Love Decanted By Emilie Ryan

“Are you ready for that glass of wine? I’m buying.”

Julie did a double-take. She had expected an argument, or at least to be blamed for failing to warn him adequately, which is what would have happened with her mom, and with Richard. “Yeah, I am.”

“Good. Then, let’s go.” He extended his hand and helped her up.

Outside the hotel’s entrance, Julie marvelled at the five-story building, taking a few pictures with her phone. With its turrets and blue-grey tiled roof, the Hôtel du Bailliage blended in seamlessly with the surrounding architecture, and it resembled the nearby fortress, only on a smaller scale.
Inside, up a flight of stone stairs, she took in the cool, damp air—a welcome change from the shimmering heat outside—as well as the aromatic, almost exotic scent of weathered wood. A large reception counter filled most of the lobby, beside which sat a matching round table and chairs. With her nerves starting to settle, she walked over and ran her hand over one of the royal-blue velvet seats, which had a smooth, luxurious feel.
The receptionist, a middle-aged woman with an hourglass figure and jet black hair, soon appeared through a set of gold chenille curtains. Her black nail polish and dark red lipstick caught Julie’s attention, bringing to mind Anika’s most recent Halloween costume—a medieval sorceress. She chuckled inwardly at the image, making a mental note to tell her sister-in-law about her seemingly long-lost dark twin.

“Bonjour,” said the receptionist in an inviting tone. “I’m delighted to welcome you to your home away from home.”
Julie pulled out a folder identical to the one she had given Peter on the plane, leafing through a few pages before finding their reservation.

“One night, two guests, under Morissette.”

“Ah, yes, Ms. Morissette and Mr. Marconi. We’ve been expecting you. How was your journey to Chinon?”

“The drive was pretty, although parking seems to be a little tight around here.”

“Yes, the streets are narrow, indeed. I’ll take you to your room shortly, but before I do, are you planning to dine with us tonight?”

Julie had done some research on the village before departing, learning from several websites the hotel had one of the highest-rated restaurants in the region. “We were actually hoping to eat here if there’s still room. I tried to reserve online, but for some reason, the app wouldn’t allow it.”

“That sometimes happens, unfortunately. We’re full until seven-thirty, but you could have your pick after that.”
With her energy starting to wane, Julie could only assume Peter also felt the jetlag kicking in. And, with his request for some R&R, she figured that timing might just work. They could unpack, take a shower, and maybe even have a nap. “What about eight o’clock?”

“Perfect. Give me a moment while I call over to confirm your reservation.”

While the hostess picked up the phone, Julie further perused the lobby. She admired the old-fashioned radiator, the patterned marble floor, and the embossed brass fixtures, all with the same stylized Fleur-de-Lys design.
Feeling more in her element, she turned to Peter, who stared at one of the brass plaques on the wall. Her mind drifted to an image of him as a courtier dressed in lime-green tights and a white bouffant top, prancing around to the tune of a lute. The absurdity of the image made her laugh.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, placing his hand on the small of her back.

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