He had made her want him.
All to his vast amusement.
He was so pleased, lying at her side, touching her hair.
“You are exquisite. I am deeply sorry for our departed friend, who made you, and then perished!
Poor Alec! He believed so deeply that his love might set him free! Poor fellow, so religious...so aesthetic, believing in life, song, poetry, and myth. Beauty and the beast, and his beast could turn, if love were strong enough. Indeed, were I more familiar with such a sensation, I might love you myself. Perhaps I could learn to do so.”
“I could never learn to love you!”
“Ah, well, then it’s a good thing that I truly don’t give a damn— and that I do have the power.
Nor am I ever content with just one lover. Still, you amuse me, please me, enchant me. And I will summon you when I choose— and you will come, because I demand it.”
“I will learn the power!” she informed him.
Again, he laughed. His deep, husky, wickedly taunting laugh.
And then again, he touched her . . .
His whisper, like his sensuality, wrapped all around her. “Ma belle, I do have the power ...” Her eyes opened slowly. She was in her own bed, listening to the church bells of Paris tolling the hour.
She lay in a fog as she struggled to awaken, thinking of her macabre nightmare. What a restless night; she still lay exhausted, the dream had been so very vivid!
She started to rise.
Then realized that her gown was in tatters, ripped and shredded. Her hands began to shake; tears stung her eyes. Oh, God, it couldn’t be.
Oh, God, it was.
She fell back, wallowing in a cascade of tears and self-pity.
But then, when she had cried herself out, she rose. She walked to the window, and stared out at the day.
She would cry no more.
Lucian had power.
So be it.
She would have more.
Angie, Cissy, and Maggie ate dinner at a new restaurant not far from the jazz club. While the other two girls ordered espressos, she excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. On her return to the table, she passed through the bar area. At the far end of the elegant oak bar, there was a television. She was certain that it was frequently tuned to sporting events, but tonight, the stations were repeating segments of the six o’clock news. First, she saw the sincere young detective she had met that afternoon, Jack Delaney. The reporters asking questions began to grow surly. Then Canady stepped up to the podium.
There was an air of authority about him that was assuring. When he said that the police intended to protect the city, his words were believable. It might even have had something to do with his physical presence, or the sound of his voice. Whatever his power, he managed to soothe the savage beasts ready to tear into the police force—fear did that to people, and, as she had overheard since she’d been out tonight, a lot of people in New Orleans were afraid. Still, people were vocal tonight, and she couldn’t help hearing as well that there were those here who still seemed to believe—as much of the populace might have believed back in Jack the Ripper’s day—that as long as their killer stuck to pimps and whores, decent people were safe. Still, such a killer had to be caught.
Maggie saw a shadow against the screen of the television. Someone very tall was standing behind her.
She turned quickly, and saw that Sean Canady was right at her back. He’d changed. He was in a casual pinstripe jacket with a tieless silver gray shirt, just opened at the collar.
“How’d I do?” he asked her, and he sounded weary.
She watched him for a moment before answering. “Very well. There was a calm assurance about your words. Without actually saying anything of the like, you somehow conveyed to people that if they were careful and kept clear of underworld personalities, they’d probably be safe until the police caught the killer.”
He arched a brow to her, a slight smile playing on his lips. “Now, is that a compliment, or are you mocking me completely?”
She didn’t answer his question—but asked instead, “Did you follow me here?” His smile deepened. He had one dimple, on the right side. Definite power. He had showered, and smelled pleasantly of soap and a subtle, woodsy after-shave. She swallowed hard, wishing she could look away from him, but she’d just asked him a question.
“No,” he said. “I didn’t follow you here. I was hoping to follow you to a jazz club this evening, and we just happened to come in here for dinner because it’s close to the club.” Despite herself, she felt a smile tug at her lips. “Well, sir, you’re honest.”
“I try. Are you honest?”
“I do my best.”
“I didn’t kill the pimp this afternoon. Or the girl in the cemetery.”
“Did I accuse you?”
“You interrogated me this afternoon. And searched my building.”
“You didn’t have to allow me to do so.”
“You would have gotten a search warrant.”
“Yes, I would have.”
“So ... are you following me in the hopes of making an arrest soon?” He didn’t reply. Two seats had gone vacant at the bar and he took her elbow, directing her toward them. “Let me buy you a drink.”
“Do you think I’ll become intoxicated and spill the beans that I’m guilty?” she inquired.
He laughed, directing her onto one of the empty stools, taking another himself. The bartender was quickly before them and Maggie ordered wine while Sean asked for a Michelob.
“Are you allowed to drink on duty?” she asked him.
“I’m not on duty.”
“But you are following me.”
He looked at her, amused. “Yes.”
“But you don’t plan on arresting me tonight?”
“You know that we didn’t find a thing in your building.”
“I was told that you hadn’t found anything, that minute blood drops led to the side doorway but that there was nothing whatsoever discovered over the threshold.”
“Still strange, don’t you think?”
“I think a lot of things are quite strange. But apparently, you think that if those blood drops led to my door, there must be a connection to me. So, I ask again, are you planning to arrest me?” He shrugged, shaking his head, then indicating the wineglass she held.
“You appear to be right-handed.”
“The killer is left-handed.”
“I could be ambidextrous.”
“You could be. What do you weigh?”
“I beg your pardon?”
He laughed softly. His laughter had a rich, husky tone to it. A tone that slipped sensuously beneath her skin. She took a long sip of her wine, determined to fight the feelings. He was a cop, after something!
“The killer is very powerful,” he told her. “All implications suggest a heavily muscled man.”
“Such as yourself?” she said pleasantly.
He arched a brow, a subtle smile still playing about his lips. He didn’t reply to her question but said, “I just don’t think that—at what your weight appears to be—you’d have the strength for these killings.”
“Looks can be deceiving.”
“Indeed, they can.”
“So—why are you following me?”
He drank from his beer, then set the glass down. “I’m not exactly sure. You’re an intriguing woman.”
“And you’ve quite a presence.”
“All right, Miss Montgomery, fish for compliments. You’re beautiful, a stunning woman.” She lifted her chin just slightly. “Are you allowed to hit on murder suspects, Lieutenant?”
“I don’t suspect you of murder,” he told her.
“Then what do you suspect?”
“Ah ... well!” He lifted his glass to her. “All right, I suspect that someone in your building knows something. All the people in your building are your employees. You know all your employees. Maybe you know something that you don’t want to admit, or maybe you even know something that you don’t know you know.”
“Oh, Lieutenant! What a way you have with flattering a woman. And there I thought for a moment that you were actually after me for my feminine appeal.” She started to rise from the bar stool, ready to walk away.
But his hand landed on hers, pinning her where she stood, and his eyes were so dark a blue they were like a cobalt as he stared at her.
“You’re not a fool, Miss Montgomery, nor are you inordinately modest. You know damn well that you have appeal.”
She tried to tug her hand away. “What?” he demanded. “You wanted honesty, didn’t you?”
“Yes, honesty is good,” she said irritably. “Now, we don’t have to play any games—”
“No games. I want to get to know you.”
“What if I don’t want to be known?”
“How about just sleeping with me then?”
“What?” she demanded, stunned and indignant.
But he smiled again, a deep, self-mocking smile. “Sorry, I couldn’t help that one. And, of course, I could be joking. Look, you were insulted that my ‘hitting on you’ might have to do with police work. I told you exactly where I stand on that. I’m following you because you’re so damned alluring I seem to have no choice. Our families do have a history together, you know. Give me a chance. Finish your drink. Let me stand somewhere near you at the jazz club.”
“You know what’s wrong with you, Canady?” she asked him.
“I’m sure there’s a lot, but did you have something specific in mind?” he asked.
She didn’t want to laugh or smile, or feel so fascinated by him and far too ready to comply with his wishes. Still, she did smile. “You’re dangerous!” she told him.