Over the Top Secret - Chapter 12
AKA Crème Brûlée
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Start at the beginning (Prologue - AKA Mission Report)
Read the previous chapter (Chapter 11 - AKA The Not-so-Safe House)
Read the next chapter (Chapter 13 - AKA What’s HapPENning?!)
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“This isn’t exactly low profile,” I say, taking in our new home base. Eric checked us into the topmost floor of the hotel. And I mean the entire story.
The whole place is decked out in gaudy furniture, decorative wallpaper, thick fancy carpets, and sconces filled with warm-colored lightbulbs that light the open floor-plan with a flickering light that mimics candles. It feels like only a matter of time before Queen Victoria herself walks through the door to hand us extra pillows.
Eric takes his shoes off and jumps on the sprawling bed, spilling fluffy pillows on the floor and crinkling the shiny quilted duvet. Is there a size bigger than King? If there is, that’s how big this bed is. Man, I can’t wait to rinse off and fall asleep in that giant mound of fluffy goodness—
“I call dibs,” Eric says.
“Excuse me?” I cock my hip to the side, my drenched oversized man-pants squeaking with the movement. “What about giving the lady the bed?”
“Only people who have saved the world get to sleep in this bed. There’s a nice comfy couch over there.” He points behind me to an awkwardly shaped loveseat that looks like it’s as hard as a rock. I roll my eyes at him. I’ll claim the bed while he’s using the restroom, I tell myself.
My stomach growls, reminding me how starving I am. “Is there a room service menu?”
He pulls one out of the drawer and throws a heavy binder to me. It lands at my feet, and a few pages fly out. I glare at him, then flip through.
It’s entirely in French. “Fromage” and “crème” pop out at me in practically every item description. Is there seriously nothing dairy-free? I check my little fanny pack for Lactaid. Whew, still there. But I really only like to use them for emergencies, like in the many cases where I order something strictly without butter or cheese, but the meal comes back tasting a little too good. That’s when you know there’s dairy.
I order a plain salad (sans fromage) and a small fruit bowl for myself, and a sixteen-ounce juicy ribeye meal with green juice and a bowl of fries upon Eric’s request. The heavily accented room service man tells me it’ll be another hour at least before we get our food, so I decide to head for the bathroom to get cleaned up.
Walking into the marble-floored bathroom is like walking into a whole new world. Everything twinkles with opulence, from the golden-stitched towels hanging on the wall to the crown molding that lines the entire space. There’s a bathtub on the right, accompanied by fancy decorative soaps and even rose petals in a glass jar. For what, I don’t know.
Next to the tub is a steam shower in the corner of the room with glass walls from floor to ceiling. Multiple gold shower heads protrude from the ceiling and even the back wall, and a touchpad hangs on the door by the handle. Across from the shower/tub combo is a double sink countertop with brightly lit mirrors and French labeled perfume bottles stacked in the center.
Holy snap! I doubt even Queen Victoria was living like this back in her day.
I decide to test out the steam shower first. Let me tell you, hot water has never felt so good in my entire life. I let it wash over me, taking with it the grime of travel and all (most) of my fears for the mission. However, after a few deep breaths of water I decide I’d rather not drown in the shower, thankyouverymuch.
Once I’m squeaky clean, I hop over to the tub for some grime-free soaking and a relaxing view of the city below me. With the window slightly ajar, the cars driving by and the general ambiance of the city sounds like the ocean. If I close my eyes it almost feels like I’m back at home in Beechmont, Florida.
I take a deep breath, trying to enjoy the sudden calmness around me. But with a mind that doesn’t stop and genes that defer to worrying, pretty soon the bubbles feel like they’re in my stomach when they should be in the tub. I pour a bottle of “les bulles” around me and let the suds build while I rationalize myself through the nerves.
Thinking about the positives always puts things in perspective for me. There’s no room for doubt. No room for fear. No room for second-guessing, I tell myself, remembering what The Director had said. Not if I’m going to be facing off against some kind of evildoer with the world’s most selfish spy.
I roll my eyes at the thought of Eric. Okay, positives.
Positive number one: I’m in Paris. Like, Paris, Paris. Even if it’s under terrifying circumstances, at least there’s a chance I’ll see the Eiffel tower. Oh, can I see it now? I open the window a bit farther, craning my neck as far as it’ll go without revealing my naked body to any passersby (not that anyone would be floating around twenty floors above the street, but this is a whole other country so you never know). With a sigh I plop back into the water. That’s a negative for the Eiffel Tower sighting.
Positive number two: I’m technically staying the night with a super attractive man in a super fancy hotel in a super romantic city. If I pretend Eric isn’t a super selfish jerk, I can almost convince myself this is awesome.
Positive number three: Eric is supposedly the world’s best secret agent. At least, he thinks he’s T.O.P.S.E.C.R.E.T.’s best agent. I’m going to interpret that as a positive and say I’m in the best hands I could be in. Besides my own.
Positive number four: It’s only temporary that I’m the world’s McGuffin and that I have to work with Eric. Pretty soon, we’ll retrieve The Backup, and everything will go back to normal.
If I say it enough, maybe I’ll start to believe it.
I step out of the tub and dry off with the thickest, most jumbo towel I’ve ever used in my life. It’s warm, too! Why is it warm? Is that a towel heater? Ohmygawd, this place is too cool.
Finishing my nightly routine, I flip my wet hair up in a towel and put on the comfy bathrobe hanging by the door. Queen Victoria, step aside.
When I walk back into the bedroom, Eric is cranking open one of the windows, wearing what looks like a pair of silky black pajama pants. With no shirt. I bite my lip at the sight of his perfectly chiseled body. Is it a requirement to be this handsome as a spy? His bicep flexes with the final crank of the handle. He hears me clip-clap into the room with my hotel slippers and takes in my dewy appearance.
“I like the new look,” he says. I realize this is actually the first time he’s seen me not looking like a hot mess. I try to take the twisted towel off my head and swing my hair like a mermaid, but it just gets caught, and the sopping cloth drops to the floor with a plop.
“Er, thanks,” I say. Eric keeps watching me, and I can feel the blush spread down my neck. “It, uh, feels good to be clean.” I’m trying to fill in the awkward silence, here, buddy! I avert my eyes from his unyielding gaze and notice he’s left the bed wide open.
This is my chance.
I jump onto the bed, spreading my body out to take up as much of the space as possible.
“Are you trying to seduce me?” he says. I know he’s joking, but his devilish grin takes me off guard. I cross my legs under my robe, suddenly hyper-aware of my lack of clothing. What was I thinking? I’m such a child.
He jumps on the bed and crawls toward me. My heart races. What is he doing? I scoot backward, as far away from him as I can while still claiming the majority of the bed for myself. He leans in close. Close enough to kiss me. Is he going to kiss me? My breath catches as he slides a hand behind my back…
And pushes me off the bed. I fall to the floor with a clatter, tangled up in my over-sized robe. I scoff at him. “I can’t believe you just did that!”
“I called dibs,” he says with a wicked grin. A wicked cute grin. Damn it.
Just then, the doorbell rings. “You going to get that?” I ask.
“And leave my territory vulnerable for another attack by the half-naked lady?” I blush. “Not a chance, babe,” he says, crossing his legs and flipping through a French yachting magazine. I let out a huff and stomp out of the bedroom and into the foyer. I’m a fool if I let my hormones affect my actions. Shake it off, Julie.
A few angsty strides later, I swing the front door open in a huff and start at the sight of a full cart of food. “Oh, snap! I mean, merci,” I gush excitedly. I usher the room service butler inside, but he just stands in the hallway, unmoving.
“Oh, right. Uh,” I think back on my years of AP French. “Bienvenue. S’il vous plait entrer.” I gesture with my arm for him to enter, pleased at my proper inflection. I have a pretty good accent if I do say so myself.
Wordlessly, the butler pushes the cart of food forward. It’s a multilayered wooden cart, draped with a white tablecloth that reaches the floor, protecting the food from getting cold on the lower shelf. He pushes the cart into the room and forces it over the thick ornate carpet, rattling the silverware resting atop the bright white tablecloth. It’s the only sound in the room, besides Eric flipping the pages of his yachting magazine and the distant rush of Parisian traffic.
Even hunched over, the butler looks like a pretty big guy. His muscles bulge beneath the short sleeves of the standard white uniform he’s wearing. And his skin is covered in nasty purple and green bruises. One of his eyes is sporting a dreadful shiner, which appears to have been hastily covered up by a home-made eyepatch. Yikes, he must do boxing in his free time.
Silently, the man removes the silver dome over Eric’s ribeye, letting the mouthwatering aroma of steak fill the suite.
“Yesss,” Eric says from his perch on the bed. I can hear him rustling the sheets, excitedly slamming the magazine shut. “It’s about time!”
Manners have taught me better than to stare, but something about this behemoth of a waiter is not right. I narrow my eyes, watching suspiciously as he continues to reveal each dish on the top tray.
It’s not until he locks the door behind him, stands to his full height, gives me a menacing grin and reveals teeth in dire need of some floss and a good mouth wash, that I realize who the waiter really is.
But how can that be? There’s no way he survived that plane crash! I can still see Greyson’s figure erupting into flames, falling behind a mountaintop, never to be seen again.
Or so I thought.
His nasty teeth send a shiver down my spine that paralyzes me right there in front of him.
“What’s taking so long?” Eric says as he rounds the corner into the entryway.
Greyson’s ears perk up like a hound dog when he sees Eric.
I stand in shock, unable to react as the giant henchman heaves a fifty-pound bazooka from under the table and rests it on his shoulder.
“Bon appetite,” he says with an icy smirk, pointing the weapon right at me.
LMAO! What is Greyson up to? And how in the ever-loving McGuffin did he survive that fall?! I’d love to hear your theories in the comments…
Stay tuned for next week’s chapter, which I giggled maniacally while writing. Muahahahaha!