April 9th, 2012 is probably an insignificant date for most of you, but for me it is a date that has loomed larger and larger over my head as time has gone on. Why? Because it was the last time I posted a chapter of Maggie & John: A Modern Love Story. I know first hand, the anxious anticipation of waiting for the next chapter of a fanfic you’re reading. And I also know the feeling as that anticipation turns to worry that the next chapter may never come. So I want to say thank you to those who have asked about the story over the course of these several months. Thanks for showing your continued interest, but also your patience as I tried to get over my writer’s block. I really hope this chapter was worth the wait!
Many thanks to UK Expat for picking up as my beta after all this time. Thank you also to Zan and ItsJSforMe, not only do they find my numerous mistakes, but they are a never ending source of encouragement when I’m unsure about what I’ve written.
And finally, before we get to the actual chapter. The previous chapters can all be found here if you need a refresher or if you’re just finding the story.
Maggie released a sigh of contentment as she settled into her seat on the RER train that would take them back to Paris. It had been a wonderful day of sightseeing as they toured the Palace of Versailles and its stunning grounds. Closing her eyes she thought back over the day.
Upon their arrival at the Palace of Versailles, she and Bessie had started with the Palace itself, working their way through the Royal chapel, the state apartments of the king and queen, the Hall of Mirrors and even the coronation room. As they’d taken everything in, Maggie had been overwhelmed by the sheer opulence of every single room. It was hard to believe that the château, as it was called, had started out as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge.
Having seen enough of the château, the girls made the half an hour walk to the Grand Trianon. While the palace was breathtaking, Maggie’s favorite part had been the Buffet d’eau, also known as the Cascade. The cascading water and multicolored marble ornaments made it a magnificent sight to behold. From there they visited the Petite Trianon—just another lavish palace, Maggie and Bessie both agreed—and finally on to Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet.
It was the Hamlet and it’s surrounds that captivated Maggie most. In comparison to the extravagance they had come to expect throughout the course of the day, the Hamlet was a refreshing site. The Queen’s house along with the mill, farm and several other buildings seemed to belong, as though they had been built as a complement to the natural surroundings.
A stop for lunch at a café within the grounds provided the girls with an unexpected surprise. While enjoying their sandwiches, a voice called out, “Bessie Higgins, is that you?” Bessie had jumped from her seat to embrace the newcomer.
As Maggie quickly learned, Ann Latimer had been a childhood friend of Bessie’s, but coming from a wealthy family, she’d been sent off to boarding school in Switzerland. Having just matriculated, she too was touring the continent before starting at university in the fall.
Ann had joined them that afternoon, as they wandered through the gardens, taking in the various statues and fountains and even lounging in the grass as they enjoyed the sunshine and warmth.
Overall it had been a splendid day, but as Maggie’s recollections drew to a close, she couldn’t help but think with anticipation of the evening ahead. Opening her eyes, she looked at the two girls, deep in conversation, seated across from her. It had been a joy to watch as Bessie and Ann rekindled their friendship.
“Maggie,” Ann turned to look at her. “We were just talking about going dancing tonight. You will come, right?”
“I would love to,” began Maggie, “but I already have plans for dinner.”
“You didn’t tell me that,” Bessie was practically bouncing in her seat with excitement. “I assume you are having dinner with John again.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. We were going to invite you along, but if you’d rather go dancing with Ann…” Maggie trailed off.
“I see how it is,” Bessie laughed knowingly. “Don’t you worry, Maggie. Anne and I will have a fabulous evening and you can have John all to yourself.”
Maggie laughed at the wink Bessie sent her way. As much as she enjoyed spending time with Bessie and now Ann as well, she couldn’t deny the thrill that ran through her at the thought of spending the evening alone with John. Unthinkingly, she reached up and ran her thumb across her lips as she thought of the kiss they had shared the previous night. It had been tender and sweet, but the spark of passion that passed between them had been undeniable. The promise in that kiss made her even more grateful that fate had been kind enough to place Ann Latimer in their path.
Soon the train was slowing at the station where they were to change trains. Ann said her temporary goodbyes as she headed for her own lodgings to freshen up. Maggie and Bessie went to board the train that would take them back to the Volontaires Metro stop and their hostel. Once again seated, Maggie turned to Bessie, “So, where are you and Ann headed tonight?”
Bessie’s eyes lit up as she began, “We’re going to dinner and then out to a club! One of Ann’s friends from boarding school went last summer and said it was fab. She said the music was great and the place was full of hot guys!”
Maggie couldn’t help but laugh at her friend’s enthusiasm. “It sounds like you two will have a wonderful time,” Maggie said. Not wanting to sound like an old maid, but wanting to look out for her friend she continued, “Just make sure that the two of you stick together and watch your drinks. Okay?”
“Yes mother,” Bessie teased.
“Bessie,” Maggie responded with mock solemnity.
“Really Maggie, we’ll be careful,” Bessie promised.
Bessie, certain she’d allayed her friends worries changed the subject. “So,” she started with a teasing grin, “what do you think you and John will do tonight?”
Blushing slightly, Maggie answered, “The plan is to meet at his hotel and go out to dinner.”
“Is that all?” Bessie asked with an exaggerated emphasis on the word all.
“I have no idea what you’re getting at!” Maggie exclaimed, laugher ringing in her voice.
“Sure you don’t,” Bessie playfully mocked.
Arriving at Volontaires, they exited the train and made their way back to the hostel to shower and get ready for their respective nights out. Soon after they were ready, Ann arrived and the three walked in the direction of John’s hotel. “Have fun,” Ann said as they began to go their separate ways.
“Yeah,” Bessie winked, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Have fun girls,” Maggie responded, “and I’ll be expecting a full report on all the cute boys you meet!”
With that, she entered the foyer and went straight to the front desk. “Hello, I’m meeting someone staying here. Can you call his room?” Maggie asked. After giving John’s room number and her name to the attendant at the front desk she found a seat and waited for John to join her.
A smile crept across John’s face as he saw her sitting in the lobby of his hotel. Her small, elegant hands were busy smoothing the skirt of her flowery sundress, in what looked to him to be a nervous gesture. She looked so beautiful, her wavy red hair cascading over her shoulders. In the few spare moments he’d had that day, his thoughts had returned repeatedly to the kiss they had shared the night before. It had been chaste, but the feelings it sent coursing through his blood made him long for another.
Pulling himself from his reverie, he walked towards her. The smile that spread across her face and brightened her eyes as she saw him was a gift he hoped to receive often. “Where’s Bessie this evening?” he asked, although truth be told, he was relieved to see that he would have Maggie to himself for the evening.
“We ran into an old friend of hers at Versailles today,” Maggie began to explain as John held out his hand to help her from her chair. “They decided to go out dancing tonight. Have you ever met Ann Latimer?”
“Ann Latimer?” John’s voice was colored with surprise. “I’ve never met her, but I know the name well enough. Her father is the CEO of the bank my company does business with.”
“It really is a small world.” Maggie responded as they exited the hotel and began walking down the sidewalk.
“I didn’t know Bessie knew any of the Latimers,” John thought aloud.
“They were friends at school before Ann went off to boarding school,” Maggie filled him in.
“Well, that makes sense,” John conceded.
They walked in companionable silence down the streets of Paris, Maggie’s hand still nested inside of John’s. “Oh look,” Maggie’s voice was excited.
“It’s beautiful at night isn’t it?” John asked as he too took in the magnificent sight of the Eiffel tower, lit up at night.
“It really is stunning,” Maggie was at a loss for words.
Continuing on, Maggie finally asked, “Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”
John gave her a sheepish grin as he said, “I hope you like duck.”
“What if I don’t?” she challenged.
“I would cancel the reservation and we could go somewhere else,” he hoped that was the right answer.
Maggie laughed and he breathed a sigh of relief. “You are in luck, as it happens, I do like duck. Is that the restaurant’s specialty?” she wanted to know.
“It is,” he said pausing at the door to a charming little restaurant called Au Petit Sud Ouest. “We can step inside and see what tonight’s specials are.”
With a hand cradled at the small of Maggie’s back, he led her into the restaurant. The stone walls, dim lighting and metallic and jewel toned tablecloths gave the place a cozy, intimate feel. Once seated, they looked at the specials of the day. John decided on the duck breast with mushrooms, while Maggie chose the duck stew. With the help of their waiter, they chose a bottle of Beaumes de Venise, a wine well paired with duck.
John was pleased at how comfortable it was, how right it felt sitting with Maggie, chatting about their days. She told him about her time at Versailles, how she loved the smell of the grass as she laid there, listening the trickling water of one of the fountains. He told her about his meeting with a supplier and how he’d secured a deal for items desired by a chain of boutique hotels back in England.
When their food came, she reached over with her spoon and helped herself to one of his mushrooms. The flickering light from the candle glistened on the strands of honey gold and auburn in her red hair distracting John. He almost missed the cheeky grin when she said, “I figured after dinner last night you are not one of those people who doesn’t share food.”
“No, take whatever you want,” he heard himself reply.
“Would you like to try mine?” Maggie asked.
“I would, but I don’t have a spoon,” he said, one eyebrow raising suggestively. He almost choked when she lifted the spoon from her bowl and offered him a mouthful of the savory stew. The twinkle in Maggie’s eye told him she knew he’d been caught off guard, but quickly recovering, he sliced a bite of his duck and lifted it to her mouth. As her lips wrapped around the tines, he knew they were playing a dangerous game. She was beautiful, intelligent, sensual, sweet and funny. Exactly the kind of woman he would have looked for if ever he’d had the time.
Dinner continued in a sensual haze. Lingering glances were exchanged as John and Maggie continued to feed one another. Soon their plates were being cleared and the last dregs of wine were finished off. Once the bill was taken care of, they stepped out into the sultry nighttime air of Paris.
“Do you trust me?” John asked, his hand once again placed gently in the small of Maggie’s back as he guided her to a taxi.
She was surprised by the question, but felt no hesitation in replying, “Of course I do.”
Helping Maggie slide into the vehicle, John slipped in beside her, one arm coming to rest along her shoulders. The strength and warmth of him lured her in as she snuggled into the crook of his arm. “Are you going to tell me where we’re going, or is it a surprise?” She asked, not really caring about the destination, as long as they were together.
“To Quai Saint-Bernard,” he explained, “there is live music in the evenings during the summer months. I happened upon it by accident once, but I enjoy going there.”
“It sounds lovely,” she said, smiling up at him.
The taxi ride passed quickly and soon the vehicle was pulling to a stop alongside the Seine. John paid the driver before escorting Maggie from the vehicle. The rhythmic strains of a seductive Latin tune drifted from a little farther down the bank. Wanting to get closer, Maggie reached for John’s hand, pulling him along in the direction of the music.
Maggie came to a halt at the sight before her. All along the embankment were couples dancing. “Did you know there was dancing as well as music?”
“Yes, but we can just watch and listen if you’d prefer,” he offered.
“Is that the tango?” Maggie queried.
“Yes, it is,” John answered, not quite meeting her eyes.
“John, do you know how to tango,” the excitement in her voice made him look up.
“I do. My mother made me take dance lessons as a boy. The waltz, the foxtrot, and of course the tango.”
“You can teach me!” Her enthusiasm tugged at his heart and he went willingly as she wound her way through the throng to find an opening.
Standing face to face, John pulled Maggie into his arms. Directing her left hand midway down his right arm, he then grasped her right hand with his left, before placing his right hand on her left shoulder blade. “This is called the frame,” he explained as those sparkling green eyes focused intently on him. “Just try to follow me. If I step backward with my left foot, you step forward with your right. You just mirror my movements.”
“Okay, I’ll try,” Maggie sounded unsure of herself.
As far as John was concerned it wouldn’t matter if she were the worst dancer in the world as long as she was in his arms. He started off slow, ignoring the music altogether as he tried to get Maggie comfortable with the steps. Forward with the left, forward with the right, a smaller step with the left, a quick step to the right and finally a slow drag of the left foot towards the right before repeating the steps all over again.
“I’m so sorry, John,” Maggie blushed as she stepped on his toes. All in all he thought she was doing well and the longer they danced, the more comfortable she became, her body becoming in tune with his as he led her around the Quai.
The song changed to a slower tango that was perfect for a beginner and John effortlessly changed the pace of their movements to match that of the song. Their eyes locked as they lost themselves in the seductive music, the feel of one another’s arms and the joint movements of their bodies. It was like nothing John had ever experienced with any of his dance partners before. He could only hope that Maggie felt it too.
When the song came to an end, he couldn’t bring himself to release her, instead leaning in for a kiss. A swift brush of his lips against hers was all he intended, but when her hand tightened on his arm, he released her right hand and pulled her in closer. Lips met as her tiny fingers fisted in the hair at the nape of his neck. His tongue snuck out, seeking entrance to her mouth and her gasp of surprise gave him what he sought. Relief flooded John’s body as Maggie’s tongue tentatively stroked against his own. Her initial hesitance convinced him that she was probably as inexperienced as he. Not that he was a total novice, but it had been years since he’d kissed a woman, and never quite like this.
Tittering and the call of, “Hé hé hé, on dirait que quelqu’un se sent la passion du tango!” reminded John of where exactly they were. Slowly, and with reluctance, he released Maggie’s lips, although he kept her firmly in his arms.
She leaned up to whisper in his ear, “Do you know what that person was saying about us?”
“I got the gist, something about feeling the passion of the tango,” he admitted, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. Much to his surprise, Maggie threw her head back and laughed.
“John, we’re in Paris, dancing the tango by the river Seine. If this isn’t the time to feel passion, I don’t know when is,” the joy in her voice was infectious and a smile stretched across his face.
They remained for a while longer, John teaching her a few more intricate steps as the music played and the couples around them moved. Finally exhausted, and sweating from their exertions, they ambled through the crowd and down the street to the nearest taxi stand. Climbing into first one available, John gave the driver the address of Maggie’s hostel, before relaxing into the seat and pulling Maggie against his chest.
As the taxi maneuvered through the busy streets, Maggie turned to look up at John. “Thank you for tonight. I can’t recall the last time I had this much fun.”
His smile was luminescent as he said, “Oh, I don’t know. You’ve been having fun with Bessie.”
“I have, but it isn’t quite the same,” she said before pressing her lips to his.
His arm snuck around her waist and pulled her closer as the kiss continued. This time it was Maggie who sought to deepen the kiss, her tongue slipping past John’s teeth to coax his. The kiss was slow, unhurried and sensual—an expression of their delight in being together, in the pleasure that comes with mutual attraction and growing esteem.
Soon the taxi pulled up in front of the hostel and the two found themselves standing off to the side of the doors. As if she belonged there, Maggie snaked her arms around John’s waist, her head pressed under his chin. “Will I get to see you tomorrow?”
“Actually, I found out just before you arrived tonight, that my meeting for tomorrow has been cancelled,” he said, his voice hopeful. “If you don’t have any objections, maybe I could join you and Bessie for the day.”
“Of course you can,” came Maggie’s immediate response. “Is it a serious setback for you that your meeting was cancelled?”
“No, not really,” John began to explain. “It is a small, startup family export business that is looking to do business in England. The grandfather passed away unexpectedly today. Naturally, the family is grieving as well as trying to plan a funeral.”
“That is heartbreaking,” Maggie said, thinking of the pain she had felt upon the death of her mother.
“It is, and I know that on top of the grief, they were sorry to have to cancel our meeting. But I’ll make sure to meet with them next time I’m in Paris,” John responded.
Maggie couldn’t help but think back to their first meeting and how wrong her first impression of the man had been. He had a kind heart.
“Anyway,” John said, as he stroked his hand down Maggie’s glossy red tresses, “what is the plan for tomorrow?”
“Well,” Maggie said, her nose scrunching in concentration, “the plan was to visit the Eiffel tower, stuff ourselves on the Rue Cler, do the tour of Paris’s sewer system—I haven’t mentioned that to Bessie, so it might not happen—and visit The Museum of the Shoah.”
“The plan was?” John interjected.
“Bessie and I have two days left here. So I thought you might be more interested in what we have planned for the other day. We could easily shift the plans around.”
“That’s very thoughtful of you,” John said, kissing the top of her head. “What is the alternate plan?”
“The Paris catacombs, the outdoor market on Rue Mouffetard, Montmartre, the Moulin Rouge, and Pere-Lachaise Graveyard,” she listed off.
“Catacombs and a graveyard?” John asked with humor in his voice.
“They’re interesting,” Maggie said. “Did you know that Chopin, de Balzac, Edith Piaf and even Oscar Wilde are buried in Pere-Lachaise?”
“I do now,” John said. “If you really don’t mind shifting your schedule around, I think I’d prefer option two.”
“Are you sure? Even though it includes catacombs and a cemetery,” Maggie teased.
“Especially because of those,” John replied. “When should I be here in the morning?”
“The catacombs open at 10, so do you want to meet us around nine? We could grab some breakfast on our way,” Maggie suggested.
“I’ll be here at nine,” John said, before reluctantly adding, “I’m looking forward to spending my last day in Paris with you.”
“Oh,” the disappointed look on Maggie’s face sent a surge of hope coursing through John. Maybe there was hope she wouldn’t forget him after he returned to England.
“I didn’t realize,” Maggie whispered.
“Don’t think about it right now,” John lifted her chin, so her eyes met his. “Let’s just enjoy tomorrow.” Leaning down he pressed his lips briefly to Maggie’s. “I should go, but I’ll be here at nine tomorrow morning.” With one last kiss he released her before strolling down the street towards his hotel.
Maggie stood there watching until he rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.