The Power Couple - Alex Berenson
I KIRA AND REBECCA
Have fun! See you at midnight like we agreed! XXX Mom
Kira Unsworth swiped left, stung the red delete box. Goodbye. She didn’t remember agreeing. She remembered Rebecca saying Midnight, okay?
Not okay. Not even close. Even if Jacques didn’t show… and Jacques was going to show… she wasn’t Cinderella and she wasn’t going to be home at midnight. Not in Barcelona. People came from all over to party here, the ultimate late-night city.
She could say the time difference had confused her, though Mom wouldn’t bite. Did it confuse your phone too? Rebecca could smell fibs from ten feet away. You do remember your dear old mother works for the FBI. Trying to sound like she was joking, though they both knew she wasn’t. The words a challenge: Don’t even try it.
Mostly Kira didn’t. She’d learned the best lies were the ones she didn’t have to tell. Tonight she would play it cool, no excuses. I’m nineteen, I’m not a baby, come on.
Dad would be fine as long as she made it back by one. Maybe even a little later. Good ol’ Bri, part of him still wanted to be nineteen. With his microbrews and Nirvana T-shirts.
Even Becks would lighten up once Kira got back to their Airbnb. She knew midnight was ridiculous.
Reediculous, Kira mouthed at the girl in the mirror behind the bar. The room around her was long and dark and stuffed with torn leather couches and paintings of long-gone Europeans that had been covered in graffiti and sliced up. The net effect was a castle post–zombie apocalypse. But with better music. MGMT shading into Twenty One Pilots shading into Fleet Foxes. Even the occasional band Kira didn’t know, and she knew just about everything. She loved new music. She loved music, period. The bar was called The Mansion—lots of Barcelona bars had English names—and was supposed to be one of the coolest places in the city. Though it was still mostly empty.
Kira should have been intimidated to be here alone. She was, a little. But she felt more confident than she’d expected. Probably because she already knew she was meeting someone.
She was drinking sangria from a battered copper cup. Dark and sweet and it didn’t seem to have much kick, but she felt soft after one drink. She tipped the dregs into her mouth and set the cup down. The bartender slid over. He had wide dark eyes, nice arms poking out from his black T-shirt.
“One more?” Everyone in Europe insisted on talking to her in English. Of course not too many Spaniards had blue eyes. But couldn’t she pass for German? Swedish? They all knew she was American before she opened her mouth.
“Stella, por favor.” She didn’t want to be drunk when Jacques got here.
“Try the Estrella, it’s local. Better.”
She nodded. The bartender turned around, leaned over the mini-fridge. He rummaged around a little longer than he needed to, made sure she had time to check out his cute butt—in his cute black jeans. At last he pulled a brown bottle, popped the top with a flourish.
“First time in Barcelona?”
“First night in Barcelona. Where is everyone?”
“Only ten forty-five. You’ll see. Okay, first night, the cerveza, you don’t pay.” He tapped his chest.
He winked, American girls are good for business. She sipped her beer, washing the sticky sangria from her mouth. Nice to be in a country where she could drink legally, no fake IDs, no frat basements. Civilized.
Her phone buzzed. A text from a number starting with thirty-three. The country code for France, as she’d just learned. Jacques. Though she hadn’t put his name in her phone. He’d have to earn that.
See you soon
Here, she typed, then deleted it. She didn’t want to seem too eager. Though she was.
* * *
Jacques was a graduate student at the Sorbonne. Kira had met him the night before, in Paris. She and her brother, Tony, were at this café on the Place de la République, this big square where French students hung out. Tony had dragged her there. Tony was seventeen. Tony was tall and skinny. Tony was… a dork. The classic Tony story: A week into ninth grade a bee flew into a Coke he was drinking, stung his mouth. The next day he came to school with his mouth swollen and grotesque, his lower lip the size of a tire. He looked like a washed-up model who’d cheaped out on plastic surgery. Why did everybody make fun of me, he said that night in Kira’s