Magdalena was ‘with child’ as they said at the time, and so ... well, she just couldn’t make that proper marriage her father had intended.”
Sean studied the painting. “Well, I would have to say that I’m grateful the man existed.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Well, he must have been one of your ancestors. Without him, there couldn’t have been—you.”
“Flattery again, sir.”
“I admit, I am obsessed.”
“Umm, are you?” she murmured.
“I guarantee it.”
“With sleeping with me?”
She was so challengingly blunt. He took a step back himself, arms crossed over his chest. Slowly, lingeringly, he allowed his eyes to travel the length of her body, pausing suggestively at all strategic locations. At length, he drew his eyes back to hers.
“You know, had we been living back in Magdalena’s times, I would have definitely been required to slap you in the face— very hard—and demand that you leave and darken my door no more.” He laughed. “Back then, I believe I might have been a perfectly proper suitor. And, it seems, if Magdalena had it in her hard little head to sleep with me, she would have done so. Isn’t that how the poor girl got in trouble to begin with?”
“Nothing so simple. She slept with a Frenchman. Canady. Irish,” she said.
Sean shrugged. “Irish, yes, God alone knows what else. Cajun, French, maybe even black and Hispanic. No pure bloodlines left here anymore. In all fairness, you should know that.”
“You should know exactly whom you’re sleeping with, don’t you think?”
“I imagine that this could be considered some kind of harassment.”
“Are you trying to seduce information out of me?”
He shook his head. “If information comes, all the better. I’m trying to seduce you because...” He paused, and suddenly the bantering humor seemed to slip away from him. “I’m trying to seduce you,” he told her quietly, “because I’ve been on fire since I met you.” Her head and lashes lowered. She looked down at her folded hands.
Sean thought they might have trembled.
“Well,” she murmured, “let’s talk about your father. Would you like iced tea, lemonade, a beer? Peggy will be happy to serve us on the back porch. It’s a beautiful view. Just the river. You’d never know that there was a Burger King anywhere near by.”
“Iced tea sounds great,” he told her.
She nodded. “Come on up. We’ll go out to the den balcony upstairs.” He followed her as she started up the stairway. On the landing, he paused, startled to feel a strange dizziness. She paused, looking back at him.
“Is something wrong?”
He shook his head. The odd sensation had already passed. He’d never felt faint in his life before—and that was a life that had seen its share of blood and guts.
“You looked as if ...”
“As if what?” he demanded somewhat sharply. He wasn’t about to falter in front of this incredibly independent woman.
“Oh ... just as if ... well, it is so damn hot outside. Sometimes, coming into the air ... and then the stairs
“I’m fine!” he snapped.
She lifted her hands. “Sorry.”
She turned again, continuing up the stairs and along the second-floor landing. He cursed himself. Any high school kid knew not to snap at the girl he’s trying to get into the sack.
She led him to the first room on the left side of the second-story landing, a handsomely appointed office with landscape oils that must have been worth a fortune. An antique smoking stand sat next to a teak desk. Glass-covered bookshelves lined most of the walls, while much of the back of the room was taken up with French doors that stood open to the balcony beyond. A breeze lifted the rose-patterned curtains that had been halfway sashed to allow a view.
“Come on outside. I admit, I was just lazing around when you arrived.” He followed her out, thinking it seemed that she was royalty in this, her own domain. She was young to be head of a company like Montgomery Enterprises and rule such an estate as well.
The balcony looked over a manicured lawn that led down to the river. He had a feeling she owned the property on either side and even beyond the river.
Wicker lounges and chairs were set on the rear porch, along with a tea caddy. Maggie casually selected a lounge that had an open book lain on it. The latest John Grisham.
What had he expected? A copy of Murder, Inc. ?
She sat, stretching out long, shapely legs. Golden tanned. Even as she did so, Peggy appeared, still smiling radiantly. She carried a tray with iced tea, little sandwiches, raw vegetables, and chips.
“It’s so lovely to have company on a Saturday morning, isn’t it, dear?” she asked Maggie.
Maggie looked at Sean, arching a brow. “Lovely. That looks wonderful, Peggy. Thanks so much.”
“My pleasure, dear. Mr. Canady, enjoy.”
Peggy left. Sean’s eyes followed her.
“She’s charming,” Sean said.
“Whom were you expecting as my housekeeper?” she inquired. “The ghost of Peter Lorre as Igor out of a Hammer production of Frankenstein?”
He grinned, taking a glass of tea and settling back himself. “Lurch— The Addams Family,” he admitted. It was nice here. The breeze off the river was great, cool and refreshing. He didn’t just sit that often. Okay, so he worked a lot. Partied hard with the guys when he did go out.
“Peggy is wonderful. She’s like a gift from heaven. I adore her.”
“Has she been with you long?”
Maggie thought a moment, kicking off her sandals. “When she was very young, she worked for my mom. Then my mom did the Montgomery thing and went to Europe for a few years ... I think I’ve been back now about seven years. And Peggy has been back with me since. I adore her. When I get rattled at work, she keeps things moving like clockwork here. If I travel, everything just keeps working.”
“So she lives in?”
Maggie grinned. “What kind of a question is that? A prospective lover question—or a cop question?
Could she have seen me wielding an axe or sword, coming home drenched in blood? Or could she possibly interrupt an intimate moment?”
He arched a brow to her, somewhat disturbed by her wariness regarding him. He could play it as nonchalant.
“Maybe the question regards both—then again, maybe it was an innocent question about your domestic situation. This is a massive place. It’s amazing that even one little dynamo can keep it in such meticulous order.”
She exhaled, looking out at the river, as if she might be just a little bit embarrassed she had jumped at him so quickly.
“Peggy has her own home; we remodeled the old carriage house. She lives on the property, but has her own life that way as well. Monday through Friday, she has two girls in from nine to five to help with the upkeep. Anything else?” she asked, and she looked at him, her eyes cool on his. “I’ll do my best to answer what questions I can.”
“Are your folks both—gone?”
“Yes. Let’s see, you mentioned your father, so I assume he’s alive. Your mother?”
“She died a while back. Now you—your father. He took the Montgomery name?”
“Used it daily,” she said lightly.
“The men in your family don’t seem to count for much,” he observed.
“Well, your father—”
“I adored my father!” she assured him. “He was an incredible man. I can’t tell you how much I loved him.”
“I stand reproved!” he assured her softly.
She flushed. “Sorry. I cared for him a great deal.”
“I’m glad. I’m sorry you lost him.”
“He lived a full life.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that.”
“Your father—what does he do?”
“He haunts me day and night—whenever he gets the chance.”
She arched a brow.
“He was a professor at LSU. History. Now he reads, gardens, travels—and haunts me.”
“He thinks I should be married, carrying on the family name.”
“Ah ... no siblings, eh?”
“One sister—who has married and procreated. Makes me look bad,” he explained with a sigh.
She smiled. “Why haven’t you married? Too busy following female suspects?” He shrugged. “I almost married.”
“Oh! I’m very sorry.”
“So am I. But it’s been a while now.”
“Ah,” she murmured, offering an understanding smile then. “So Dad wants you to get over it and get on in life, is that it?”
“More or less.”
“So he sent you after me!” she murmured. “What a pity.”
“I’m not the marrying kind.”
A smile remained about her lips. Her eyes were sparkling. They were very beautiful.
Barefoot, in her casual knit dress, her long legs stretched before her, red hair captured in a ponytail, she was stunningly, sweetly sensual.
Almost unbearably so ...
“Well, I’m a businesswoman,” she said.
“Ah. Just as well,” he assured her lightly.
“Really? I’m so glad you’re not distressed.”
“Well, you see, I’d never give up the Canady name to father another Montgomery heiress.”
“Ah!” she murmured thoughtfully, and he wondered if there wasn’t just a trace of anger in her eyes.
“Marriage is definitely out. Your dad will be disappointed. What about you, Lieutenant?” He lifted his hands in teasing deliberation. “I don’t know. Will you still sleep with me?”