The black limousine pulled away from the wrought-iron, gated entranceway of Astrid LeClair's apartment building. It swept down the Avenue Foch, past elegant, period residences adorned with sculptures. As the car traveled past playgrounds filled with squealing children and their vigilant nannies, Astrid recalled her heated conversation with Philippe that morning. Her stomach churned.
The chestnut trees along the avenue paraded their new spring green. In the park, Parisian women looked like spring flowers themselves in the latest fashions. Through the car's tinted windows, Astrid was able to watch the world without the world watching her. It had become a novelty. As a star on the rise, she caused a sensation wherever she went in Europe. Her face graced the magazine stands and details of her life featured in the tabloids. She had been with billionaire businessman, Philippe Fabre for five years, since he pursued her relentlessly. No scandal or gossip had touched her since to feed the paparazzo's interest, but the media still hounded her, snapping her as she shopped in the local market. It was life in a gold fish bowl. Philippe pointed out she would be protected by his wealth if she married him and gave up her career to become a mother.
This morning Philippe had raised the question again and when she'd refused to be pushed, he'd exploded. At forty-seven, he was still an attractive man. Most women would think her crazy. She didn't understand it herself. She only knew she wanted something more than he could offer, something that had nothing to do with money. She decided that when her contractual obligations with this movie were finished, she would move into her own apartment. She had never lived alone. The thought of being free made her shiver with excitement and uncertainty.
The car approached the Bois de Boulogne. Astrid tapped on the pane of glass between her and the chauffeur. "We have plenty of time before the plane, Christian, please drive through the park."
They swept into the park, passing joggers and cyclists. The fact that this beautiful woodland turned into a red-light district at night attracted her, she wasn't sure why. She liked to envisage herself among the prostitutes waiting for a client to approach her. With a small intake of breath, she imagined the excitement of a passionate, clandestine sexual liaison. A starry night. The man's face in shadow, his voice deepened by passion. The bright lights of Paris twinkling through the branches, the feeling of rough bark against her spine. His hard body. The urgency of his hands and the force of his kisses.
"Should we head to the airport now, Miss LeClair?"
His grey eyes studied her in the mirror. She crossed her legs and leaned back with a sigh. "Yes, thank you, Christian."