My reply stuck in my throat. Eyes the color of the Mediterranean looked back at me as I stared at her creamy skin and strong, straight nose, her perfectly sculpted lips and cheekbones—I knew that elegant face. I'd seen it a dozen times on the covers of magazines. I'd seen it on the big screen. She was a favorite of Madame Clouet.
"Grace Kelly," I whispered.
Natalie stood dumbstruck, her feather duster poised in midair.
"Yes," Miss Kelly replied with a slight smile, casting another nervous glance over her shoulder. "I'm Grace." She held out a white-gloved hand. "Hello!"
I took her hand, thinking how American her greeting was, but I couldn't make my lips move to say anything in reply. The one Hollywood star I knew something about, the most beautiful and famous woman in the world, was standing in front of me. In my boutique.
"You were going to help me?" Grace prompted, sweetly.
I cleared my throat. "Yes, of course. How can I...what can I do for you, Mademoiselle Kelly?"
"Please, call me Grace."
I noted the sincerity in her voice, and despite my racing pulse, managed a smile. "Of course.
What can I do for you? Grace."
She leaned closer as if to divulge a secret. "I'm being followed by a photographer. He's terribly persistent. I thought I'd given him the slip, but he reappeared on the promenade. I ducked behind a palm tree and raced across the street, and, well, here I am. It sounds like a scene from a movie, doesn't it?" Relief and annoyance warred in her eyes. "I think I've lost him, but is there another exit from your store? Just in case? They can be terribly persistent. The British are the worst."
I nodded. "There's an exit through the back, but it's very close to the street. He might see you." She looked a little disappointed. "Perhaps if you wait in my office for a few minutes, he'll be on his way and you can duck out then," I suggested. "Will that do?"
"Oh yes. Thank you." She touched my hand. "Thank you so much. I only wanted to take a walk through this beautiful town, and along La Croisette. It's so fresh beside the water. I wanted to escape the madness of the festival for a few hours. I suppose I was silly to hope for such a thing."
There was something a little melancholy in her tone, a childlike vulnerability I didn't expect from someone in her position.
"Can we perhaps interest you in trying a new perfume, Mademoiselle Kelly?" Natalie offered, sliding behind the counter with her usual easy charm.
Though her tone was professional, I knew what she was up to, and shot her a warning look. She wanted to gossip with her friends about how she'd sold perfume to Grace Kelly, but now was not the time to play saleswoman.
"Perhaps another time, Natalie," I interjected. "Please, Grace, follow me."
I fished the keys from my handbag and flipped through them to find the right one. I tried to ignore my excitement and nerves, while the strong fragrance Grace wore irritated my nose.
Vanilla was a bold scent, generic but comforting, reminding many of home. But it also covered deep insecurities. Papa used to say that those who wore a bold scent might have a large personality on the surface but often longed for approval.
"To be a parfumeur is to be a psychologist. That was the second lesson Papa taught me. He said that everyone had deeply hidden insecurities, and that many people wished to be something more than they were. Our job as parfumeurs was to uncover what that something more was and make it for them. Papa was extraordinarily good at guessing secrets, but I couldn't help wondering if he was wrong about vanilla. At least this time. I doubted the mighty Grace Kelly had any insecurities.
"Why don't you allow me, Sophie?" Natalie offered. "I'd be happy to show Miss Kelly to the cozy chaise in your office. I know you like to do a quick inventory of the shelves before you leave."
Though I'd have liked to spend more time with Miss Kelly, I couldn't very well argue with Natalie without looking foolish.