The new season of French Kissing will be out in 12 short days! I’m so excited. I have an audio excerpt and an extra-long preview for you. Enjoy!
French Kissing: Season Four
© Harper Bliss
Dominique stretched her legs and breathed out a sigh. She held open her arms, indicating to Steph she should come lie in them.
“I’m going to ask Solange to make room for this in my schedule more often,” she said.
“Really?” Steph looked her in the eyes. “You just came and Solange is the first person you think of?” She sported a small smile on her face.
“Oh, chérie, come here.” Dominique pulled her close. “I didn’t know you were so jealous of my chief of staff.” Dominique kissed Steph on the side of her face.
“When I count up the hours she gets to spend with you…” Steph planted a soft kiss on Dominique’s shoulder. “Anyway, you should do it. In fact, I’ll arrange it. I’ll give her a call first thing tomorrow.” Steph snickered.
“Please don’t. She won’t be able to look at me all day.”
“Because nothing upsets Solange Garceau more than the merest hint of the existence of sexuality,” Steph said. “I would actually be doing her a favour by reminding her there’s such a thing as physical intimacy. Truth be told, she looks like she could use a bit of it. Either that, or you work her too hard.”
“And here we are, in the aftermath of my glorious climax, still talking about her.” Dominique turned on her side and glued her naked body to Steph’s.
“Would you rather we talk about someone else?” Steph pulled her lips into that smile that had seduced many a woman. “Let me think about it for a second.” She kissed Dominique on the nose.
“I’d rather talk about us. Or about you.”
“Really? President Laroche doesn’t want to talk about herself? That would be a first.”
“Now you’re just goading me.” Dominique tried to hold Steph’s gaze.
“You’re not free of vanity, babe. There’s no such thing in politics.”
“Let’s talk about you then.” Dominique smiled away Steph’s comment. “Tell me all the things I’ve missed while I was busy presiding over our nation. I want to hear the most mundane thing you can think of.”
“Juliette brought her dog into the office this morning,” Steph said matter-of-factly.
Dominique closed her eyes for a second and, when she opened them again, relished the sight of Steph. They didn’t have enough time for moments like these. To relax into chatter that didn’t have to be practical or goal-oriented. “You are so beautiful,” she said.
Steph batted her lashes and they both broke out into a chuckle.
“About what you said earlier though,” Steph said. “Let’s leave Solange out of it and set a time right here, right now.”
“Okay.” Dominique reached for her phone on the night stand, which had mercifully remained silent for the time they’d spent in bed. She pretended to look at her screen. “How about tomorrow morning at five?” She eyed Steph, waiting for her reaction.
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what?” Dominique had trouble suppressing a grin.
“Try to make me into a morning person. We’ve tried. We must accept it’s not going to happen. My libido doesn’t wake up until well past midday.”
“I’m afraid I have no free time until”—Dominique did consult her schedule this time—“late tomorrow evening, unless you want to swing by my office between a cabinet meeting and the EU Diplomatic Gala.”
“Gala? Nothing I have to attend, I hope? This is the first I’ve heard of it.” There was a hint of a tremor in Steph’s tone.
“Madame Moreau would have told you long ago if your presence was required.” Not long into Dominique’s presidency, she and Steph had decided that Steph would attend as few official functions as possible. Dominique had no need for a trophy wife by her side—besides, they weren’t even married—and Steph naturally shied away from such events.
“I’m having dinner with Zoya tomorrow night.” Steph’s face relaxed.
“You seem to have taken to her.”
“You know just as well as I do that I have a taste for more mature ladies now.” She plastered a big grin on her face.
Dominique arched up her eyebrows. “Don’t I know it,” she said. “Must have been some mature lady to have swayed you in that direction.”
“She’s quite something.” Steph’s finger was close to Dominique’s mouth. “In fact, she’s the president of France. Obviously, I can’t be swayed by any mere mortal.”
“Obviously.” Dominique lowered her chin so she could kiss Steph’s finger—she could still smell herself on it. Dominique hesitated to express the next thought that popped into her mind, but in the end, she couldn’t keep the words from crossing her lips. “Have you considered the question said president put to you in this very bed two weeks ago?”
Dominique witnessed how the muscles in Steph’s face tensed up. A short silence fell between them.
“I don’t understand why it’s so important for you to get married again,” Steph said.
“I want to be married to you.” Dominique was well aware of how cheesy she came across. She didn’t particularly like the sound of her words, but she didn’t know how else to persuade Steph other than expressing her love for her like this.
“I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m just not the marrying kind, babe.” There was clear exasperation in Steph’s voice now. “You know this.”
“A girl can still dream.” Dominique looked away for a minute. She hadn’t made a big spectacle of asking Steph to marry her. She had simply asked her on a night very much like this one. One of the rare occasions when she had a night off from her duties and could linger in bed with her partner. The thought had crossed her mind quite a few times since they’d moved into the Elysée, and it had crystallised into a simple question to which, truth be told, Dominique had known the answer in advance. But she had to ask. On the odd chance that Steph had changed her mind, that being with Dominique had convinced her that there was unprecedented joy to be found in calling yourself someone’s wife.
“I don’t need some flimsy piece of paper to prove my love for you.”
It’s not about the piece of paper, Dominique wanted to say, but held her tongue. She knew not to push—and to enjoy this precious moment free of the obligations they were sharing. But, just like any other thought that had ever originated as a tiny germ of an idea in Dominique’s head, she knew she wouldn’t stop fighting until she got what she wanted. She was the president of the greatest nation on earth, after all.
“Not even the president can put a ring on Stéphanie Mathis,” Steph said, hoping the lightness she was trying to inject into her voice was coming through.
Dominique looked at her with an expression on her face that Steph knew all too well. We’ll see, it said. If Steph wasn’t careful about this, Dominique’s tenacity could turn this into a contest of stubbornness, after which it would become completely ludicrous—and have little to do with the joy of being married.
“I love you. I’m here with you. Isn’t that enough?” Steph asked.
Dominique nodded. “I was just checking whether Margot proposing to Claire had put any fresh ideas into your head.”
“Try me again after the wedding.” Steph couldn’t help but tease. She and Dominique were rarely serious for more than five minutes together. Dominique had to keep a straight face for the better part of the day, and if not that, paint on one of her dazzling but practiced smiles. Between them, Steph wanted Dominique’s smiles to be completely genuine.
“I’m going to hold you to that.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything else from you.” Steph let her finger resume its earlier interrupted path. She skated it just beneath Dominique’s exquisite mouth. Sometimes, when she was watching Dominique’s face, she wondered what it had been that had drawn her to Dominique like that. What had kept her coming back for more—and then some.
Being with Dominique was a challenge. It had been when they first met and it certainly was now. But it was the good kind of challenge, the kind no other woman had previously been able to present Steph with. Apart from that, President Dominique Laroche was, of course, also gorgeous, strong, morally unambiguous, and so incredibly sweet at times, Steph wasn’t always sure it was the same woman she was spending time with. Then again, the woman she saw on television so often, with that winning smile and no-nonsense demeanour, was a far cry from the woman lying in bed with her now. Dominique was still so endlessly fascinating to her. Why ruin all of that by doing as pedestrian a thing as marrying each other? And what would be next? Dominique wanting to have a child with Steph?
“So… when’s the next time I’m allowed to sexually service the president?” Steph dragged her finger down Dominique’s chin, along her neck, in the direction of her breasts. She was up for another round.
“How about the president sexually serving you?” The grin Dominique shot her ignited a fire in Steph’s belly.
“I could think of no greater earthly pleasure.” Steph paused. “And honour, of course.” Even though she made it sound like a joke, there was truth in what she said. No matter how much she tried to convince herself otherwise, Steph got a not-so-secret thrill out of having the person holding the highest office in the country go down on her.
“Then I’d best get to it.” Dominique kissed her on the mouth and let her tongue slip inside Steph’s mouth.
* * *
Steph blinked her eyes open. She’d been vaguely aware of Dominique getting up when her alarm went off but, as usual, Steph had turned on her other side and drifted back into sleep. Whether Dominique had kissed her goodbye or not, she had no idea. When they’d first begun waking up together in this strange bedroom in their new home, Steph had made an effort to wake herself up and catch an elusive snuggle, but she had soon learned her efforts were fruitless because there simply wasn’t time for kisses and hugs in the morning. Dominique barely had time to see her children, let alone embrace her partner before she faced another hectic day.
Steph relished the moment of solitude. She had some time before she had to be at work, if she could even still call it that. She hadn’t wanted to give up her job at Barbier & Cyr for the time that Dominique was president—she was a partner now—but being France’s first lady presented her with a whole new set of challenges on the work front. When she met new clients, they had to get used to her being just Steph, the PR professional, as opposed to the woman they saw in the newspaper next to the president.
Claire and Juliette loved it, of course, because having Steph involved with their firm had raised their bottom line significantly. Everyone wanted to be associated with the firm that had helped get the president elected. Not just because of the win, but because of what Dominique stood for. A fresh wind. A new era of politics. And no one more than Steph symbolised this fresh image. The younger woman Dominique Laroche had chosen to be with—against everyone’s advice.
Thank goodness Claire and Juliette were her best friends and knew Steph couldn’t deal with just having a token function and being paraded around to get the firm more business. She worked behind the scenes more, which suited her just fine in these times when she was thrust into the limelight too often.
Steph heard the creak of the bedroom door as it was being pushed open further. She had learned the hard way to quickly cover her naked body when this happened. They had live-in staff now, and although they were trained to be utterly discreet, this had been an adjustment for Steph either way. The creak was followed by a meow and Steph exhaled. She probably gave her old cat more credit than he deserved, but she would give him an extra long chin scratch for knowing exactly when to come into the bedroom for a visit.
He jumped onto the bed, then straight into Steph’s lap.
“Hello my handsome boy,” Steph said as she scratched him behind the ears, eliciting an instant purr. “My big presidential cat. Did you catch anything in the night?”
Pierrot pushed the back of his head against her hand. Steph was sorry she couldn’t ask him what he thought about the move from her tiny studio apartment to this palace. She assumed, for her sake, her cat considered it a vast life improvement.
“Thank you so much for meeting me.” Camille kissed Zoya on the lips. “I really had to see your face. And get out of there.” She exhaled for what felt like the first time today.
“Any excuse to spend time with you is a good one.” Zoya flashed her a smile that Camille needed very much. She put a hand on Camille’s arm and Camille relaxed a little more. “Bad day at the office?”
Camille shook her head. “The worst.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Zoya’s voice was so kind, so unlike what Camille had to deal with these days in the building just around the corner.
“Not really, because it’s the same old thing since I came out.” Camille desperately wanted a glass of wine, but wasn’t sure if she should have one in case Duflot smelled it on her breath when she returned to work after lunch and decided to use that against her as well. “I thought scientists were supposed to be the most enlightened bunch.”
“I’m so sorry. Everyone can be a bigot. You don’t need to be a scientist to prove that, I’m afraid. Not even a journalist,” Zoya said.
“I don’t even think he’s that much of a bigot. I think he’s just using my coming out as a pawn in his quest for my job, which he has been after for a long time. It just”—Camille looked around for a waiter. She was keen to place her order, wine included—“hurts that someone is willing to use my love for you to further their own career. And that he might possibly get away with it.”
“He won’t. There’s no way. He’s not fit to be a manager, let alone advise the government.”
“He might not be fit, but he’s been able to sway a bunch of people, whom I was certain were in my corner, to turn against me.”
“There’s always the last resort.”
The waiter finally came to take their order. “No way. I’m not talking to Dominique about this.” They had discussed this before. It was a preposterous idea in many ways, not least that concerns about Camille’s well-being at work were well below Dominique’s pay grade.
“You don’t have to talk to her. I’m seeing Steph tonight. I could casually mention it. She’s bound to ask how you’re doing. It would be so easy to slip into the conversation.”
“I can fight my own battles.”
“I don’t doubt it, but I hate to see you this miserable because of some douchebag at work who has a problem with a female boss.”
“It’s part of my job to rise above that. It comes with the territory. It’s not as if I haven’t dealt with people like him before. When I got the job, a lot of the men probably took it as a blow to their masculinity.”
Zoya laughed. “Oh, I know all about that. Sadly, this bullshit is still a reality in this day and age. But at least the president is a woman.”
The waiter brought their wine and Camille eagerly poured them each a glass.
“Just a drop for me,” Zoya said. “I’m driving.”
“How goes the foreign corresponding today?” Now that she had a glass of wine in front of her, Camille was glad to talk about something other than the power struggle at work.
“I’m doing a piece on butter, if you can believe it.”
“I can very well believe it, my love.” Camille sipped from the wine and looked at her partner, who had moved many miles to be with her, and tuned into the gratitude she always felt when she stole a glance at Zoya. She was doing much more than stealing a glance right now. She was drinking in the radiant gloss of her skin, the tenderness in her eyes, the fullness of her lips. If some insecure bastard at work felt threatened—his white male privilege under attack—because she loved this woman, then she would be even smarter, even better, and ten times the woman she’d already had to be to get the position instead of a man. Being with Zoya emboldened her.
She’d come out at work mere weeks after Zoya had moved to Paris. She’d brought her to the CNRS annual staff party and had, truth be told, flaunted her gorgeous partner around. Why wouldn’t she? She was proud to be seen with Zoya, proud of their love and how it made her feel. Camille had no idea the flaunting would have turned people against her like that.
“I wish I could join you and Steph tonight,” Camille said after a beat of silence.
“I’ll tell her you said hi, while I try to swing that interview with Dominique.”
“Don’t abuse your friendship to get a coup.” Camille smiled at Zoya. She knew she was only kidding.
“Who? Me?” Zoya batted her lashes. “I am the pinnacle of journalistic integrity. And who knows, maybe I can keep her at ours long enough and you’ll catch her when you get home.”
Ours. Zoya had been living with Camille for five months now, yet it still sent a shiver up her spine when Zoya referred to her house as theirs. A shiver of pure delight, of acknowledging how lucky Camille had been to run into Zoya the way she had. How utterly elated that Zoya was willing to leave behind her homeland to be with Camille and her children and grandchild. Camille had no idea how she could ever repay Zoya for all the sacrifices she had already made. For her. Spending Christmas in the Australian summer sunshine was hardly a punishment.
“It’s going to be a late one,” Camille said. “These board meetings always are.”
“Well then, it’ll just be me and Iris waiting for you. One of us naked.” She put her hand on Camille’s arm again, and, at the prospect, Camille forgot all about the existence of Bernard Duflot.
Zoya added a splash of wine to her sauce. When she had prepared her first meal in France, it had felt like sacrilege to use actual French wine for cooking, but Camille had quickly persuaded her that wine was not wasted when you used it in a sauce. The whole purpose of wine was to enhance things. Dishes. Conversations. Life. When Camille had said this, looking at her from under her lashes the way she did, Zoya had believed her. She had clung to Camille’s every last word. And she’d always remember how she had stood there, a hip slanted against the kitchen counter, when she had spoken those words. Gorgeous, smart, sophisticated Camille. An inadvertent smile grew on Zoya’s lips. A private smile that warmed her core. Not aimed at anyone but her inner self.
Zoya lowered the heat and listened to the sizzle of the wine evaporating. She took joy in being able to cook for someone else again. Although tonight, she wasn’t cooking for her partner; she was preparing her signature dish for Stéphanie Mathis.
Steph always reminded Zoya of the unexpected path life could take you on. Two years ago, after Rebecca had left her, Zoya could never have imagined living in Paris and serving a meal to France’s first lady, let alone becoming fast friends with her. Equally, Steph had confided that she sometimes lay awake at night wondering at the course her life had taken. Perhaps this was one of the building blocks of their friendship and it was what they recognised in each other as it deepened.
Zoya heard vehicles in the street coming to a halt, which must mean Steph had arrived. With the way of the world right now, Steph couldn’t move about freely in her own city anymore. She had to be protected—discreetly, but that didn’t make it less so—by a secret service car. As Zoya had quickly learned when they first went to a restaurant together, Steph was always followed by a few not-so-discreet photographers wanting to document her every move in public.
“Christ,” Zoya had said, “I thought the French paparazzi were more considerate than that.”
“Paps are relentless wolves everywhere,” Steph had said matter-of-factly, indicating she didn’t want to spend any more time even discussing these people for whom making that one money-shot meant infinitely more than the privacy every human being was entitled to—even the president’s partner.
Zoya made her way to the door and waited for the knock. The first time the vultures had descended on their house, she had been taken aback by the lewdness of it all, but she had also, very quickly, understood why Steph preferred to meet here instead of in a public place. Once the paparazzi realised she was meeting a friend at home, they would leave knowing there was no sensational shot to be had.
Someone rapped on the door twice and Zoya quickly opened it, ushering Steph in and dispensing with the niceties until they stood behind the safety of closed doors.
“Bonsoir.” Steph grabbed her by the shoulders and planted a kiss on each of Zoya’s cheeks. She seemed unperturbed by the spectacle outside.
“Lovely to see you,” Zoya replied. “Come through to the kitchen. I think the sauce needs stirring and tasting.”
Zoya went through the motions of pouring Steph a glass of wine and sitting her down in the kitchen while she finished her dish.
Steph was halfway through her glass when they sat down to dinner and Zoya spooned a portion of mushroom pasta onto Steph’s plate.
“How’s life in the Elysée?” Zoya asked. The question had become a private joke between them—Zoya being the seasoned interviewer who lowered herself to asking the most obvious, basic question.
“Same old, same old. Silver spoons and man servants,” Steph replied with a grin on her face. “This looks delicious.”
“Nothing but the best for the first lady.” Zoya marvelled at the smell of the earthy chanterelles and the hint of wine she could still catch in the sauce. “Although I have been thinking about the term first lady with regards to you and Dominique. If you’re the first lady, then which number lady is she?”
“None of this protocol stuff was ever invented for lesbians, obviously.” Steph rolled her eyes. “Who could even imagine such a thing? Two women in the Elysée? Such sacrilege.” She paused for a moment. “I will have to break the news to Dominique that, because of my title, she can only officially be second lady of France. It’s not going to go down well.” She painted a smirk on her face. “She may introduce some law to change this anomaly pronto, so maybe I should just leave it.”
Zoya snickered. She hadn’t had the pleasure of spending that much time with the president, who had far more important things to do than dine with friends who were not heads of state, but she could, nevertheless, easily catch Steph’s drift.
“Anyway, let’s not talk about my uneventful life,” Steph said, changing the subject. “Let’s talk about you. How are you doing?”
Zoya might be the interviewer with years of experience under her belt, but when Steph asked her a question, even one as straightforward and predictable as this, she always felt it was born from more than just friendly interest. As though Steph had a sixth sense and instinctively noticed when something was a little off. Or perhaps that was just Zoya projecting, or feeling relieved that she could chat to a friend. She hadn’t made that many. Language was still a barrier, but Steph belonged to the younger generation who spoke excellent English. From the very beginning, Zoya had felt she could communicate with Steph on a level she needed. She could be frank with her.
“Well, you know, I’m in love and I live in Paris, often coined the most beautiful city in the world, so one would think I’m doing swimmingly.”
“Except you’re not.” Steph waited, fork poised.
“I’m not doing badly… I mean, this is what I wanted, after all. But I do miss home more than I expected.”
“It’s normal. I only moved districts, and I miss home terribly at times,” Steph said after she finished her bite.
“I know it’s normal. I lived in Australia all my life and I can’t expect love to just magically make everything better. I guess the bigger issue is that I don’t really know how to talk to Camille about it, for fear I will ruin our honeymoon period.”
“Why? You think she won’t understand?”
Zoya looked at Steph and, again, saw some of herself in her much younger friend. The inability to let anything just go by. The ever-present need to ask a deeper question.
Zoya shook her head. “No, of course she will understand. I just want to spare her my drama. She has enough on her plate.”
Steph narrowed her eyes. “Can you actually hear yourself, Zoya? She’s your partner, which doesn’t mean you have to tell her every little thing that goes on in your mind, but you should be able to talk about things that infringe on your happiness.”
“In theory, I know you’re right.” Zoya sipped from her glass of wine. “I guess I’ve been taken aback a little myself by the fierceness of my feelings. I’ve even started watching Neighbours again, just to feel that connection to home.”
Steph quirked up her eyebrows.
“Scott and Charlene?” Zoya asked and, when met with a blank expression on Steph’s face, continued. “It’s an Australian soap that had its heyday long before your time.” She smiled. “But as harrowing as watching something well-past its prime is, it anchors me to my homeland. And even saying words like anchoring and homeland makes me wonder whether I’m even cut out for this uprooting of my life. I barely gave it a second thought because of how utterly smitten I was. I still am.”
“It’s only been a few months. You need to give yourself some time. And you need to speak with Camille. You can’t let something as important as this turn into more and have it fester into even more negative emotions.”
“If for some reason your career in PR doesn’t work out, you can always retrain as a counsellor,” Zoya said.
Steph was quiet for a beat, then said. “I see one. A counsellor. Have done for a while. Even though see is perhaps not the right word for it. These days we mainly have online sessions, lest it ever come out the first lady needs her soul examined on a regular basis.”
It was Zoya’s turn to look at Steph with a bewildered look on her face. Their friendship must have reached a new height if Steph was comfortable sharing this.
“It has really helped me.” Steph filled the silence. “If you need to talk to someone, I can definitely recommend her.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Good.” Steph said it with so much persuasion, Zoya almost asked for the counsellor’s number there and then. Before Zoya could say anything else, she heard the door open. It could only be Camille.
“She’s home early.” Zoya instinctively rose from her chair. Camille was talking to someone. Maybe she was on the phone. Then she heard another voice. One she recognised easily because she’d heard it on the radio many times. Even though she only understood a tiny portion of what was said on Aurore Seauve’s weekly show Sexualité Aujourd’hui, she used it to further her knowledge of the French language—and had picked up quite a few words no course book would ever teach her.
“Hey, darling.” Camille ambled into the dining room with Aurore in tow. “We have company.”
Even though Camille had told Aurore that Stéphanie Mathis would be at her house, she was a little star struck when she stood face to face with the woman. It wasn’t so much that she was the president’s partner, but more the reputation that preceded her, and the vibe of sexual confidence she exuded.
Why could Aurore never fall for a woman like that? Then she wouldn’t have had her heart broken, again, which was why she had called Camille. Camille, who had just fled a board meeting, had told Aurore she would introduce her to Stéphanie Mathis to cheer her up.
Aurore shook Stéphanie’s hand, then greeted Zoya in English.
“I wasn’t expecting you home so soon,” Zoya said to Camille.
“I’ll tell you all about the hell of a meeting I just walked out of later,” she said. “First, we must make Aurore feel better.” Camille winked at Aurore.
For some reason, Camille had always succeeded in making Aurore feel better during her long and disastrous career in love. Although this was the first time Aurore would avail of her cheering-up services since Zoya had moved to Paris, and she wasn’t sure how this new love on display would affect the healing process of her shattered heart. She hadn’t given it a second thought when she had dialled Camille’s number—it was that instinctive. Relationship over. Call Camille.
“Are you the Aurore Seauve?” Stéphanie asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Aurore said. “For all my talk of sex positivity and healthy relationships on national radio, my own love life has been a mess for as long as I’ve had one. If you could even call it one.”
Stéphanie grinned. “Your secret’s safe with me.” The way she said it made Aurore believe it instantly. Maybe Stéphanie had a friend like herself she could introduce to Aurore, someone to make her forget about Vivianne. But no, unshakable types like Stéphanie Mathis, no matter how charming they were, didn’t really float Aurore’s boat. That was the problem.
“Just a life-long commitment to falling for the wrong woman,” Aurore joked. “It takes dedication.”
“What kind of woman might that be?” Stéphanie asked, while Zoya poured her and Camille a glass of wine.
“Emotionally unavailable,” Aurore said.
Camille cleared her throat. “What Aurore actually means by that is straight women.” She opened her hands, palms upwards. “Désolée, mon amie,” Camille continued, “but I’ve known you for many decades and let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we?”
Aurore sighed. “My profession doesn’t help, of course.” She tried to ignore Camille’s comment, even though one of the pillars of their twenty-years-plus friendship was Camille’s unflinching ability to tell it how it was. Although there had been a time not so long ago when Aurore had been the one to tell Camille that she, herself, wasn’t perhaps as heterosexual as she had everyone—herself included—believe. “Straight women love to project their lesbian fantasies on to me.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to let them.” There was kindness in Camille’s voice and she put a hand on Aurore’s shoulder.
“Maybe I’m just too much of a sucker for a good transformation story.” She glanced at Camille, then at Zoya. “Look at you ladies. You’re living proof that not all women who have always believed they’re straight actually are.”
“That might be true,” Camille said, “but you could try dating a woman who could at least reciprocate your feelings. Imagine how much fun it would be? Two women who love women falling in love?”
Aurore smiled at Camille just to indulge her, then looked at Steph. “Even our first female president believed she was straight for the longest time. There are so many examples.”
Stéphanie shook her head. “I don’t mean to speak out of turn, especially because we’ve only just met,” she said, “but I think you’re getting some things confused. If I could have helped it at all, I would have never fallen for someone like Dominique. How it happened for me was the other way around. I fell in love with her despite her not being an out lesbian, not because.”
“Touché,” Camille said. “I think you hit the nail on the head there, Steph.”
“I thought being here was supposed to cheer me up,” Aurore said. “Not tear me down even more than Vivianne has already done.”
“You’re right,” Camille said. “As long as next time you meet someone you’re interested in, you get my approval before you date her.” She sent Aurore a grin.
Aurore held up her glass and looked Camille in the eye. “No one will enter my bed until they’ve passed your rigorous vetting process first.”
“We’ll set up a panel,” Zoya said.
“I can get you a presidential seal of approval if needed,” Stéphanie said.
They all burst out laughing and, with that, Aurore did start feeling a little better. As long as she could stay in this cosy—even though a tad too bourgeois for her taste—living room a while longer, in the embrace of her old friend, Camille’s partner, and the first lady of France.
She wondered if tonight’s conversation would make it to the president’s ears. Whether she would be the subject of pillow talk at the Elysée tonight. She should really get a grip. And start dating actual lesbians—or at the very least a woman who had kissed another woman before.
“If you know of any eligible lesbian bachelorettes, Stéphanie, please let me know.”
“Please call me Steph,” she said and paused before answering the question. “I don’t really travel in those circles anymore. If you’d asked me two years ago, I could have hooked you up in a heartbeat, but not so much now.”
“Do you mean the Elysée is not swarming with lesbians now that we have a lesbian president? There goes my fantasy!”
“What fantasy?” Zoya asked. “Lesbian orgies in the Elysée every other day?”
“God no. No such thing. Just some good old lesbian nepotism. You know, to once and for all drive home the gay agenda. At least, that’s what the far right would like to have us believe.”
“If you ask me, Séverine Marechal is a closet case herself,” Camille said.
Steph chuckled. “Dominique would have a fit if she heard all of this.”
“Will you tell her?” Aurore couldn’t help but ask. On her radio show, she asked people about their most private emotions all the time. Compared to that, this was just skimming the surface. “Do you talk to Dominique about evenings like this?”
Steph sank her teeth into her bottom lip and regarded Aurore for a moment in silence before speaking. “Of course. If there’s time.”
Aurore painted on a smile—the kind she would use on a studio guest if they were still balancing on that edge between being too shy and really wanting to share something profound. “Is there?”
“Not always. Not as much as I would like there to be,” Steph said.
“Is that an issue for you?” Aurore had a vague sense of crossing a line—she wasn’t in the studio, after all, she was sharing a glass of wine with friends after a bad break-up.
“Zoya interviewed me a while back about all of this,” Steph said. “You can find all the answers to your questions on YouTube.” She tilted her head and kept her gaze on Aurore, as if asking, are you done now?
“I’m so sorry,” Aurore said. “I’ve always been the curious type.”
“Nosy more like,” Camille said.
“It’s in our blood,” Zoya said.
“What happened with you and Vivianne?” Steph asked. The room fell silent. “What? You two can be nosy and I can’t be?” The grin on her face was irresistible.
A frank answer to Steph’s question would be an opportunity to apologise and to say some much–needed words about the woman who had just broken her heart. “She went back to her ex, whom she’d left for me.”
“Ouch,” Steph said. “I’m very sorry. How long were you together?”
“Almost six months.” Aurore sighed. “I thought we were ready for the next stage of our relationship. She clearly didn’t.” She sipped wine. “But hey, at least it was only six months, which means, according to publications like Marie-Claire, it should only take me three months to get over her.” Her phone started ringing in her handbag. She dug it out, by now already relieved she could take a break from talking about Vivianne. It might only have been six months, but the memory of Vivianne looking her in the eye and saying she was leaving still had the power to wound. It felt like a blade sliding between her ribs straight into her heart—again.
“I’m sorry I have to take this.”
Aurore excused herself and took the call from Députée Rivière in the kitchen. They had a big day tomorrow, and her heartache would have to wait.
<<End of preview>>
French Kissing: Season Four will be available on Tuesday 13 March 2018