Authors: JASMIN JACOBS
Copyright 2015 by Jasmin Jacobs
This is part two in the “My Italian Prince Series”, consider reading
Vanessa’s heart finally stopped thumping, and she felt rather pleased with herself as she drove along the French Riviera’s steep hillside roads. She kept repeating, “Eyes on the road, eyes on the road,” to avoid driving off the cliff. The view was breathtaking, and it took all Vanessa's willpower not to turn her head and look downward on the swiveling roads leading down to the sea. The GPS was telling her to go straight, which was fortunate, as it wasn’t possible to do anything else anyway. Driving a Ferrari sports car for the first time wasn't easy, but she was doing pretty well if she did say so herself. She felt like James Bond in that movie where he chases a bad guy on the Riviera. She tried to recall the name of it but figured that most Bond movies had a car chase on the Riviera…
Vanessa had her mission clear; she'd find out what was going on with Alex and his mystery meeting. Even if she had to steal his car, borrowing was a nicer word for it, and it made Vanessa feel less guilty. She would drive to Nice and then follow him around until she knew what the meeting was all about. She would probably need to go in disguise, and she took a mind note to locate a store on her way, so she could purchase large sunglasses and a hat.
Cleverly, she’d already figured out where the meeting should take place, so she wouldn't need to do any mobile surveillance. She'd found an A-Z of Private Investigation online, which she’d downloaded on her iPhone, so she could study it carefully. According to the author, a real-life PI, mobile surveillance was an art form and sounded pretty complicated so she was happy to skip that part.
She'd managed to do the heavy PI-questioning during their quick breakfast. Vanessa had scrolled frantically through the PI sheet about different
while Alex had taken a shower, but since
as waterboarding was out of the questions, she had quickly scrolled down to chapter explaining the
Psychological Interrogation Technique of Manipulation
. Which apparently just meant continually repeating the same question until the subject of the interrogation, that would be Alex, confessed.
“Where can I reach you in the case of an emergency?" Vanessa asked innocently, looking at him over her cup of coffee.
”What kind of emergency, Vanessa?” Alex looked a bit puzzled.
“It might start to rain and I’d need you to get me a pair of rain boots,” Vanessa said and tried hard to remember which one of the different techniques she should use here.
However, Alex had been quite a tricky one to interrogate, he kept opposing all her good excuses and explanations. So tiresome, this never happened in
she thought to herself.
“It won’t rain Vanessa, the weather forecast is 100% sure of that”
“Well, you never know and if that happens and you've not given me any emergency information you'd feel really guilty,” Vanessa had stated and given him a stern look.
Alex couldn’t help but smile. ”All right, Vanessa, if it begins to rain, which it won’t and you for some reason won't be able to reach me at my cell, you call the
in Nice and ask for me.”
He’d given her a long kiss and jumped in the backseat of the car that Brunetti sent for him.
Pleased with herself, she went back to their room to search for Alex's car key.
Ah, this was easy
! She thought victoriously to herself when she found it on the bedside table. Perhaps she should quit medicine and go for a license in Private Investigation instead when she got back to the states?
Just a few hours ago, she could never have imagined herself going spying on Alex. Her phone had woken her up, and even if the volume was turned down, it’d been impossible to ignore the wailing of
Nazareth's, Love hurts
. She’d to remember to change that stupid signal, she thought to herself. It had been Kat's idea that they’d downloaded the tune to her cell phone as a tribute to the heartache Vanessa had felt when she thought Alex had dumped her. She hadn’t actually been dumped, but she hadn't been aware of that then, and the melody had made her feel consolidated at the time.
She’d quickly turned it on silent mode and crawled out of bed careful not to wake the sleeping Alex lying next to her. Actually, he was more lying on top of her, his leg over hers and his arms held her tight around her waist. She could feel his breath against her neck, and she shivered a little of pleasure in her mind going back to last night’s lovemaking.
She still had to tell herself from time to time that lives all real. She was in France with the man of her dreams, Prince Alessandro Di Savoy. To Vanessa, he was just Alex but to the rest of the world, he was a well-known royalty. Their whirlwind love affair had begun the moment they met at the hospital after Alex horrific car accident. During his rehabilitation, they had fallen in love, and he had brought her with him to France. She had been his guest to the
in Cannes where she'd had the “pleasure” of meeting Mitch.
Oh no, Mitch, she didn’t want to think about him. It had been such a surreal event. Michelangelo Di Leo was the biggest movie star on earth and Alex's best friend. He had come on to her at the Gala, telling her all kinds of hurtful stuff, like she was just another girl for Alex, and that he didn't care about her. As a proof of that, he tried to kiss her. With some well-placed karate-kicks that Kat, her best friend taught her during a self-protections course. She'd left him bleeding on the patio.
After a long night on Alex's yacht where she had overheard Brunetti talking to Mitch, she understood something was up; Brunetti had talked Mitch into scaring her, off so she would leave Alex side, and Brunetti could go on with his plan of marrying Alex into one of the royal families in Europe. Vanessa had decided not to tell Alex what she had heard on the deck in the middle of the night, thinking it would be too much for him to handle. Finding out that his best friend betrayed him, on instructions from his right hand and father figure would just make it worse. She would tell him, but right now, the only thing she wanted was to be alone with him. Alex and Vanessa's love survived Mitch's betrayal, and they'd decided to go off to the picturesque countryside in Provence, to get away from it all. Away from all the glamor and from the parties and jet set lifestyle. She didn’t feel comfortable with all the luxury and was overjoyed when Alex suggested they went away for a while.
They’d reached the small medieval hilltop village of St. Augustine after climbing along a winding and sometimes hair-raising road. Vanessa was happy with Alex's decision to take the Ferrari rather than the huge SUV as the sharp zigzag roads would have been scary for a big car to make. The scenery was like a set design that not even Disney could improve on. Small narrow cobblestone roads led to even narrower walkways in between ancient buildings. The view was stunning and a clear day you could see all the way to Corsica.
“Can you imagine waking up every day to this view?” Vanessa had said to Alex in a moment of pure happiness on their first evening in the village.
They’d stood, with their arms wrapped around each other, and admired the steep pine-covered mountains and the spectacular view. Vanessa was in love with the Village. Surrounded by pine forest and only accessible by a high bridge it was a secluded place and a haven for artists and potters.
She wanted to stay here forever!
Their cottage was small yet adorable. It was a newly refurbished guesthouse at a Provencal farmhouse on a small street with rows of pretty pastel houses. The rooms were in the far end of the old farmhouse, owned, and run as a B & B by a Madame Dupree. They had stayed the night thinking they would move on the next morning but after spending a day in the old village, they both felt mesmerized by its beauty and calm. This was over a week ago.
Vanessa looked at the phone in surprise when she saw it was a local number calling and when answering a man who didn't introduce himself asked for Alex. Brunetti she thought and couldn't help but feeling a little annoyed as she watched Alex smiling happily when taking the call.
After a few
, Alex hung up and jumped out of bed.
“I am sorry baby, but I need to go to Nice today, just for a couple of hours to attend a meeting,” Alex had told her sounding apologetic.
“Oh,” Vanessa tried to hide her disappointment.
They’d made plans to go visit a local farmer's market today and she’d really looked forward to it
“Is it important?” She’d asked, careful not to sound too demanding.
“I’m afraid so,” Alex answered but gave her no details of the meeting.
Vanessa felt the urge to ask him more about the meeting. They had after all, made other plans, and if it wasn’t a matter of life and death, she couldn’t understand how he could prioritize it over a day at the farmer's market with her.
“It’s an important business meeting Vanessa. I must attend, there´s nothing I can do about it. I’m sorry that it spoils our plans, but trust me, I will just go there and sign some papers, and then I’ll be back. You can take a stroll in the village during the day and then we’ll meet up for dinner.”
However, Vanessa felt that Alex avoided her questions about the meeting and that made her confused. She couldn’t see why he chose to lie to her, instead of just telling her the truth. Something was wrong, and as she hadn’t told Alex about Brunetti and Mitch’s conversation. She had to make sure they weren’t up to something again.
She’d come up with the brilliant plan of doing some good old surveillance on him, True Detective style. That was what Kat had called it her when Vanessa had texted her to include her in the mission. Kat was really into the HBO’s series and kept sending quite far-fetched references between True Detective and Vanessa's mission. Her phone beeped almost every minute with a new hilarious text from Kat. The continuously beeping from her phone and the demanding voice of the GPS made Vanessa feel a bit panicky as she struggled to both manage the car and find her way.
”Make a U-turn as soon as possible,” the GPS system persisted.
”All right, all right, shut up.”
She really had to focus on the road and not think about the events leading to up her secret mission. She had no idea where she was, except that she was going in the wrong direction. How was she supposed to find her way down this hill with all the small exits with no signs, suddenly they were just there and you were supposed to know by heart if to turn. This was mad, or maybe it was just France. She had understood from Alex that driving in France was not an easy task even for him, being used to the roads and the apparent no-sign-policy.
Anyway, she needed to step on it if she were going to make it in time before Alex was on his way back. Finally, she reached a point where she could U-turn. She turned the car around, ignoring the hoots from the other unreasonable drivers who should not have been driving so fast in the first place. The Ferrari made a small burnout and took off, this time in the right direction. Nice, here we come!
As Vanessa got near the destination she kept looking for a hotel with a beautiful shining facade, but she could not see one. All she could see was a big road with motels and shops on both sides and trucks thundering past her. This was not at all what she had expected.
After a while, the GPS took her off the main road and up an even less inspiring side road. Vanessa peered around warily. There weren’t any shiny hotels. There weren’t any expensive cars. Instead she saw a rummy-looking gas station and a motel offering rooms for 39 euros. Was this really where the Hotel Belle was situated? She had taken for granted it would be one of the luxury hotels down at
Le promenade l’Anglais
, the famous boardwalk in Nice.
“You have arrived at your destination.” The GPS was clearly wrong, this couldn’t be it.
Vanessa pulled up at the side of the road and stared out of the window, her jaw slack with disbelief. The GPS was right: She had arrived at the Hotel Belle. It wasn’t a luxury hotel, it was a scruffy looking Motel with a faded sign chained to a galvanized pair of gates, and beyond it, she could see rows of low buildings with numbered doors.