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Frannie and Sebastian
by Em J. Knowles

Untitled_Artwork 15.jpeg
Pre-Order Coming in April

Coming May 13 , 2024

Secret Identity Billionaire
Mat
chmaker

Career driven romance writer who doesn't believe in true love, Frannie Darling, is under deadline and experiencing writer's block. As a last resort, she runs away to Paris to try a new story technique called Method Writing, similar to Method Acting.

World traveling billionaire and hopeless romantic Sebastian Cartier is exhausted from being used for his money, so he seeks the assistance of world famous Matchmaker Madeline L' Amour.

When the walls are up, how in the world is Elias ever going to penetrate the fortress of his love interest?

Chapter One

Frannie

I OPEN MY NIGHTSTAND DRAWER and pull out a rope of condoms and toss them into my suitcase.

 

“Are you serious?” Becca asks.

 

“Hell yeah,” I say.

 

“What if TSA searches your suitcase? And in front of everyone?”

 

“Everybody’d be guaranteed a giggle for the day.”

 

“We’re so different,” Becca laughs.

 

“Agreed.”

 

Becca and I have been best friends since the first grade, except for that one time our freshman year of high school when my parents were getting divorced, and I went a little wild, too wild for Becca’s parents to let her continue hanging out with me. Once I figured out how to hide where and what I was doing, we were able to hang out again. Before she got married and had little Izzy, she’s always been my wing woman. In the last month or so, really since Izzy stopped breast feeding, Becca’s been coming around more.

 

“I’m going to miss you so much,” she says.

I pull out my vintage Marilyn Monroe style dress from my closet. “Do you think I can wear this in Paris?”

Becca imitates my voice, “I know Becca, I’m going to be lost without you. I can’t imagine being apart for a whole summer.”

I say, “Yes, Becca. Whatever will I do without my best friend?”

 

Becca leans against my bureau and checks her teeth in the mirror then rifles through my jewelry box. “Here, bring these.” She holds up a pair of pearl earrings. “They’ll look fabulous with the dress.”

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I say.

“I know. I’m so envious. You have to FaceTime me every day.”

“Definitely.” I grab my toiletry bag and wedge it between the corners of my suitcase. “Here, help me.”

Becca sits on top of it, and I zip it up.

“Do you have a plan? Or are you just going with the Frannie Flow?”

“I have a plan. At least for the first and second day, beyond that, it’s just write, write, write.”

Becca stands up, and I wheel my luggage out to the door.

 “Do you want me to braid your hair?” She asks.

I glance into the mirror and try to pat down the jungle. As soon as I take my hand away, my curls spring back, so I sit in front of my friend, “Yes, please.”

With her fingers, Becca combs through the mess. “I was always so envious of your curls.”

She tugs, so I tip my head back. “Seriously?”

“Mm-hmm.”

I say, “I always wanted your hair. It’s so pretty, and shiny, and black.”

“Yeah.” Becca looks up at the ceiling and nods. “I have to agree.” She smiles at me in the mirror. “My hair is pretty sweet.” She weaves strand over strand. “But we always seem to want what we don’t have.”

“Isn’t that the truth.” I hand her an elastic.

“Did you ever think you’d write romance?”

“Not in a million.” I spy my grandmother’s giant blue topaz and hand it to Becca so she can clasp it around my neck. It falls right below the V on the neck of my t-shirt.

“I mean, you don’t even believe in love.”

“I wouldn’t say I don’t believe.”

We head out to the living room, and I grab my keys from the bowl. “I mean, you and Taylor have a great marriage, and your parents are still married, and I think they’re in love, right?”

Becca doesn’t answer right away. “Tell me they’re still in love, Becs.”

Becca picks up a framed picture of the two of us, from the era before she met Taylor.

“Becca?”

“Yes, Mom and Dad are still in love.” She puts down the picture and picks up my passport.

“Phew. You had me scared for a second.”

“Sorry. They’re good,” she says. “But why don’t you think it could happen to you?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s genetic. Or maybe it’s some kind of reverse nurture. You remember my parents, right?”

“Yes. But that doesn’t mean their kind of relationship is your destiny.”

“I don’t know.  Maybe the relationships in your family are a bunch of anomalies. I really don’t think most people are happy and in love. The fairy tale seems to only live inside movies and books. So, I guess that’s why I write them.”

“You write about the life you wish you had?”

“Not really. I don’t want some rich dick to come along and sweep me off my feet.”

“Your characters aren’t dicks, Frannie. They’re just rich. You can have money and still be nice.”

“Not in real life, Becca.” I look at my phone. “It’s time,” I say.

Becca hands me my passport. “I’ll walk you down.”

I look back at my apartment. The blinds are closed. The TV is unplugged. And the lights are off. I punch in the alarm code.

“1275,” I say. “Don’t forget.”

“Frannie, you’ve had the same combination since high school. I won’t forget.”

“And don’t forget to water my plants. Please. I don’t want to come back to dead spiders and withered snakes.”

I lock the door behind us and hand her the keys.

“We’re still talking about the plants, right?” She asks.

“Yes. I can’t believe you still don’t know the names of common household plants.”

“And I still can’t believe you don’t believe in love.”

“I believe you love me.”

Becca tilts her head and brushes my arm. “Always.”

We walk to the elevator. “So, tell me your plan.”

“I land in Paris at ten a.m.”

“So, four a.m. my time.”

I press the L. “Right. Then I’ll catch an Uber to my flat. I doubt I’ll get any sleep on the flight, so if I’m not too tired, I’ll force myself to walk around for a bit, get to know the neighborhood, then head back in the early afternoon for a nap or maybe I’ll sleep the whole night through.”

“And for your second day?”

“I plan on getting into wardrobe, my beautiful dress you found for me, then I’m heading to the Seine to paint, or sketch, whichever one feels right.”

The elevator dings, and we step into the lobby.

“You can’t bring paints on the plane, can you?”

“I didn’t check, but I had some sent over to my Air BnB host. She’s holding onto them for me.”

“And you trust her not to steal your stuff or your identity?”

“Yes, of course. We’ve chatted several times. I actually can’t wait to meet her. She seems like quite the character.”

“You’re so daring. I don’t think I could ever do this.”

“You could. I bet you can do a lot more than you think.”

Becca holds the door open for me, and we step onto the sidewalk. It rained earlier, so there are still puddles everywhere. The street is busy with cabs and people walking home from work.

“By the way, whatever gave you this idea?”

“To go to Paris? That’s where my next story takes place.”

“No, I mean to dress up, to play the part. I mean you’re not actually the type of woman who ever dresses up.”

“I dress up.”

Becca grins, and her eyebrows challenge me. “Really? When?”

“Your parents’ twenty-fifth.” I open my Uber app and choose a car. “To answer your question, I took a method acting course back in college, and I just thought, maybe it’d help with writing too. I want my heroine to feel real, three-dimensional, not so flat.”

“Frannie, none of your characters have ever felt flat.”

“You’d never tell me differently, Bec. You’ve always been my biggest cheerleader. I don’t think you’re capable of seeing me in a bad light.”

“Maybe so, or maybe you’re just awesome. Either way, I can’t wait to live vicariously through you, or through, whomever your leading lady is going to be. Do you have a name for her yet?”

“Not yet. So far, I’ve come up with Yvette, Charlize, Vienna, Naomi, and Sylvie. Those are the ones I can remember anyway, but I want her to have a soft name, but also sound strong. Maybe sexy and cute too.”

“Rebecca fits all those.”

I smile. Becca tells me this every time a new character steps into the light. “You know I can’t use names from real life. All I’d think of when I wrote Rebecca would be a super smart librarian who catalogs butterfly and bee flight patterns from her terrace, and no offense, but that woman wouldn’t wear this pinup dress.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the Rebecca character, she’s just not right for this book.”

“I know. I’ve heard it all before.”

My Uber pulls up. I check my phone and the license plate. They match. I open the back door. “What’s you name?” I ask the driver.

“Darren. You Francis?”

I groan at the sound of my given name. “Yes. But call me Frannie.”

I turn to my best friend. She pulls me to her. “Call me when you get to the airport. And when you sit down on the plane. And as soon as you land.”

“Yes, Mom,” I tease.

“I’m so proud of you, mon amie.”

I pull back. “Thanks. I’m proud of you too.”

Darren interrupts, “Are we gonna go?”

“Rude,” I say to my friend. “Wish me luck.” I slide into the Uber and put down my window. “Don’t let that baby grow up too fast while I’m gone.”

 

Becca nods. “Good luck, Frannie. You’re going to be great.” As we pull away from the curb, Becca wipes away the tears that are soaking her cheeks. She throws kisses my way and yells, “Bon voyage, mon amie.”

***

End of Chapter One

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