Amaranth - By Rachael Wade

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book would not have been possible without:

Dave, my loyal and (sometimes) patient rock and soul mate, who never seems to waver despite the rain. Your support knows no bounds. Thank you for being the most faithful, trustworthy person I’ve ever met. It’s a privilege to stand by your side. My life will never be the same since I met you. You are forever the Apollo to my Starbuck. So say we all!

My best friend, mentor, and soul doppelganger, Pat. I don’t know where I’d be without your compassion and your support. The Pacific Northwest horizon knows our hearts, friend, where I’m certain it keeps them beating in its whimsical heavens. We left some of ourselves in the mountains, so we can smell the pine, see the valleys, and watch the whales sail around the bend whenever we’d like. Thank you for teaching me about perfection, judgment, and learning to let go.

Arlene, my editor, who I am indebted to. Without whose eyes I would have been blind, and whose natural feel for storytelling helped shape and guide every inch of this first installment.

The readers: Wherever you hail from, no matter how small your numbers, thank you for taking a portion out of your time to give this book a chance to entertain you. I love you to the moon.

And last but certainly not least, God, who removed the blindfold in more ways than one. Written thanks aren’t necessary, but credit is most certainly due.

CHAPTER 1

Rendezvous

For years I imagined what it must feel like to wake up on a beautifully dark, gloomy February day in the city that stole my heart so long ago. Paris. The city I’ve always loved and yet had never seen until now, when I at last embarked on my mission to free myself from the mess I left back home. To consider the trip a success, I had to return to the States unrecognizable in spirit. If I went home the same person, there would be hell to pay. I’d already paid enough.

Once dressed, I shrugged on my special coat, one that cost more than I’d ever spend on any piece of clothing again. What it represented to me, no amount of money could buy. It made me feel Parisian. Wearing it, I could be mysterious and beautiful, perhaps even exotic, far from the life that once held me in bondage. Me and my coat’s little secret. The thought made me laugh aloud.

Cold air rushed through the hotel lobby’s doors, stinging my cheeks while people hurried in and out. I stepped outside and did a quick review of my plans for the day, taking the black book from my purse that held all my notes and maps and flipping through the pages. Working on my novel and visiting my list of must-sees were first priority, but part of me didn’t want to plan anything my first day. I tossed the black book back into my purse, letting the loose pages fly out into wonderful disarray.

While I waited for a cab, a man in his early twenties passed by me walking his dog, looked me up and down with a grin. I looked away. Whoever said the French are grumpy was wrong. Yet I never liked that sort of attention. Partly because of my shyness, but I also had a knack for attracting only creeps. Like the one I left back home. He loved to beat me to a pulp with his words. Eventually, his anger made its way to my face. That’s when I knew it was time to come to Paris. I watched the dog walker stroll away, happy to see a cab arriving.

I instructed the driver to head toward the Louvre, using as much of my two years of French as possible. But when I spotted a chocolaterie, it looked like the perfect spot to bury myself in my Guy de Maupassant novel and crack open my journal.

“Monsieur? Ici, s’il vous plait.” I offered a grateful glance toward his reflection in the rearview mirror when I felt the cab begin to slow.

“You can walk to the Louvre from here if you’d like, Mademoiselle,” he answered: in English. “Bonne journée.”

I glanced at the front of the store before I entered, appreciating the building’s charming character: the weathered windows and doors, the cracks in the stone walls that looked so perfectly broken, the wood sign above the door that appeared so flawed, so aged -- and the empty, frigid terrace, a perfectly secluded area for writing. Minutes

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