He pulled a face. "Now I'm writing trash copy for Firestone tires, but I mean to write important stories or a novel. Maybe a book of poetry."
That threw me. "I thought poets were quiet and shrinking and afraid of sunlight," I said, sitting down.
"Not this one." He came over to join me at the table, turning his chair around to straddle it. "Who's your favorite writer?"
"Henry James, I suppose. I seem to read him over and over."
"Well, aren't you sweetly square?"
"Am I? Who's your favorite writer?"
"Ernest Hemingway." He grinned. "Anyway, there're lots of famous writers in Chicago. Kenley knows Sherwood Anderson. Heard of him?"
"Sure. He wrote Winesburg, Ohio."
"That's the one."
"Well, with your nerve, you can probably do anything at all."
He looked at me seriously, as if he were trying to gauge whether I was teasing or placating him. I wasn't. "How do you take your coffee, Hasovitch?" he finally said.
"Hot," I said, and he grinned his grin, elastic and devastating.
When Kate arrived for our lunch date, Ernest and I were still in the kitchen talking away. I hadn't yet changed out of my dressing gown, and there she was sharp and fresh in a red wool hat and coat.
"I'm sorry," I said, "I won't be a minute."
"Take your time, you deserve a little indolence," she said, but seemed impatient with me just the same.
I went off to dress, and when I came back, Kate was alone in the room.
"Where did Nesto run off to?"
"I haven't the faintest," Kate said. And then, because she clearly read disappointment in my face, "Should I have invited him along?"
"Don't be silly. This is our day."
Excerpted from The Paris Wife by Paula McLain Copyright © 2011 by Paula McLain. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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