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Champagne [MultiFormat]
eBook by Inara Lavey

eBook Category: Erotica/Bisexual Erotica/Romance
eBook Description: Jeanette Wilson is an American girl on the trip of a lifetime to the wine regions of France. Unfortunately, she's trapped with her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Daryl, a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, self-styled wine expert bent on swirling, sniffing, sipping, swishing, chewing, swallowing and occasionally spitting his way through the wineries. Between his endless lectures and insufferable putdowns, her insignificant other is quickly turning her dream vacation into a nightmare. But things change for Jeanette once they come to the zenith of their French road trip, the Champagne house of Chateau Roux-Dubois. Their hosts, Amaury and Marie-Elise Roux-Dubois, turn out to be both charming and attractive, and go out of their way to extend a warm welcome to her. And they make it very clear that it is she, not Daryl, who is their special guest, particularly when the striking Marie-Elise takes Jeanette down to the wine cellar for a very personal tour, followed by an unusual French lesson from Amaury. When she and Daryl are invited to stay and participate in the harvest festival, Jeanette finds herself caught up in a ménage a trois with the Roux-Dubois, both intent on teaching her many things...and not just about wine.

eBook Publisher: Ravenous Romance, Published: 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2009

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Chapter One

My eyes were closed as a finger gently stroked my clitoris under the silk of my G-string. I squirmed with pleasure as the finger was replaced by the soft caress of my unseen lover's tongue; with long, slow strokes up and down. It tasted my juices, then began to probe deeper inside me. I moaned softly as it slid in and out of me, impossibly agile, pressing against my G-spot, then flicking teasingly back across the clit. My climax slowly built as my hips lifted involuntarily to increase the pressure until--"Jeanette?" Daryl's voice cut though my erotic daydream like scissors through thread. Snip. All gone, just like my interrupted orgasm. "Jeanette, are you listening?" "Mmm. Sorry." I surreptitiously slid my hand out from between my legs. "I was napping." "Well, we're almost there, so I think you'd better freshen your makeup." He gave me a semi-critical glance. "Your mascara is smeared." Not bothering with a response--Daryl wouldn't listen anyway--I retrieved my purse from the floor of the car and pulled out a compact to make the necessary repairs on my makeup. Daryl resumed his one-sided conversation. "Now, Roux-Dubois is one of the few houses still exclusively owned by a family," said Daryl as we drove through yet another small village, one in a seemingly endless cluster connected by acres of vines. "They're part of a long history of wine-making royalty. We're amazingly lucky to have been invited to stay with them."

An hour into the trip I'd known it was a bad idea. Unfortunately that hour was enough time for the plane heading for France to be airborne and I didn't think the pilot would consider a dying relationship a good enough reason to turn it back to LAX. Considering I was getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne, I'm sure the lack of sympathy would have elicited a concerto from the world's smallest violin. I'd offered to pay my share, but Daryl was both old-fashioned and proud of his income bracket; his girlfriend didn't pay for anything when he was around.

Daryl was a self-styled oenophile, enamored of wine and all the minutiae that were a part of its history and manufacture. He was also boring as hell, turning our trip to the wine regions of France into an excruciatingly dull series of lectures. Trapped next to him in our rented Mercedes SL2 as we drove through miles of beautiful vineyard-filled countryside, there was no escaping the endless stream of wine factoids that flowed out of him. I was sick to death of hearing about terroir, microclimates, hills versus flat, the right soil for the right grape, the virtues of cork versus "the controversial yet increasingly popular screw top(he actually said that). I was expected to listen to everything he said with no feedback of my own that didn't consist of wide-eyed "Really?" "That's so interesting!" "Tell me more about malolactic fermentation, please!" I faked interest, the same way I'd started faking orgasms. He didn't notice the difference, just as he hadn't noticed me quietly masturbating in the passenger seat next to him.

We'd started our tour in Bordeaux, visiting winery after winery of Grand Cru, Premier Cru and so-so Cru growths. I watched Daryl swirl, sniff, sip, swish, chew, swallow, and sometimes spit his way through countless glasses of Bordeaux and all I could think was that someone who spent so much time and care on all the oral and olfactory acrobatics involved in wine tasting should really be more adept at oral sex. But even in the early days of our courtship, the sight of my naked body never brought the same gleam of lust to his eyes as a glass of Chateau Margaux.

I did my best to get into the spirit of things, but it was difficult when Daryl would ask me my opinion of this wine or that, then tell me why I should have smelled plum instead of strawberry or that the ones I especially liked weren't really that good.

"This one is a much better wine," Daryl said at one winery after I'd stated my preference for a different wine. "Much more room to develop. That one"--he waved a dismissive hand at my choice--"is fruit forward, but not enough tannins to give it real balance. Too obvious." I think the winemaker at that particular establishment understood more English than Daryl realized--he refused to sell Daryl a bottle of the one he liked, but gave me a bottle of the one that Daryl had denigrated. Daryl didn't make the connection, of course, chalking up the winemaker's behavior to quixotic eccentricity and an appreciation of my legs in my short denim skirt.

We followed the same routine through Burgundy, driving through miles of gorgeous countryside, countless vineyards, and small towns of cobbled courtyards and thick-walled stone buildings. I wanted to stop and play tourist at castles and museums, but unless there was a winery attached, Daryl refused to stop. He didn't want to waste a moment of precious wine-tasting time. I'm sure I had some amazing wines, but after five wineries in as many hours, everything pretty much tasted alike.

The culmination of the trip was the region of Champagne-Ardennes; northeast of Paris--which we bypassed completely--near the Belgian border. This was definitely my favorite leg of the journey. Rolling hills gave way to lakes and water meadows to the south, while to the north lay dense forests and the hills of the Ardennes. I also love Champagne--and it doesn't involve nearly as many facial contortions on the part of the taster--and we tasted the best.

We visited Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, Perrier-Jouët, Mumm, Laurent-Perrier, Piper-Heidsieck, Krug, and, of course, Moët et Chandon and Louis Roederer, where, respectively, Daryl bought a case of Dom and a case of Cristal. Heady stuff for a girl from a "have some Beringer White Zin" type of background. We also went to a number of smaller Champagne houses, names not as recognizable, but the bubbly just as good. I spent the days pleasantly buzzed from morning till bedtime, a condition that made sex with Daryl almost pleasurable.

Today, however, I was lamentably sober as I listened to Daryl wax enthusiastic about our next and final destination: the Champagne house of Roux-Dubois, where we were to stay as guests of the owners for the next three days.

"...absolutely flawless Brut in vintage years. A bottle of Roux-Dubois '85 is actually worth more to collectors than an '85 Dom." "Mmm" Not much of an answer, but I was too bored to come up with my usual chipper, "Really?" I was also nervous. For Daryl, this was the zenith of the entire trip. I'd been dreading it since we touched down on French soil.

We'd met Monsieur and Madame Roux-Dubois, both in their late thirties, a few months earlier at a dinner party in Beverly Hills. Both had that impeccably put-together look that seems to be the natural birthright of the French, the confidence and ease of manner that made the simplest of outfits look like high fashion. Monsieur Roux-Dubois was tall and lanky and so charming that one didn't notice that he wasn't really handsome. He had a crooked nose, close-set green eyes, and thin lips that somehow worked when you put them all together. Madame Roux-Dubois, on the other hand, was gorgeous; raven hair pulled back into a sleek, chic chignon that would have been harsh on anyone less feminine. Her eyes were the color of bittersweet chocolate, made up in that sexy, smudged, "I've just been fucked six ways from Sunday" look that I could never emulate without looking like I'd been sucker punched. Her lipstick was the perfect shade of true red and left no discernable smudge marks on her wine glass. I hated her on sight. Once Daryl discovered their profession, he'd put on his most charming manner and spent the rest of the evening wooing them while I sat silently at his side, feeling as awkward and unattractive as I had on my first date in high school. The thought of being their guests for three days, not knowing any French beyond "hello," "goodbye," "thank you," and, "Excuse me, where's the bathroom?" intimidated the hell out of me. And now here we were. Daryl took a turn down a narrow private drive, flanked on either side by--surprise, surprise--more vineyards. We drove through an archway into a courtyard where a gorgeous eighteenth-century house nestled against the side of a hill, stones mellowed with time and weather, ivy and flowered vines climbing the walls. There was another building set off to the side of the house. Daryl nodded at it. "I'll bet that's the winery." The front door opened and Madame Roux-Dubois stepped outside, casually dressed in slim fit leggings, black ballet flats and an off-white shirt that reminded me of an artist's smock. Very Leslie Caron. Simple, yet classic. She looked as if she should be on a catwalk in Paris or dancing with Gene Kelly. Daryl saw her and his face lit up. He parked the Mercedes next to a sleek classic beige Jaguar and an incongruous little Fiat sitting side by side in the sheltered drive. He was out of the car before he'd shut the engine off, dashing to greet the lady of the manor without a glance back to see if I was joining him or not. I immediately felt frumpy in my boot-cut jeans and white Gap T-shirt and wished I hadn't eaten that chocolate croissant for breakfast. Madame Roux-Dubois held out her hand and presented her cheek for Daryl's enthusiastic kiss. Even as she did so, though, her gaze flickered past him to the car. Her eyebrows lifted and she tilted her head as if in inquiry. She said something to Daryl, who turned and gestured for me to join them. I smiled weakly and reluctantly got out of the car as Madame Roux-Dubois came over, arms outstretched, a smile of what looked like genuine pleasure on her face.

"Mademoiselle Wilson," she said in heavily accented English, "it is a delight to see you again!" I was immediately suspicious; why would she be glad to see me? I was surprised she even remembered my name. I chalked it up to good manners and awkwardly exchanged hugs. I come from a non-demonstrative family where hugs and kisses are saved for weddings and funerals. I just couldn't get used to the European custom of kissing cheeks by way of greeting. "Thank you for having us to stay, Madame," I said stiffly, hating the So Cal twang of my voice in comparison to the lilt of her French accent. "Marie-Elise, s'il vous plait," she said, putting a companionable arm around my shoulders to lead me into the house. "And I may call you Jeanette?" She smiled at Daryl over her shoulder. "And you will bring the bags, non?" The inside of the house was as impressive as the exterior, high ceilings, nooks and crannies everywhere, all sorts of interesting architectural details, and the décor was effortless and authentic shabby chic. Exactly what you'd expect to find in the At Home in France issue of Victoria magazine except without the overabundance of lace, tulle, and twee china figurines.

"Are you hungry?" Marie-Elise asked as we walked up a curving staircase to the second floor, Daryl trailing after us with our luggage. I shook my head, already feeling the size of a baby elephant next to this French sylph. "No, not really." My stomach immediately growled in protest. I blushed, mortified, but Marie-Elise gave me a friendly squeeze, her arm still around my shoulders, and said, "The body doesn't let us lie when it comes to matters of food or love. We will have lunch before we taste." She stopped in front of an open door. "This will be your room."

I stepped inside to a cozy room dominated by a large cherrywood sleigh bed with a matching vanity and two small bedside tables. The duvet was white cotton and I was pretty sure it covered a goose down quilt. Like the rest of the house, the room managed to be comfortably opulent, everything feeling old, yet expensive. "This is lovely." I set my purse on the vanity bench as Daryl came in and plunked the luggage down in the middle of a faded Oriental rug. "I'm pleased that you like it." She opened a door next to the vanity. "C'est la salle de bains." "She means bathroom," said Daryl. Amazing how the man managed to imbue three words with that much condescension. "I actually know that one," I said, annoyed.

Marie-Elise's gaze briefly went from me to Daryl, but her expression gave nothing away. "You must be fatigued from the drive. Perhaps you would enjoy a tray in your room, a bath and a rest before dinner?" I smiled gratefully even as Daryl jumped in with, "Oh, we've only been on the road for a few hours. I'm sure there's no need for that." Again that quick glance from me to Daryl. "If you do not wish to rest, Daryl, you can take your meal with us and afterwards I will be happy to give you a tour of the grounds." To me: "I'll have a tray brought to you. Dinner will be late. It will be a special evening and you will enjoy it more if you're rested." And Daryl will enjoy it more if he has you to himself, I thought as I ran bathwater in a tub large enough to fit a family of four. Not that I cared at this point. I was happy to soak in geranium- and sandalwood-scented water, covered up to my breasts in bubbles like a character in a Doris Day movie, and have some time all alone without Daryl's constant monologue. For whatever reason, our hostess was more thoughtful than I'd expected after the party in Beverly Hills. Maybe I wouldn't feel so out of place for the next three days after all, although I still felt incredibly gauche in contrast to Marie-Elise's sleek confidence. I shut my eyes and sighed in contentment. "Excusez-moi." I looked up, startled, to see Marie-Elise standing by the bathroom door, which I hadn't bothered to close. She was balancing a tray. "You do not mind if I set this down for you?" She indicated the ledge around the bathtub. "Uh, no, I don't mind." I slid a little further into the water until the bubbles reached my neck. She placed the tray within easy reaching distance. There was fresh bread, a slice of brie, butter, pâté, sliced peaches and strawberries, as well as a full Champagne flute.

"This looks delicious, thank you." Another piece of my initial reserve slipped away in the face of Marie-Elise's thoughtfulness. "It's what we're having downstairs," she said matter-of-factly. "I wouldn't want you to miss anything just because you're tired. Men do not always understand a woman's needs and so we take care of one another." She reached out and brushed a strand of hair back from my forehead, a gesture that took me very much by surprise, yet seemed quite natural. "Bon appétit, ma chère. I will see you at dinner." Alone once more, I picked up the Champagne flute and held it to a ray of light filtering through the curtained window. Something Daryl said came to mind: the smaller and more numerous the bubbles, the better the Champagne. If that were true, this must be high quality, judging by the dozens of tiny bubbles streaming up through the pale gold liquid. I took a sip and tasted almonds and peaches, a creamy mouthful of ambrosia. I could get used to this. By the time I finished eating and got out of the bath, it was all I could do to dry off and crawl into bed, which proved to have not only a goose down quilt and pillows, but a down mattress as well. It was like sinking into a cloud and I was asleep within minutes. Surrounded by all the down, it wasn't surprising I dreamed of feathers. More specifically, feather-light touches up and down my body, soft and sure along the curve of my spine, neck, arms, and shoulders. There were bubbles in my dream too, tiny bubbles, like the Don Ho song or Lawrence Welk's bubble machine. But these bubbles were inside me, a stream of sensation that centered between my legs and spread their warmth outwards. They had no where to go, though, no point of release, so the sensation dissipated, leaving me vaguely dissatisfied when I woke up, my usual state whenever I had an erotic dream. Truth be told, I could never quite let go of my control enough either awake or asleep to feel that all encompassing sensation of release that the French called le petit mort. Another of the few French phrases I was familiar with. I was lying mostly on top of the covers, one leg tucked underneath but the rest of me naked for the world to see had anyone chosen to come into the room while I slept. And when I saw my clothes had been put away in the armoire, it was obvious somebody had. The obvious guess was Daryl, except he wouldn't have had the consideration to unpack my things; there was probably a maid or housekeeper. I suppressed my initial embarrassment by remembering that Europeans didn't regard nudity with the American puritanical blend of prudery and "aren't I being naughty for looking at this??" I hoped I hadn't snored, and, the dreams I'd been having hadn't been obvious. I looked at the clock and was shocked to see I'd slept for more than four hours. The sun had set and it had to be close to dinnertime. Daryl had warned me earlier to dress for dinner, so I put on an ankle-length red silk velvet dress with a burned-out pattern of leaves. I'd brought it with me because I could crumple it into a ball, stuff it into a suitcase and it would fall out into unwrinkled folds. The color and bias-cut style were flattering to both my figure and my coloring and I found myself wanting to look my best. The only remedy for a disastrous case of bed head was to sweep my hair up and back into a butterfly clip, but I wasn't displeased with the result. A quick spritz of Angel perfume and I was ready to deal with Daryl and the Roux-Dubois.

I made my way downstairs and found Daryl on his way to fetch me. He was already dressed for dinner in one of his Italian suits. "You look nice," I said honestly. His only comment on my appearance was, "Good, you didn't wear jeans." Then, "Marie-Elise and Amaury are waiting for us in the dining room." He walked away. I trailed behind him, suddenly uncertain. Was I dressed inappropriately? Once I saw the Roux-Duboises, my dress code apprehensions evaporated. Marie-Elise wore a simple sheath dress made of raw silk in a rich chocolate shade that matched her eyes, while Amaury had on a suit that managed to appear casual and extravagantly expensive at the same time. Both of them stood when I entered the dining room; Amaury strode across to greet me with a warm hug and the inevitable kiss on both cheeks. He was as unconventionally handsome as I remembered, and the admiration in his eyes was a balm to my ego after Daryl's dismissal of my efforts.

"Jeanette, vous êtes exquis" He turned to Marie-Elise. "Ne semble-t-elle pas belle, ma chère?" Marie-Elise nodded. "Very beautiful." She joined us, touched my face lightly. "Ah, the rest, it was good for you. You look rejuvenated." I smiled, grateful for the kind words. Amaury offered me his arm. "Let me show you to your seat." Daryl, hovering next to Marie-Elise, immediately proffered his arm to her. She cast me an amused, almost conspiratorial glance and allowed him to lead her to the dining room table, a massive thing that would have looked at home in a medieval castle's dining hall. It almost dwarfed the room but, like everything else in the house, somehow managed to be precisely where it should be. If my lunchtime snack had been delicious, dinner was an amazing culinary experience. Each course, and there were six of them, was matched with a different wine or Champagne that complemented the dish to perfection. Everything was served in small, exquisitely presented portions that left one sated, but not overly full. For the first time I truly appreciated the art of food and wine, perhaps because it was presented as a gift to be experienced rather than served to me as a lecture. Now and again I would surprise myself and realize what a good time I was having with the Roux-Duboises, nothing like the social purgatory I'd been dreading. Not once did I feel excluded from the conversation. Indeed, the only person who seemed determined to converse in exclusively in French was Daryl. Marie-Elise and Amaury, using a mixture of the two languages, would lead the conversation back into English so seamlessly that Daryl had no idea he was being manipulated. I found myself enjoying the game of wine tasting as both Roux-Dubois gazed at me eagerly to see what aromas I could pick out, what flavors I detected, how each wine tasted different when paired with food. Daryl seemed jealous of the attention I was receiving even though he was getting his share of it as well. "Jeanette doesn't really understand the complexities of wine," he said at one point, with a little laugh that was meant to dismiss me in an affectionate yet belittling way. "Then we will enjoy teaching her," said Amaury, pouring me another taste of Burgundy matched with duck and sausage cassoulet. "I think she has an affinité for these things." Marie-Elise smiled at me from across the table. It was impossible not to relax and blossom under such a heady combination of rich food, excellent wine, and attention. By the time we'd come to the white chocolate mousse paired with a Champagne tasting of lemons and vanilla, I was chatting volubly about anything and everything and thought our host and hostess were the most charming, fascinating people I'd ever met. "Do you like this Champagne?" Marie-Elise held up her flute and watched the streams of bubbles as they raced upwards. I nodded. "It's lighter than the one I had at lunch. This one's not as ... as creamy in the mouth." "That's called mouth feel, Jeanette." Daryl put in his two cents. Amaury nodded. "They're two different styles. The one you had earlier was a Blanc de Noir, made entirely of pinot noir grapes. This is a Blanc de Blanc, which is one hundred percent Chardonnay and, as you said, much lighter." "They're both delicious." I took another sip of the Blanc de Blanc and examined the crystal flute. "Why do you use these glasses? What about the ones that are more--" I shaped my hands like a bowl, unable to think of the word I wanted. "You know, the ones they use in movies." "Ah, the Champagne coupe." Marie-Elise got up from the table, went to an antique china cabinet and brought back a shallow saucer-shaped glass, the type you see in old movies."Like this?"

I nodded.

"This has always been popular because it's pretty, but it's not meant to show Champagne at its best. These"--she indicated the flutes--"are designed to enhance the flow of bubbles and concentrate the aromas of the wine." Amaury nodded and took up the story. "The original coupe was supposedly modeled by Sèvres from the breasts of Marie Antoinette. She was said to have the perfect bosom." I listened in fascination. How much more interesting was all of this trivia when told in delightfully accented and animated voices as opposed to Daryl's condescending monotone. Marie-Elise took over again. "Four white coupes were made and adorned the Queen's dairy temple at the Château de Rambouillet near Versailles. The dairy is still in existence today, as is one of the coupes." She set the coupe on the table and turned to her husband. "Amaury, I think it is time to open one of the '85 Bruts." I thought Daryl's eyes would pop out of his head and remembered the comment he'd made on the drive here about the value of the Roux-Dubois '85. I wondered why they'd be willing to open a bottle of what sounded like the equivalent of liquid gold for one visiting American wine enthusiast and his girlfriend. "An excellent idea." Amaury started to get to his feet, but Marie-Elise shook her head. "Je l'obtiendrai. I can show Jeanette the caverne." She turned to me and said, "Our Champagne cellars are dug out of the side of the hills. It is not as spectacular as the caves under Reims or Epernay, but we are very proud of our cellars." "Est-ce que voulez-vous que je aille avec vous?" Amaury raised an eyebrow and looked at his wife. She smiled at him and shook her head. "Pas cette fois. C'est mon tour, amour." "Ah. C'est bon." Amaury turned to Daryl. "We shall fetch the Champagne bucket and ice, perhaps step outside and enjoy a cigar and some brandy while the ladies do some exploring and bring back the Champagne." I could tell Daryl was a little disappointed to be deprived of an excursion into the cellars with Marie-Elise, but brandy and cigars were a good consolation prize. I wasn't sure if I was up to a trip down or up any stairs after the amount of wine we'd already consumed, but I was genuinely curious to see the cave. And a small, childish part of me liked the fact that I would see and perhaps even touch the precious '85 Brut before Daryl. I stood as Marie-Elise topped off our flutes with more of the Blanc de Blanc. I was pleased to find that while I definitely felt the effects of the alcohol, I was steady on my feet, even in my heels. I was still in control of my own personal Enterprise here.

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