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Smitten with Croissants - Smitten with Travel #2

Smitten with Croissants - Smitten with Travel #2

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Opposites attract in this geeky and sweet romantic comedy set in France.

Smitten with Travel Series - Book #2

Why You'll Love This Book!

  • Set in France
  • Billionaire Romance
  • Opposites Attract
  • Star Wars Geeks
  • Closed Door Romance - No Sex Scenes or Language
  • Happily Ever After


Opposites attract in this geeky and sweet romantic comedy set in France.

When Mia first met Pierre, she thought he was just a hot French waiter. Turns out he’s a smooth-talking billionaire.

Mia learned the hard way not to trust rich guys. But when she finds herself in Paris, unemployed and homeless, Pierre comes to her rescue, and she’s forced to overlook the fact that he’s loaded.

Mia tries to resist Pierre’s charms, but when she discovers they have a shared love of all things science fiction, her defenses start to crumble. Mia begins to wonder if a relationship with Pierre can work, despite their vastly different backgrounds.

Can a small-town American girl from the wrong side of the tracks and a cosmopolitan French guy with a geeky sense of humor find happiness together, or will the dark forces in the universe tear them apart?

If you like quirky characters, happily ever afters, and nerdy humor, you’ll love Mia and Pierre’s story.

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Chapter 1 - Smoochy Face

“For crying out loud, this is a buffet line, not some nightclub,” I mutter under my breath. “Go play smoochy face someplace else.”

My friend, Isabelle, glances at me. “Smoochy face? What are you talking about, Mia?”

I point at a young couple engaged in a full-on make-out session and pull a face. “No one wants to see that while they’re waiting to eat. Why did they even bother coming on a cruise if all they’re going to do is grope each other? They should have stayed home. Or, at the very least, inside their cabin.”

Isabelle laughs. “You really aren’t a fan of public displays of affection, are you?”

“That’s not true,” I protest.

She arches an eyebrow. “Hmm . . . I seem to remember the time your boyfriend tried to hold your hand in public. You almost decapitated him with that sword of yours.”

“First of all, he wasn’t my boyfriend. I only went on a few dates with him. A few too many, I might add.” I put my hands on my hips. “Second, it’s a lightsaber, not a sword. And third, his hand was all gross and sweaty.”

“Gross and sweaty, huh? So that’s why you stabbed him?”

“I did not stab him . . . At least not on purpose. Listen, all I did was try to pull my hand away. But then I lost my balance and tripped, and that’s when my lightsaber accidentally smacked into his neck.”

“Good thing it’s made of plastic, otherwise you could have done some serious damage to his carotid artery.”

“I guess.” I purse my lips. “Unfortunately, I can’t afford one of those custom-made steel lightsabers with a titanium handle.”

Isabelle rolls her eyes. “Did you ever think that perhaps you’re a tad bit over obsessed with Star Wars?”

I ignore her jibe, instead nodding toward the couple holding up the line. “Geez, look at where his hands are now. If he moves them any more, we’re going to find out what color her underwear is any second now.”

“Hmm, you might be right. Her skirt is pretty short. Doesn’t really fit the 1950s theme for tonight’s dinner. Miniskirts weren’t a thing until the sixties.” Isabelle toys with her pearl necklace. “But I guess it’s pretty hard to pack for all the themed events they have planned for the cruise.”

“Well, if I managed it, anyone can.”

Isabelle snorts. “That’s true. You are one of the most disorganized people I’ve ever met.”

“I’m not disorganized. I’m creative. Completely different.” I shake my head as the couple continues to hold up the line. Standing on my tiptoes, I wave my hands over my head at them. “Hey, knock it off or get a room. Some of us want to eat tonight.”

Isabelle grabs my arm and pulls me back. “Shush. They’ll hear you.”

“That’s the point.”

“The line’s moving now. You can cool your jets.”

“My jets are just fine, thank you very much.”

Isabelle scoffs, then turns and smiles at the girl in line behind us. It’s one of those smiles that says, “Please ignore my friend. She’s constantly embarrassing me.”
The girl smiles back. I’m pretty sure her smile means, “Your friend is totally right about that couple. I admire her for saying out loud what the rest of us were thinking.” At least, I’d like to think that’s what it means. Who knows, maybe she was just smiling about the fact that they’re serving two kinds of coleslaw tonight. People can get excited about that kind of thing.

“Looks like we shop at the same place,” Isabelle says to the girl.
It’s true. She’s dressed similarly to us with a full skirt, gloves, and pearls. As I admire her auburn curls, which are tucked underneath a broad-brimmed hat, I toy with a strand of my long blonde hair, trying to decide if I would look good as a redhead.

After we introduce ourselves—the other girl’s name is Ginny—I turn my attention back to the line in front of me. It still hasn’t moved an inch while the lovebirds continue to express their desire for each other for all the world to see.

Oh, by the way, Miss Lovebird’s underwear is pink. Way more information than you or the rest of us waiting in line probably want to know.

“Excuse me.” An older woman standing behind the couple taps the man on his shoulder.

They pull back from each other, just now seeming to notice where they are—on the lido deck of a cruise ship making a transatlantic crossing from Miami to Europe.

“You must be newlyweds,” the woman says to them. “I remember when my Ernie and I got married forty years ago. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other either.”

After some inane chitchat between the three of them about flower girls and ring bearers, the line finally moves forward.

I grab a plate, but as I turn to pass it to Isabelle, it slips out of my hands and crashes on the floor, shattering into pieces.

A waiter rushes over. As he bends down to clean up the mess, the collar of his white shirt pulls back, and I can see something that looks like a tattoo at the base of his neck. I lean forward to get a closer look, when he suddenly shifts position, bumping his head against my arm.

I startle as I realize that my fingers are lightly brushing his hair. His impossibly soft, sandy-brown hair. The dude has some great conditioning products going on.
He stands and I quickly take a step backward, putting my hands behind my back.

“Sorry about the plate.”

“Ne soyez pas désolée,” he says, his hazel eyes twinkling. “Je voulais vous rencontrer depuis que vous êtes montée à bord du navire.”

My jaw drops as I watch him walk away. I know that my French is rusty, but did he just say that he had been looking for an excuse to meet me since I boarded the ship? And did he wink at me?

“You’re kind of a klutz today,” Isabelle jokes, snapping me back to reality. “First you spilled perfume in our cabin and now this.”

“It’s these stupid gloves. They’re slippery,” I say as I yank them off. “How did anyone manage to get anything done back in the fifties wearing these things?”

“They probably are a safety hazard.” Ginny pulls her gloves off as well then looks at them. “Now what do I do with them? I don’t have any pockets, and I didn’t bring a purse.”

I grin and stick my gloves down the front of my sweater. “That’s what bras are for,” I say. “They’re great for holding your phone and money, along with gloves when you don’t have any other way to carry them.”

Ginny grins back and stuffs her gloves down her sweater. Isabelle frowns. I wonder if she’s going to join in—drawing attention to herself is something she generally avoids. But after a moment, she joins the bra-stuffing brigade.

The three of us giggle about our lopsided cleavage as we pile hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, two kinds of coleslaw, and deviled eggs on our plates.

“Are you traveling on your own?” Isabelle asks Ginny.

“I am,” she says.

“Come sit with us,” Isabelle says.

“Oh, yes, join us,” I say. “But only on one condition. No talking about guys.”

“Mia just had a bad break-up,” Isabella says.

“Bad?” I scowl. “Bad is what you say when you’re describing the taste of beetroots. My mother would wash my mouth out with soap if I use a word that really describes what happened, so I won’t. You’ll just have to trust me, it was a lot worse than eating beetroots.”

Ginny sets her plate down. “You won’t get any argument from me. The last thing I want to talk about is guys. Besides, I hate beetroots too.”

“Cool. Let’s talk about why these petticoats itch so much instead. What I wouldn’t give for a pair of yoga pants right now.”

“Me too. I could live in my yoga pants twenty-four seven,” Isabelle says. “But despite the gloves and the petticoats, you have to admit traveling to Europe on a cruise ship is heavenly. It sure beats flying.”

I shudder. “I hate flying.”

“That makes two of us,” Ginny says.

“Make that three,” Isabelle adds. “I couldn’t believe my luck when I won two free tickets on this cruise ship. Mia and I were just about to book flights to Europe when it happened.”

“It sure beats flying,” I say. “But I would have sucked it up and gotten on a plane if I had to. Nothing is going to get in the way of what I want to achieve.”

“What do you want to achieve?” Ginny asks before taking a sip of her milkshake.

“World domination,” I say. “Isn’t that every girl’s dream?”

* * *

“World domination?” Ginny chuckles. “I’m not sure I could handle managing an entire planet. I’d be happy just knowing what I want to do with my life.”

“Really? I’ve known what I want to do with my life since I was a little girl,” I say.

“Mia is very goal oriented,” Isabelle says.

“I used to be goal oriented too,” Ginny says. “But then my world got turned upside down by a jerk. Now, I’m rethinking everything.”

I lean forward. “Same. Except the rethinking part. I still know what I want to do, but after a guy screwed up my life, it kind of threw a monkey in the wrench.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Isabelle says. “How can you throw a monkey in the wrench? Why would you throw a monkey in the first place?”

“It’s an expression,” I say. “You know, from the movie Die Hard. Don’t you remember the scene where Bruce Willis’ character said, ‘Just a fly in the ointment, a monkey in the wrench, a pain in the—”

Isabelle holds up her hand. “Please, no more Bruce Willis quotes.” She turns to Ginny. “She’s obsessed with Bruce Willis. It’s almost as bad as her obsession with Star Wars.”

“Am not,” I say.

“Are too,” Isabelle retorts.
Fortunately, Ginny intervenes and changes the subject, telling us that the original expression, “throw a monkey wrench in the works,” dates back to the early 1900s when people threw tools inside industrial machinery as an act of sabotage.

During dinner, she shares other historical trivia, including the fact that ancient Romans used to eat while reclining on couches. Totally my kind of people. It’s good to know that there’s a historical precedent for all the times I lie on my sofa in my yoga pants while eating pizza.

After we polish off our hamburgers and hot dogs, I bring back dessert for everyone at the table.

“We can eat this without feeling guilty,” I say, setting the tray down. “Angel food cake isn’t made with butter or oil.”

Isabelle shakes her head. “How many calories does that have?”

“Does what have?” I ask.

“That shake, silly.”

I wave my hand hypnotically in front of Isabelle’s face. “This isn’t the shake you’re looking for.”

She snorts. “Your Jedi mind tricks aren’t going to work on me. Or on your hips. That shake is real, sweetie.”

I roll my eyes while Isabelle tells Ginny about how she convinced me to leave my lightsaber at home. Little does she know that I packed a Princess Leia costume. I’m positive it will come in handy at some point.

When Ginny says that she doesn’t really like Star Wars movies, I gasp.

“I’m more into documentaries,” she says. “You know, stuff that’s real.”

I gulp down the rest of my milkshake, astonished that anyone would think that the Force isn’t real.

“Is anyone sitting here, girls?”
I look up and see the older woman who intervened and got the annoying couple to stop playing smoochy face at the buffet long enough for the rest of us to get our dinner.

“It’s free,” Ginny says. “Please have a seat, ma’am.”

“We’ll have none of that ‘ma’am’ nonsense,” she says, wagging a finger. “That makes me feel positively ancient. The name’s Celeste.”

After we introduce ourselves, I get teary-eyed as Celeste toys with her wedding ring and tells us about her late husband, Ernie. Marriage suits some people. Not me, though. Not gonna happen. Not ever. Never ever . . . again.
Yeah, that’s right. I was married once. And trust me, once is enough.

I surreptitiously wipe my eyes, then change the subject, asking Celeste if she travels a lot.

“Oh, yes,” she says. “This is day four hundred and ninety-eight of my world travels. Or is that four hundred and ninety-nine days?” She shakes her head, trying to do the math involved with changing time zones. “Anyway, I’m headed to Greece next. What about you girls? Where are you going?”

Ginny tells us that she’s disembarking in Rome, then taking a train to Ravenna.

“We’re getting off in Rome too,” Isabelle says. “After that, it’s all up in the air. The only thing I know is that I have to be in Cologne by the beginning of July. I’ve got a job working on one of those German river cruise boats lined up.”

Celeste nods, then looks at me.

“I’m going to head to Paris and get a job at an art gallery,” I say with more confidence than I feel.

“Mia is a really talented artist,” Isabelle says.

“Oh, I’d love to see your paintings,” Celeste says. “What do you work in? Oils? Acrylics? Watercolors?”

“Ink,” I say.

“That sounds fascinating. I have a friend who does these wonderful pen and ink drawings of her cats. What kind of paper do you use?”

“Uh, the kind made of human cells.”

Celeste looks alarmed. “Human cells?”

“She’s a tattoo artist,” Isabelle explains. “Emphasis on artist. She does replicas of the great masters’ work. You should see the tattoo she recently did of one of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings on this guy’s back.”

“It would have worked better if he hadn’t kept squirming. One of the sunflowers turned out looking more like a turnip.”

When Ginny asks me about my own tattoos, I laugh. “Me? Are you kidding? I would never get a tattoo. I’m scared of needles.”

“Ah, aichmophobia,” she says. “That’s more common than you’d think.”

I furrow my brow. “Ach-a-what?”

An older gentleman interrupts before Ginny can explain. He asks if any of us would care to dance, but it’s obvious he only has eyes for Celeste. As he escorts her to the dance floor, she says over her shoulder, “Don’t go anywhere. After this dance, I want to talk with Mia about getting a tattoo.”

“What kind of tattoo do you think she wants?” Ginny asks.

“Maybe something that reminds her of her husband,” Isabelle says.

I watch as Celeste’s dance partner twirls her around. “I’m not so sure about that. He’s been gone for over a year. Maybe it’s time for her to move on.”

Isabelle looks at me thoughtfully. “Maybe it’s time for you to move on too.”

* * *

After dinner, Isabelle and Ginny went to watch a Broadway revue. I begged off. I’d rather get a tattoo then listen to chirpy performers sing show tunes.

Instead, I go out on deck and lean over the railing, looking at the moonlight reflecting on the water. How in the world am I going to find a job at an art gallery in Paris? The French have a reputation for being aloof, especially in the art world. It’s doubtful they’re going to welcome an American girl like me into their fold.

I run my fingers through my hair and admonish myself. “Stop with the negative thoughts, Mia. Just because your family doesn’t believe in you, doesn’t mean you won’t succeed.”

When I announced my plans to my parents, they’d scoffed. They couldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave the small town that I had grown up in, let alone go abroad.

“They eat snails in France,” my mother said, wrinkling her nose.

“You mean escargot?” I asked.
“Es … es ...” My father scowled as he struggled with the pronunciation. “Why can’t they just say snails like normal people? Why can’t they eat normal food like pot roast?”

“Escargot is French for snails,” I explained. “They’re served in garlic butter. You like garlic bread, Dad. Maybe you’d like escargot too.”

He folded his arms across his chest. “Only an idiot would eat a common garden pest, garlic butter or no garlic butter. I bet they serve those es... es … snails at that fancy country club where you used to be a waitress. It’s exactly the type of thing rich people would pay top dollar for.”

“Well, then I must be an idiot because I plan on ordering a big plate of them when I get to Paris.” While I sounded defiant when I uttered this, inwardly I was shuddering. The thought of eating snails makes me queasy, but there was no way I was going to let my parents know that.

The sound of high heels clicking on the deck interrupts my thoughts. “There you are,” Celeste says as she walks toward me. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

I cock my head to one side. “What’s up?”

“Let’s talk tattoos,” she says. “It’s on my bucket list, but I can’t decide what to get, let alone where to get it. At my age, I have my fair share of wrinkles. Can you tattoo over wrinkles? What about saggy skin? Am I too old to get a tat? That’s what you say, right? Tats?”

“You’re never to old to get a tat,” I say with a smile. “Did you know that Judi Dench got her first one at eighty-one? And you’re way younger than she is.”

“Ooh . . . I love Judi Dench.” Celeste squeezes my arm. “You’ve convinced me. Let’s do it.”

“What? Here on the cruise ship?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Uh . . . well . . . you probably need some sort of special license.”

“If the captain can marry people at sea, I’m sure a little old tattoo wouldn’t be a problem. Come on, we can get set up back in my suite.”

I grin at her enthusiasm. “Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my equipment with me. You need a special machine and needles, not to mention ink. Besides, you should really think about it carefully before you go ahead. It’s not something you can undo easily.”

“Nope, my mind is made up. When I know what I want, I go for it. Just like I did with my Ernie when I first laid eyes on him.” Celeste rests her hands on the railing, closes her eyes, and breathes in the sea air deeply. “I wish he could be here now. He would have loved to go on a cruise.”

“Why didn’t you ever take one with him?”

“Well, when we first got married, we were completely broke. Besides, cruises weren’t really a thing back then like they are now. Later, when we had more money, we didn’t have the time. Or rather, we didn’t make the time. That’s what’s nice about seeing you young people having adventures now before you get married and settle down.”

I chew my lip. “It almost didn’t work out that way for me.”

Celeste turns her head and looks at me. “What do you mean?”

“When I was twenty, I almost settled down. Thankfully, it didn’t work out.”

“You were engaged?”

“More than engaged. I was married.”

“Really? For how long?”

“Less than twenty-four hours.”

She raises her eyebrows. “That’s a short marriage. What happened?”

“His parents happened,” I say bitterly. “They were dead set against me from day one. I wasn’t good enough for their precious boy.”

“But they must have come around in the end. The two of you got married.”

“No, they completely freaked out when he told them that he wanted to propose to me, so we ended up eloping. When they found out what we had done, they hit the roof. They threatened to disown him.”

“Were they serious?” Celeste asks. “I can’t imagine any parents wanting to cut off contact with their child.”

“They had threatened to disown him before, when we were dating, but we never thought they would go through with it . . .” My voice cracks as I recall the phone conversation with them. Then I straighten my shoulders and continue. “The family lawyer tracked us down hours after our wedding ceremony and insisted on a private conversation with my husband. After about an hour, the lawyer handed me a letter.”

“The lawyer? What happened to your husband?”

“He left.” I snap my fingers. “One minute we were happy newlyweds, looking forward to our honeymoon. The next minute, he had vanished, and I was all alone.”

“What did the letter say?”

“A whole bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo which boiled down to one thing—my marriage was over. My husband chose his family fortune over me.”

“Oh, sweetie, you poor thing.” Celeste squeezes my hand. “I can’t imagine why anyone would choose money over you. Why wouldn’t his parents have approved of you? It makes no sense.”

I take a deep breath. “Oh, it’s the usual story—a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. They assumed I was a gold digger, just out for their son’s money. What they didn’t realize was that I was marrying him despite his money, and his parents, and all of their country club connections.”

“It sounds like you’re better off without him and his family. Money isn’t everything.” Celeste gets a faraway look in her eyes. “There was a guy who was sweet on me once. He was loaded, but I never could have been with him.”

“Because he was rich?”

She laughs. “No, I didn’t mind the money. It was how he made his money. Not exactly on the up-and-up, if you know what I mean. But it all worked out in the end. I met my Ernie a few years later, and he turned out to be the love of my life. He was the guy I was meant to be with all along. You’ll see. The same thing will happen to you. You’ll meet a good man who will stand up for you against anything, and anyone.”

I shake my head firmly. “I don’t ever plan on falling in love again, let alone getting married. Once was enough.”

“Was your marriage annulled? If so, it’s like you get a do-over.”

“Just because you get an annulment doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” I clench my fists. “What kind of stupid rule is that, anyway? If you’re going to put on a white dress and have a minister marry you, you’re married. Even if it only lasts for less than twenty-four hours. If I ever get a tattoo, it would say...” My voice trails off as I feel my nails digging into the palms of my hands.

“Say what?” Celeste asks.

“Never mind,” I say, slowly unclenching my fists. “It’s not like I’m going to get a tattoo, anyway. They’re too permanent.”

Celeste furrows her brow. “That’s odd, considering you’re a tattoo artist.”

I grin. “That’s me . . . odd. Anyway, let’s talk about your tattoo. There are all different kinds of styles to choose from. I can show you some pictures.”

She nods. “That sounds like a good idea. I know that I want it to say ‘floss’ but I’m not sure what style to do it in.”

“Floss? That’s cute. Is it a nickname? What Ernie called you?”

Celeste looks at me blankly. “Nickname? No, ‘floss’ as in ‘floss your teeth.’ I figure it would be a good reminder.”

“You want to tattoo a reminder about…dental hygiene on your body?” I stammer. “Wouldn’t it be easier to tape a note on the mirror?”

“No, don’t be silly. I’d never notice that. But something tattooed, well, I’d see that every day when I get out of the shower.”

“You sure you don’t want something like a flower or a rose, maybe? Or a cat? Cats are really popular.”

“No, dear. I’m going to go with ‘floss.’ It’s far more practical than a tattoo of a cat.”

I rub my temples. This is possibly the strangest tattoo that I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard some real doozies. “Did you have any other ideas?”

“Well, sometimes I forget to take my blood pressure pills and there’s the issue with my dishwasher—”

Before she can tell me what kind of dishwasher-related tattoo she’s considering, we’re interrupted by a commotion on the deck below us. I lean over the railing and see a woman jabbing her finger at a waiter while complaining at the top of her lungs about the fact that her strawberry daiquiri tastes like . . . wait for it . . . strawberries.

I’ve dealt with her type before when I was a waitress at the country club. I’m impressed with how the waiter is managing to keep his cool. If this happened to me, I would have told the obnoxious lady exactly where to go. The kind of place that’s hot all year round, if you get my drift. Keeping my mouth shut was never my strong suit. Probably explains why my waitressing gig only lasted three days. Longer than my marriage, so there is that.

The woman shoves the glass into the waiter’s hands, sloshing its contents everywhere. As she storms off, I call out, “Hey, aren’t you going to clean that up, lady?”

I gasp as the waiter looks up. It’s the same guy from earlier in the evening. The one with the sandy-brown hair that’s softer than kitten fur. I feel my face grow warm as he locks his hazel eyes with mine.

“Who’s that?” Celeste whispers. “He’s cute.”

“I have no idea,” I say softly.

“I think you better find out,” she says. “Because I’m pretty sure he just winked at you.”

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