NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Sylvie Martine stared down at the printed-out report and had to admit to the fact that she’d been completely wrong about Rene Darois. “I’m going to be honest. When we started this project together, I thought I would end up doing most of the work.”
The truth of the matter was she’d thought about dumping the class when she’d seen her brother’s best friend sitting in what should have been a sophomore-level history course. She’d known he was still taking classes at Tulane when she’d started her freshman year. He’d shown up at her dorm room and offered to give her a tour of the campus. They’d gone to dinner and talked about her brother and reminisced about the old days when they would run around the grounds of Darois House, and then she hadn’t seen him again until he’d been sitting in the big lecture hall four months earlier.
He frowned her way. “I’m an excellent research partner.”
They were sitting in the cozy living room of his family’s New Orleans house. Like everything in Rene Darois’s life, it was perfectly kept and built to impress. The small house on the outskirts of the quarter looked less luxurious on the outside. It had a wall around it with gates that led a person from the rowdiness of the quarter to the infinite peace of a sunny courtyard. She’d been told this place was frequently used by his parents when they had business in town or simply wanted to enjoy the city. When Rene had chosen Tulane, he’d moved in here, and his father often stayed with him when he wasn’t back in Papillon, the small town they’d all come from.
Sylvie had known Rene all her life, and she was fairly certain she’d been born with a crush on him. Like she’d come straight out of the womb and wanted to be around him.
Which was a dangerous thing since he didn’t see her as anything more than his best friend’s kid sister.
“I think you want to pass this class and get out of here,” she said with a smile. She’d avoided him that first semester, but now she realized she would miss him when he graduated in a few weeks. Since they’d figured out they had a class together, she’d had lunch with Rene almost every Monday and Wednesday, and he’d taken to driving her back to Papillon on the weekends, and then to New Orleans every Sunday night.
He’d made her first year of college comfortable and far less lonely.
Rene sat back, and she had to stop herself from sighing. He was the most perfect example of masculine beauty she could think of, and it was about more than his red and gold hair, green eyes, and sharp jawline. It was about how she felt when he smiled her way, when he rushed to open a door for her, and made her feel like she was the only woman in the world.
Of course, that was all Southern manners and charm, and she was sure he behaved that way around every woman of his acquaintance. She’d known she would fall into this trap if she let herself. It had been almost a relief when he’d gone away to college. She’d been able to see past him and date a nice boy in high school. When that had fallen apart, she’d concentrated on her best friends and her work, and it had been good.
But now Sylvie was right back to not being able to think about any guy but this one. No one else she met was as comfortable as Rene, as kind and fun to be around. As understanding.
And it turned out he was an excellent project partner. He’d handled most of the research, and now it was her turn. “You are indeed. These notes are practically perfect. I’ll write it up, we’ll turn it in, and then I think you’ll be a graduate of Tulane. Are you excited?”
“Of course,” he said, and then his voice went low. “It was a surprise to realize I was missing a couple of classes. I was upset when I had to take a history class in my senior year. Well, year and a half. I should have graduated after fall semester. I was bitter about it, but I’ve enjoyed this time with you. It was good to get to know you again.”
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