Gabrielle couldn’t breathe. His voice, oh, God, Eric’s voice washed over her as smooth and persuasive as she remembered. Eyes closed, she struggled to breathe, to compose herself. Annette’s hand tightened on her arm, but Gabrielle ignored it and slowly turned.
Afraid to see him, afraid he wouldn’t be there, she opened her eyes.
Her chest hurt, her heart skipped a beat only to pound harder. Gabrielle licked her lips and met his light blue gaze.
She struggled for breath as the band around her chest tightened further. No words formed, and all she wanted to do was throw herself into Eric’s arms. Annette’s hand on her stopped her.
“Oh!” Annette said politely. “So you know Gabrielle from be—” she stopped herself, then hurried to cover the awkward pause. “From some time ago.”
Unable to even nod, Gabrielle stood rooted to the spot. Her mind whirled with a dozen thoughts as she tried to come to terms with Eric standing before her. She wanted to reach out and touch him, check he stood there, real and alive. Make sure this wasn’t all an illusion, a trick her mind played on her.
“Yes,” Eric said evenly. “Yes we did. Mademoiselle Bertrand,” he said in a lighter tone, “was always a favorite in my shop. The shop I once had on what was Rue de Prince, across from the park.”
The look in his blue eyes stopped her from showing her surprise. Taking shallow breaths, Gabrielle forced herself to look at him, really see him. He wore simple clothing, modest and just the other side of worn, and his demeanor showed an unpretentious shop owner, not the well-to-do noble he truly was.
“Yes,” Gabrielle managed. She forced a smile and straightened. “Such a pretty little shop. Thank you for remembering me.”
“I could never forget you, mademoiselle,” Eric said softly. He looked back at Annette and offered a small smile as he expounded on her apparent shopping virtues. “A client with such grace and kindness is difficult to forget.”