The carriage pulled away from Monsieur Renaud’s home with Aria tucked under Pierre’s arm. It was beautiful out under the stars, even if it was still much too cold for her liking. The dark clouds still loomed in the distance still trying to decide whether they would rain down on the people below.
So,” Pierre said, “how was he?”
Aria shot a confused glance his way. “I beg your pardon?”
“You were both gone an awfully long time and when you came back you looked so flustered, so I can only assume—”
Aria blushed a deep shade of red as she sputtered, “No, no, no! Nothing like that—” Aria shifted uncomfortably in her seat feeling Pierre’s hot stare on her. “I didn’t sleep with him.”
Pierre waited for Aria to continue until it was apparent she wouldn’t without a nudge. “What happened?”
“Does it truly matter to you?” she countered.
“Of course it does. You say he never took you to his bed, but I can think of so many other things a lonely man and a beautiful woman could do with their clothes on.”
Aria took as deep a breath as the stays would allow, letting it out slowly. “When I left your presence, I honestly did give myself a tour of his home. There wasn’t anything downstairs that would have helped you, so I ventured upstairs. I went into his study, but there was nothing I could find that would be helpful there, either. And then Monsieur Renaud was there. He has an incredible book collection, so we talked about that and how he acquired those books.”
“I’ve seen them myself. It is quite impressive.” Pierre paused and nodded. “And I suppose he was happy to share his Shakespearean books with you because you enjoy them so much?”
Aria nodded. “Yes. They were in so many different languages. He read a little of one of them to me in English, which was lovely.” She didn’t want to tell him the rest of the story.
Henri didn’t want anyone, not even her employee—maybe especially him—to know what he was looking for or what it cost otherwise he wouldn’t have asked for discretion. Aria came up with the best story she could, hoping it would be believable.
“Henri left to return to the soiree. And then I realized a man like Monsieur Renaud would expect his competitors to try stealing important documents or potentially damning correspondence; why would he make it easier for them? I looked over all the bookcases. And then I found an envelope. I didn’t open it, but I’m sure it will be useful.”
Pierre eyed her with suspicion. “How do you know if you didn’t open it?”
“It was on the top of the bookshelf so no one would see it or find it unless they really looked for it, but easy enough to grab that he must have some need to keep it close. Don’t you agree?”
Aria’s heart beat so hard in her chest she was sure Pierre would hear it calming only when he finally smiled and nodded his approval.
“I tucked it in my clothing, so you’ll have it once we return to my room.”
Pierre’s hand pressed against her cheek, gently turning her face to his. He kissed her, just a little, and pulled away. “Very good. If it is useful, I will buy whatever your heart desires.”
Aria chuckled. “I really don’t believe Monsieur Renaud would part with his collection for a reasonable price.”
Pierre smiled and said nothing more.