Authors: Roxann Hill
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2013 Roxann Hill
Translation copyright © 2014 Elena Mancini
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Previously published in Germany by the author as
Liebe macht pink!
in 2013 through the Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Translated from German by Elena Mancini.
Published by AmazonCrossing, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and AmazonCrossing
are trademarks of
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Cover design by Verlag Lutz Garnies, Haar/München,
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014944825
L’hiver, nous irons dans un petit wagon rose.
In the winter, we travel in a little pink carriage.
he view from my suite was truly spectacular. Snow-covered mountains as far as the eye could see, ice-gray peaks, and hundreds of skiers racing down the slopes in the sunshine. Soon I would slip into my brand-new ski outfit and join them. The day, the place, the weather—it was as if everything had been made just for me.
I smiled. I’d earned this.
I brushed my freshly dyed hair off my forehead.
—the latest trend. And it looked really good on me.
I gazed at my hands. The nail art had cost me a small fortune, but I just couldn’t resist once I saw the perfect sparkle of these teeny little Swarovski crystals. I grabbed my smartphone and took a few pictures to post on Instagram: #lookoftheday.
I giggled. I knew that my friends—or, rather, my numerous followers—would burst with envy at seeing how good I had it.
On the small coffee table in front of me stood a photo in a sterling silver frame. It was of a man—or, better put, a genuine god. Tall, well-structured, with a special look in his eyes.
Unfortunately, that exhausted my knowledge of French. But it didn’t matter. When one has a life partner like Valentin von Gertenbach, one need not worry about learning foreign phrases. The hotel staff had been tipped well enough to speak to me in
I’d met him three years ago. Like a conqueror from a bygone era, he’d stepped into my office, his head held high. He was self-aware and unapproachable, yet never arrogant. And right then and there, he’d claimed me for his own.
At the time, I was only filling in at a real estate company, but Valentin insisted that I show him properties. No one else would do. The place he ended up buying cost seven digits. And that deal landed me a steady job as a real estate agent.
But that’s not the only position I landed.
Valentin and I felt an attraction from the beginning. We were kindred spirits.
as he always said. At first we met at my apartment, where our passion was all that mattered. But soon we realized that those surroundings just weren’t suitable. So Valentin found me another apartment—more precisely, a fourteen-hundred-square-foot penthouse with a private elevator. It was comfortable, luxurious, and very discreet.
Whenever he could slip away from work, he’d call my office. And I’d leave everything to rush home to my rapturous lover.
OK, with time we’d gotten a bit more sensible. But our feelings for each other were beyond any doubt. We constantly pledged our eternal love. It could survive an earthquake of 10.0 on the Richter scale.
There was just one small problem.
Valentin did not belong to me alone. He was married. On paper only, of course, and he merely stayed out of pity for his wife. Poor thing, she was a bit older—early forties—with no financial resources. She was completely dependent on him. Valentin was far too great of a man to simply ditch this pitiful creature along with their three children—even if she did have a belly covered in pregnancy stretch marks.
No, Valentin wasn’t that kind of person. He didn’t shirk his responsibilities.
For almost three years now, he hadn’t been able to bear the thought of breaking his wife’s heart. To tell her the truth and leave his family in order to live with me.
But five days ago his youngest daughter had turned sixteen. He’d promised me then that he’d finally separate from his wife. The children were older now. He’d fulfilled his duties and could focus on himself—and especially on me.
This little vacation in the French Alps over the Christmas holidays would mark the beginning of our new life together. We would leave everything behind and enjoy what was due to us.
It was high time. For too long I’d had to make concessions, and I wasn’t getting any younger. Not that Valentin and I wanted children. Here, too, we were on the same wavelength. Let’s be honest: Who needs screaming brats? I certainly didn’t. And those unscrupulous little creatures would surely ruin my figure.
I sighed and leaned back in my armchair. I could hardly wait to put my arms around Valentin.
That’s when my phone started playing Tchaikovsky’s suite from
. I’d downloaded the ringtone a few days ago. It was perfect for the season, and Valentin liked it when all the details lined up. He was fastidious in this regard. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with Tchaikovsky.
“Hello,” I said as I took the call, coloring my voice with a hint of boredom and a note of confidence. This, too, I’d learned from Valentin.
“Michelle!” I would have recognized Valentin’s voice among thousands.
My name is actually Michaela. My parents had absolutely no shred of aesthetic sensibility.
—how completely dull! But Valentin had rescued me from ordinariness by renaming me Michell
e . . .
you know, like from the Beatles song?
“Michelle” better captured the qualities of my new personality and lifestyle: playful, romantic, cosmopolitan—with just a touch of extravagance. That was me.
“Valentin? What a surprise!” I said. “You’re already in Chamonix? Are you calling from the lobby?”
“No,” he said, “I’m not at the hotel.”
I heard a rasp in his voice. With anyone else, I’d have thought I detected embarrassment. But surely I was mistaken. After all, this was Valentin—a man who knew what he was doing. He always had everything under control. Without exception.
“Where are you, then? Still at the airport in Geneva?”
o . . .
Again, I noticed this strange rasp I’d never heard before. An indefinable fear slowly enveloped me, and I knew I needed to dig deeper.
“Is everything all right?”
“Yeah. Well, no,” he replied.
no? That was totally atypical for Valentin. He was reliably clear in his pronouncements.
“I’m still at home—”
“At home?” I said. “Then we can’t ski together today? The weather is gorgeous. I have brand-new gear that I’m dying to show off on the slopes. And you promised we’d go to the casino tonight. I don’t want to wait until tomorrow.”
“Michelle, I won’t be there tomorrow, either.”
“What do you mean?” The ground beneath me seemed to be giving way.
“I can’t come at all.”
“But our vacatio
n . . .
s . . .
our life together!” I was stammering like an idiot.
“Michelle.” This time there was no mistake. Valentin sounded insecure and embarrassed. “Some things have happened. Circumstances. Incidents. There’s no way I can come to France.”
“Did something horrible happen? Is something going on at work?”
“No,” he answered. After a while he added, “It’s my wife.”
“Oh, no! Did she have an accident? Is it serious?” In my inner eye, I saw myself standing at an open grave, a white lily in my hand. I wore an elegant black hat and itty-bitty veil, just long enough to cover my eyes. And then I started wondering how to quickly find appropriate mourning attire here at Mont Blanc.
Valentin interrupted my train of thought. “Not an accident, exactly.”
“Did she have a stroke or a heart attack? Oh, how terrible! But she is not among the youngest,” I said, careful to charge my voice with compassion.
I looked at my fingernails. I’d get them repolished as soon as possible. Shiny Swarovski crystals at a funeral were an absolute no-go.
“I’m begging you—don’t get angry, Michelle.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’m calm and composed,” I said. “Right now, you just need to take care of you.”
Valentin exhaled in relief. “It’s good that you’re so reasonable. I always knew I could count on you.”
“Always,” I said. “You know we’re
“My wife is pregnant,” he blurted out. “We’re expecting twins.”
I wanted to respond, but words refused to leave my mouth. What I did manage to get out resembled the sound of a clogged faucet: “Pfft.”
“Yeah,” Valentin continued. “That’s why I can’t leave home. And since my wife is the principal owner of my company, in this situation I simply have to—”
?” I screamed. This time the words tumbled right out of me.
“Did I forget to tell you that? She’s the one with the money.”
“I thought you—”
“I’m a good administrator. But the fortune is hers. We have a prenuptial agreement.”
“What about us? Our future, and our life together?”
“You need to understand, Michelle. A man has to fulfill his duties. A man has to do what a man has to do. No matter what—”
I didn’t hear whatever he said next. I’d thrown my phone full force against the wall, where it smashed to pieces.