Home > Heaven and Hell (Heaven and Hell #1)(10)

Heaven and Hell (Heaven and Hell #1)(10)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Chatting with Celeste, I didn’t know what people were talking about when it came to French folks. Cooter, being Cooter, hated them. But Celeste was awesome, chatty, friendly all in this droll, sophisticated, cosmopolitan way that was way beyond cool.

Within two minutes of talking with her, I decided I wanted to be her when I grew up.

Fortunately, I kept my cool and, unlike blurting them out bluntly to Sam, I did not share my recent circumstances with Celeste and Thomas but informed them only I was on vacation.

Celeste cottoned on I had no clue when it came to Italian. I also had a feeling Celeste further cottoned onto the fact that I had no clue when it came to a lot of things.

So she’d taken me under her wing.

She taught me “please” was per favore, “yes” was sì, “no” was just no and “table for one, please” was solo tavolo, per favore.


Thomas was taking his lunch with his wife but had to get back to work and Celeste invited me to spend the afternoon with her. I accepted. After we wandered and she showed me some sights, she invited me to spend the next day with her. I accepted that too.

After another disappointing breakfast alone, Celeste had swung by my hotel in a sporty convertible, her hair (get this!) covered in a flowy, chiffon scarf and huge sunglasses on her face making her look straight from a movie. She’d whisked me to her favorite spa where we got facials, massages, manicures and pedicures then had our makeup done and our hair styled then off we went to spend the afternoon shopping whereupon, at Celeste’s insistence since everything I tried on she declared effusively was, “Belle, ma chérie!” I spent an enormous amount of money on clothes I’d probably never wear again.

And I was going out to dinner with them that night, all gussied up after spending three fun, relaxing days in Lake Como eating, sightseeing, shopping and spa-ing (or whatever they called it) but, although fun, as he’d promised and I’d hoped, I’d not seen Sampson Cooper.

Therefore I realized that when he said he’d see me around he was being nice. In fact, I realized, he’d only just been being nice throughout our time together.

And I had to admit, it was disappointing, definitely. Still, I met him, he was wonderful, I had a great story to tell and therefore I decided I could live with that.

What I couldn’t live with was making a stupid dent in my somewhat large, unexpected fortune by buying clothes I could not wear to the grocery store in Heartmeadow. I’d even bought a formal gown mainly because it was beyond awesome too. In fact, it was so stunning it was indescribable. I’d never owned anything near the like, never even tried anything on even close. My wedding gown, which I thought was beautiful, wasn’t even as nice as that gown.

So I got caught up in the life, Celeste, my audience, sitting back with her feet crossed at the ankles, knees closed, slim fingers curled around a flute of champagne (yes, champagne, this was how exclusive the shop was, they served champagne while you tried on clothes), her entire face lighting with delight when I’d walked out wearing that gown. The instant I did, she threw out a graceful hand, saying I simply had to have it, that it was made for me and I forgot who I was, where I came from, where I would go when I went home and bought it.

But it was ridiculous. I’d have nowhere to wear it.

Still, I liked the idea of just owning it and I decided that, maybe, on occasion, I’d make myself a fabulous dinner, buy myself a good bottle of champagne, put it on and share my dinner with Memphis pretending I was back in this life, that this was me.

That might be a weird thing to do but I figured it also would be fun.

And there was no one to care so why the heck not?

And Memphis would get into it. Then again, she pretty much liked to do anything just as long as her human was around.

That said, I had to stop, enough was enough.

My cell on the bed rang; I moved from the mirror to it, saw it was Celeste, flipped it open and put it to my ear.

“Hey, Celeste,” I answered.

“Allô, ma chérie, we’re downstairs. Are you ready?”

God, her voice was even awesome.

“I’ll be right down,” I told her.

We rang off; I grabbed my evening bag (an evening bag! Seriously, I was out-of-control) and headed downstairs.

I was dressed to the eights (my gown being definitely to the nines, or even tens) but, upon seeing Celeste, I noted she still totally outclassed me. Even so, when she saw me, she did this cool thing where her head dipped to the side and her hand elegantly swept through the air, a nonverbal indication she thought I looked great.

And, coming from her especially, that felt great.

Jeez, totally, I liked her.

When we greeted, I reminded myself to grab her upper arms and touch cheek to cheek on both cheeks as she always did with me, with shop assistants and her friend Gertrude who we’d run into at the spa. It was really too bad Americans didn’t do that. It wasn’t only chic, it was sweet.

Then she swept me out of the hotel, I did the cheek thing with Thomas at the car and off we went in Thomas’s big burgundy Jaguar to dinner.

Celeste and Thomas lived on Lake Como and had for nearly a year. His business took him everywhere and Celeste had confided in me while shopping that it was likely they’d be moving again soon.

I hoped (but didn’t share this with her) that maybe he’d be sent to Chicago or New York so I could visit, take all my fabulous clothes and shoes and pretend to be awesome like her again.

And also, I hoped this because I liked her.

They took me to an eatery that was off the beaten path but they declared was the best in a fifty mile radius and they would know considering Celeste also confided to me that, though French and enjoying her food (even if, on her slim frame, it didn’t show), she was a terrible cook so they went out all the time.

They were not wrong about the restaurant and I decided this at first glance. It was fabulous. But as we were shown to our table, I became enchanted. It had lots of Christmas lights strung everywhere and tables with small, compact arrangements of cream flowers set in the middle and peach tablecloths draping low that lined a balustrade of a long, stone terrace that faced the lake. The Christmas lights twinkled off the polished crystal and silver on the tables. And, to top that, there was soft music playing from a real live string quartet at the end of the terrace.

It was the most beautiful restaurant I’d ever been to in my life and in the last three and a half weeks, I’d been to some lovely ones.

“This is gorgeous,” I breathed, walking closely with Celeste who had her hand snug in the crook of my elbow.

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