My One Week Husband by Lauren Blakely





1





Scarlett





Some things feel true, even if you know they won’t ever come true.

But in the moment, your imagination takes hold.

Like right now.

As I stroll down the street in Avignon with my business partner, the sun shimmering low in a clear blue sky and the scent of lavender wafting in the soft breeze, I feel as if I could linger all day. Funny, because I am not known for lingering.

Yet lingering feels inherently right. “I could spend hours roaming this town,” I declare with a deep inhale of the South of France air, far away from the glitter and lights, the hustle and bustle of Paris.

Daniel shoots me a skeptical look as we wander past a chichi boutique peddling silk scarves and sky-high heels. “You could definitely not spend hours wandering, Scarlett.”

I scoff, raising my chin. “You doubt my ability to roam?”

“I doubt your tolerance for roaming through here.” He gestures grandly to the plethora of boutiques and cafés on the street. “You don’t even like to shop.”

“I do like to shop,” I say defensively.

He shakes his head, laughing. It’s a rich, deep sound that I’ve loved to hear ever since I became his financial advisor a few years back. I’ve grown to know him even better in the past twelve months, after I bought a third of a stake in his company. “No,” he counters. “You like to buy. You like to have a list of things you need. You like to pop into stores, grab what you’re after, then scurry on out.”

I argue that point, something I do love to do. “That’s shopping. Going in, buying what you need—that’s the literal definition of shopping.”

His blue eyes glint with mischief. It’s a look I see often in those crystal irises. “Exactly. We’re only wandering down this street because our train arrived early. I doubt you’d actually spend hours strolling through this town otherwise. In fact, I don’t think you’d spend hours doing anything except work,” he says, throwing that down like a gauntlet.

I square my shoulders, bristling at his accusation, though it’s largely true. “What do you think I should spend my hours doing? Sunning myself? Being fanned with palm fronds?”

He gives me a lopsided grin that is both endearing and infuriating. “The latter sounds perfect. But I’m simply saying that you don’t lollygag. You have a plan for everything. A strategy for ‘tackling every day because days should be tackled.’”

He sketches air quotes around those last words—words I use, well, daily.

I toss my head back, laughing as we near a café with its red windows flung open, green tables spilling across the sidewalk. “So this is what we’ve come to? You mock me for having strategies?”

“Well, you do make it easy,” Daniel teases.

A waiter rushes out of the main door of the café with a tray of wineglasses balanced on his forearm expertly, different shades of crimson in the glasses.

“Strategies are a woman’s best friend. And a man’s,” I add, making a move to swat Daniel’s elbow.

Playfully, of course.

He sidesteps me.

The waiter bumps into him.

“Excusez moi,” the waiter says, an apologetic frown creasing his brow.

“De rien,” Daniel quickly reassures the man. The waiter smiles, nods, and weaves through the tables.

The Englishman by my side returns to ribbing me. “As I was saying, you don’t actually like to linger, wander, or roam, Scarlett. You like to do. You like to accomplish. I suspect you’re secretly pissed that our train was early, since now we have to kill a whole half hour before our meeting.”

“Oh yes, that’s me. Secretly mad,” I say deadpan. Then I deal him a sharp stare. “I don’t get mad in secret.”

He taps his chin. “True. You have been known to march right up to me and give me hell though.”

“When you deserve it. Which is often.” I glance his way, then flinch when my gaze catches on a spot of burgundy on the sleeve of his silk shirt.

“Daniel,” I say, touching his forearm.

“Yes?”

“It seems your shirt might have been the collateral damage back there,” I say, gesturing to a small but stands-out-like-a-sore-thumb spot on the expensive fabric.

His eyes drift down to the red stain on his sleeve. “Huh,” he says, amused. His lips curve into a grin. “C’est la vie. Or perhaps that’s one of the hazards of lingering?”