“Now, that’s rude,” Angie murmured.
Daniel smiled. “There was a Yank soldier who took Butler’s order to heart. He was most probably guilty of several rapes before he picked up a young girl named Sandra Hill. She most probably put up quite a fuss and gave the soldier one fierce battle. In his efforts to quiet her, he killed her.”
“Poor thing. How awful!” Cissy said. “Back then, I assume he was executed right away.” Daniel shook his head. “No. The Yank was arrested, but an investigation determined Sandra to be a woman of loose morals—since she had been rude to the soldiers. The soldier was chastised and given a dishonorable discharge while poor little Sandra lay rotting away.”
“That’s horrible, pure and simple. So what is the moral dilemma here?” Jack asked.
“What happens next,” Anne-Marie advised.
“While the Yank soldier is being held, some good citizen of New Orleans took the law into his—or her—own hands. The room where he was being kept was broken into late at night. He was found the next morning—beheaded by a broadsword stolen off his sleeping guard.”
“Grisly,” Cissy said, shuddering.
“But was it justice?” Sean asked softly.
“My point. Was his murder a crime, or was it justice? Naturally, that’s a debate we go through continually here in the States. When we execute a criminal, are we equally guilty of murder? And if not, was the Yankee soldier’s death murder— or justice?”
“Was the killer ever found?” Maggie asked.
Daniel looked at her, smiling, shaking his head. “Never. If the good citizens of New Orleans knew anything about the killing, they never breathed a word. The whole incident was kept hushed, Beast Butler was finally removed from New Orleans. Naturally, we’ve other such interesting cases. One involves your family, Maggie.”
“Really?” Sean turned toward her. “Do you know what he’s up to now?” Maggie nodded, smiling at Daniel. “I think so.” She laughed, realizing that the light in the library was low, only the desk lamp giving any real illumination. Outside the handsomely draped windows, the night sky still seemed to be glowing with deep red overtones. All eyes were on her.
“One of my great-great—I’m not sure how many greats— grandfathers—was accused of murdering a French nobleman.” She grimaced. “Apparently, he thought the man was a vampire.”
“Really?” Jack laughed. “Oh, well, this is New Orleans.”
“Did he kill the nobleman?” Jack asked.
“I’m not sure. He was very rich, and had a lot of power in the community. If he killed the man, he had the sense to get rid of the body.”
“Nothing was ever proven against Jason Montgomery,” Daniel informed them. “It seems that the young nobleman was after Montgomery’s daughter, Magdalena.”
“Ah! The lady on the stairway landing!” Sean said, looking at Maggie with an even greater interest.
Maggie smiled. “The very one.”
“Some say that despite the fact Jason Montgomery lived and worked here, he didn’t trust Frenchmen in the least. And the Frenchman most probably seduced young Magdalena. She did disappear to Europe soon after and bore a child, so rumor goes.”
“There is, of course, the possibility that the Frenchman merely returned to France—and that Magdalena later joined him, and that the whole thing is nothing but a great, late-night story,” Maggie said dryly.
“But it is a good story. The young lover slain by the young beauty’s father ... the girl leaving, never to return. Perhaps she never forgave her poor father for slaying her lover. Who knows?” Anne-Marie mused.
“There’s another little twist to that story,” Daniel said, winking at Maggie.
“Oh, yeah?” Sean asked, his eyes alight with amusement.
“I think,” Maggie said slowly, “that your father is referring to the fact that Jason Montgomery wanted to have his daughter married to a Canady.”
“Well, it’s a good thing they didn’t marry,” Sean stated, watching her with a warmth that was absurdly arousing. “We’d be related.”
“Well, there was another occasion when a Canady nearly married a Montgomery. During the war.
Apparently, our family hero—he with the statue in the Quarter—was deeply in love with the Montgomery heiress. And she adored him, so the story went.”
“What happened there?” Angie asked.
“Well, now, Angie, surely, you know the answer to that one! That’s why there’s a statue to the man—he was a valiant soldier who supplied his own company with arms and horses, helped supply the city, defended his men at great risk to his own life—and was finally killed trying to defend the city.”
“How sad. How tragic,” Cissy said.
“How strange. How did the family name continue? Ugh. Are you two related?” Angie asked Maggie.
“No!” Maggie protested.
“Sean had been married several years before he’d met Miss Montgomery. His wife died of smallpox, but left him with a son.”
The room seemed very silent. Then the breeze knocked one of Daniel’s books off the desk. The thud caused everyone in the room to jump. Except Sean. Maggie felt his fingers squeeze around hers and rest on her knee as the others laughed, suddenly aware that they’d been sitting and listening like children around a campfire while a counselor told ghost stories.
“Maggie, honey, I just never knew how interesting your family was!” Cissy informed her.
“I imagine all families are just as interesting,” Maggie said. “The Montgomerys kept coming back to New Orleans, so it’s easy to find all the skeletons in our closets.”
“Now, Miss Cissy Spillane, you had an ancestress who was extremely close to the old voodoo queen, Marie Laveau,” Daniel said.
“I know!” Cissy said, wincing.
“Was she a good voodoo?” Angie asked.
“I think she was a spy for Marie Laveau. Marie’s power was in what she knew about people—she knew things about them because she kept their servants busy listening and watching what was going on!
Supposedly, though, my great-great— I don’t know how many greats!—grandmother was a power in herself. She danced wickedly with the great Zombi, the snake, and she could threaten and cajole a great deal of money from her own followers. Supposedly, she cursed a man to death. And she nearly hanged for it, except that the magistrate didn’t believe in voodoo, so she was set free. Thank God. Or else I wouldn’t be here. The man she married was one of the witnesses who testified on her behalf.”
“Now, that’s a good story,” Maggie stated. “Wonderfully romantic.”
“The Montgomery women sound nicely romantic,” Sean teased.
“Kind of hell on the Canadys, though,” Jack observed dryly.
Sean smiled at Maggie. “I’m willing to take my chances.”
She smiled back.
She asked him in for a drink once they reached her house.
Sean wasn’t sure she really wanted him to come in. She seemed uncomfortable.
Inside the plantation house, she led him through one of the right side doors, through a large formal dining room to what had become a huge kitchen in contemporary times. There was a window seat half the length of one wall with a patterned yellow seat cushion that matched the cheerful draperies. Copper utensils hung from wooden rafters above an island work station. It was an attractive, warm, friendly room that would have done any cook proud. The kitchen table was a butcher-block affair, as unostentatious as the rest of the room. Maggie bid him draw a chair at the table while she searched through her refrigerator and cabinets.
“I should offer you something to eat, despite the fact that your father served a feast! Let’s see, cookies
... grapes? And what can I get you? Coffee? Or a drink? Maybe spiked coffee would be in order ... I can make a great cafe au lait.”
She was ducked down with her head in the refrigerator. Sean eschewed the chair she had offered, and came around to stand behind her. He set his hands on her hips. She froze, straightening. For a moment, he felt the pulse of her blood, felt as if he touched the fire racing through her. Then she slipped from his arms.
“Sombreros,” she stated, taking glasses from a cabinet. She reached to the rear of a counter where there were several bottles of liquor, and she dashed a splash of Kahlua into each glass. “Sean, could you get the milk, please?”
He obliged, handing her the carton. She topped off their drinks, handing him one.
He remained close by her, watching her. She swallowed down her drink in a gulp. He set his on the counter, reached for her determinedly, and kissed her.
No holds barred. He slipped his hands down around her buttocks, pressing her against his growing arousal. He moved his hand up her back to the nape of her neck, fingers threading into her hair and cupping her head while he pressed his tongue deeper and deeper into her mouth. She tasted sweetly of Kahlua. The subtle aroma of her perfumed flesh was intoxicating. Her nipples seemed to burn through all the fabric between them and press into his chest. He felt her soften, weaken, melt against him. Felt her fingers in his hair, down the length of his back. Her mouth met his hungry kiss. Tongue plundered along with his. Hot, wet, sweet. She trembled. He slid his fingers into the waistband of her jeans, drawing them around the front, where he loosed the button and tugged on her zipper.
She pulled back, her head lowered. “I... I think you should go now.” He didn’t force her. “Why?” he asked.
She looked up at him. Her beautiful eyes were strangely glistening with a hint of tears. “Jack warned you,” she said flippantly. “Montgomery women are hell on the Canadys.”
“Though I pity my poor ancestors, I thank God.”
“I’ve stated that I’m willing to take my chances.”
“You just can’t expect too much!” she whispered. “You can’t want too much!” She spun away from him, walking through the house. He followed her. She was already headed up the stairway. “You can see yourself out,” she called to him.