A/N: I do not own Robert Watt's or his work Rembrandt's signature.


An hour's drive from our hotel, Lucien's house was the biggest I'd ever stepped foot in. The Professor informed me that it was built in 1560 although it had been updated several times since then. Originally belonging to French members of the court, after the French Revolution the house remained abandoned for several years until some of Lucien's ancestors: shrewd businessmen that had managed to thrive from the war, had taken it over. We were ushered into the house by a butler as the limo headed in the direction of the garages. I marveled at the large staircase and chandelier in the main room, but I barely had time as we were quickly brought to the dining room due to being late.

When we entered the dining room a tanned man about thirty with dirty blond hair rushed over to us as soon he saw us with an excited smile on his face. "Professor Hardwick, it's so good to see you!" he said happily shaking hands with the Professor. He turned to me and grinned, "You must be Viola, the Professor has mentioned you," he said shaking my hand as well. "Does he still spell out everything in his classes?" he asked and I laughed. As the Professor lectured about art history he would spell anything from the difficult names like "Sansovino, S-A-N-S-O-V-I-N-O," to saying "This painting features a bear, B-E-A-R."

The Professor laughed with us before chiding the young man, "I seem to remember you had great difficulty spelling Toulouse-Lautrec, Cyril,"

Cyril laughed again and winked at me. "Believe it for not, my French spelling has drastically improved since I got the job here."

A tall thin, blonde woman with hard grey eyes walked over to where we were and laced her arm through his. "Come Cyril, we should sit down now," she said her voice too sweet for the sour expression she wore on her face.

"This is my sister, Genevra," Cyril said, his smile quickly fading. "This is my old Professor from art school, Professor Hardwick and one of his students Viola," he said to her. She nodded politely to us, her mouth twitching as if she was attempting to smile. She then steered him away to two empty seats.

During this exchange I'd began to feel uneasy, like I was being watched. I finally turned to find Avery watching this entire exchange intently. He turned away quickly when our eyes met and headed to the other side of the table.

I heard a soft chuckle and was surprised to see a plump middle aged woman laughing behind me. "Come chérie, let's sit," she grabbed my arm and pulled me along with her to two empty seats far away from Avery. "Don't let Mr. Parker scare you chérie," she said in a thick French accent. "He is terrible, how do you say, non social?"

"He does seem that way," I replied taking my napkin and putting it on my lap.

"I am called Constance Nicolle, and you are called…?" she asked.

I smiled, already taking a liking to the large French woman. "I'm Viola, Aiello a student of Professor Hardwick's." I gestured towards the Professor who was now seated between Lucien and Cyril talking more animatedly than I'd ever seen the British man.

"Ahh, a painter!" she said excitedly. She proceeded to ask me several questions about my work and education as the dinner began.

It wasn't till we'd finished dessert that Constance brought up the subject of Avery Parker once again. I have to admit I'd found myself extremely interested in the young man as I'd glanced over at him from time to time throughout the evening, so I was ready to listen to the woman's gossip.

"I don't know why Lucien invited him," Constance was saying as she watched him. He was seated next to an elderly man she'd informed me was another collector named DeWitt Hansard and a pretty brunette that worked at the auction house with Cyril.

Through out the dinner DeWitt and Avery had not exchanged a single word but the brunette had talked almost constantly, batting her eyelashes and tossing her hair, but other than a few comments spoken too low for me to hear, and a few nods of the head, Avery was hardly paying any attention to her.

"I guess he is one of the richest collectors in the city, maybe even the richest, no one knows how much he has," Constance sighed, clearly finding the lack of knowledge about his fortune exasperating.

"I didn't realize he lived here," I asked with surprise. "The Chauffeur picked him up at our hotel," I explained.

"He doesn't permanently. I think," Constance paused thoughtfully. "He has a mansion somewhere in Europe I'm sure he used to travel in for the auctions, but for the last year or so he's been living in your hotel," she frowned. "No one really knows much about him at all. Where his money comes from, what he does. He's obviously the youngest collector in the room, but maybe he's the youngest in the world. And I don't know that he even likes art."

I found that greatly troubling, how could someone spend all of their time collecting art when they didn't even like it? I didn't have time to comment on my feelings to Constance as Lucien announced to the room that he would be giving a tour of his rare art collection. The table quickly silenced and the atmosphere changed from friendly to cold. Many of the collectors' faces hardened and they swarmed over to Lucien like a group of vultures.

I hung back with the Professor as Lucien led us to a door with a key pad next to it. As he opened it the collectors swarmed, some even pushing to get ahead.

I was surprised when the Professor and I entered last to hear the only things being discussed were age and monetary value, as well as whether anyone knew what Lucien had paid for it.

I was reminded of a piece of artwork by Robert Watts entitled Rembrandt's signature. It was a large sculpture of the signature as a Neon light. It was meant as a comment on how his paintings were being purchased merely for the price of the signature and not their beauty.

"None of them can appreciate the art like we the painters can, eh?" Professor Hardwick commented to me before heading over to Lucien to talk about a painting.

I noticed Avery in a corner by himself, his arms crossed. "Not really your thing?" I asked, crossing over to him and thinking about what Constance had said.

"It's difficult to appreciate it when all anyone is talking about is money. It's all business and no beauty," he said scowling at his fellow collectors. "I came here for a dinner party, not to work," he shoved his hands into his pockets and walked away.

I finally stopped before a beautiful but small painting of trees in a field. It looked fauvist to me with the bright colorful swirls, but I couldn't tell who painted it and it was the only painting in the room without a placard with the name and painter listed, which was probably why no one else was looking at it.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" I turned to see Cyril positively beaming behind me. "That was Lucien's first art piece," he explained as he came closer to look at it with me. "He won't let me appraise it, won't get it authenticated nothing, because he doesn't' want to ruin the beauty he first saw in it that inspired him to become a collector."

I smiled with him, glad that Lucien wasn't as crazy as the rest of the collectors in the room appeared to be.

"Makes you like him even more doesn't it?" Cyril said, reading my mind.

I nodded.

"And that you picked this out of all the paintings in the room makes me like you even more," he continued quietly, reaching to push some hair out of my eyes. I blushed and smiled, not used to compliments from such handsome and successful men.

We were interrupted again by his sister with her tight lipped fake smile. "We really should be getting home Cyril," she said looking between the two of us inquisitively.

His smile faded again, but didn't completely disappear this time. "I'll see you tomorrow Viola, I'm giving you and the Professor a tour of the auction house."

I smiled back, already excited to see the blond man again, hopefully sans sister. "I look forward to it," I said.

"As do I," he said as she led him away.

The Professor and I stayed for another half hour before making our way to the limousine that was waiting out front. Avery was already inside and nodded to us wordlessly as we entered. The ride to the hotel was silent; I was so exhausted I was barely able to marvel at Paris at night.

We were about to part ways in the lobby but Avery surprised me by putting a hand on my arm. "May I talk to you for a minute Miss Aiello?" he asked.

I grumbled inwardly wanting nothing more than to go upstairs and go to bed but I nodded my goodnight to the Professor before sitting down on one of the couches that was every bit as comfortable as it looked.

"Look I want to apologize," he started still standing awkwardly in front of me instead of sitting. "You might have thought me rude earlier; I wasn't trying to be I just wasn't sure about you."

I had to keep myself from snorting at his declaration, but when I looked up at him his expression was earnest. His curls were falling in front of his eyes as he ran his hand through them nervously. For the second time that night I found myself thinking how good looking someone was. I shocked myself after having only thought of Joel for the last four years of my life.

But what did Avery mean, not sure about me? My thoughts went to the brunette sitting next to him at dinner flirting unabashedly the whole night. He must've thought I would be trying to get into his pants for his fortune as she'd appeared to be doing, but I wasn't sure I liked being judged by him.

He'd stopped his pacing and finally sat down next to me while I was thinking. He still watched me, his expression the softest I'd seen it all night. It was clear he was waiting for me to respond.

"Well I'm still not sure about you, Mr. Parker," I said truthfully. I was very unsure as to why the millionaire even cared if I thought I was rude or why he was talking to me at all.

He sighed and looked around the bustling lobby for a minute. I noticed in the evening light his eyes were more golden than green.

"Well Miss Aiello, I just need to warn you that not all of the people at the party can be trusted," he said quietly.

I frowned. I mean I knew that many were shrewd art collectors but he'd made them sound almost evil. And the only one at the party I'd found to be unwholesome was the man sitting before me.

"I beg your pardon sir, I must be getting to bed," I attempted to end our conversation. I stood up but he put a strong hand on my wrist.

"Please, Viola, it's for your safety," he looked up at me, his eyes imploring me to listen to him.

I wrenched my arm away from him with annoyance. "I'm perfectly capable of making my own judgments thank you, now goodnight!" I nearly yelled.

This time I walked away without him stopping me, but I was annoyed to find when I reached the elevator he was only a few paces behind me. I glared at him, pushing the up button with quite a bit of force.

"Are you following me?" I asked.

He laughed quietly, "No my rooms are upstairs too you know."

I could feel myself blush; now he probably thought I was an idiot. Although I shouldn't care what he thought of me anyway.

"You're cute when you're angry," he teased as the elevator opened with a ding.

I wordlessly glided into the elevator and pressed my floor before standing in a corner with my arms crossed.

"How wonderful, we're on the same floor," he smiled cheerfully at me.

"Oh my hand slipped I pressed the wrong one," I lied pressing the number 4 instead of the 2 I'd originally hit.

"A pity, I was looking forward to bumping into you often while you're here," he said as the elevator opened and he stepped out. I quickly hit the button to close the door as quickly as possible on his smiling face.

I regretted my childishness as I reached the fourth floor. I was exhausted from my flight and the party and even the extra minutes it took to head up there and back down again seemed painfully long.

I was even angrier when the elevator opened again on the second floor and Avery was standing there waiting. I was in no room for the rich man's games so I tried to calculate a way to walk past him without acknowledging his presence.

He laughed at my indignant face. "I guess we both liked, hmm?" he put his arm out to stop the door from closing and gestured me past him.

I didn't speak as I started down the dimly lit hall. After about ten yards I turned to look at him, having not heard the elevator door ding closed yet. He was still watching me, his expression boyish and soft. I wondered for a second if I'd misjudged him.

"Goodnight Mr. Parker," I called as I reached my door.

He smiled the most genuinely pleased one I'd seen him give yet. "Goodnight Viola," he called softly back.

I went into my room as I heard the elevator finally ding.

I quickly took of my dress, tossing it to the side as I was too tired to find the closet in the dark. I sunk into the emerald green covers on my ornate king sized bed and almost immediately fell asleep.