Another head aches, another heart breaks;
I am so much older than I can take.
And my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection,

– All These Things That I've Done; The Killers


{ monte carlo }

It was hard not to miss her.

Everywhere he turned, he found her. He found her in the horses he would ride; he found her in his car; he found her in every meeting he went to talk about the building of the schools. He found her even when he was just sitting by himself, in a room she'd never been in, in a place he'd never shown her, doing things she'd never even known about. Whatever he was doing, wherever he was, he found her. And when he found her, he missed her so much it hurt.

Buzz. Buzz.

He looked down at his phone, the feeling a vibration against his leg snapping him from his thoughts. He looked around his hotel room. It was one a couple blocks down from Hotel de Paris, where Cordelia (and Grace – the name he could use because he now knew it) had been staying. Had it on been a week since he found out who she really was? It felt like a whole year. He already missed her. Sure, he still hurt, but he had forgiven her the second she told him that it hadn't been a lie. He was just being stubborn about it.

It was a message from his father, something about another charity event Theo was required to attend. He let out a frustrated sigh and scrolled through their conversations until he stopped at the message he had been subconsciously looking for. It had been from the fifth of July, and Theo, for some reason, had kept it.

1 New Message: Father

Theo –

Grace is on her way to the airport now with her friends. She says goodbye and she wants me to tell you that you were right. She is different. Not that you needed me to tell you that.

Dad

Theo shut his phone with a satisfying snap and threw it on the bed next to him, not bothering with a reply to the first message. His father had sent that message four days ago, but he had refused to answer it.

So that was it then. She was probably back in the States where she belonged and he was here, in Paris, hurt and confused and alone. Would he ever see her again? He guessed not. Why did it matter, anyway? He was supposed to be mad at her. He was supposed to be glad that liar was out of his life. He hated liars almost as he hated selfish people.

He sighed and fell back against his bed. He could feel a headache coming on. He often got them whenever he was stressed or worried about something. Why couldn't he get Grace off of his brain? This had never happened to him before, whatever 'this' was. He had never felt this way before. He had not been lying when he told her that she made him feel different, in a good way. Nothing had seemed fake about her when he had told her that.

Now, everything was fake.

She wasn't the person he had thought she was. She was just some normal American who wanted to live in the fast life for a week. That's all.

But if that was the case, why couldn't he keep his mind off her?

It seemed that whenever he tried not to think about her, he ended up thinking about her anyway. He often thought about the night they sat on the bridge and watched the fireworks. He would play La vie en rose in his head and close his eyes. He could still see the look on her face; the way the lights made her eyes sparkle; the way her lips curved up into an enchanting smile.

And then, without meaning to, he would wonder if she was thinking about him, too.

In those moments he would picture her sitting at home with her two friends, or perhaps out somewhere, laughing about how they fooled everyone with their prank. Sometimes he would even picture her talking with some other guy, her smile lighting up her face like it used to do with him, and in those moments he would feel a pang in his heart and shake his head, as if forcing the thoughts out of his own head.

He sighed and sat back up, angrily brushing a hand through his tangled curls. He needed to get over this, over her. Theo didn't believe that he could fall in love with someone over the course of a week, but he could very well see himself falling in love with Grace, had they gotten to know each other more. He knew he really liked her. Not that it mattered now, of course. Not when she was headed back to America and he was due in Romania in a month.

That thought made him smile. After weeks and weeks of begging his father – more heavily so this past week – he was finally going to do something. He would be working with the schools over there, over-seeing them as they're being built. It was usually a job for his father but after the auction went off without a hitch – well, besides the whole Grace/Cordelia mishap – he proved to his father that he could do it. And now he was finally getting the chance he wanted. He was going to get the chance to help out those kids as he told Grace he wanted to.

Grace.

Even when he wasn't thinking of her, he was.

To say he was excited for Romania was an understatement. He couldn't wait. Not only would he be able to help out like his father for once, but it would also get his mind off of… Other things.

Just four more weeks, he thought to himself. Four more weeks and he would be able to forget all about Grace Bennett and the affect she formally had on him.

/

Theo slid on his sunglasses, a smile spreading slowly across his face. He slipped his jacket off and folded it on his arm, as it was too hot to wear it. Romania was much hotter than he had expected, and his dress jackets were too much for the unforgiving sun.

Romania. He was actually here.

He had been for about two weeks now. When his father mentioned the prospects of Theo taking over the work there for his father, Theo jumped at the chance. He had been dreaming of the chance to do just that for months – years, even – and he had been dreaming of getting the chance to leave Monte Carlo for a while. Think of all that he could do there; all the people he would get the chance to help.

And now here he was, doing just that. The past fourteen days had been focused sorely on the paperwork and planning and none of it was very exciting. Sure, he was helping with the designs for the school that was going to be made, but he hadn't been anywhere besides the apartment he had been staying at, the office where he and his colleagues worked, and the few (nice) restaurants in the next town over (which was much nicer than the town they were working in, even by Theo's standards). He hadn't even been to the existing school yet.

When he asked of it, to check up on the progress, the associate who had been in control of overseeing the school seemed very enthusiastic. The school – though small and otherwise undeveloped – was thriving and the children were more grateful than she could ever have imagined. The volunteers, too, she added, were all very enthusiastic. Mostly American, they were all hard-workers and she would be sad to see them go in the summer when the program was over and the new batch of worker would come in for the fall to winter program.

At the word 'American' Theo's mind flashed to a familiar face. He had been doing so well in trying to keep his mind off of her and though she was always there in the back of his mind, he rarely really gave her much thought. He was always so busy and that was fine with him. The less he thought her, the better. His life had been much simpler – better, one might even say – before he had met Cordelia Winthrop-Scott. Or Grace Bennett. Whichever one. Maybe even both. And it was much better now that she was out of it.

Much better.

Biting back a sigh, he curled his fingers around his jacket a bit more. He was not going to let thoughts of the past ruin this day. Today was the day he was actually going to do something with his life. He was going to begin to make a difference today. Forcing the smile back on his face and his thoughts of Grace into the back of his head, he glanced up at the buildings he was walking beside. Romania was not as he had expected, though originally he didn't know what to expect. He had never been out of France aside from the time he went to Italy after his mother died, simply because he had never seen the need to. What was he to expect? As bad as it sounded, he had almost expected Romania to be more of a third-world country sort-of-thing. He had tried to research Romania to see what it looked like, but all that came up were a bunch of maps. So he had just decided to leave it be until he saw it in person.

And Romania was nice, for the most part. He had been shown the nicer parts when he was flown in, obviously – like when they flew into what he assumed was the nicest airport in the country – but now he was walking the streets in a humble town of which he couldn't pronounce the name, and now he was standing in front of the school that had been built, about to go in.

Come on, Theo, he thought to himself, just take a step and walk in. What are you so afraid of?

He knew what he was afraid of. He was afraid of not being of any use, of disappointing the people he was working with and worse, his father. He was afraid of making a mistake and not living up to the high expectations everyone set for him. And deep down, way at the bottom of his soul, he knew that he afraid because he was about to step into the one place he would be reminded of Grace everyday.

He had been miserable during the weeks after she left. He had refused to do anything but work and he had neglected his friends. There had been an internal battle – one side insisting that it was good the liar was gone and out of his life, the other getting up to buy a ticket to next available flight to Texas. Thinking back on it, he couldn't count how many times he had been close to buying his way to see her. Not to apologize, because both sides agreed he had nothing to apologize for, but to just see her, to just hear her voice. Eventually, of course, one side reigned triumphant and he shut his laptop for good.

Because he is Bernard Theodore Jacques Marchand the Third and he is too damn proud to look back.

And he was going to do this.

With that mentality running through his mind, he nodded his head and walked into the building and jogged up the stairs, narrowly missing a brunette American walk into the same building to begin her work for the day by seconds.

/

"Superb," Theo commented as stood up for the little child who appeared to be painting the alphabet. So far he had liked what he had seen. As he followed the builders upstairs, he marveled at how far along this project had come in such a short time. Years ago, when his father had first told Theo of his idea, it had seemed like just a petty dream. Now, now it was really coming along. It was incredible.

Theo was only half-listening as the men in suits talked about how the model was only a 'rough draft' of what was to come. Still, even he, untrained in the eye of an architect, could see that he model was well constructed. It gave him a good idea of what was to come and that's all he needed, so to him it served well.

It was in the following moment that everything changed.

If he had decided not to take that moment to look out the window, if he had decided to keep his eyes focused on all of the older, much more serious company he was with, his life would be much, much different.

But he had turned to look out the dusty, old window, and he had caught sight of the girl that had been in the back of his mind for months. And in that moment of seeing her, of rushing to the other side of the window to conform that it was her, and then rushing down the stairs and out onto the street with a name he could not pronounce, all bitter and annoyed thoughts of her and the past flew from his head. Instead he was liberated of the suffering he had endured by not being able to see her.

And when he had whistled – it had taken him two whole days of trying endlessly to perfect it to get it down – and she turned around from surprise, he couldn't stop the wide smile from spreading across his face. She was just so perfect. How could he had been able to be mad at her for so long? Why had he been so stubborn?

"I'm volunteering," She said when he asked her what she had been doing there, her smooth voice still laced with surprise. It certainly was a surprise to see her there; that was for sure, but the best kind of surprise possible. And to think that she was volunteering – he had been completely wrong about her, like he knew he would be. With the days following the 'big reveal,' he had tried to convince himself that she had never cared about the children, just the fifteen minutes of fame. Now he could see that she did care about the children, and that was something he secretly knew the whole time.

How foolish he had been.

They shook hands and smiled at each other, realizing this was the time to start anew. To really work on them; with their real selves. And maybe he was still being stubborn in saying that she wasn't 'real' when they were together in Monte Carlo. Because in the elevator, after the confusion with the robbery, she told him to think of the girl he had showed the fireworks, that that was the real her. And he believed her.

So here they were, starting over.

He walked with her to the post-office as she explained how she had taken the job in Romania – how college would be starting soon and she wanted to do something with herself before the semester began – and how she was offered a volunteer job working with the kids. Technically it wasn't volunteer work – the money offered was below minimum wage – but Grace didn't really care about the money. It was more about the kids.

"Auctioning off my necklace didn't seem like enough," She joked at once point, even throwing on a faux-British accent (which was remarkably similar to a real one, Theo observed), as she took the mail from the worker. Even though her tone had been light, he could see she was uncomfortable with the mentioning of the scandal. He wanted to comfort her and tell her that he wasn't angry, not anymore, but no words came out.

She quickly shook it off though and began to talk about how adorable the children were and how well it was all going. Theo wanted to ask her so many things and learn so much about her trip, but judging from the length of the walk there and how short the walk back would be, he made a quick decision in his head and (quite randomly) mentioned how he hadn't been to many restaurants in the area yet. He assumed she saw where he was going with it because she gushed about a little Mediterranean place a few streets over that he just had to try. They set a time and place to meet and he returned to the men in suits, apologizing for the brief delay, feeling better than he had in months.


{ texas }

"You're where?" Grace asked in disbelief, her cell phone positioned in between her shoulder and ear. It had been four weeks and two days exactly since she had left Monte Carlo with a half-empty suitcase and fully broken heart. On the other line she could hear giggling and a muffled 'shh!' before her step-sister decided to put her attention back on the conversation.

"Naples! You know, in Italy?"

"What happened to Tuscany?" She couldn't believe that Meg, the girl often referred to as 'Stick Up the Ass' (behind her back, of course), was in Naples with a guy she had met a little less than a month ago (three weeks and five days, to be exact). It was so far-off Meg's used-to-be personality that Grace wondered if she was still talking to the same person.

"Oh, Tuscany got a little… Old," Meg said before giggling again, "And anyway, if Riley and I plan to get through Europe and South America –"

"Wait, now South America?"

"– By August," Meg finished, ignoring her sister's snarky, unbelieving comment, "We're going to have to move pretty quickly from place to place. Can't stay in one place for too long or else we'll miss the next one!"

Somewhere in the background Grace heard a grunt and an 'even if that place is amazing and worth the extra stay' and she had to laugh. Even though this New Meg had taken over her Old Meg, Grace's step-sister still managed to keep a tight-schedule while being completely spontaneous. Have you ever heard of anything more contradictory?

"Anyway, I have to go. I'll call you when we get to Austria, okay? Love you, bye." And just like that, Meg was gone.

Grace shook her head and pressed her hand to her forehead. Conversations with Meg – whether it was the old one or new one – always leave Grace feeling exhausted. She glanced around for any sign of an Advil container, only to realize she must have packed it away with the other medicines.

She smiled at the thought of her trip. She was leaving tomorrow to go to Romania, where she would be for the rest of the summer. Romania! How cool was that? While her future classmates would talk of their trips to the Cape or some cruise down to Mexico, she would talk of her trip to Paris and Romania. She stopped packing for a moment as she pictured herself surrounded by classmates at the library, them looking up at her admiringly as she told of her adventures. She would be the center of everyone's attention; their trips unimportant in comparison.

Okay, so maybe that was a little far-fetched, but the thought was the first thing to make her smile in a while.

She glanced at the time, willing it to go more quickly. In less than twelve hours she would be on her thirteen-hour flight into Romania. She couldn't describe her excitement. It was bubbling up inside her, threatening to burst out if she didn't act quickly. She had hoped that packing would take her mind off it, but clearly it wasn't working like she had hoped. Still, she had started, so she had to finish.

It took her until dinnertime to finish packing, at which her mother cried over lasagna and Robert kept mumbling about how 'both his girls, gone, for the whole summer.' She really tried to hold it in, but even Grace had a watery smile at the realization that this would be the last sit-down meal she'd have with her mom in a while. They hugged over the salad and Grace even held Robert's hand as sort of a peace offering before being forced to her room like she had been when she was a child.

"You have to get up early tomorrow and I want you well-rested," Her mother told her as she gingerly kissed her little girl's forehead. Grace was about to point out that she was missing the thirteen-hour flight (she was not going to stare out the window the whole time), but decided against it and went up to bed.

It was not surprising that when Grace finally laid in her bed – after she had checked and double-checked every last detail of her luggage and flight to save trouble in the morning – that she was thought of Theo. It was something she did every night, without fail. Whether she was tired or not, whether it was for five minutes or an hour, she religiously devoted a part of her day to thoughts of him. And how could she not? She had practically fallen in love –

No, not love. She had known him for all of three days. It is impossible to fall in love with someone over the course of three days. She had simply developed a crush on him. Yes, that was all. Nothing more.

So why did it feel like so much more?

Most of the time it was torturous to think of him. She would go over every last detail of the auction in her head, thinking of how stupid she had been; and how right he was to have left and never looked back; and of how nothing had hurt her more in her life.

She had missed him so much, those following weeks. Still did. She just wanted to hear his voice, his laugh, and the way her name seemed to roll effortlessly off his tongue. Or Cordelia's name. Whatever. She yearned to hear his voice. He could speak in English, French, German, Gibberish, even; it didn't matter. Just as long as he was speaking. She was starting to forget what it sounded like – his voice. It was getting lost in her memory.

She sighed and curled into her blankets, turning to the side. Though it was almost seventy degrees out, she felt the need to snuggle into the warmth of her bed. She stared at the floor, which was illuminated by the moonlight that poured through her window, and wondered what Theo was doing at that exact moment. Due to the seven-hour time difference, it had to be close to six in the morning. She pictured him sleeping as she was trying to and felt a deep desire to join him. Not to have sex or do anything like that, just to cuddle and be with him.

She groaned and turned on her back to the face the wall, pressing her hand to her forehead. After all this time, she still had it bad. Would this ever go away? Would she ever stop thinking of him?

She guessed not.

/

It was around six in the morning two days following Grace's flight that she was up to begin her volunteer work. To be honest, she didn't quite know what to expect. Claudia, the woman in charge of the Romanian school, had shown Grace and a few of her fellow workers a video on what they would be doing. Though it had been helpful to a certain extent, it hadn't served the purpose Grace expected Claudia had hoped it would. It was a good thing Grace had Demetri.

Demetri was a local Romanian that had also volunteered with the school. Unlike Grace, he had worked with this program before in Africa, where the first school had been built. Demetri had quickly become a friend of hers. He spoke English, albeit not very well, but well enough that they could have conversations. He had tan skin that looked like a delicious kind of coffee and olive eyes. He was tall (and gorgeous) and extremely nice.

They had planned to meet at the school and walk in together, but so far there was no sign of him. Deciding she couldn't wait any longer, Grace decided to just go it. It was more of an apartment building at first, with stairs and many rooms, and she remembered Claudia saying something about it being the first room on the right on the third floor. So that's where Grace went, and that's where she found what she assumed was the school.

It was just a room, really. There were tables that served as desks in one area and a big, colorful rug in another area with a few beanbags and some shelves filled with books. There were posters on the surrounding walls and a space for the alphabet to be written on the front wall.

"I'll want you to do that with the kids," Claudia instructed at the orientation the previous day, "So they can get familiar with it."

All-in-all, it looked like her old preschool classroom. It seemed simple and nice enough. Now it just had to be filled with kids. Grace had always been good with kids, or so people would tell her, and she was familiar with working with them. She was babysitter for about four years (what teenaged girl wasn't?) and she used to tutor fifth-graders in Math. But she had no experience with Romanian children. Though they would be teaching the kids English, if they had a question to ask her in Romanian, she wouldn't be able to help them. That would make her feel awful.

Maybe she would ask Demetri to help her learn the language.

Smiling to herself, she flipped through the lesson plans on the front of the desk while she waited for the others. They were four other volunteers and Claudia, and one-by-one they came. At seven the children arrived and they would stay until three o'clock. Grace and the others would be required to stay until four to talk of how the day went and how the next day would go, and they, too, were released to do whatever they please. And the next day it would start all over again.

It went like this for weeks. Grace fell into a seamless routine; she went to the school, she worked, she went home and freshened up, she read, she went out with Demetri and some of the others, she went home, she slept, and she got up the next morning to begin it all again. It wasn't boring, it was just… Predictable. She and Gabriel often went to Café Algiers, a Mediterranean restaurant a few streets over from the school. Grace had picked it because it reminded her of Meg, who she was strangely missing. She called Emma every night because she knew Emma would always be home, but Meg was harder to reach.

She was certainly homesick and thought of her mother and step-father every day. She thought fondly of Carl and the waitressing job she left behind; she thought of Emma and Owen and their charming house with the white picket fence and dimmer lights; she thought of her own, warm bed and her shower. She thought of Theo, too, of course, because old habits are hard to break, but the distraction of the job was enough to keep her mind of him for the most part. And she was thankful for that, because it was time for her to get over him. She needed to move on and accept the fact that she would never see him again.

And it wasn't like she was going to see him again, had he never found out about her true identity. Either way, they would have never worked out. She wouldn't be surprised if he had met someone new, either. With a face and personality like his, she doubted he'd stay single for much longer, if he already weren't seeing anyone now. And even though the thought of him helping someone else with their poor Polo skills or showing another girl fireworks was painful, it was good for her.
It was time to move on.

It was like any other day to Grace. She woke up at five-thirty, took a quick shower, and got to the school around six-fifteen. (She had learned the second day that no one ever really showed up right at six, so there was no point. Grace hated being the first one there in any situation; it brought too much attention to herself.) She and Nadia, one of the girls who attended the school, worked on the alphabet, alternating the colors between pink and purple. She and Demetri took a break to get the kids sandwiches for lunch and discussed what they would do that day after school. And then she went back to work on the alphabet with Nadia until Claudia asked her to run to the post office.

Grace had been to the post office before when she first attempted to send a letter to her mother. Unfortunately, the mail had gotten lost somewhere over the Atlantic and it was too expensive to try again, so she stuck to sending e-mails on the one computer they had at the school. She knew the way well because, like everything in the small town they were located in, everything was within walking or biking distance.

She told Demetri where she was going and asked him to take over her job with the alphabet before heading downstairs to where her bike was. She had bought it off of Claudia for fifteen U.S. dollars. It had used to be Claudia's daughter's bike, but when she left for college, Claudia wanted to get rid of it. Now Grace used to go everywhere. Demetri and Ellie, a fellow American volunteer, also had bikes, so the three of them would often go riding together on their days off.

She slipped her purse into the basket and began her ride to the post office. It was a pleasant enough day, though the cool weather made her wish she was in Texas, or even in Paris. The sounds of people working and chatting blended into background noise as she made her way down the narrow streets. She smiled at passing locals walking in the street and made a turn into a narrow parking lot. It was then that she heard a loud whistle. The sudden noise startled her and she looked back, stopping her bicycle in it's path to glance back at the man she'd be trying not to think about for weeks.

He started running towards her and she did the same, wheeling her bike next to her. Could it really be him? She didn't believe it. It was surely a trick; she missed him so much that she had begun to 'see' him in things that weren't really there. But soon they were standing face-to-face and she delightfully realized that he was indeed real.

"I am working, what are you doing here?" He replied when she asked him what he was doing here in Romania. The smile on his face made her feel elated because it meant that he was just as excited to see her as she was to see him. Did that mean he had missed her just as much?

"I don't think we've properly met," She said, sticking out her hand in front of her, "I'm Grace Bennet." She felt a rush as his hand took hers and she knew she must have looked like an idiot with the smile on her face. He was really here. He was really in front of her, giving her a chance to prove herself once more.

/

How many people got a second chance like this? She was going to get a chance to show him who she truly was, real name and all. They had picked a time and place to meet to have dinner together, and her over-active imagination began to picture how they'd talk for hours, sipping cheap wine (the drinking age is eighteen in Romania), catching up with one another again.

As she walked into the school, that small, stupid smile on her face, she couldn't help but think how good he looked. And how stupid she was to ever let him go. And how now that he was giving her a second chance, she wasn't going to make that same mistake again.


So, I saw the lack of Monte Carlo stories and decided to write one! I just adore Grace and Theo and I wanted to know what happened once they met again in Romania. I hope you guys will like the plans I have for these two loveies. ;)