"This can't be it," Laila said quietly as she stared at the courtyard in front of her.
"If it isn't, I'm moving in anyway," Piper announced. The building was old and gorgeous. The courtyard was lined with flowers and wrought iron chairs and tables. An old man wearing a beret with a cigarette dangling from his mouth was sweeping the stairs. Classic.
Laila adjusted her bag on her shoulder and wandered over to the stairs, inquiring in perfect French where their apartment was. Piper watched as the old man smiled at her and pointed up the stairs. Laila smiled back and gestured for the group to join. Three stories later and what seemed like hundreds of stairs, the four were standing outside a whitewashed door, knocking expectantly.
A loud squeal could be heard into the hallway as the door was thrown open. "You're here! I've been waiting for days and days and days but you're finally here!"
Laila was pulled into a tight hug before she got a good look at the girl. But soon she was pushed away as the attention was turned to Piper. This ball of energy had dark red hair and her ivory skin was covered in freckles.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" the girl exclaimed, taking a step back and pushing her hair out of her eyes. "I just get so excited! I'm Tamlyn. I'm your third roommate!"
"Oh my God, it's Luanne on crack," Laila heard Alistair whisper to Sterling and she shot him a warning glare.
"Hi, I'm Laila. This is Piper."
"Hi!" Tamlyn was practically bouncing up and down.
"This is Sterling and Alistair…"
But Tamlyn was already reaching for the girl's hands and pulling them inside. "Come on! Let me show you where we're going to be staying!"
Laila and Piper glanced at each other as they were forced inside the apartment. Tamlyn was already rambling about how old the building was and how much work had been done to the place to make sure it could support all the modern day plumbing and electricity. Piper glanced over her shoulder as the twins attempted to collect all of the luggage in their arms and drag it after them.
"And here are our host fathers! Pierre and Luc. Isn't that just adorable?" Tamlyn smiled expectantly at her two new roommates.
Piper looked in front of her again and grinned as she saw the two men standing in the kitchen. They looked like an older version of the odd couple, one tall and handsome with salt and pepper hair, a business suit and tanned skin. The other was short and plump, wearing a dingy t-shirt which was covered in paint.
"Enchanté," Laila said with a shy grin. "My name is Laila."
"It is a pleasure to meet you," the taller one said in a thick accent, stepping forward and kissing both of her cheeks. "And you must be Piper."
"Hey," Piper said, surprised to find that she was a little shy herself as the incredibly good looking man kissed her as well. But she heard Alistair clear his throat and she was quickly pulled from her daze. "This is Alistair and Sterling. They're helping us move in."
"Pierre Gaspard," the man made his introduction again with a warm smile. "And this is my partner, Luc. Unfortunately, his English is nearly non-existent."
Alistair breathed a sigh of relief. He could see the way all three girls were eyeing Pierre, and hadn't been eager for Piper to spend an entire semester with him, even if he was thirty years her senior. But his relief was only temporary as he heard another ear piercing squeal coming from Tamlyn. She pushed past the crowd and Alistair looked behind him to see what could have possibly caught her attention. There, standing at the back of the room, having apparently snuck in completely unnoticed, was a third man. Younger. Much younger. A frown formed on his face and he glanced at his brother who was also eyeing this newcomer with uncertainty.
"And this is Sébastien, their son!" Tamlyn grabbed the guy by the arm and started to pull him across the room, laughing as he shook her off of him. "He doesn't like me…at all!"
Alistair cracked a smile as Sébastien rolled his eyes. He would have a hard time living with that girl as well. Sébastien said a quiet hello to the group and then leaned casually against the wall, clearly annoyed by the entire situation.
"Sébastien graduated from University last spring. He's been running Luc's store for us and saving money so he can travel," Pierre said, a rather proud smile on his face.
"What kind of store do you have?" Laila asked Luc, knowing her French wouldn't be understood by the twins or Piper.
"Un fromagerie, ma chérie," Luc said with a grin, laughing at his rhyme.
"He sells cheese! Isn't that just so French?" Tamlyn said with a smile, skipping over and linking arms with Luc. "He's also a brilliant painter!"
Luc smiled back, even though it was clear he didn't understand a word she had said, as if he were quite fond of the redhead. The group stood around in an awkward silence, the twins shuffling the bags under their arms, Sébastien glaring at Tamlyn, and the three girls smiling at each other with a suppressed excitement over their forthcoming Parisian adventure.
"I imagined you will want to get settled," Pierre finally said. "I am to go to the office but Luc and Sébastien will be here if you need anything. Please, make yourselves comfortable."
"Merci," Piper muttered, still unsure of what limited French she knew. "Thank you."
Pierre smiled, kissed Luc goodbye and gave Sébastien a warning glance as he left the room. Piper watched as his son glared back and then quickly left the room after he heard the front door close.
"Come on," Tamlyn said, significantly calmer but her voice still had a soft ring to it. "I'll show you our room."
The redhead led the way through the apartment, pointing out bathrooms and linen closets along the way. "Luc's mother left him this place when she died but it's way too big for just the three of them so they rent half of it out to students during the year and tourists during the summer months. We're really lucky the school placed us here. It's so close to campus!"
She opened the last door at the end of the long hallway, a warm light emanating from the room. The walls were painted a soft yellow and a fireplace stood at the far corner. Three small beds were pushed against the walls of the enormous room, all clad in white linen and lace duvets. The window opened up into the courtyard below.
"This is our room?" Piper asked, stepping in right behind Tamlyn.
"Can you believe it?" Tamlyn asked. "It's bigger than my entire apartment back in DC."
Piper was about to ask if DC was where Tamlyn was originally from but the girl just kept on talking.
"There are some drawers over here for your clothes, and another closet right across the hall for your jackets and stuff like that. I've claimed this bed," she said, pointing to the side of the room that had clearly already been lived in. There were clothes draped over the bed frame and shoes sticking out from under the bed itself. "Hope you don't mind."
Tamlyn glanced down at her watch and a smile spread across her face. "Okay, so, I am so glad you are here! I have to go because I have a date with this really, really cute Italian soccer player who lives a few floors above us, but I'll be back later tonight! Oh! And Sébastien has your keys to the apartment…forgot to get those. Sorry. Don't mind his moodiness - he just doesn't like Americans. Maybe you could pretend to be from Canada or something. But I doubt he knows the difference. He's kinda really hot, though, isn't he? Anyway, I have to go. But I'm so glad you are here!"
Tamlyn hugged each of the girls again and smiled at the twins before disappearing down the hall.
"What the fuck was that?" Alistair asked, dropping all of the bags in his arms onto the floor.
Laila shrugged and smiled, walking in a slow circle around the room. It was beautiful and it was going to be her home for the next five months. Living with Tamlyn wouldn't be the easiest thing, but this place would certainly make it more agreeable.
She could hear Piper and Alistair laughing about something in the background as she walked to the window and opened it. The sounds of the busy Parisian street just on the other side of the courtyard were calming for some reason, and the fall air blew them through the room with a refreshing breeze. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, not startled at all when she felt Sterling's arms wrap around her from behind.
"Are you ever going to leave this place to come visit me?" He teased as he nibbled playfully on her ear.
"After the novelty wears off," she said with a smile.
Sterling pushed her hair to the side so he could kiss her slender neck. "Sébastien's not really that hot, is he?"
Laila laughed out loud and turned to face her boyfriend. She smiled up at him, knowing he was still trying to tease her but maybe hiding a little concern as well. Sébastien was cute, she would agree with Tamlyn on that. He had long dark hair which hung just above his grey eyes, his face was angular yet somehow soft, at least when it wasn't pulled into a frown. But what could possibly be so offensive about three American girls that the guy felt the need to wear such a scowl?
"He's nothing compared to you," Laila decided, standing on her toes and kissing Sterling on the lips. "Plus, he's French," she added with a whisper.
Sterling laughed and kissed her back, pulling her into a tight hug and lifting her off the ground.
"Let's get out of here," Sterling whispered. "I'll help you unpack later."
Laila nodded her agreement and kissed his cheek as he set her back on her feet. Sterling took her hand and then turned toward his brother and Piper.
"We're going to head out for a while. Will you two be here to let us back in?"
Alistair nodded and let out a small cough, still not completely over his cold. He actually had no desire to leave the apartment, now or ever. He wanted to stay in the room with Piper until she was ready to come back home to him. He certainly didn't want to share her with all of Paris, even if he was by her side.
Sterling gave his brother an encouraging smile, knowing Alistair was nearly heartbroken that he would have to leave Piper for so many months. But he knew his twin wouldn't be able to stay away for too long. He would be back in Europe before the month was through, sweeping Piper away for a long weekend so they could be together.
Of course, he would miss his brother as well but he knew that his decision to stay and finish school early was for the best. Piper and Alistair were made for each other and they were both starting to feel the distance between them, now more than ever. It would be good for them to live in the same city, to really start their lives together.
Sterling felt Laila pull on his hand as she started walking out of the room. Hmmm, starting their lives together. He couldn't wait to live the rest of his life with Laila by his side. He swooped down and lifted Laila into his arms, smiling as he heard her surprised laugh, and carried her out the door.
A/N: I know some of you have been waiting for it, so I am happy to announce that I will be posting my Kill Will, Volume 2 chapter tomorrow :) Thanks to everyone for all their suggestions and a huge thank you to MyPrintingPress for hosting the competition. Much Love, Pink