I take another hit of the Campari cocktail. “Have you ever gone swimming in the Mediterranean?”
He smiles. “Dozens of times. The water is incredible. If we have time, I want to take you swimming.”
A frisson of anxiety curls in my gut. Not only am I afraid of swimming in the sea, but I also sure as hell don’t want Brandon to see me in a bathing suit again.
“I don’t think so. You know, I’m still afraid of the ocean.”
He laughs. “The Mediterranean isn’t an ocean. It’s a sea. And technically, the part here in Cannes is a bay. So, the water is very calm. Barely a wave.”
“B-but I didn’t bring a bathing suit.” The truth. I never even thought of bringing one since I packed so hastily.
He laughs again and unnerves me. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll buy you a bikini.”
I gulp. A bikini—the last thing I want to be caught dead in! Especially with Brandon. As I envision the worst, he continues.
“There’s probably a boutique right in the hotel.” He regards me coyly. “You may only need a bottom. Most women here sun and swim topless.”
I gulp again. The ring of Brandon’s phone saves me from responding. Thank God, because I’m at a loss for words.
My eyes stay on him as he pulls out his cell from his jeans pocket and glances down at the caller ID. His lips twist and his brows furrow. Katrina? The phone continues to ring while I anxiously circle the rim of my glass with my fingertip. To my relief, he doesn’t answer it, and, in fact, turns it off. “Fuck it,” he mumbles under his breath. His frown morphs into a smile when Antoine personally brings us our meal along with the bottle of wine.
“Bon appetit,” says the jovial man, setting our order down.
The tantalizing, garlicky aroma of the mussels wafts up my nose. My appetite is aroused.
“Antoine makes the best mussels meuniere in all of the Riviera,” Brandon tells me.
Antoine smiles proudly. He uncorks the wine and pours Brandon a bit. Brandon takes a sip and nods approvingly. “C’est parfait.”
It’s perfect. He’s perfect. We share the big bowl of mussels and the crispy fries, sensuously feeding helpings to one another and imbibing the refreshing pink wine between bites. Moans escape my mouth. Not only are the mussels divine, but their tender meat is also charging me with sexual energy. Mussels must be some kind of aphrodisiac. But actually, everything is turning me on. The food, the wine, the setting. And most of all, the mouth-watering man sitting across from me. My eyes don’t waver from him as I feed him the last mussel. His luscious lips clamp down on the edible part and then he sucks on it.
“Mmm,” he moans, closing his eyes as he does. Every ounce of me is buzzing and there’s a wet fire inside my panties. He swallows and licks his upper lip. Another gush of wetness and a rush of hot tingles besiege me. He re-opens his eyes and meets my gaze, holding it fiercely. Before either of us can say word, a staunch, swarthy woman appears on the terrace. Holding an accordion, she heads our way. Once at our table, she stretches out the instrument and starts to serenade us.
Oh my God! In one word, the song is instantly recognizable. “Unforgettable.” Mama’s favorite song…sung in French. With the husky voice of a fallen angel, the songstress’s moving rendition pulls at my heartstrings. Tears flood my eyes.
“Why are you crying?” Brandon asks, tenderly brushing my unstoppable tears away.
“This was Mama’s favorite song. She sang it all the time. It reminded her of Papa.” Sniffling, I pause while the dark memory fills my head. “It was playing on the Pier when she was shot.”
“I’m sorry. It’s a beautiful song,” he says softly, cutting into the painful, unforgettable memory. His violet eyes burn right through me and his voice grows softer. “Almost as beautiful as you.”
My watering eyes blink several times while my breath hitches in my throat and my heart hammers against my chest. His words swirl around in my head like confetti. They shower my flesh with flecks of heightened sensation and my soul with explosive emotion. I begin to unravel.
And then he does something that totally turns me into vapor. Tracing my tear-soaked jaw, Brandon sings along in English, his voice pure velvet, as devastating as the man he is
“Oh, Brandon!” I weep out his name. The impact of this magical moment has reduced to me to mush.
Still singing and melting my heart, my gorgeous god of a man stands up, and rounding the table, pulls out my chair. “Dance with me, Zoey.” A soft but strong command.
On my next sniffle, I’m in his strong arms, my head resting on his beating heart, my arms draped around his shoulders, as he moves me slowly to the melody and words. Swaying me side to side, he sings into my ear while tears stream down my face and dampen his linen shirt. I lose myself in him with each slow measured step. It’s as if there is no one else in the world but the two of us. Unforgettable…as the word drifts into a hypnotic hum, he draws me closer to him, pressing his lips on my scalp. I feel the warmth of them and his taut body flush against mine. I melt into his ripples and his arousal. He owns me and I don’t have the strength or desire to break away. Physically or mentally.
I’m drunk with emotion. And one forbidden four-letter word. So intoxicated, I can’t think straight or question what I’m doing. I just cling to him. Like a song of love. Finally, I lift my head, and look up at him, my bleary eyes searching for answers. His impassioned gaze holds me captive. My already racing pulse accelerates.
“Brandon—” I don’t know what words will spill out of my mouth next, if any at all. It doesn’t matter. Because on my next heartbeat, he fists my hair and tugs back my head. Before I can take another breath, his lips come crashing down on mine like a meteor. Still humming, he sucks and gnaws my hungry mouth. White-hot balls of passion explode inside me, showering me with fireworks from my head to my toes. I moan into his mouth and then I part my lips, allowing his tongue to find mine. Entwined, our tongues dance sensuously, swirling and twirling to the music and lyrics. Oh my God. This kiss! This incredible kiss! I cup his strong, stubbled jaw, deepening, and extending it, as he draws me closer, one hand gripping my ass. The song drifts into my ears like a magic carpet. The sparks now blind me. I squeeze my eyes shut. Yet, he’s all I see. Never before has anyone been so unforgettable in every way. After what seems like an eternity, the timeless song ends, and he gently breaks his lips away. My heavy eyelids rise like theater curtains, and our glazed eyes lock in a passionate exchange. Shouts of “bravo” from patrons and bystanders reverberate in my ears. I feel myself flush with embarrassment, but Brandon’s dimpled smile fills me with a rush of lust and desire as he holds me tight in his arms.
Tears flow from my eyes. Everything’s been so perfect. The setting. The meal. Our dance. Our kiss. But something is so wrong with this picture. A blaring ambulance races by. The sound of the siren startles me back to my senses, out of my drunken stupor. Brandon’s name burns on my heart. Remorse singes my brain. I want to rip that dazzling smile off his face. What the hell is he doing? What the hell am I doing? He belongs to another. As reality sets in, so does a bitter mix of panic and regret.
Oblivious, Brandon kisses my tears away and then breathes against my neck. “Baby, let’s make this night unforgettable.”