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Billionaires in Paris Cynthia Dane 2022/8/3 13:56:15

Oh, good, there goes my optimism and here returns my base self.

You know what I could do to her while she wears this thing? For one, I could rip it off her body and take whatever I want beneath. Between Damon Monroe and Martin Charles, I’m ready to assert myself all over this elegant city. Pshaw. While I’m at it, why don’t I marry her? Then everyone will know that I’ll be the last man to touch this seductive woman.

Before a saleswoman can disturb us, I stand and whisper into Katie’s ear.

“You need to buy this so I can ravage you later. It’s required.”

She silences me with a single finger. “Glad we were thinking the same thing.”

Did you hear that, gentlemen? Whether you slammed her against your headboard or let her slam her pussy against her face, I’m the one she’s thinking of now.

Hey, I never said I was proud of my alpha jealousy. I mean tendency. That’s it. Tendency.

While I’m ecstatic about my date this past afternoon, I’m coming down from my high now. Partly because I’m a disgusting liar, and partly because I emailed (emailed!) my mother and told her I would meet her tonight. This was her only chance, because I want to move on with the rest of my vacation. I’ve done a good job not getting drunkenly hitched yet, so I’m on a roll.

Wait. Ian brought you up to speed on that? He always does that! Maybe I wanted to be the one to talk about what happened in Vegas months ago. Now, if we’ve never met before, you’re probably thinking I’m some kind of insecure harpy who can’t commit to one of the most perfect men I could ask for.

You may be slightly correct, but that’s not the point. Besides, what else is he telling you?

He wants to marry me, huh?

Excuse me, I’m in the middle of a drink at a restaurant. I intend to finish it right now.

I put my glass down and see the ma?tre d’ leading a woman who eerily looks like me through the gallery. She’s not as tall as me, but she has perfect posture and walks with a hefty gait weighed down by her fur stole. The serious lines on her face made me once think that my mother is wise. Now I know she’s merely an anxious wreck. Those are worry lines, not laugh lines.

“Kathryn,” Marilyn Alison cordially greets me. She removes her coat and drapes it over the back of her chair, although her beady blue eyes search for someone to take it for her. That’s my mother. Wants to look independent, desperately needs to be taken care of.

“Mother.” I don’t get up to help her. “What are you doing in Paris?”

“I should be asking you that.”

We’re seated across from each other at a table that can seat at least five. I’ve already ordered, leaving my mother to flip through a French menu and put off talking to me for another five minutes.

This is how it’s been, although it took me years to realize that this is not normal. When I was little, I thought my mother’s standoffishness had to do with her ladylike mannerisms that made her a hit with the women’s clubs and charities. I don’t tell a lot of people this, but my mother is a huge reason I’m so into nonprofit work. She may have been faking it the whole time I was in primary school, but by God she was a damn good faker. She really made me believe that she wanted to help people and better the world.

The moment I proved to be a competent adult in college, however, was the moment she packed her bags and left my father.

Technically they’re not even legally separated. My father says my mother needs a few years away from the roost to “settle her spirits,” and she’ll be back at the family estate, resuming her previous activities as if she never left. He and I both know that’s a crock of shit. The veneer is gone. My mother is never going back to America if she can get away with it. She lives off her own investments, some inheritance from her own well-off relatives, and the huge allowance my father gives her every month. Sometimes I try to come visit her. I usually end up leaving after a week because living with my mother is to know the full extent of crazy.

A lot of the stuff she’s been diagnosed with can be hereditary, you know. I’ve done extensive research. One day I might convince myself I’m not crazy too. Or I’ll wake up as crazy as her.

“I’m here on vacation,” I eventually say. “With Ian. My boyfriend.”

My mother folds up her menu and says something in flawless French to the waiter. Careful. She might trick you into thinking she’s European. I’m sure that’s what she wants.

“Yes, I remember him. Mathers, right?”

Mother shrugs her shoulders, as if that name means nothing to her. The Mathers have only been old family friends since I can remember. My mother and Ian’s mother used to run in the same exact circles. It’s how I first met Caroline, long before I started dating her son. These days she’s more of a mother to me than my real one.