a grin and nodded.
Those women were not on his mind. Those women, unlike the strawberry- blonde beauty from the train, did not get him hot and sweaty. For the last hour, images of full pouting rosy lips and her fair, delicate complexion appeared in his thoughts. He could tell by looking at her, she was of fine breeding and not used to soiling her hands. And, she’d been crying. Her lids were swollen, her blue-green eyes clouded with pools of emotion. He vividly recalled the flush on her cheeks as he leaned close to whisper in her ear and the flowery scent of her perfume. Not smoke, he realized. She wasn’t a smoker. She’d transferred whatever she had been hiding under that birdcage into the cigarette lighter.
Though she’d tried to conceal her fear it had shouted at him loud and clear. The lieutenant had smelled her fear as well and had gone to inform his higher-ranking officer. That beauty had no idea of the danger she’d been facing. Whatever was hidden in her birdcage could have meant her death and a beauty like that—what a shame that would have been.
André downed another drink and turned to the man beside him. It was hard not to rip the swastika off his arm and he had to remind himself that he too wore the Nazi emblem. Blending, he reassured himself, was the only way to learn all he could about the German’s invasion plan.
“Damn shame we lost Operation Eagle Attack,” André said in his best German.
“We didn’t have a chance in hell.” The German slid his tortoiseshell glasses over the bridge of his nose. “Barges weren’t designed for use in the open sea. They slowed us down. We were vulnerable.”
“Yeah, we lost a hell of a lot of artillery and tanks,” André agreed. “Without the right landing craft we’d need to capture a port,” he leaned closer, “which, between you and me, seemed unlikely, given the Brits coastal defenses around the southeastern harbors.”
The German’s gaze darted around the room, then back at André. “Heard tell there was a meeting.” His voice dropped lower. ”Our Führer met with Göring and Gerd von Rundstedt.”
If Hitler spoke with the Commander of the German air force and one of the Army’s highest Field Marshals, strategies, to cross the English Channel and invade Britain were being discussed. Reports stated the chief of the Abwehr, Admiral Canaris, had begun an intelligence attack against the British Isles to provide the Wehrmacht with the information it needed for battle.
“Wish I could’ve been a fly on that wall.” André raised his drink and the two men clicked glasses in agreement.
“You and me both.”
André studied the man beside him. A postal worker had sent André a picture of him, identifying him as one of Hitler’s aides. Known to have a “loose tongue” André had been instructed to get him to spill Intel.
A young woman walked into the bar. At first glance, André didn’t recognize her, though she looked familiar. Then it hit him. They were from the same town. Letty, once a pretty brunette, looked worn, haggard, wearing her present occupation, one of prostitution, on her face. She glanced at him, her brow drawn in puzzlement.
Damn. She’d recognized him
“I got one better,” The German said beside him. “I got it first hand.”
André drew his attention back into the conversation. He had to remain calm though his cover was about to be blown. He had to finish this. “Care to share? I won’t tell a soul.”
Letty headed in his direction.
Beside him, the German looked hesitant and swirled the contents of his drink.
Wearing a look of confusion on her face, Letty continued to walk toward him. She’d recognized him all right.
“Probably shouldn’t,” he said. “But, well… we’ll all know soon enough.”
“Ah, come on…” André’s heart began to pound. “I can keep a secret.”
Two minutes. Two minutes before Letty either kept her mouth shut or destroyed him.
André leaned in. “Promise I won’t blow our Führer’s big announcement,”
“Sure, why not,” he shrugged. “There’s opposition, talk that the attack should be postponed. The operation requires air and naval supremacy over the English Channel, which we are not prepared for at this time. The earliest date to embark will be in September.”
“September? Generally the weather is bad, the fog too heavy and the water’s rough,” André said, keeping his gaze on Letty.
“Exactly! We will lose our barges, rendering our large fleets helpless since unloading supplies would be a disaster in choppy waters. Between you and me, I believe our Fuehrer is hesitant. The Brits have a vastly stronger Navy. But you didn’t hear any of this from me,” he concluded.
André pushed his stool away from the bar and stood. “Thanks for the info, but I got an itch for that one,” he indicated to Letty, “can’t put it off any longer.” He winked.
“Monsieur–” Letty began.
“If you’re asking, I’m paying,” he said in German, loud enough for everyone’s benefit. He grabbed her arm before she could open her mouth again. “Don’t say a word,” he whispered in French then kissed her neck.
He walked her quickly to the stairs and threw a handful of paper currency on a table. “You’d better be worth every mark.” He slapped her ass and the men in the room laughed. They whistled and hooted as he gave her a quick shove up the steps.
Upstairs, André opened a bedroom door, then slammed it shut. The sound vibrated through the hall. Satisfied that everyone heard the noise downstairs, he turned to Letty. “No. I did not switch sides.”
“Monsieur Rinaldo I do not understand.”
“And it’s safer if you don’t. Is there another way out of here?”
“Backstairs. Follow me.”
They walked in silence until they found themselves in an alleyway.
Certain no one followed them André turned to Letty. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“It’s a job.”
“Look,” he reached into his pocket. “I know it’s German, but,” he pressed the cash into her hand. “Get out while you can. You’re better than this.”
Ashamed, she shuffled her feet and glanced downward. “Things have been difficult. Papa is gone. We need money–”
“You don’t need to explain.” He placed his hand on her shoulder, comforting her anxieties, realizing her plight.
Yvette’s heart leapt at the sound of André’s voice.
He walked over and sat beside her and she managed a look of indifference, even though her pulse barreled in her neck like a locomotive clanking on tracks.
“Since your English is better than mine, I thought you might help me understand this.” He held out a small piece of crinkled paper and their fingers accidently touched.
She pushed aside the unsettling rush of blood coursing through her veins and concentrated on the message. Everything was written in English except the word boot.
“Marseille shines brightly where the rivers meet the sea, especially At seveM. A dead rat will fly by the river Rhone. Its tale is highly prized. Tomorrow thirteen is your lucky number, but there is sure to be a flood, so seek out the boot at the hotel where the sun sits on its peak,” she translated in French. “A flying rat? And why is the word tail spelled wrong?”
She noticed how the setting sun cast shadows on his handsome face and how wisps of his hair lifted in the light breeze. He raked his hand through his hair and she couldn’t help but notice his bulging biceps. She swallowed her throat suddenly dry.
“Rat could mean the Milice or anyone who poses a threat; traitors, thieves, turncoats. And tale is a story, so I think there is some sort of message being delivered at thirteen hundred hours,” André said.
“Well, that doesn’t make any sense unless the police are in a plane.”
“Right. So let’s start at the beginning.”
Yvette glanced to the note. “Marseille shines brightly, could mean the lighthouse down in the old port.”
“Maybe, but there is only one river, the Rhone, that flows into the Mediterranean, not rivers, plural.” A thought registered and his eyes widened with understanding. “The Fontaine Cantini.”
“The fountain in the center of the square?” Distracted by thoughts of kissing him, she stared at his mouth, barely concentrating on his words.
“Yes.” Their gaze met. Amusement danced in his eyes for a flicker of a moment. Yvette’s cheeks flushed as she realized he guessed where her thoughts lie.
“The sides of the fountain evoke the Mediterranean and three rivers, the Durance, the Rhone and the Gardon,” he continued nonchalantly as though her discomfort had no effect on him. She wished he’d stop talking in that smooth sexy voice. “A statue of Marseille sits on top of a marble column.”
“Marseille is characterized as a woman, right?” she asked.
Marseille shines brightly… “Well, since she is on top…” The realization of her words, the quirk of his brows, his steady eye contact, added more fuel to her already flaming face. “…of the statue. It–the sunlight–it–it would hit her first.” She balled her hand in the folds of her dress. When he didn’t follow up with sexual commentary and pointed to the note, she relaxed.
“Look here.” He pointed to the message. “The word At is capitalized and I think that is seven spelled with a M.”
Concentrating on the misspelled words and not on his close presence was becoming increasingly difficult. Yvette gave herself a mental shake. “So that could mean seven am.”
He looked at her as if she was a brilliant scientist discovering the cure for some deadly disease. His pride warmed her, made her feel worthy of working with a man who put his life on the line every day under the watchful eyes of danger.
“But rats don’t fly.” She shivered at the thought of rats, living or dead. “And a flood?
André stood, took off his jacket and carefully placed it over her shoulders. “I don’t know. The fountain doesn’t flood. Even with rain there is no overflow.”
Something changed in his eyes. She could tell his thoughts no longer focused on the message they’d been deciphering, to something that made the pupils in his eyes widened, despite the fact that the light hadn’t changed.
Her pulse skipped. “Well, what floods?” She could smell the clean scent of soap on the collar of his jacket…“Rivers, rain… people flood…” some spicy cologne that flooded her senses. “They flock, they flood–it must mean people…. a list of names,” she said as she closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose trying to gather her composure.
André rubbed his chin in thought, then nodded. “Yes, or we are to meet new escapees. But the word is boot, not boots and why would we need footwear?”
His captivating stare made her nervous. Her gaze darted. Quickly, she looked back to make sure she hadn’t misread the quick flash of interest in his eyes. His wide shoulders were arched back as if to say look at me. Languid warmth flowed through her, catching her off guard.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
“What?” She had to drag her gaze away from his muscular chest to listen to him.
Subtle amusement, once again, lit his eyes. He knew how he affected her. She forced herself to remain calm although his close proximity made it difficult to concentrate and try as she might, she couldn’t slow her heart rate.
“The message doesn’t make sense. And the word boot is the only word in French, why?” he asked.
“Maybe there is a different meaning to boot.”
In an effort to hide her spiraling emotions she bent down and dug into her purse like it was bottomless and finally, gathering her composure, she pulled out a small dictionary. Yvette thumbed through the pages until she found the English term for boot. “Here look.”
He leaned closer and her breath seemed strangled in her throat. His gaze fell to her mouth and she understood, without him saying a word, he wanted to kiss her.
An hour later, under the waning moonlight, they started up the steep climb. Cold misty dew wafted against his face. The dampness seemed to seep into his bones causing old wounds to stiffen and throb. The frigid bite of winter, menacing gray clouds and threat of snow nipping the air gave him concern. Mile after mile the countryside continued upward. Dark shadows swallowed up the ground, making it difficult to see.
His feet sore, tired, hungry, André’s vigilance never relaxed; neither did Yvette’s. She held one child in her arm, clutched the hand of a little boy and kept a careful watch on the others.
He was glad the children wore extra clothing and thankful Yvette hadn’t listened to him. Stubborn, determined, independent, she was his kind of dame… one hell of a gal… and so different from the woman he thought he once loved. By the end of their sixth month of marriage, Amelia had turned into someone he didn’t recognize.
André pushed the disturbing thoughts away and concentrated on their surroundings. The ritual of the harvest was over, leaving the vines bare. Life in the vineyards went on, oblivious to everyone’s fears. These vineyards were the seasonal rhythm of life and he prayed, as they passed silently through the rows, shoulder to shoulder, the gnarled limbs would not betray their position.
Except for the soft thud of their footsteps, the impenetrable silence meant they were alone, but the stillness only added tension to the air. André strained to hear movement—any breathing beside their own—any sound lurking in the foreboding darkness jeopardizing their well-being.
They were all exhausted when they finally stepped from the last row of vines and headed to the designated spot where they were to meet up with their passeur.
As they approached, the outskirts of the village, edginess began to settle in the pit of André’s gut.
“André what’s wrong?” Yvette shuddered involuntarily.
A full moon peeked out from beneath a dark cloud, shining a path of bright light to the ground.
Instinctively they crouched, fearful—aware of the danger of being seen.
“How do you know we are going in the right direction?” she whispered.
“That’s one of the landmarks on the map.” He pointed.
A church stood in the distance. Destroyed by shellfire, only the crucifix remained untouched. The indestructible silhouette, against the inky darkness, was a testament to religious faith, a symbol that righteousness would overcome evil. In the church’s shadow lay the cemetery. Their destination. Damn. André gripped his revolver. Why did their meeting place have to be in a cemetery? He hated cemeteries. Damn. Damn.
Fearful they were being watched, he halted the group at the foot of a bridge and glanced to both sides. “Take off your shoes.”
Everyone did as asked.
When the moon, once again, hid, he put his finger against his lips hushing the little ones. “Walk lightly,” he whispered as he slipped into the darkness.
As noiselessly as ghosts, they tiptoed across the wooden bridge to the watchful eyes of Gothic tombs that stood like silent sentries witnessing their escape. Halfway across the rickety wooden structure the moon shone.
“Drop,” André ordered. Everyone complied.
The bridge swayed, groaned on rusty hinges and tired ropes.
A moment passed. He waited, listened for voices, listened to the moaning wind. He lifted his head, straining to hear—to focus all his attention on his surroundings.
Slowly he stood and they silently followed his lead. Cloaked in distorted shadows they hurried into the cemetery.
“Something is bothering you,” Yvette whispered beside him.
“We’ve got to hurry.”
“Please tell me.”
He wasn’t comfortable talking about his past, trusting someone with feelings he didn’t like to think upon. Not opening up and sharing his thoughts had been a thorn in Amelia’s side, placed a wedge between them that widened as the months wore on.
“This place gives me the creeps. That’s all,” he said.
Hell, he couldn’t change who he was, he’d told her that many times. Amelia never understood. He didn’t understand why he closed down when she insisted he spill his guts.
“I find cemeteries peaceful,” Yvette said. “And old tombs fascinating. Look at that mausoleum, it’s beautiful.” She pointed to an old ivy-covered structure now illuminated by the moon. A stained glass window cut into the stone. Wrought iron doors barred entrance. A swag of sculptured stone roses encrusted the top of the arched doorway.
“The darkness inside one of those places is enough to set your teeth on edge.”
Yvette stared at him and he felt the need to explain.
“When I was young and quite curious, after my uncle died, I snuck inside his burial place and got locked inside. I can tell you it wasn’t a pleasant experience.”
Thankful she didn’t ask any more questions, André bent and picked up a small girl who looked so tired she was about to collapse. “We need to hurry. Our contact is waiting.”
Yvette felt angry—angry with the Germans—angry at the war and at the thugs who bruised André’s body.
Though he didn’t seem to care she had to be hurting him, no one could sustain the bruises he had and not be in pain.
She gently washed a black and blue welt near his eye. “I don’t understand why someone would do this. Does it hurt?”
He brought her fingers to his lips, “Not now,” and kissed them.
Once again, he drew her close and she sank into his strong arms savoring the feel of his muscular chest solid against her. His hands pressed into the small of her back and she could feel his heart pounding to the rhythm of her own.
His lips found hers and she moaned. His soft, gentle kisses sent a tingling sensation inside her, but as his tongue darted into her mouth mingling with hers in an erotic tango that clouded her thoughts, so too did that sensation, growing ardently to an urgent need. A throbbing wave rose to the junction of her thighs. She tasted blood, broke away and ran her finger against his perfect mouth. “Your lip is bleeding again.”
“Sorry.” He wiped his mouth and took a step back.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” she said, remembering his abhorrence toward the word. “Those thugs are the ones who should be sorry. They did this to you.” She leaned in, her gaze sealed on his eyes, her mouth hovering over his. “Promise me,” she whispered. “Promise me you won’t go after them–”
“Alone,” she finished. “Take Bayard or Géry with you.”
“I don’t want to talk about them.” He placed his hand at the back of her neck, easing her head sideways, then his lips found the sensitive spot behind her ear.
She heard herself groan as delightful sensations prickled her skin and floated through her body.
“I need to wrap your chest.”
“Aha.” He continued to press kisses along her neck and she felt a strong wanting tug deep within her body.
“Seriously.” Don’t stop. Don’t stop.
He picked up her hands and placed them against his chest. “This works,” he said before his mouth covered hers.
It was working all right. Whatever magic he wielded was definitely working. Her body felt heated. Every nerve felt alive. Her stomach clenched and the throbbing, the pulsating throb where no lady should dare feel without the promise of marriage, made it difficult to breathe. She gripped his arm in fear that her legs would give way. His skin beneath her palm, a reminder of his naked torso, only intensified the building need that threatened to consume her if she let it. The sexual tension palpable, she pulled herself away. “Your wounds… I must..”
Before he could protest, she eyed a folded sheet at the foot of the cot. She picked it up and tore the fabric into a few wide strips. Back at his side, she gently placed the cloth against his ribcage. The top of her fingers met warm flesh and she heard the intake of his breath. She knew his reaction wasn’t from pain for the pressure had been slight. No, it stemmed from the same desire she felt racing through her veins.
Slowly she circled him bringing the cloth with her, trailing her fingers lightly against his naked torso. Her fingertips felt sensitive as if she touched an electric wire.
She ran her tongue over her bottom lip and let her gaze drop to the contoured muscles of his abdomen. Lord help her, he had the body of a Greek God worthy of any sculptor. A fine dusting of golden hair trailed down under his pants and her cheeks grew hot as she thought about where that line led. Her gaze flew to his face.
The seductive look he gave her said there would be no turning back if she continued her alluring onslaught.
“You need to go tighter.” André quirked an eyebrow. “I’m not going to break.”
Yvette swallowed the lump that felt lodged in her dry throat. Tighter? If her body got any tighter, she was going to break—break temptation—break the thinning chain of her resistance. As much as she wanted him to touch her everywhere, God help her, everywhere, they had to stop. She had to stop. Jesus, Mary, Joseph! They were in a church for Lord sakes. A church!
With shaking fingers, she made the bandage tighter, “hold this,” and put his hand on the fabric’s end.
She propped her foot on the edge of his bed. Slowly, her fingers shaking, she reached up under her dress. She heard his erratic breath, but he didn’t say a word as she slid her hands up further finding the small hook of her garter belt.
She knew it was wrong. Wrong to entice him. Wrong to want him to throw her down on his bed and make passionate love to her. Heart racing, she flicked open the hook.
Since Valentines Day is around the corner, I thought I would share my thoughts on what a Love scene is ~
A tango – a give and take – a push and pull that’s what a love scene is, both emotionally and physically.
A love scene in your story can move the plot, add interest, add tension and complications.
Just like in real life, your characters take the chance of rejection and embarrassment and so it’s likely there would be some kind of tension that comes along with attraction.
Think: two fighters in a boxing ring, both dancing around one another, trying to figure out just what would happen if… she leaned in closer; if he brushed a piece of lint from her shoulder; if they kiss; if she told him she loved him.
Most of us, when we first meet someone we are attracted to, won’t jump right in and show how we feel. We’d make a move and see where it leads. Hopefully, he’ll take that hint and move with it – or not; thus the push and pull of your story.
It’s important to keep your characters true to themselves. If your heroine is the type to jump right in with everything she does, consequences be damned, then she just might take that risk and tell him upfront how she feels. If a man is the: “my life is private and no one’s allowed in” type, even during a love scene he wouldn’t be all “talkie” about his feelings. Where she might be a bit nervous and talk, even more, he’d clam up even tighter.
That doesn’t mean he’s not thinking how beautiful she if, how soft, how wonderful. And she may be thinking, am I nuts? Yes, he’s a hunk, but what am I doing? He’s my boss! This, while they make passionate love. Thinking conflicting thoughts while making love creates tension, that dance around the ring that makes the reader want to know what happens next. Will that touch lead to love? Will they make love again? Will they stay together? Keep your reader guessing and you’ll add suspense and anticipation to your story.
Remember to use your five senses. When you’re in love, the world looks brighter, the air fresher, the sunsets are more vibrant and birds sing a sweeter song.
Since February is for “lovers,” here’s a recipe for turning a relationship into something a little more permanent:
2 cups attraction
2 cups friendship
1 quart of communication
1 cup of respect mixed with a pinch of courtesy
1 pint of trust
½ cup of support
a dash of compromise
1 quart of forgiveness
a whole handful of affection combined vigorously with as much sex as you can get
Combine all ingredients slowly. Simmer then heat till steamy.
Many good years together.
It’s……….here! My new book trailer for
Behind The Mask
open in full screen for a better view (lower right square button)
A message to my friends. I am so excited to let you know that my book Behind the Mask was picked up by a new Publisher and is available at amazon.com
My new cover!
In the early days of war torn France both rich and poor are thrust together, a mixed society struggling to survive.
American born Yvette Matikunas, one of the privileged few, flees Paris with the mass exodus. When a deathbed promise has her roaming the streets with a dangerous message, she learns no one is who they seem to be and trust is a thing of the past.
Injured when trying to save the life of one of his men, Colonial André Rinaldo is disillusioned by a shell-shocked country and a weak government. Persuaded to go underground and unite his fellow compatriots by forming resistance groups, he meets a beautiful blonde, whose determination to free France from foreign dictatorship is as strong as his.
In the middle of espionage and clandestine rendezvous, they form a partnership that deepens under the ever present threat of arrest. But with America’s interest in the war building in the background, all Americans are ordered to leave.
Will Yvette return to the States, or will André persuade her stay and fight for love?
My interview with Cold Coffee Cafe at : http://coldcoffeecafe.com/profile/MariannePetit