Home > The Man in the Black Suit(9)

The Man in the Black Suit(9)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

   “I don’t deal with foreigners,” the woman said primly. “I’m waiting to speak to a French concierge.”

   The man rocked back on his heels and his dark brows snapped together. “Foreigners? And where are you from, madame?”

   The woman brushed her fingers across the gold insignia of her Chanel handbag. “I am from Lyon.”

   “Really?” Breckman’s eyes glittered impishly. “Then you must be familiar with Lyon’s history.”

   The woman frowned up at him. “Certainly. I’ve lived there my entire life.”

   “Then it’s almost certain you, too, are an immigrant.” The man examined the ceiling, as if deep in thought. “If I remember my Lyonnais history correctly, Roman immigrants arrived from Vienne in the first century. Were you there then?”

   The woman sputtered, but Monsieur Breckman continued. “What about the Burgundian refugees who escaped from the Huns in the fifth century? Surely you remember them, given how long you’ve lived in Lyon?”

   “How dare you!” The woman reddened in outrage.

   “How dare you, madame.” The man glared. “As the revolution taught us, to be French is to be devoted to the principles of liberté, égalité, and fraternité. Since it’s you who has abandoned those principles, it’s you who has ceased to be French.”

   Acacia rose from behind the desk and interrupted. “Madame, I can introduce you to one of my colleagues, if you prefer.”

   “Fascism and xenophobia have no place in France,” the guest continued, his brown eyes glittering. “They have no place in the world, although it appears, sadly, they’ve taken residence in Lyon.”

   “I’ll be speaking to the manager about this outrageous conversation.” The elderly woman stared daggers at Monsieur Breckman. “I’ve never been so insulted in all my life.”

   The man bowed. “Please give Monsieur Roy my best regards. He knows where to find me.”

   The woman gave him a haughty look and followed Acacia to the reservations desk, where she was introduced to the blond, blue-eyed Céline.

   When Acacia returned, Monsieur Breckman was already seated in the chair opposite her desk. His security detail had drawn back, with the exception of Rick, who stood at his elbow.

   She sat down and opened her journal.

   The guest angled his head in the direction of the reservations desk, his gaze sharp. “Does that happen often?”

   “Monsieur, I—”

   “Mademoiselle?” His eyes met hers, his tone more of a command than a request.

   She shrugged, all too conscious that the lobby was filled with guests and other staff. “How was your evening?”

   The man ignored her question as he surveyed the other guests. “Anti-immigration sentiment is on the rise in Europe. I didn’t expect to find it here.”

   “Paris is the whole world.” Acacia attempted to defuse the situation with humor.

   “So they tell me,” he responded, his eyes finding hers. “You’re more restrained than I.”

   “A concierge provides service through friendship.”

   “Friendship with a xenophobe? Sounds unlikely.”

   “We cannot choose our guests, but we can choose how we respond.” Acacia looked toward the desk, where the woman from Lyon appeared to be giving Céline a difficult time.

   Her eyes moved back to the man sitting in front of her. “If someone hates me and I respond with hatred, all I’ve done is reinforced their hate. If I respond with kindness, I’ve changed the conversation. Perhaps on the receiving end of kindness, the person who hates me will see a better, peaceful way.”

   Monsieur Breckman made a sound that came perilously close to snort. “You censure me for deriding her?”

   “No, monsieur.”

   The guest gave her a hard look.

   Acacia lifted her pen pointedly. “How was breakfast this morning? Was everything to your liking?”

   “Now that I think about it, the hotel staff isn’t very diverse.” He turned in the direction of Céline again.

   “There’s diversity in the staff, I assure you.” Acacia’s gaze strayed to her desk. She was eager to retrieve the mysterious item attached to the drawer, but not in front of him.

   “Am I keeping you from something?” The guest’s eyes moved from her face to the desk.

   “No, monsieur.” She flushed. “How was dinner at Guy Savoy’s last evening?”

   “A work of art. The chef himself greeted all the patrons. Have you met him?”

   She smiled wistfully. “I’ve not had that pleasure.”

   “Really?” Monsieur Breckman seemed surprised. “I was told you send guests there regularly.”

   “That’s true.”

   “You’ve never dined there yourself?”

   “I toured the restaurant once. I was impressed with the location. The building they occupy used to house the French mint.”

   He studied her. “It must be vexing to arrange all these lavish experiences for your guests but never experience them for yourself.”

   “I prefer to think of it as an opportunity.” She leafed through her journal to the previous day’s entries. “With respect to the items you gave me yesterday, I was able to return all of them except the gifts from Modiste. I’m sorry, but they don’t accept returns of custom-made items.”

   “Damn.” He met Acacia’s eyes. “They’re of no use to me.”

   She bit the inside of her cheek to avoid making an impertinent remark. “If I may make a suggestion?”

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