One Night With a Billionaire - By VickiLewis Thompson
I’m in Paris.
Melanie Shaw stared at the façade of Notre Dame as the deep-throated bells counted down the hour. Ten o’clock in the morning. Instead of mucking out stalls or riding the fence line at her daddy’s ranch outside of Dallas, Texas, she was standing in front of frickin’ Notre Dame. Amazing.
Her plane had landed two hours ago, and she still couldn’t believe she had both feet planted in Paris, France. Only one thing could have made this moment better—if her friends Val and Astrid could be here with her.
They’d become friends and sorority sisters in college, and five years after graduating, they were tighter than ever. A few months ago all the planets had been aligned for this trip. They’d found a killer plane fare and had spontaneously booked it. Then Val had been unlucky enough to get caught in a mob scene when a fire had broken out during a concert. She’d suffered a broken arm and two broken ribs. Although those had healed, she avoided crowds and wouldn’t be traveling anytime soon.
Melanie had adjusted to the idea of having Val stay home. Astrid was a great traveling companion and they’d still have fun, even without Val. Then, a couple of weeks ago, one of Astrid’s clients developed a problem with a pregnant mare. With the mare’s life on the line, Astrid had reluctantly canceled her trip, too.
Melanie had almost given up once her friends had bailed. The hotel they’d booked was way too expensive for her to handle alone, so she’d cancelled that reservation. But she’d held on to her airline ticket because she couldn’t bear to think of not going. An online search had yielded a cheaper hotel, although it was also far from the main attractions.
Her boyfriend Jeff had said she was crazy to consider traveling alone, but he wasn’t about to go with her to someplace where he didn’t speak the language. His provincial attitude had pounded the nail in the coffin, and she’d ended their relationship. It had been on the skids, anyway.
Now that she was actually here, though, she’d better get busy and take some pictures with her phone. She’d left her suitcase with the hotel desk clerk because she couldn’t check in until noon, but she had her backpack with all her sightseeing essentials crammed inside. Shrugging it off, she unzipped a side pocket and reached for her phone.
Without warning, the backpack was ripped from her hands. At the same moment, someone else shoved her from behind, knocking her to the ground with such force that the breath left her lungs.
“Hey!” A deep male voice from behind her issued a challenge.
She raised her head in time to glimpse a dark-haired man in jeans and a brown leather jacket dash after the thieves. Then folks who were obviously worried about her hurried over and blocked her view. An older gentleman helped her to her feet while two women clucked over her in what sounded like German.
She wasn’t hurt except for a couple of scrapes on the heels of both hands, but if the guy in the leather jacket didn’t catch the thieves, she was in deep shit. Her backpack held almost everything of value—her phone, both credit cards, and two hundred dollars’ worth of euros. Her passport, thank God, was tucked in a pouch under her shirt, but thinking that she might have lost everything else made her sick to her stomach.
Members of the German tour group patted her shoulder as she stood up and dusted off her clothes. They offered words of comfort she couldn’t understand but appreciated anyway. She made the effort to smile her thanks as she scanned the crowd for signs of a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing a brown leather jacket. He’d looked athletic, so maybe he’d be able to tackle the guys who took her backpack.
On the other hand, she didn’t want some stranger risking his safety for her. At least two people had been involved in the mugging, which meant the guy was outnumbered even if he should catch them. She crossed the fingers of both hands and waited, heart pounding from a delayed adrenaline rush.
At last she saw him coming toward her. His eyes were hidden by sunglasses, but his angry strides and the tight set of his mouth told her all she needed to know. Her hopes crumbled. The backpack was gone.
Despair engulfed her, but she was determined to thank him properly for trying. She hoped he spoke English. All she’d heard was his shout