“That’s a crock of … shit.”
Jeanette pronounced the word ‘sh-EEE-it’ which made Robyn smile.
“But Etienne said that …”
“Don’t listen to him,” Jeanette said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “You must insist that they speak English when in your presence. You are in charge!”
Robyn gave a firm nod.
It was true. Why should she suffer through entire days of listening to her staff chattering along while only absorbing a fraction of what they said? They worked for her, not the other way around. And while it was true she wanted to improve her French it wasn’t unreasonable—and wasn’t it just good manners—to insist that they speak so she understood?
Jeanette had been working for her for only two weeks now, and already Robyn could tell that she would be more than an assistant, but a friend. They had the same instincts, the same sensibilities about most things, and Robyn admired Jeanette’s edgy, in-your-face style. She looked like a punk rocker, with her spiky hair and sharp features. Thin as a rail, and slightly bowlegged, she had the kind of physique that looked best in fitted jeans that accentuated her hips, such as they were.
Etienne had ‘loaned’ her to Robyn as her assistant/translator because when Jamal arrived—as he was slated to do that day—Jeanette was going to be his right-hand woman as well. She was Pouvoir Noir’s best scout and Jamal’s French counterpart; she had ferreted out some of Etienne’s best artists. Her days were short, and her nights long as she traipsed through the labyrinth of Paris’ nightlife—underground clubs, small venues and parties in Oberkampf, finding a new young sensation who would burn up the charts. But since Chris’ acquisition of an interest in the company had put a moratorium on signing new artists, Jeanette was underutilized, and so had been sitting largely idle until Jamal came to help her develop the artists they already had.
“Maybe you can come home with me and lay down the law for my nanny as well,” Robyn joked. “I like the idea that Caity will understand French as well, but I think my au pair secretly never speaks to her in English when I’m gone.”
Jeanette laughed, reaching for her espresso and taking a gulp. “Well, your fiancée is rather forceful. Perhaps he can … lay down the law when he arrives.”
“Do you know Chris?” Robyn asked.
“We have met,” Jeanette said nodding.
Robyn smiled, thinking of Chris and almost unconsciously reaching for her ring, twisting it back and forth on her finger. Jeanette’s eyes fell to the stone and she looked back up at Robyn.
“Do you love him?” she asked, her green eyes meeting Robyn’s in frank curiosity.
Robyn pulled back, surprised. “Of course.”
Her new friend shrugged. “People marry for many reasons. Love is not always among them.”
This kind of comment was typical of the French, Robyn was learning. People thought of them as romantic—and maybe they were—but they were also among the most pragmatic and unsentimental people Robyn had ever encountered. What outsiders interpreted as frivolous and starry-eyed was really, joie de vivre. A zest for life, and all its many complications, but no rose-colored glasses.
Jeanette couldn’t be older than thirty, more likely twenty-eight, and here she was talking about marriages devoid of love. When she was twenty-eight, Robyn would have been loath to admit that anyone would consciously do such a thing. Her rose-colored glasses had been firmly in place, right up until the disintegration of her own marriage.
“It’s the only reason I would ever marry,” Robyn said.
She and Jeanette were about a block away from the office which was in La Défense, Paris’ most prestigious business district. Just about every major European corporation had offices in the area, and most were impressive architectural gems. The building Pouvoir Noir had refurbished to house SE’s European offices was much older, much less impressive, and apparently, the structure was Etienne’s personal property, inherited from a grandfather who had been a business titan of some considerable reputation. Etienne, it turned out, was not much different from a similar breed of music mogul in the States—he had fallen in love with “street-music” at a young age, rebelled against family expectations for a corporate career and instead made a name for himself in the entertainment world.
The small restaurant they’d chosen for its sushi was practically empty because they were eating during off-hours, having exhausted themselves with paperwork back at the office and then looked up to find that it was already three p.m.
“What kinds of men are you into?” she asked Jeanette, reaching for her chopsticks and picking up a piece of nigiri with lightly seared tuna.
Robyn had yet to find California rolls in Paris. Just real sushi, not the modified stuff that was made for people who didn’t actually like sushi, but liked to look sophisticated and so ate it only without raw fish.
“The kind who treat me poorly, who are usually unavailable for some reason or other. Hard men who cannot love me.”
Robyn’s eyes opened wide. There was that lack of sentimentality again.
“Well, why do you put yourself through that?”
Jeanette shrugged. “I don’t know. I suppose I like to be tragic.”