'Catorze cloche,' she said shyly. The man looked at her with big brown eyes.
'Oh, yes, yes,' he replied. He went to the cabinet and took out a big pastry with chocolate oozing from the sides; it was wrapped in a white napkin and deposited into her small hand.
The door of the shop tinkled as someone came in; Isabelle turned around and froze.
Paralysing excitement ran up her legs and through her belly up to her cheeks and throat and face, when it manifested itself in a rush of blood. The room was suddenly much too hot. And what was that strange lurch in her belly? What was that tightening, or the suddenly dry throat, or the shaking hands, with chocolate dripping from either slanted side onto the floor.
A man stepped inside, taking off his hat as he did so.
'Une petit macaron,' he said politely to the man behind the counter, who nodded and swung away with a paper bag. Isabelle tried to gather hold of her rollicking emotions. She glanced at the man from under her eyelashes.
He was tall and blonde, with a sweeping cowlick that tucked neatly under his left ear. He had brown eyes, lighter than the shopkeep's, and a long nose. He had a strong jaw that jutted out and made him look impertinent. He wasn't much taller than she was, but quite slim.
The man hurried back with the bag containing a single macaron and handed it over. Isabelle realised, with a flush of embarrassment, that she had been standing in the same position, staring out towards the door, utterly prone. She made herself search for her bag for some imaginary keychain. She was hyperconscious of the man on her left side. He had handed over a five euro note. She wondered what she would do when he left the store.
'Merci, monsieur,' the man said to the shopkeeper. It took only two steps for him to navigate around Isabelle. He looked at her with curious eyes as the door swung open and closed.
'Aha,' she mumbled for the shopkeeper's benefit, jangling something around in her bag. 'Got them.'
The chocolate was all over the floor; she hurried out before anyone noticed. The street was crowded. She saw the man walking away and, throwing her pastry into a nearby bin, ran after him. Her hand was on her bag to prevent the strap flying from her shoulder.
'Hey!' she called as she got closer, and put a hand on his arm. He turned. She had hoped he would look sardonically pleased, but he was only surprised.
'Can I help you?' He was British. She couldn't tell where from.
She looked at him steadily. Her body was still on fire. She was sure he could see the ripples of desire that were rolling up and down her body, causing goosebumps to rise and fade.
'Would you like me to show you something?'
He smiled down at her dispassionately. 'What something?'
'It's not far,' she replied quickly. 'Just down the next few streets.'
'I don't know.'
He was looking over her head to the crowd swirling around them. He was holding his macaron bag limply in one hand. She thought he was very cold and forbidding.
'You'll like it,' she insisted.
He looked up and down the street and did not answer.
She persisted. 'What are you here for?'
To her surprise, he looked down and slowly put his hand to her neck. She could feel him pulling one of her ringlets down – down – down – then letting it go with a spring.
'Do you know what you're doing?'
She stared at him blankly. 'I have something to show you.'
He shook his head but walked with her. They ducked across the roaring tide of people, into a side passage, where she stopped and put up her face to be kissed. The man pecked her cheek graciously. Ripples spread from the point like meandering fireworks.
'I know Paris well,' he said.
'I know you do. You're British.'
'Do all British people know Paris?'
'Better than anyone else.'
He nodded slowly, then put both hands in his pockets. He was wearing slacks and a dark blue knitted jersey. She wanted to trail kisses all the way down from his Adam's apple, bite and lick and suck. The muscles in his neck were unusually tight where his heartbeat pulsed. She wondered whether he was tense all over. She wondered whether he was tense right now.
He pulled her to him and kissed her quickly on the lips. She moaned as he pulled away. He looked at her quizzically.
'Go,' she said. 'Go.'
He put his hot mouth back on hers and kissed her deeply, wet and soft and hard – because he was tensed, all over. His hair was in her hand. His hands were tucking themselves under the waistband of her long skirt. She waited for the shocking first touch, but it never came. His hands rested on her lower abdomen and did not pry further.
Isabelle pulled away. He looked down at his own hands as in shame.
She shook her head. 'Let's find a hotel.'
'I don't know any around here.'
'English people don't know Paris.'
He was guarded, one of his traitorous hands rubbing his lips. She heard her voice and noticed it was husky. Her body ached.
'Let's go.' She grabbed his hand.
They found a hotel not far away, its green door welcomingly open. It looked more like an inn than anything. They checked in rapidly and said 'yes' when asked if they were married. Up four flights of stairs was a small room with red walls; she lay on the bed as soon as they entered and he clambered on top of her. He smelt like cigarettes and sweets.
She begged to be kissed but he silenced her.
Slowly he withdrew the bag with the macaron from where he had stashed it in his pocket. He crushed the bag in one hand, the other looking down on her. She knew she was heaving, panting, tantalisingly. She could see in his eyes that the rise and fall of her collarbones was darkening him. He had to tear his gaze away from her red mouth.
The macaron was crumbled gently over her neckline. She lay prone as he ate it off her figure, and gasped with surprise as cold hands slid under her shirt. It was pulled off exquisitely slowly and flung into the corner of the room. He was crouched over her and she felt trapped and aroused by the lack of power. He did not move to take off her bra.
Instead, he crumbled more macaron down her front, a trail from the dip in her collarbone to her bellybutton. She arched up inadvertently as he went. The power of her arousal felt like small butterflies pounding in her stomach. She was hot and wet. He smiled when he heard the groan she made as he reached her bellybutton, grazing the skin down to her groin with his teeth.
'For God's sake,' she said urgently, not waiting for his hands to guide his own shirt off; it was gone in one fluid move that ruffled his hair. She sat up and dragged him down using her mouth. His hand scrabbled against the waistband of her skirt, and she murmured nothings into his breath. Her own breath was coming heavy.
He yanked down her skirt but she was lying on it so he couldn't take it off; instead, he pulled it upwards and pinioned it between their bodies. She was sure he could feel her pulsing. He used both hands to peel down her panties and reveal her to him. An urgent noise arose from his throat and his flashing eyes.
She grabbed his pants and pulled off the belt and undid the button and pulled him out. His mass sat strongly in her hand, straight and true. She spread her legs for him. He groaned. She tried to guide him in, but he didn't need her; he rested on his elbows on either side of her body, looked down at her, and penetrated her in one swift stroke.
She cried out. He continued. She was pinioned under his bulk, made powerless by his relentless strokes. They fell into her continually. She felt her body rise up reflexively from the mattress, his hands starting to grasp at her body, her own up above her head, clenching the sheets. He was slippery with the wetness of her. She thought he must slow, must get tired; but instead he plunged deeper, bringing cries of ecstasy screaming from her body, her entirety flushed with heat and sensuality, arching upwards. He looked down at her with fierce need, something like a carnivore, aiming to possess and to own. There was something about that savagery that made her fearful and dizzy with delight in equal measure. She tipped her head back and her eyes rolled. He grasped her around the middle and continued to plough in, each stroke longer and more violent and more delicious than the last, culminating in a deep physical need -