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Wandering around the city, Lucien as my tour guide as if I've never been before, feels like a little vacation. Seeing him point to places he once experienced things in before we met, when he was young and free, makes my heart flutter.
No matter how many times I remind myself, the realisation that we're engaged to be married catches me off guard many times during our walk. When the streets get less crowded and we've passed the Eiffel Tower, crossed the Seine and are leaving the sixteenth arrondissement, small signs catch my eye.
"Botanical gardens?" Lucien knows that voice well enough, and he holds my hand a little tighter, leading the way.
Entering the massive park is like stepping into a fairytale. There's roses wherever you look, small benches that look like they were handcarved out of age old trees and even swans drifting on the lake.
"How come you've never shown me this?" I mumble, my eyes shifting from one gorgeous place to another, unable to take it all in at once.
"We're usually never in this part of the city," he shrugs, a smile on his face. "But I know now that was a huge mistake."
"This place is..." my sentence gets lost in the air when I watch two squirrels chase each other on a massive patch of grass, only for me to finish it when they rapidly climb up one of the high trees. "A fairytale."
"My mother used to take us to the theatre further down," he does a vague hand gesture in a certain direction. "They did Shakespeare, and afterwards we'd get to play or she'd show us all the flowers the garden had to offer. And if we were lucky, we'd get to eat ice cream from one of the stands. They had a restaurant, too, but it was horribly expensive - for kids, that is. I wonder if it's still there..." his hand pulls me in closer, pressing a kiss to my temple and wrapping an arm around me. "I haven't been here in forever."
"I was sold when you said Shakespeare, garden and ice cream. Let's go check it out," I smile, leaning into his touch.
      The restaurant, so it turns out, is still there. It vaguely resembles a castle from the front, and from there, we wander into the Jardin Shakespeare, with beautiful floral pieces and big patches of grass.
"How long has it been since you've been here?" I ask, when Lucien stops to read a sign in his gorgeous French accent that continues to make me melt just a little.
"I don't remember," he breathes, a tone of melancholy to his voice. "But it must have been with my mother."
I squeeze his hand softly. "So it can't be a coincidence we were lead here."
Lucien goes to say something when we both get distracted by a flash of white to our left, and when we go to look, there's a bride and groom posing by a blossoming tree.
Though staring is impolite, neither of us seems to be able to help it, and from the grip Lucien has on my hand, I can tell he must be thinking pretty much the same thing I am.
It can't be a coincidence we're here, in a place Madeleine used to take her children, watching a couple celebrate their marriage.
When we turn to each other, we're both grinning.
      Lucien calls it "exploring the idea", stepping into the restaurant. The plaque on the front tells us it was built in the 19th century, and the history nearly jumps off of the walls.
We're just exploring the idea, but the high ceilings, massive windows and gorgeous chandeliers make the image so vivid I can hardly contain the heart beating out of my chest.
In rapid French, we get offered a table, which Lucien kindly declines. He asks to speak to someone in charge, the sophisticated hostess soon returning with a slightly stern looking man, whose facial features soften when he sees us.
"Lucien du Castellon," he grins, reaching out his hand. "As I live and breathe. I'm Gaston, the owner. When Aurelie told me someone asked for the man in charge, I was afraid we were going to get sued - but the contrary is happening, I hope! Your father represented me in a case just a few months ago. What can I do for you?"
"We were hoping for a tour of the place," Lucien beams, the charisma I fell for in full effect. "This is Emmeline Middleton, my...." With a hint of wonder in his voice, he turns to me. We have only told our closest family and friends, and saying the word out loud for the first time is exciting, yet nerve wrecking. "Fiancée. We were walking through the gardens and started... thinking."
"Of course, of course! I must say," his eyes sparkle a little. "We usually don't host weddings... but for a du Castellon, we might make an exception."
      The entire place, with all its floors, private little nooks and massive rooms, is like a dream. There's paintings in the hallway of the place a century ago, and the stories nearly beam off of the walls of every room you set foot into.
From the upstairs, you have a gorgeous view over the terrace and the gardens, and Gaston ensures us that come sunset, the entire place turns into something out of a movie.
There's old private quarters with matching chandeliers dancing from the ceiling and original fire places, and the staircase leading us back downstairs makes everything feel even more like I'm a princess.
With just one look at one another, a look like the ones we've been exchanging ever since the start of the tour, we know enough. We're just exploring the idea, but this is an idea that might have to be seriously considered.
"Now," Gaston smiles, offering the both of us a glass of champagne once we're out on the terrace. "I'm aware money isn't an issue, so what do you think?"
"I think," Lucien takes a sip from his drink, then smiles. "We're going to need to have some serious talks about this... But we'll get back to you. And in the mean time, can we keep this a secret? We're not quite ready to announce our engagement just yet."
Gaston nods. "Of course. My lips are sealed."

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