A brand new story in Audrey Carlan’s Marriage Auction series is out this week, and I have an excerpt for you.
“Where do you normally live?”
“The city of love, cheri. Paris, France.”
My eyes must have widened to twice their size, because at my nonresponse, he laughed heartily. It seemed my new husband laughed a lot, which I had to admit was deeply refreshing, but also made me feel like a stick in the mud. Everything that was happening felt like a new, uncertain experience for me and I tended to wade into those type of things with caution, not jumping in headfirst. I didn’t think Christophe took the same approach.
“Will you be taking me to France?” I gulped, thinking how very far away that was from Celine. Then again, I had no idea where she’d be going.
“Of course. It is to be your home. When we’re not traveling for work. Alas, that will depend on what you want to do,” he added.
“What I want to do?” My brows pinched together in confusion. What in the world was he talking about?
“Do you always answer a question with a question?” One of his brows cocked almost as though he was teasing me.
“I apologize, husband. I’m very uncertain what it is I’m supposed to do. I know I am your wife, and Angus made it clear we do whatever our husbands tell us. So, when you say, ‘what I want to do,’ my only response can be whatever you wish for me to do.”
Christophe frowned and made an ugly sound as though he was disgusted. “Fucking hell,” he cursed. “I will admit I only scanned the contract details upon entry with my associate Darren Holt. I didn’t enter the auction planning on bidding at all. Frankly, I was surprised they let me in. And I am completely gobsmacked that I ended up purchasing your hand.”
My mouth fell open, but I quickly clamped my lips shut.
“I don’t understand,” I whispered, fear and uncertainty at war within me. Would he send me back to Angus when he realized that he’d made an error? How could he commit to a woman for five years without having planned to get married in the first place?
“I don’t either.” Christophe reached out and took my hand, interlacing our fingers. “I just saw you up there, and I knew.”
“You knew what?” My question sounded weak and thready.
“That I’d found my muse. The great love of my life.” He lifted our hands and kissed the back of my palm. “God, or perhaps the universe, has mysterious ways of providing what we need exactly when we need it, oui?”
“You think I was sent to you by God?” I gasped in disbelief. “I am nothing.”
His head jerked back as though affronted.
“You do not see what I see, mon coeur. And you could never be nothing. You sit here, by my side, beaming with such a great light, it almost blinds me in its beauty. I cannot wait to create art in your likeness. It will be my best work.”
“This makes no sense,” I croaked. “You’ll change your mind. I’ll end up back on the streets.” The waterworks threatened to fill my eyes while thoughts of being abandoned pummeled my nerves.
He shook his head frantically and pulled me up and onto his lap sideways. His long, strong arms wrapped around me as he tucked his face into the crook of my neck. “No, no, no. I promise you are safe. I am a man of my word, Alana. Just because I let miraculous things occur naturally doesn’t mean I would forsake such gifts. And that is what you are. A gift to me. My muse. From the second I laid eyes on you I had this need to create. To mold. To craft. I haven’t felt that in over a year. I was stuck, cheri. My art collecting dust. My inspiration gone. I was walking through life awake but lost.”
“Lost?” I whispered, knowing exactly what that felt like.
“Then I saw you, and, suddenly, I was found. My hands itched to get to work. Instantly I wanted to sculpt your face out of clay. I want to paint your delicate features so the entire world may look upon your glory and see what I see.” He traced the edge of my jaw with a single finger until I looked into his eyes.
“I have never known beauty such as yours. It would be a travesty not to share it with the world.” His voice was a deep rumble, a thunderstorm barreling through his chest and into mine where we pressed together.
“You think I’m beautiful?”
He nuzzled his nose against mine. “I think you are an angel come from the heavens to bring great change. I do not know your entire story, but I wish to earn such a privilege one day. I believe together we can share something unique. Something neither of us knew could be possible.”
“I’m not what you think I am,” I responded, needing him to understand he was wrong. There was absolutely nothing heavenly or special about me. I was an orphan who’d been abandoned by her own mother. I was an abused woman who had barely survived horrors that no human being should have to experience. Damaged goods. He’d eventually see the truth.
“I think you are Alana Toussaint. My wife. My heart. My muse. I will accept no less.” He dipped his head and kissed me.
That kiss was unlike our first at the wedding ceremony.