Parisian Encounter

I love photography, I love art, I love to travel. I thought, why not combine all three, and take a trip to a city I've always wanted to visit, and photograph? So, on my vacation I went to the City of Lights...Paris.

I chose a lovely time of year to go. It was early summer, before it got too hot, and late enough in the year that the spring rains and overcast skies were gone. I had two weeks to get acquainted with Paris, and I vowed to enjoy every moment!

I was staying in a lovely little hotel not far from the Seine on the Left bank by the Pont de la Tournelle. I dressed in my most comfortable clothes, grabbed my cameras and bags and went to stroll along the quay. I could see the Notre Dame not too far away so I headed for that lovely old cathedral first thing.

As I walked along, I took in the sights and sounds. Birds flew overhead and landed in the trees above me, and their joyous songs echoed the lightness of my heart. I took a deep breath; I could smell the light bouquet of flowers somewhere nearby, and I thought I could note the yeasty aroma of a bakery in the near distance. It made my stomach rumble, and I chuckled. Bread, wine and cheese were on my list for the day!

I came upon a barge docked alongside the quay, with the lovely name of "Nobile" adorning the bow. I lifted my camera and focused for a shot. Just as I pressed the shutter release, a dark haired man emerged from below, and I watched as he came into view. Dressed in snug jeans and a denim shirt, his masculine form definitely kept my attention, but when he turned to face my direction and I got a clear look at his face, I became entranced. His hair was long and loose about his face, falling to his shoulders. I couldn't tell from that distance what color his eyes were, but I imagined them to be a dark color, maybe blue, maybe brown.

As I continued to watch him, he moved toward the plank connecting the barge to the dock. He had a soft smile upon his face. He descended, his boots thudding against the boards with each step. As he walked, he reached into the right front pocket of his jeans and withdrew a set of keys. He approached a black, low-slung car, which I thought I recognized as a Citroën.

I know I hadn't made a sound while I stood there, captivated, yet he looked up and centered his attention on me. His smile disappeared; his eyes, which I could now see were a rich caramel brown, narrowed. Uh oh...I thought...busted!

He turned toward me, his long strides eating the distance between us until he stopped in front of me. My mouth was dry, and I couldn't even manage a squeak. I clutched my camera and bag to my chest, as if its bulk could protect me.

"Je vous aidez, Mademoiselle?" he asked, his deep baritone voice reaching out to me. I understood him, having taken French in high school several years earlier, but I knew my mastery of the language was not as good as it could be, and even less so when an unhappy man confronted me.

"Je suis désolé. J'étais juste prenant des photos de votre chaland," I apologized, and that I was just taking pictures of his barge. I was nervous, and knew my French wouldn't hold up to the dark glare I was receiving from him. "Parlons nous anglais?Je ne parle pas bien le francais," I asked that we speak English, as I didn't speak French well.

''Of course,'' he nodded. ''May I ask why you were taking pictures of the barge?''

I admitted, meeting his gaze with my own, ''I'm a photographer. I came to Paris to see the sights, and to photograph them. I was on my way to the Notre Dame, and when I saw your barge, I wanted to take a picture of it. I'm sorry if I've intruded.'' I was surprised that my voice didn't squeak or break ; that I had actually managed to converse with him as a sane person would !

His eyes lost their narrowed look, and he smiled again. ''I don't mind. You're American?''

''Yes…is it that obvious?'' I grinned up at him, relaxing somewhat now that I knew I was no longer under his severe gaze.

''Only a little,'' he winked at me. I was at that point completely charmed. I was a goner, and I knew it. He held out a large hand and said, ''I'm Duncan MacLeod. Welcome to Paris!''

I placed my much smaller hand in his, and it felt engulfed as he bent slightly, lifted my hand to his lips, and placed a soft kiss on the back of it.

Oh, yes…I was definitely charmed!

I'm not sure how, but I did manage to locate my faculties enough to say, ''You must be busy…I saw you head for your car. Don't let me interrupt.''

He replied, "It wasn't important. It can wait. As you are visiting Paris, may I be of assistance to you…show you some sights, perhaps?" He retained his grasp of my hand, holding it between us as we stood there, looking at one another. "Maybe carry your bag?"

Bag? What bag? I wondered then I realized he meant my photo equipment. Gah! Where was my brain? Most likely the same location in my anatomy where my hormones were flooding. Sheesh, woman…get a grip!

"I…um…sure!" I handed him my bag, retaining my camera, which I hung from my neck by its strap. "Thanks. Are you sure I'm not keeping you from anything?"

His smile widened, and he chuckled lightly. "I'm sure. Nothing is more important to me right now than showing a lovely lady around the city." With his free hand, he grasped my elbow and led me toward his car. "Do you want to take the car, or walk?"

Um…let me see. Enclosed space, nearness to him…and Oh, God…that cologne he's wearing! What's a girl to do?

The girl chose the car. Mama didn't raise an idiot…although sometimes she and I both questioned it!

"The car is fine, and I appreciate the tour." I stopped and turned to face him, and said, "By the way, before you escort a perfect stranger around Paris, my name is Kady."

His eyes twinkling with humor, Duncan nodded. "Kady. It's a lovely name, and it suits you. Now that we're on a first-name basis, let's get the tour started." Grasping my elbow again, he led me the rest of the way to the low-slung black car, and using his key, opened the passenger door for me. "Your carriage awaits…"

I sat, and he put my camera bag behind my seat then closed the door. As I waited for him to walk around the front of the car to get to his own door, I closed my eyes momentarily, and tried to calm my racing pulse. Get a hold of yourself, Kady. Breathe. He's only a man.

And how! My hormones refused to hush themselves. He's the hottest man on all seven continents, and you're in his car. Calm down? You're nuts, woman!

I was still fussing with myself when he opened his door and got behind the wheel. He turned to look at me, and asked, "Are you ready?"

"Absolutely!" I managed to say with some measure of calmness in my voice. I was faking it, of course.

He started the car and pulled away from the dock, and as he drove, I lectured myself silently. Don't make an ass of yourself, Kady. Calm down, enjoy the day and the man's company, and above all…don't say anything stupid!

Yeah, right!

I muffled a groan.

Actually, I surprised myself, and very pleasantly so. I managed to converse with Duncan coherently, without making a complete and utter fool of myself. He seemed to enjoy the day in my company, and I know I wouldn't have missed being with him for anything.

We went through the Notre Dame, where I went into throes of ecstasy over the massive rose window. I used up two whole rolls of film in the cathedral alone. After that, we took a dinner break at a small sidewalk restraunt called Cafe des Phares and talked about ourselves and our travels, over the glasses of wine and cheese and bread I had promised myself that morning.

Replete, we ventured to the Eiffel Tower. Lord have mercy…the view from the top is breathtaking! Heights turn my knees to noodles, but with Duncan's muscular arms around me from behind as we stood at the railing, I felt as safe as houses - safe…and very much in tune with his warm, hard body next to mine.

I have to admit my thoughts weren't completely on the scenery. At one point, another tourist bumped into me. Had it not been for the railing and Duncan's close proximity, I could have taken a header. As it was, I was grateful for his presence, in more ways than one!

Someone offered to take a photograph of Duncan and me there at the top of Le Tour Eiffel, and, as protective as I am with my precious equipment, I readily agreed. Duncan pulled me close, and stood behind me with his arms wrapped around my waist; I rested my arms over his, and my head back against his broad chest. I salivated at the scent of him…warm man and cologne, made with the express purpose of turning a woman into putty.

There was no use in lecturing myself over his effects on my raging hormones. Rather, I enjoyed it, and as it had been much too long since I'd felt like that, I gave myself free reign to revel in it

After the Tower, we decided to wander along the Champs Elysee. I am Woman with every last cell in me, so you know I had to do a smidgen of shopping. Well…maybe a bit more than a smidgen. I lost count of the number of shops I dragged Duncan into, and bless his heart he was a good sport about it. He did more than carry my purchases. He bought some things as well. Ahh…a man after my very own heart!

By the time we were finished, both of us were a bit tired, so we agreed that he would take me back to my hotel, De Lutece, where I would rest for a couple hours and freshen up, then he would take me out to dinner.

After resting my feet, if nothing else, I took a shower. I would be a liar if I said I didn't imagine Duncan standing under that water with me. The mental image I had in my mind was hot enough I could have heated the water all by myself! As I stood there under the spray, washing my hair, I imagined Duncan behind me, washing it for me.

His fingers massaged my scalp; the lather of the lavender-scented shampoo made the touch of his hands on my head feel like a caress. I felt his hardness behind me…

Down, girl! It's not real! You're letting your fantasies run away with you again…

I knew that, yet I still had to brace myself against the wall of the shower stall until I found a measure of composure once more.

I dried off, and with a towel wrapped around me I stood in front of the mirror and tried to see myself as Duncan did. Did he like what he saw? My long dark brown hair was still damp, but I knew that as it dried, the natural curls would come out. I liked my hair, and with my eyes, thought it among my best features.

My eyes were sometimes a leafy green; other times more of a hazel, depending on my mood. I'd always wished for a more exotic color, like a sapphire blue, or even a shade of purple. Still, I usually managed to make the most of them when I had my full make-up on.

Make-up! Stop preening and get dressed! He's going to be here soon, and you don't want him to catch you naked as a jaybird!

Well…on second thought! I laughed. That wouldn't be a bad thing at all!

By the time I heard the knock on the door, I was ready but for my shoes and earrings. I was so glad I had decided to bring my favorite dress with me. It wasn't a miniskirt, but it did show my legs at their best. It was form-fitting in all the right places, but not in a slutty way. Black looked good on me, I thought, as I took one last glance in the mirror as I made my way to the door.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Did he ever look good! When I opened the door, Duncan stood there, wearing a black suit, violet shirt and silken black tie. His long hair, which had been loose to his shoulders throughout the day, was now tied back in a ponytail.

He grinned at me then glanced down at my bare feet. "Going casual, I see?"

"You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl!" I quipped. "Come in and I'll grab my shoes."

He stood by the bed watching me as I went to the jewelry box sitting on the small table beside the bathroom door. Lifting the lid, I chose a pair of earrings I knew went well with the dress. Sliding the hoops into the holes, I then went back towards the bed where I'd laid the heels I planned to wear. I picked one up and, bending my leg, reached down to put the shoe on my foot, but began to lose my balance. Duncan reached out and grabbed my arm, helping me find my balance again. I grinned my thanks at him. I placed one hand on his upper arm and used the other to put on the shoe, then switched position to put the other shoe on.

Finally able to stand on both feet, I said, "Thank you, kind sir."

"Not a problem, m'lady," Duncan replied, turning those deep chocolate eyes upon me.

Our gazes met and held; I loved the little details I saw there: the tiny scar that ran through his left eyebrow, how his eyes glistened with humor, and those long lashes a woman would cheerfully commit murder for. Oh, yes…I was definitely a goner. I was toast!

After a moment, I pulled back and reached down for the light shawl I had laid out on the bed. The days were lovely but I figured the nights would be a bit chill.

Duncan reached for it, and taking it from my hands, wrapped it around my shoulders. He pressed his large hands there, gently caressing the lacy fabric against the curve of my upper arms.

"Are you ready?" he asked as he reached down with one hand and took one of mine in his grasp.

All I could do was nod my head; all words escaped me.

Ok…we're in Paris, so you'd figure Duncan would take me to a nice, swanky French restaurant, right? No dice. Rather, he escorted me to a mom-and-pop Oriental place, where the food was, he promised, much better than the décor would have one believe. I love Oriental, so I was more than game for the experience.

Once we were shown to a table, we were handed our menus. One glance at mine told me I would be totally clueless at making my choice. I lifted my confused gaze to meet Duncan's. "You wouldn't happen to be able to speak and read Chinese, would you?"

His warm eyes twinkled with humor. "Is there something you particularly like or dislike?"

"I don't do 'shrooms."

"I beg your pardon?" he asked quizzically.

" 'Shrooms. You know…mushrooms. Fungus." The expression on his face at my comment made me giggle. "Don't tell me you like the things. Gak!"

"As a matter of fact…" he teased, "no. I don't do 'shrooms, as you put it so eloquently, either. I never learned to appreciate them," he agreed.

I couldn't suppress a slight shudder. "Is there anything about them worth appreciating?"

Before he could reply, our server brought us our tiny cups of tea and a pot to share. Amazed, I listened as Duncan gave her our order, in perfectly flawless (I assumed) Mandarin Chinese.

"I'm impressed. I mean…really impressed," I said once the server departed once more. "How…when…did you learn that?"

Duncan lifted his cup and took a sip of the hot, fragrant Jasmine tea. "I travel a lot. I seem to learn languages easily," he admitted matter-of-factly. "Do you know any other languages besides your little bit of French?"

I grinned. "Little bit is about right. What I learned back in high school has pretty much left me from lack of use. I wanted to continue it in college, but it didn't work out."

"Why is that?" he asked. He reached across the table and began to play with my fingers with his own. My pulse instantly skyrocketed. Somehow, and I'm not sure how I managed it, I was able to answer his question.

"At the beginning of my sophomore year, my father became very ill. Mom wasn't well enough to care for him by herself, and they couldn't afford hospice care for Dad. I withdrew from school and went back home to stay with them, and to give Mom help in Dad's day-to-day care. He passed away nine months later, and Mom followed him within three months." Duncan's hands grasped mine, and he held them in sympathy. I squeezed his in return. I continued, "By the time I could have returned to school, my situation had changed, and I went on to other things. I got a job with a photographer in his studio, and it became almost like an apprenticeship. I basically went on from there, making photography my career."

"I wondered how and why you made that choice." Lifting his hand, Duncan caressed my right cheek, and ran his fingers through the hair at my temple. "I'm sorry for your loss."

I nodded my thanks then asked, "What about you? Are your parents still living? Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

I could read mixed expressions behind those deep eyes: sorrow, regret, even a little bit of hesitation. I wondered about that last one.

After a pause, Duncan answered, "No. My parents are both dead. I was an only child."

"What happened, if I may ask?" I rushed to add, "You don't have to tell me if it bothers you."

"No, it's ok. It was a long time ago. I don't talk about it much."

Again, before he had the chance to continue, our meals arrived. Duncan had ordered something with oriental noodles, vegetables and chicken for me, and for himself a mixture of vegetables and shrimp over rice. I haven't the foggiest idea what the meals were called, but they were wonderful! We shared our dinners; me swapping some of my chicken for his shrimp, and vice versa.

By the time we were replete, the conversation had moved on from our families to our careers to our travels. My stories were nowhere near as exciting as his. He was fascinating to listen to. His deep baritone, the rhythm and flow of his speech, the traces of Scottish burr buried within his Continental accent…

I could listen to him read the telephone directory! Oh, baby, baby, baby…

There were my overactive hormones again.

Maybe there was something about my expression just then because Duncan grinned at me and asked, "What? What are you thinking?"

I had to have blushed ten shades of red. "You don't want to know," I hedged.

"Yes, I do." He reached down to slip a hand into his left front pocket, and I heard loose coins jingle.

The mental image I had just then of how I really, really wanted to thrust my own hand down there to see what I could find brought on another few shades of red that hadn't been there a moment before.

He lifted his hand back up to reveal a coin. "It's not a penny, but it'll suffice. Here…it's for your thoughts."

You don't realize what you're asking for, handsome! I took a deep, bracing mental sigh, then preceded to embarrass myself thoroughly.

"Mom always told me that a lot of her gray hair came from the words I spouted out with. She tried to learn how not to be shocked by anything I said. If she only knew…my thoughts are so much worse!"

He had dimples! When he grinned at my words, little dimples appeared in each of his cheeks, and I was momentarily distracted. (That happened a lot when I was with him. Go figure!) Laughter filled his eyes; he said, dryly, "Oh, now I have to hear what you were thinking!"

"No, you don't."

"Oh, yes I do," he insisted.

"No…you really don't," I insisted in return, trying to look away.

He grasped my chin in his right hand, and turned my face back toward him. "Kady… "

I admit it. When the man wants you to do something, you don't say no. You may fight it with all your might, but you don't ignore Duncan MacLeod. It's simply impossible to do. I sighed melodramatically, and hung my head as much as his hand on my chin would allow.

"Kady…" he repeated, more softly this time.

I whispered, "I was just thinking how much I love your voice. I could listen to you read the telephone book."

His eyes crinkled with more humor. "Is that all?"

I shook my head. "No, there's more."

"And?"

"You're really going to make me say it?" I moaned.

"Yes, I am. Don't be embarrassed, Kady. You can tell me anything." I'm sure he meant it, and I wanted to believe him. Still….

I bit the proverbial bullet, and blurted the rest of it out. "I am so attracted to you, Duncan. When you stuck your hand in your pocket for the coin, I wanted…"

"Yes?"

Oh God! Strike me down now! Put me out of my misery!"

"I wanted it to be my hand going down…there!"

There! I said it!

He sat for a moment, silent. I waited agonizingly, waiting for his response. When it came, I felt my heart leap in my breast, and the rush of desire that flooded through me left me breathless.

"Kady…"

"Yes?"

He reached for my hand. "Let's go."

How did we make it to his barge? I don't remember a moment of it. My mind was filled with lustful thoughts; my body ached with my desire for him. I'd never felt this way before…never felt this strongly for a man I had known only a short while.

I found myself being led down the steps below deck. He opened the door for me, and when I entered the open living space, the first thing I saw was the large bed across the way on the other side of the room. Big, wide, more than enough room for two lovers to roll around on as they pleasured each other.

Sweet Mary, Mother of God…help me! Am I ready for this?

Duncan held one of my hands, rubbing it between his own. Could he tell how nervous I was, how much I wanted this, and yet how unsure I was at the same time?

"Would you like something to drink?" he asked gently. "Something soothing?"

"Please!" I nearly begged. I pressed my hands to my chest to calm my racing heart as he moved toward the bar. I watched as he reached underneath for a bottle of wine.

"Is red ok, or would you prefer white?" he asked, his left eyebrow rising in question.

"White, please."

He nodded, and reached into a drawer for the cork screw. "I'll let it breathe a moment," he stated as he reached below for a couple wine glasses.

As he dealt with the wine, I turned and wandered around the living area. I noted the bookcase full of books against one wall, and another with music CDs and a nice stereo system. I wandered over to peruse his collection. "You have a very eclectic taste in music, Duncan," I commented as I tipped my head to the side to read some of the jewel cases. "Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Mozart…excellent taste in Classical! You have Jazz, Rock…Country? You listen to Country music?" I was surprised.

"I love all music. Since I have no talent for performing it, I enjoy listening to it. What about you? What do you like?" He approached me with a wine glass in each hand. I took the one he held out to me.

"I share your taste in Classical and Rock. Classic rock, especially. I also like some Blues, and a little bit of Country, though not a lot of it."

"Blues? You like Blues too?" he asked, that lovely eyebrow rose again.

"Yes, I do. Why do you ask?"

"A good friend of mine owns a Blues club back in the States, as well as one here in Paris. I'll take you to Le Blues one night while you're here."

"I'd love that." I looked down at the glass I held, and tried to gather my courage. "Duncan?"

"Yes?"

"Why me?"

"What do you mean…why you? Why you…what?"

"Why did you bring me here? Why did you even want to? You don't know me that well. I don't know you."

"I know enough. I know that I love your sense of humor. I love your heart…your love for your parents. I know I want you…very much." He reached for my glass, and together with his own, set them in an open space on the media shelf. "Are you trying to convince me that this is wrong…or convince yourself?"

"I don't know," I admitted. "I don't. I don't know what to think, what to feel. I don't know if I'm ready for…this." I turned aside, taking a couple steps away from him. The nearness of him, the scent of his musky cologne, of him…I couldn't think, couldn't concentrate.

"Kady, look at me." He put his hands on my shoulders and turned me back around to face him. "I won't force you to do anything. If you aren't ready to be close with me, that's fine. We will go at whatever pace you set, " he promised.

"Really?"

"Really."

I realized I didn't need to be scared, or nervous, or even uncertain. Even though I lacked in factual knowledge of this man, I knew in my heart he wouldn't hurt me, that he would be gentle with me. I knew instinctively I could trust him…that I did trust him, implicitly.

I reached up to lightly caress his face, cupping it in the palms of my hands. I admitted, "I trust you, Duncan. I want you too, very much."

He turned his face against my right hand and placed a kiss in the palm. Looking back at me, meeting my gaze with his, he took me in hand and led me up the duo of steps to the bedroom area. There, we faced each other once more.

All fear and nervousness fled. I knew only aching desire for him, and I was ready to meet it face-to-face.

There's a quote in the movie "Bull Durham" that I have always liked; now I have a new appreciation for it. Kevin Costner's character tells about some of the things he believes in, one of which is a "long, slow, deep, wet kiss that lasts for three days."

Duncan made me a believer also.

He took my head in his hands, cupping my face in his palms, and brought my mouth up to meet his. I'd heard of soul kisses before but had never experienced one until now. He swept in and conquered me… body and soul.

He lowered me to the bed then covered my quivering body with his. Our hands blazed new trails, discovering what we each liked. My palms itched to caress his masculine, hair-matted chest, to run up and over his broad shoulders, to slip my fingers through the curls of his long hair.

Our clothing fell away and we were soon writhing together on that large bed.

I became so absorbed in the sensations coursing through me I lost track of all time. We came together I don't remember how many times. Afterwards I lay there, so totally replete I was almost comatose. Somehow I managed to cuddle against him, and as I lay my left hand on his chest and twisted his hair around my forefinger, I admitted, "Duncan?"

"Hmm?"

"It's never been like that for me before. I just wanted you to know that." I tilted my head up so I could see his face in the darkening room.

He leaned in and kissed me. "I've never felt that way before, either."

"Really?" I almost felt surprised that I needed his reassurance.

"Really," he replied and snuggled me closer against him. He tangled our legs together; I could feel his warm breath on my face.

We lay there, and as I felt myself fall into sleep, I knew I would never feel this way ever again.

My cell phone woke me up the next morning. I'm not known to be an early riser, so I had to struggle to semi-consciousness to know what the sound was. I became tangled in the sheet wrapped around me as I reached out for the phone that lay on the end table next to my side of the bed.

By the time I could push the correct buttons, the phone had stopped ringing. Figuring that whoever called would leave me voice mail, I set the phone back down. I heard a noise coming from across the barge. "Duncan?"

His head popped around the corner of the bathroom door. "Good morning, sleepyhead! Rise and shine!" He winked at me; how can someone be that cheerful so early in the morning?

"What time is it?" I asked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

"Almost ten a.m. We're burning daylight."

Gak! Burning daylight? Ten a.m.? "Why didn't you wake me up?" I fought my way out of the sheet and flinging it aside, crawled out of bed. I reached for Duncan's robe that was lying across a trunk at the foot of the bed, and wrapped myself in it.

Duncan reached me halfway. He took me in his arms, and planted a loud kiss on my lips. "Mmmm, you feel good."

"I need a shower," I insisted even as I opened my arms to fold them around his body. "How much time do I have?"

"Before what?" He buried his nose in the hair at my neck and breathed deeply.

"Didn't we have plans for the day?" I could have sworn on a stack of bibles we had made plans to wade through all the tourists meandering through the Louvre.

"Plans are made to be changed, you know…" Duncan giggled. The man giggled! Imagine that!

My heart thudded in my chest, and I knew. I knew plain as day.

I am in love.

His arms still wrapped around me, and mine around him, we duck-walked back to the bed and fell across it. We spent the rest of the day there.

It wasn't until after we had finished dinner and Duncan was cleaning up the kitchen that I remembered the missed phone call that morning. I grabbed my phone and checked for messages.

"My sister called!" I announced as I listened to her message.

"Your sister? You haven't said much about your family, " Duncan commented as he dried his hands on a towel. After draping it neatly over the edge of the sink to dry, he moved back into the living area and joined me on the couch.

"I haven't? I'm sorry. I've had my mind on other things," I smiled, then leaned into him and laid my head against his chest.

His chest rumbled against my ear as he spoke. "Tell me about her."

I did. "I adore her. Becca is my baby sister. She was born when I was five. I'd been pestering Mom and Daddy for a baby sister since I was old enough to ask for one. When they told me I would have a new brother or sister, they promised me I could name the baby. As soon as I saw Becca I knew what her name would be."

"You're very close?"

"Very. Some people think we are twins, but that's just because we spend a lot of time together; we do look a lot alike, though."

"You sound as if you miss her."

"Do I?" I considered the idea, and realized he was right. "I suppose I do. I know I've only been here a few days, and that she'll meet me at the airport when I get home, but yes, I do miss her." I turned up to look at him. "You'd like her, and I know she'd adore you."

"Think so?" he grinned.

"Uh, huh. She'd say you're a hottie."

"A hottie?" His left eyebrow lifted in that sexy way it has of doing. "That's a complement?"

I chortled. "Oh yes…definitely!" I rose up to straddle his thighs, and began to caress his chest, admiring how the muscles flexed under the palms of my hands. "Oh yeah…you definitely feel like a hottie too!"

He cupped my butt, and pressed me closer against him. I moaned softly as I felt him straining behind the zipper of his jeans. I slipped a hand between us and ran a finger along that rock-hard ridge.

His voice suddenly ragged, Duncan whispered suggestions in my ear then ran his tongue just inside to tease at it.

I squirmed against him; his tongue in my ear tickled. I pulled away slightly, and meeting his gaze with mine, nodded….

When I woke up the next morning, I glanced at the alarm clock and was surprised to see it was still early…only about 6:30. Duncan wasn't lying next to me, which wasn't a surprise, as I now knew he was an early riser. Feeling amazingly refreshed, considering my lack of sleep the night before (does that man have stamina or what?) I decided to get up.

I heard a muffled thud from above, and curious, I grabbed Duncan's robe and wrapped it around myself. I went above deck. There I found Duncan, looking mighty tasty in nothing but loose pants.

Barefoot, shirtless, sweat streaming down his face and chest, his hair loose and damp about his face and shoulders, he was like the god Adonis. Male beauty in all its perfection. He was doing some kind of martial arts moves; a kata I think it's called. All I know is that as I watched him, I was entranced.

Finally, he finished, kneeling and bracing himself on his thighs. His chest was heaving from his exertions. He looked over at me, and with a smile on his face, gasped out, "Good morning! You're up early. What's the occasion?"

"Nothing." I nodded my head at him and asked, "What were you doing?"

Confirming my guess, he said, "It's called a kata. It's how I limber up and exercise every morning, when I can. Do you want to try it?"

Humor so early in the morning…amazing! "You must be kidding, right? The only exercise I get is running to catch a bus, or jumping to conclusions."

He laughed…at me. Imagine that! I stuck my tongue out at him. I rose from the small bench where I had been sitting, and asked, "I'm getting some coffee. Want some?"

He nodded. "Let me catch a shower first…unless you care to join me?" He waggled his eyebrows at me, invitingly.

I ended up getting a good workout anyway. Hey…I'm not stupid!

We had planned once more to go to the Louvre, but just before we were ready to leave, Duncan paused a moment, then with only a terse, "Wait here," went above deck. I waited.

As I did so, I dug out my laptop and booted it up. I figured if I had to wait for Duncan to return, I'd check my email. I had just read a long, newsy one from Becca when Duncan returned. I leaned back and looked up at him. "Hi…you're back. What was that all about?"

"What?" he asked, not looking me in the eyes.

I stood and walked over to stand in front of him. "Duncan…I'm not stupid. Something happened. Talk to me."

"Kady…it was nothing. Are you ready to leave?" he asked, evasively.

"No. I'm not ready to leave, and it was something. You may be a stubborn Scot, but I'll put my stubbornness up against yours any day, and we'll see who comes out on top." Daddy always called me his 'little bulldog.'

Duncan sighed then admitted, "I thought I heard something. I checked it out, and there wasn't anything there. Satisfied?" He reached for me, but I knew there was more to it than that, so I backed away.

"Liar."

"Kady…"

"No. No, Duncan. Don't lie to me. There's something going on, and I sense it's something big. I know we haven't known each other long, but you are very important to me now, and I can' - I won't - handle being lied to. Not about this." (I told you I was stubborn!)

Taking my hands in his, Duncan led me to the divan and sat me down, then joined me. He sighed, paused as if gathering his thoughts, then admitted, "Kady….sweetheart…you are important to me too. I want to be with you, but there are things about me you don't know…things I am not prepared to share with you right now. Maybe I can someday soon, but not now…not today. Can you give me some time, please?"

I looked into those deep caramel eyes and read the pleading there. I wanted to give him what he asked for, but I had to make one last demand first. "I'll give you the time you need, Duncan, but you have to promise me something first - don't ever lie to me. Don't tell me nothing's wrong when I can see as plain as day that there is. Take me into your life and everything that goes with it, or not at all. I promise you the same in return. Can you do that for me?"

The corners of his eyes crinkled with humor. "You don't ask for much, do you?"

Completely serious, I replied, "Only what I deserve."

He nodded. "If you will give me time, I will share with you what I can, when I can. That's the best I can promise. Can you accept that?"

I knew when to push for more, and when to back down. Now was the time to back down or risk the chance of pushing him away forever. I'd already faced the fact that I loved him. He was too important to me to lose now. "I can, and I do." I leaned in to meet his lips with mine, reassuring him that I was now okay with the status quo. I figured in for a penny, in for a pound. "I love you, Duncan."

Dare I hope he felt the same for me?

We finally made it to the Louvre, and I enjoyed it as much as I could. There was still that feeling I had that Duncan was holding back on me. He was as demonstrative as he'd always been, but he still hadn't told me he loved me as I had him. I tried to understand - to let him set the pace of our relationship - but my time in Paris was coming to an end much quicker than I wanted it to. I wanted so much, and he wasn't responding with the same measure of love for me as I was in him.

I was so afraid of chasing him off. Was I being too needy…too clingy? Too demanding?

I decided to back off a little. Maybe all he wanted was a close friendship. Maybe all he saw in me was a temporary lover. Maybe…maybe…maybe.

We were leaving the museum when once again Duncan paused in his tracks and looked around him. I looked in all directions, sending my gaze where he did his. When he seemed to locate whatever it was he searched for, I realized it was a man who stood about 30 feet from us.

"Duncan…what is it? Who is he?" I reached out to grasp his upper arm.

Without turning his attention away from the man watching us, Duncan whispered urgently, "Stay here, Kady."

As he began to stride away, I called out, "Duncan, wait!"

He sent a brief glance back at me, and reiterated, "Stay." He must have recognized the concern in my eyes because he smiled reassuringly, and said, "Don't worry. I'll be right back."

I could only stand and watch as he strode purposefully toward the other man, who also began to move toward Duncan. They stopped when they were a few feet apart. I couldn't hear their words, but I could see the tension in Duncan. Tension, albeit a controlled one.

The other man, who appeared to be at least ten to fifteen years older than Duncan, reached inside the long duster he wore. Before he could do anything further, Duncan said something that stopped the other man's action, causing him to look about them as Duncan continued to keep his attention set on the man before him.

From where I stood, I watched as Duncan's tension eased. The men stepped a little further apart, and without turning their backs to one another, ended their conversation. Finally, the other man turned and walked away, and only then did Duncan turn to face me once more.

When he reached my side, I blurted out, "Who was that, Duncan? What did he want?"

Duncan grabbed one of my hands in his and began leading me rather quickly from the museum courtyard. "It wasn't important…mistaken identity. He thought I was someone else."

As I trotted behind him, trying to keep up with his long-legged strides, I knew he was evading my questions again. Damn it! It pissed me off!

I jerked my hand from his and stopped where I was. "No! Damn it…no more!"

Duncan turned and sent me a look I was hard pressed to decipher. Was it guilt? A little bit of consternation? Impatience?

I couldn't tell what he was thinking, but I knew I was livid. I turned from him and began walking to where we had parked his car. I know he followed me, but I was in no mood for him at the moment.

We got to the car and without saying a word, Duncan unlocked it and held my door open for me. I sat, stone-faced, and kept my gaze anywhere but on him.

He sighed heavily, closed the door behind me then moved around to get into the car himself. He sat a moment, then turned toward me and said, "I'm sorry, Kady. It's a long-held habit of mine to keep things to myself. I know it upsets you, and I'm sorry for that. I realize you want me to be more open about things, and I honestly am trying, but you have to realize that sometimes it's hard for me to do. You said you'd give me time…"

Don't you weaken against him, girl! He pissed you off, and it's a righteous anger! That was the devil on my shoulder talking. The angel on the other one said more soothingly He's apologizing, Kady. Give the man a chance. He deserves it.

I'm not ashamed to admit I had to wipe a few tears from my eyes before I could make myself look over at him. When I saw the look of contrition on his handsome face, I was a goner. How can a girl resist him when he pours on the sincerity? I already knew how hard it was to resist his charm.

He smiled softly at me and asked, "Am I forgiven?" His pursed his lips into a fake pout.

I couldn't help it…a little giggle escaped me, and from there I lost it. I rapped a fist against his chest threateningly, and once I found a measure of control, I threatened him halfheartedly. "Yes, you're forgiven…although why I'm doing so is beyond me!" When he opened his arms to me, I went into his embrace, and somehow within the confined space of the front seat, he pulled me up across his lap.

After a long and very thorough kiss (the man still has his tonsils, by the way!) he leaned his forehead against mine and whispered softly, "I am sorry, Kady. Truly. I'm sorry I made you mad. I promise to try not to do that again…you have a wicked temper!"

I couldn't resist getting a last word in…"Don't you forget it, buster!"

Before I realized it, my two weeks in Paris, and with Duncan, had come to an end. I was due to leave the next day. I didn't want to leave. I had come to love Paris very much, and Duncan…well, he I loved most of all.

Midway through my stay, I had moved my things from the hotel and had moved in with Duncan. We'd been nearly inseparable ever since. I'd asked him repeatedly if I was keeping him from something; if there were plans he'd made that I was interrupting. He always answered that nothing was so important that it couldn't wait. He wanted to spend what time I had there with me, doing what I wanted to do.

After my temper tantrum at the Louvre, things went much better between us. Duncan made a concerted effort to be as open with me as he could, and if there were a few moments where I could see a small withdrawal on his part, I made my own efforts to give him the time and space he asked of me. I think we found a comfortable rhythm that week.

That made my upcoming departure all the harder to accept.

One of the few times we spent apart (Duncan had gone to a nearby grocery for a few items for our dinner) I spent catching up on my email. I sent one to Becca…

"Hey kid! How're things at home? I've been having so much fun here, I'm sorry I haven't emailed everyday as I promised to. I know I told you about meeting someone here. His name is Duncan MacLeod. We've spent a lot of time together, and, well…I know what you're going to say, but I love him, Bec. I love him so much. I love him enough that I would very seriously consider moving to Paris just to be with him.

I can't leave you, though. You are all I have, and I can't move halfway around the world and not see you, or talk to you, every day as we are accustomed to doing.

I know I'm supposed to be the big sister here, but I need your advice. Email me as soon as you can, Bec. I need to talk to you.

Love you…

K"

I read and replied to several more emails before I saw that Becca had already responded to the one I'd just sent her.

"You sure know how to shock the stuffing out of someone, sis. You love him? Does he love you? Has he spoken of any possible commitment? This is a major decision you are thinking of making, and I want you to think it over very carefully before you do anything permanent.

Don't let me stop you from doing this if it's what you truly want to do. I'm a big girl, you know. Besides, what's to stop me from hopping on a plane to come see you and check out this stud of yours? LOL!

If you make any sudden change of plans between now and when you're supposed to leave tomorrow, give me a call. I may not be online much, and I need to hear from you.

I love you too, sis. Whatever you decide to do is fine with me…as long as it makes you happy. He'd better make you happy, or he'll deal with me!!!!!

Bec"

Don't I have a wonderful sister?

Duncan returned from his shopping, and as he put the items away, I considered whether or not to broach the idea of my staying in Paris.

As I was mulling the idea around in my brain, Duncan commented, "I can hear those wheels turning from here, Kady. Is there something you want to talk about?"

I watched him as he crossed the room to join me on the divan. He sat beside me and took both my hands in his, then raised them to his mouth to press light kisses on my palms, the backs of my hands, and every fingertip.

How could I leave him? He was everything I'd ever wanted in a man. I'd fancied myself in love a couple times before, but those feelings paled in comparison to what I felt for him. But…did he feel the same way? Did he want me to stay with him, or was he ready to send me back to the States, and forget our time together?

I decided to be honest about how I felt. "Duncan, I don't want to leave tomorrow."

His thumbs caressed the skin on the back of my hands; he nodded at my statement, then said, "I don't want you to leave either. I want you to stay here…with me."

"Here, as in Paris, or here, as in the barge? What are you saying, Duncan? Please…no prevaricating. I need you to be honest with me. Don't hold anything back. I need that from you now, more than ever." I was prepared to bare my soul to him. All I asked for was the same in return.

After a momentary pause, he replied, "Here…in the barge. Stay with me, Kady. Don't leave tomorrow."

"Are you sure? I don't want to wear out my welcome."

He smiled softly. "Trust me, sweetheart…you won't do that. I don't ask this lightly. There are still things about me I haven't shared with you. I know how much that bothers you. If you choose to stay with me, I promise to tell you things, but I need assurances from you in return."

"What's that?"

"That if you decide to leave at some point, you will keep certain things…knowledge you'll have about me…to yourself. I'm a private person, Kady. That's not something I care to change."

His words scared me. "What are you talking about, Duncan? Are you in some kind of trouble?" I had no way of knowing just then how much there was to know about this man I'd come to love.

He rose from the divan and went to the kitchen. Reaching toward the knife block, he pulled a long carving blade from its slot. He grasped the handle with both hands and held the blade tip to his abdomen. "Promise me something…whatever you see here, don't call anyone. Promise!"

I'm sure he saw fear in my eyes, but I still nodded my head in agreement. "I promise…"

Before I had a chance to make a move toward him, he plunged the blade into his stomach and twisted it, nearly disemboweling himself.

I screamed….

I don't know how long I sat there, holding him in my arms, weeping hysterically and trying to shake some life back into him. If you've seen the movie "Ghost," and remember the scene when Sam died and Molly held him, screaming for help, then you get the idea of how I reacted to Duncan taking his own life in front of me.

Time passed. I don't know how much, but I do know that I was in shock.

It was magnified a thousand times when suddenly, Duncan gave a big gasp, his eyes flew open, and he moaned as if in terrible pain. Yeah, well…duh, Kady! The man skewered himself in front of you. There would obviously be pain!

He looked up at me, winced and coughed a couple times, then commented dryly, "Well, that hurt." He gingerly sat up, and when I didn't say anything, he looked over at me. "Kady? Are you alright?"

I shook my head. "What in the hell was that? Who are you…what are you?" I scrambled up off the floor, trying to get away from him.

Sighing deeply, Duncan picked himself up and moved over to the divan. He stood there, looking at me with an expression on his face I couldn't quite decipher. He held out a hand and motioned for me to join him. "Kady, come…sit with me. We need to talk."

A little scared, definitely unsure of him and confused about what I'd witnessed, I joined him and together we sat.

I couldn't seem to lift my gaze from his blood-covered shirt. I reached out and opened it, searching for his wound. There was none. Oh, there was blood…a lot of it…but no gaping cut where one should have been. I finally looked up at him, and I know I was crying because his image was blurred with tears. "I don't understand. You should be dead…"

"I was, Kady. You see…I'm immortal…"

He began to tell me things, amazing things, about himself…

"I was born over four-hundred years ago in the highlands of Scotland…"

It was all so completely unbelievable, yet he made it sound normal. To him it is. Even now as I remember that day I still have trouble believing everything he told me…the fact that he's over four hundred years old, that he can't die unless someone takes his head, and that there are others like him. Battling to the death for what? A prize? What's that?

He talked for quite a while, telling me about parts of his life, and I listened, but it took me a while to start believing that what he was saying could actually be true. I mean…he died right in front of me then revived. If I am to believe that, then I am also to believe everything else he shared with me.

When he finished speaking, I asked, "Does anyone know why? Why do immortals have to battle one another? I don't understand, Duncan."

"I don't either. No one knows. It just is." He smiled softly at me, then opened his arms. "Come here."

I leaned against him, my head against his chest. I could hear his heart steadily thumping under my ear. He was alive…more alive than anyone I'd ever known. I tipped my head back to look up at him, and our gazes met. So much had changed in the last couple hours, but one thing I knew for a fact…I still loved him, no matter what. No matter that he is so much older than I. No matter that someday I will grow old and die, and he won't. No matter that he can't have children…and I've always imagined myself as a mother to a couple rug-rats (my parent's favorite term for Becca and myself.)

I had a major decision to make. Knowing now what I did about Duncan, I had to decide whether or not I would leave on that plane in the morning, heading back to America and the life I'd always known, or if I would chuck it all and stay in Paris with him, for however long we would have with one another.

Hmm…difficult decision, that.

The next morning, I was in the process of calling Becca on my cell phone when it rang. I checked the caller ID…yep, it was Sis!

"Hey kid, what's up?" I asked, glad to hear the sound of her voice.

"Hi, Kade. I was just calling to make sure whether or not I need to pick you up at the airport."

"Well," I hedged, "it doesn't look like it. I'm staying, Bec…at least for a while." I had been awake a lot during the night, wondering if the decision I'd made was the right one or not.

"Duncan asked you to stay with him?"

"Yes, he did. He said a lot of things last night that I can't go into, but I love him, sis. I need to be with him. I know this is a huge decision on my part, and I hate leaving you this way, but I have to do this. I need to see where this relationship with Duncan is leading."

"Are you trying to convince me…or yourself?"

"I'm not sure," I admitted. "Maybe a little of both. Bec, come to Paris. Meet Duncan. I want you to get to know him…"

"…then tell you whether or not you're making the right decision?" Bec finished. "I'll visit you. No problem. I've wanted to see Paris anyway. But Kade…I can't make your decision for you."

"I know. I've made my decision, and I'll live with it. I just want you to meet the man I've fallen in love with." Oh…how I loved the sound of those words! "Bec, I'll send you the ticket, ok? Come soon…I've missed you."

"Ditto! I can't wait to see your hottie!"

Epilogue

I have been with Duncan in Paris for a little over a month now. I have never enjoyed myself more. Now that I know more about him…who he has been and who he is now, the places he's been, the people he's known, the things he's done…it all makes my love for him all that much stronger. I know he's shared more with me than he usually does with people he's not known long. I'm not sure why he has done so, but I'm grateful.

I also know about Tessa. I asked him one day about the women in his past…if there had been anyone special…any one he had wanted to marry but didn't. I listened as he told me about their life together. Strangely enough, I don't feel any sort of jealousy. Rather, I feel sorrow over her death. So tragic and needless. He brought out a small wooden and enamel chest that contained a few mementos of his life with her…photos of the two of them, a couple programs from art gallery showings she'd had, a few pieces of jewelry. I can't be sure, but I'd like to think that, had things been different and he and I had met before Tessa's death, she and I could have been friends.

I've been introduced to some of Duncan's friends. He finally took me to his friend Joe's blues club. Joe is an amazingly talented performer, and a nice guy. I look forward to getting to know him better.

I also met one of his rather mysterious friends…it's so unbelievable that there could be an immortal living as old as Methos. The things he must have done and experienced…I'd love to talk with him, but I have a feeling he wouldn't be terribly forthcoming on details. Duncan doesn't even know that much. I asked!

We had a visitor stay with us at the barge for a few days last week. Duncan's friend and student, Richie, dropped by. If I had been so fortunate to have a brother, I would have wanted one like Richie. He and I spent some time together, and we learned we had some things in common. I can't wait to introduce him to Becca!

I am so excited! My little sister is flying in to Paris this afternoon. I have missed her so much…and I'm looking forward to she and Duncan finally meeting. I can't imagine my life without my two favorite people in it. I'm blessed. I know it…and I thank God every day for it!