With a hundred and ten years separating these soul-bound lovers, it’s uncertain whether they can find a happy ending without the help of a little magic and La Fée Verte.
A Romantica® time travel erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave
Tired or not, she felt alive. This was what her soul had been starved for. Since morning she’d wandered Avignon’s street exhibits, tented galleries and somber museums filled with masterpieces, gazing in awe. She’d enjoyed an outdoor concert on the bank of the Rhône and photographed the sunbaked Romanesque ruins of a medieval bridge, where she had stopped just long enough to eat a light lunch. She loved photography and Avignon was the perfect place to indulge a hobby she wanted to take further. When she got home she intended to look back and feel as inspired to revive her art career as she felt at that moment.
The daytrip to Avignon would have been perfect excerpt for one important omission. She’d failed to locate the art studio of her favorite modernist painter, the mysterious André Bosco. It was a shame, because Bosco was the real reason she’d been attracted to Avignon in the first place. She’d been a fan of the obscure painter for years and had hoped to see the place where he had launched his brief but brilliant career, which had inexplicably ended in 1903.
What she’d expected would be a simple task had turned into a bust. To her disappointment she’d seen no plaques displayed anywhere mentioning Bosco, and no one seemed to know much about him. Even the guidebook had been vague, mentioning a single abandoned building as a possible site of Bosco’s studio. A daylong search had proven fruitless and ended in frustration. Within the next hour she’d have to leave Avignon without touching base with one of the great inspirations in her life. Considering Bosco was a local artist of merit, it surprised her that he was so little celebrated in Avignon.
Maya turned the corner and headed into one of the older parts of town. The buildings were quaint. A few were in need of repair. The shadows stretched longer and the narrow streets bustled with foot traffic. The evening festivities had already started and she realized it was time to leave.
A few yards in front of her, a team of young male dancers burst onto the crowded sidewalk and claimed a small circle of smooth pavement as their stage. A heartbeat later they were dancing a wild routine that had them spinning and kicking in unison like the blades of a blender.
Maya dodged past the acrobatic dancers but got trapped in the crowd that had gathered to watch. She recoiled at the last second from one dancer’s lethal backflips and high kicks, which were executed an arm’s length from her nose. She pushed past the dancers but the crowd closed in and she got sandwiched between the exuberant performance and a gritty sandstone wall.
This sort of thing had been happening all day. The official festival d’Avignon had something interesting planned for every hour of the day but all over the city spontaneous off-festival performances took place anywhere a crowd gathered.
The dancing was fun but she was thirsty, tired and just wanted to sit.
“Excusez-moi.” Maya crept along the wall, managing to push through the throng of observers. She reached the doorway of an interesting looking bistro, tugged the door open and darted inside.
Once inside she entered a soothing candle-lit Victorian-era building and found herself in a charming Bohemian-themed bistro with cranberry-red velvet cushions on the seats and colorful curtains of glass beads dangling from the windows. Glowing hand-blown glass lanterns sat upon polished tabletops. A framed Gauguin print of an ebony-eyed Tahitian beauty holding a bowl of pink flowers hung near the bar. The pungent scent of amber incense and cherry pipe tobacco perfumed the air.
It was like stepping back in time to another era. Maya’s senses were instantly transported back to the heady days of the modernist art movement at the beginning of the twentieth century. She savored the feeling because it was her favorite fantasy time period, and one she would have loved to experience firsthand.
It surprised her that for such a busy festival day the bistro was empty of patrons. The only other occupant of the bistro, and presumably the proprietress, was a woman who appeared to be in her fifties who was dressed in the theatrical garb of a flowing-sleeved poet’s shirt, a black satin corset and flouncy red skirt and tall boots. She stood beside the bar looking like some sort of piratical gypsy queen.
“Bonsoir.” The lady spoke French but addressed Maya with a familiar accent.
Maya smiled at the lady. “Puis-je commander un café glacé, s'il vous plaît? ”
“Of course you can have an iced coffee.” The woman’s keen gaze locked on Maya. A thick layer of black kohl ringed the lady’s eyes and lent her an unsettling appearance. “I speak English and I’m going to guess that you grew up not far from my hometown of New Orleans.”
“I’m from Thibodaux!” Maya laughed. “There’s no hiding the accent, is there?”
The lady reached for a coffee press and packed it with fresh grounds. “Seeing as how you’re a Louisiana girl I’ll add a touch of chicory to your coffee.”
“Thank you.” Maya sat at the bar, fully realizing just how much her feet hurt from walking all day on cobblestones.
“My name’s Miss Ruby.” The lady brushed her long black hair away from her face and appeared to be studying Maya with intense interest. “What’s yours?”
Miss Ruby poured hot water over the coffee grounds and pushed down on the press. “Rousseau is a wonderful name for an art lover.”
“You sound certain I’m an art lover.”
“Why else would you be in Avignon in July? I know what drew you.” Miss Ruby toyed with one of her dangling chandelier earrings while she waited for the coffee to strengthen. “I realize my current costume makes me look ridiculous as I say this, but I really do possess the gift of second sight and prophecy. You see, I’m a world-class enchantress with the highest security clearance.”
A nervous laugh burst past Maya’s lips. “I didn’t realize enchantresses had to earn security clearances.”
“They certainly do!” Miss Ruby’s eyes flashed. “You wouldn’t believe the stringent tests we must pass. A world-class enchantress must prove beyond a shadow of doubt that she is trustworthy, ethical and has the highest good of others in mind before she’ll be granted the powers I have.”
Maya wondered if Miss Ruby was another bit of festival street theater or an ex-pat who’d forgotten to take her medication. “What special powers do you possess?”
“I’m like a fairy godmother, but my work tends to be grittier than what a fairy godmother might attempt. The moment I meet someone I know exactly what their soul needs. I understand the inner workings of time and space and use them to advantage. I don’t actually break the laws of nature but I know how to bend them. In fact my specialty is time-twisting . I’m like a witch but I call myself a ‘Beneficent’ because I always serve the highest good. The gift is hereditary. My mama was a New Orleans Voodoo queen. I could have stayed in New Orleans too, but I chose to travel the world as a high-level enchantress and an ambassador of magic.”
“I see.” Maya recoiled. It was just more of her bad luck in Avignon. First she’d failed to locate Bosco’s studio and now a crazy lady dressed like a carnival psychic had trapped her in a weird conversation.
Miss Ruby poured the steaming coffee over a tumbler filled with ice and slid the glass toward Maya. “Enjoy.”