Thank you for continuing to read GAMES AT DEAUVILLE. I'm glad you're enjoying it.
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From the landing, Barry watched Elizabeth reach the door to her apartment and disappear inside.
She was his best friend as well as being his lover's cousin. He was worried about her now that he had watched her during the sleigh ride with Philippe. He didn't want to see her hurt. Not, he hastened to remind himself, that the Comte seemed like the kind of guy who would hurt her.
But Elizabeth Myers was acting every bit like a young girl in love for the first time. She'd been quite giggly on the sleigh ride. And her eyes were twinkling all the time. Yeah! She had it bad, all right. He shivered as he thought back to the early part of summer when he was falling in love with Robert. "Yeah," he mumbled, "she's flying higher than a kite."
While kites soared, they also tumbled - deep swoops even, some of which the guy on the other end of the string couldn't control. And, some times, those kites crashed into the ground - hard.
It'd been that way with him - except that there had been no crash. He'd just arrived in a country where things weren't always the way they seemed and he'd fallen for a nobleman. That roller coaster he'd been on early in the summer had had some real doozies for dips and curves too - until Elizabeth had become his friend and showed him the way to get to her cousin.
Showed him, hell! She'd pulled poor Robbie down to him. With the poor bastard kicking and screaming the whole way. He chuckled; the image of ever-so-proper Robert Adshead kicking and screaming was funny. Okay, Robbie had resisted then - in a dignified, proper way.
God! He'd been ready to pack up and take the first steamer back to New York, he'd been so dejected. But Elizabeth'd put him in place and brought Robbie to him. Until Robbie had finally forgotten about class and duty and had gone for what was right for the two of them. And it would never have happened without Elizabeth guiding both of them to each other.
He didn't want her to have the kind of dips and curves he'd had. That hurt too much and he had come to love the woman like a sister. Only, he didn't know the lay of this land like she had known her cousin and the whole English way of doing things. He suspected she didn't, either.
The French were Catholics, almost to a man. Their nobility was practically married to the Roman church - at least, their Monarchy had been. It'd been one of the Huguenot Henrys who'd converted to Catholicism to become king. Barry was pretty sure that there was something from high school history about there being a French influence behind whatever Mary Queen of the Scots was doing in England - before the English beheaded her. Sure that was three hundred years ago, but Europeans got caught up in all that old stuff and didn't let it go.
So, what would that do to any feelings Louis-Philippe d'Orléans might have for Elizabeth? Even if he didn't have his head buried in all that history, the men who advised, suggested, and whatever else the muckety-mucks over here did almost surely had their heads stuck all the way into all that history. So, what would they do to any feelings the French Prince might have for Elizabeth?
Robbie didn't seem especially worried, though - not after he'd talked with Elizabeth. Not about class differences or national differences at any rate. Of course, Robert Adshead sometimes buried his head up his ass, and it took both Barry and Elizabeth to pull it back out again.
Robbie was figuring this thing between Elizabeth and Philippe for just a fling - something that would last for the rest of the week while they were in France and then disappear. Just like Barry had figured it.
Only now, he wasn't so sure. He'd seen the two of them on the sleigh ride just a little while ago. He'd watched them - well, listened to them was more like it.
Before the ride, he'd pretty much thought the same as Robbie, that it was just a fling. God only knew how many times he'd fallen for someone back in Rye and even down in the city, once he could get down to New York on his own. He'd see a cute guy, and the guy was interested ... Well, the nobility apparently didn't get physical over here in Europe - at least not when it was a woman of the same class. So, there wouldn't be any hanky-panky going on.
Robbie was a lot surer of that than Barry was. He actually trusted the Frenchman to keep his flies buttoned around Elizabeth. Barry wasn't so sure - a man was a man after all and, Prince or pauper, they all came to think alike - with their dicks. He shrugged. If something did happen and Robbie was wrong about the Frenchman, Elizabeth could always go to the family doctor and get herself cleaned out with whatever doctors called it - like a lot of girls did back home. It was her emotional frame of mind that he was worried about.
He decided that he'd better talk to Elizabeth and started down the darkening corridor. If nothing else, she'd know that he was concerned for her.
"Hi," he said as Elizabeth opened her door to him. "Got a minute?"
She smiled and stepped back, inviting him in. As soon as she'd closed the door, she turned to him and asked: "Isn't he adorable?"
"I guess." Barry shrugged, keeping his expression blank.
"Barry Alexander!" she hissed and crossed to the settee.
He followed and took her hand in his as she sat down. "Dear Elizabeth, I'm not noticing men any more-"
"Not since I have your cousin. He's proved to be enough man for me." He chuckled then. "So, tell your brother all about it, honey," he said.
"He's got the loveliest eyes. Only, sometimes, they seem so sad-"
"Uh oh," Barry groaned.
Elizabeth looked up at him, focusing on his face. "What?"
"You've got it bad, girl." He sat beside her. "Didn't Miss Alice teach you to keep your heart under control?"
"It's too good, this feeling is. I won't bottle it up, pretend it isn't there, and go around plotting what I can do to the poor man like one of those gold-diggers in your films from Hollywood. I refuse to be mercenary, Barry. Or to submit myself, like Aunt Alice would expect of me. I'm simply going to enjoy it while it's happening."
Barry shook his head slowly. "Like I said, you've got it bad, girl."
"When it's no longer fun, I'll let go of it." She squeezed his hand and met his gaze. "I promise."
"Just be careful, Elizabeth-"
"Oh, dear! Barry, a gentleman knows his place. And Philippe is a gentleman; he would never take advantage of me."
"That's what Robbie says too. But I'm not worried about you two doing something - that's pretty natural when two people want to be around each other."
She made a face but chose to ignore the implications behind his remark. "Then what does worry you, Barry?"
"I just don't want you to get hurt, Elizabeth. Not like I would have been if you hadn't been there to guide Robbie and me towards each other."
"Why do you think I would?"
"You're acting dizzier and dizzier. You're starry-eyed. You hang on this guy's every word." He grinned. "I even suspect that you're practising walking on air."
She giggled. "Dizzier?"
He held up a hand. "Don't ask."
"I thought it had something to do with blondes-"
He met her gaze. "Where did you learn that?" he asked in surprise.
Elizabeth laughed. "I've been reading those hardboiled, pulp detective stories from out of America - Mike Hammer, those lads. What trash!"
"Yeah, and you aren't even blonde, either."
"You still said I was being dizzy, Barry-" Her brow arched questioningly.
"You look just like Robbie when you do that."
"I hope I don't! Can you imagine my cousin in a dress?"
Barry laughed as he tried to and couldn't. He shook his head.
Elizabeth took a deep breath and smiled at him. Her hands clasped his tighter. "Are you satisfied that I'm still me, my very best friend in all the world?"
"I never doubted-"
She shook her head, like a teacher rejecting a poorly thought out excuse. "Barry Alexander! You shouldn't tell fibs, dear."
"You thought that I had become one of Mr. Hammer's dumb blondes. That I had fallen madly in love with Philippe."
He looked down at their joined hands. "Yeah," he whispered.
"I am quite fond of Philippe. He is everything a girl could want-" She paused before adding, "This girl especially."
Barry realised that she was speaking slowly, consciously thinking her way through her words.
"I may be a little in love with him too," she continued and smiled. "Unfortunately, the lexicon at Bellingham Hall doesn't define where fondness leaves off and love begins."
"That means that you can end up getting hurt, Elizabeth. I don't want to see that. You mean too much to me for me just to stand back and let it happen."
She smiled then, and he thought it seemed almost sad. "I've led a very sheltered life. We're the same age - you and I - and I've never known love." She shrugged. "Not like this, Barry."
She squeezed his hands again. "You're going to have to give me some time - allow me to experience this myself. Like you have. Just be there to catch me if I really do fall and hurt myself, promise me that."
"You've got that. Robbie and I both will be there. But-"
"No. No buts here, my friend. This is an experience I want to have. I promise to walk into it with my eyes open, though."
Barry searched her face, looking for an excuse, an entrance - anything. Finally, he sighed. "I guess that's the best I'm going to get out of you, isn't it?"
"Just keep your eyes open. And remember that, no matter what your heart tells you, these things almost never work out."
"I can do that." She giggled suddenly. "Don't you have someone across the hall whom you'd find far more interesting than I?"
"My dear cousin himself." She grinned mischievously. "And, remember, you can even become intimate with him over there and no-one will think any less of you than they do now."
"Ouch!" he groaned as he sat up, accepting that she wanted him to leave her. "That was a low blow, Elizabeth."
"I'll be here if you get hurt. You can come and cry on my shoulder."
He stood and shook his head as his gaze held hers. "That was even worse," he grumbled.
"Go to Robbie, Barry," she chuckled. "He's where you belong."
* * *
Obersturmführer Stefan Schmidt began his search for the Petersholme party at the casino. It was the most logical place to look, he told himself. Most businesses in Deauville catered to a summer traffic of the upper middle class taking the sea air as an antidote to the heat that descended on the cities. But it was nearly Christmas, and those businesses were closed. There were only the casino and a small cabaret that were still open to entertain the rich and the gamblers.
He smiled as the doorman bowed to him. He had come a long way from the ghetto section of Essen in which he was born. Mentally, he thanked Gauleiter Riet again for making his new life possible. And for hiding his old life so well that he could now wear the Waffen-SS uniform of the new Germany. He would never again have to visit the outdoor toilets behind the terraced houses that had been his home.
It had been the Gauleiter who'd showed Stefan how to behave in places like the casino. He would invite Party officials to parties at his home and used the Deutsche Jungvolk and Hitlerjungend as waiters. A select number of the boys had done more than just serve champagne and hors d'oeuvres, however. The best looking and most willing boys.
Young Stefan had soon become a member of that select group of boys. His mother received a hundred Reichsmarks a month while her son spent his weekends helping the Party. When his father died of cancer before Stefan's thirteenth birthday, the local Party paid for his funeral. He excelled at pleasing visiting party dignitaries, and he was popular because he knew how to comport himself both in and out of bed.
Yes, Stefan Schmidt knew how to perform in the kind of glitter he found in the Casino. He had learnt well from the Gauleiter before he became too old for the man's tastes. But, by then, he was in such demand from the Party official's regular visitors that he remained in the man's select service through his years at gymnasium.
It wasn't yet 2000 hours as he entered the casino. The idle rich of Berlin and Essen didn't eat until this hour, and he assumed that their French counterparts had similar habits. Those who had come to spend Christmas in Deauville would bring their habits from Paris with them. He made for the main restaurant to begin his search for the English Baron and his party.
Inside, he went directly to the bar without once looking at the people in the dining room. He ordered a cognac, keeping his voice low and hoarse in the hope of disguising his accent from the bartender. When the man had moved back to the other end of the bar to take an order from a waiter, Stefan turned to study the dining room.