He watched her for a moment, then swore. “No!” he told her angrily, striding up the stairs as well. He caught her on the center landing, gripping her by the shoulders. “Damn you, no! There’s something here between us, something different, something special, and I’m not going to let you throw it away— because I’m a cop!”

Her eyes lowered. She tried to wrench free from him, but he held her tightly. She looked up at him again, eyes now a gold fire of both anger and pain. “That’s not—” He didn’t let her finish. He kissed her again. Kissed her so that she couldn’t speak. Cupped her jaw, stroked her cheek, her throat. Forced her against him. Once more, she seemed to melt against his body.

Grow weak. He pressed his advantage. The few buttons on her tailored shirt gave easily. He was good at bra hooks. Her breast spilled into his hands and he worked her nipple until she was whimpering against the force of his kiss. Once again, he thrust his hand into her pants, forcing her jeans down, rubbing, probing. He stroked through pubic hair, finding the warm center of her with his fingers.

He thought that it might have been a long, long time since she’d had sex. She seemed on fire, despite her protest. Hot, a million degrees hot, wet, falling against him. His lips broke from hers at last as he eased her down upon the stairway landing, fleetingly glad of the rich Persian runner as he hastily slid off her sandals and pulled down her jeans and exotic lace panties. He rose over her, seeing her eyes again, listening to her feeble protest.

“Sean, really ...”

He touched her lips again, licking, nibbling, tasting, teasing as he briefly struggled to discard her already opened blouse and bra. When she was naked on the exotic carpet, he paused, looking at her. God, she was stunning. Tiny waist, flaring hips, flat belly, deep, fire-red pubis, long, long legs. Her breasts were full, her nipples large and deep rouge, hardened now to little peaks. Again he lowered himself over her, tasting each nipple, tugging with his lips, grating with his teeth. Her arms came around him. He found her lips again, but then lowered himself against her body. He spread her legs, settling between them. He licked, kissed and caressed her sweetness while she writhed and gasped out unintelligible words... then shrieked, trembling with a wild force as she climaxed.

He hastily ripped open his button-fly jeans, and settled on top of her, thrusting into her wet warmth, so aroused by then that he moved with blind hunger and the speed of a jackrabbit. Yet her legs wrapped around his waist, her hands fell against him, and she arched and twisted with abandon to meet him, her passion rising again to meet his. God. Oh, God. Friction was ecstasy. Her heat spilled all around him. He came with a violent force, jerking spasmodically into her again and again. Empty, as sated as a drunk, he fell to her side, somewhat stunned by the sheer, volatile force of the passion they’d shared.

She lay at his side, trembling slightly. He thought that she might be cold. Then he realized that he’d rather forced the issue on her stairway. He turned to her. She seemed somewhat stunned herself, almost like an innocent who had just discovered the secret so many grown-ups shared—that sex could be a sensation like no other. Her eyes were still so shimmering, liquid gold. Her body was bathed in a fine sheen of sweat. Damn, so perfect. Even after everything, he looked at her breasts, her waist, the sleek ivory perfection of her belly, the fire red triangle at her thighs, and felt arousal beginning all over again.

“I’m not sure whether to say ‘wow!’ or ‘I’m sorry,’ Maggie,” he told her softly, and he was glad when she smiled. She reached out and stroked his cheek.

“Wow!” she told him in a husky whisper.

“Good!” he murmured, feeling a rich contentment seep into him.

Her smile deepened. “No, that was my wow! You can come up with your own again anytime you want.”

He laughed, rising on an elbow, pulling her against him. He kissed her lips, her forehead. “God,” he breathed. “Just touching you, seeing you ...”

“I do have a bedroom,” she told him.

“Now I am sorry. Rug burn?” he asked her.

“Worth it,” she told him solemnly.

He rose, halfway buttoning his jeans so he wouldn’t trip and make an ass of himself on the stairway.

Then he reached down for her, glad that police work forced a man to stay in shape. He lifted her effortlessly into his arms, keeping his eyes on hers as he started up the rest of the steps.

“Which way?” he asked.

She pointed to the left side of the house, smiling, her arms around him. “Second door, right side of the hallway,” she told him.

He pushed open the appropriate door. Red moonlight spilled into her room from the balcony windows.

He saw the shadows of furniture against the walls, a small table before the windows, a large four-poster bed against the rear wall. He ripped down the elegant satin spread and laid her upon the sheets in a field of pillows. He shed his own clothing quickly. She watched him.

Then he came to her, and she rose to her knees to meet him. Her kisses bathed his chest, his shoulders.

Her fingers feathered over his flesh. He had thought that he’d been aroused before ...

Her hands closed over his sex. Stroked. She pressed him back. She bathed the length of him with the delicate lap of her tongue. Took him deeply into her mouth. He shouted hoarsely, grabbed her roughly, dragged her beneath him, surged into her. And while he moved, they kissed. Embraced. Her lips teased his shoulders. Her nails raked his back as she cried out.

Her teeth just grazed his flesh ...

They spent the majority of the night awake, tiring, then awakening, becoming sated, glutted, then aroused again and again.

Then, limbs tangled together, they slept.

When Sean awoke, she was gone.

He rose quickly, stumbled around for his jeans, calling her name.

There was no answer. He looked through the house, noting that she had collected her own clothing from the stairway. Paused up on the landing, he looked up again at the magnificent painting of Magdalena.

They’d made love that first time beneath the painting. On a strange note of whimsey, he hoped that her long-dead ancestress had approved. He saluted the painting.

“Ridiculous, but I am in love, you know?” he said lightly. He hurried on to the kitchen. Still no sight of her. Coffee had been made. He poured himself a cup.

He looked out the rear window and at last saw her, standing down by the river, wearing an ankle-length, sleeveless dress. The material floated softly around her in the breeze. Her hair was loose, and as she sipped coffee, she stared thoughtfully at the water.

He let himself out, walking quickly along the porch and across the lawn to the water.


She turned to him, a smile curving her lips, but a worried expression on her face.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her.

She shook her head. “It’s not that anything is wrong, it’s just that ...”

“Maggie, please, if you think there is a Montgomery curse on the Canadys or the like, please—quit thinking.”

She looked out across the water. “I’m just afraid that we’ve rushed things. I think I need to step back.

I... I’d appreciate if you would leave now.”

It was the last thing he’d expected after the night they’d spent together. “Maggie, something is really right here—”

“Sean, I think we’ve rushed it. And I’d like a little space. Please.” He nodded, amazed that he could be so hurt—and probably not taking it very well. In fact, his attitude was sadly immature. “Hey, fine. Whatever you say. Sex is sex, right? Well, thanks for a few damned good fu—”

“Sean, don’t, this is not easy for me!” she whispered.

“Sorry. I still may have to call on you in the murder investigation. The blood drops did lead to your door.

Anyway, thanks for a fun night. And by the way—if you should realize that what we had was really damned good, you call me. If I’m available, we’ll do it again.” He turned around, striding angrily away from her.

“Sean ...!”

He thought that she might have called his name. Softly. But his male ego was fiercely wounded.

And he kept walking.


Captain Sean Canady was perplexed, irate, and sickened.

War was one thing.

Murder was another.

War was ugly. It was blood and bullets, and tattered, ragged flesh. It was the tragic waste of human life, the defilement of youth and beauty. It was the stench of blood, the screams of the dying and wounded. It was ugly and horrible, a travesty, and still, it wasn’t so chilling as what had been happening lately.

The Union meant to take New Orleans. The Mississippi was like a great artery to the South, pumping life’s blood throughout the land, supplying the populace and soldiers alike with food, medicine, and arms, and New Orleans near the great mouth of the mighty river. Take New Orleans, and break the back of the South. Cripple her.

It was an awful concept.

It was happening.

While much of the fight was being waged upon the water, and the Rebs fought valiantly against Union naval strength, there were pockets of fierce fighting on land.

Fierce... indeed. He had lived for those few precious times when he dared steal a few hours to be with her. He loved her, adored her, survived for her. She wasn‘t just succor against the storm; she listened, she understood, she seemed to have the wisdom of the ancients. She understood his battle strategy, and though he heard her cry soft tears when he left, she never begged him to stay.

With New Orleans precariously close to falling, he had hidden nothing from her. He had poured out his heart to her, telling her even about... the hideousness of the murders.

Over the last few months, each time the desperate fighting around the city let up, and each time they were able to come for the wounded, they found that the wounded had been killed. Slashed to death with a saber. Horribly hacked and mutilated.

“I’ve tried to discover what is happening. I came upon one poor boy once ...” He lay with his head against her pillow, staring at the ceiling. She was at his side, on an elbow, close and offering comfort, not touching him, listening so gravely.