Any Way You Want It

Any Way You Want It

4.5 24
by Kathy Love

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Is That A Treble Clef In Your Pocket-- Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

Maggie Gallagher spends her nights with lots of men. Of course, they're all dead composers, but why nitpick? Her love life is just like the musical compositions she researches--undiscovered. It's time for Maggie to let loose and go wild. In a dive bar on Bourbon Street, Maggie makes a

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Is That A Treble Clef In Your Pocket-- Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

Maggie Gallagher spends her nights with lots of men. Of course, they're all dead composers, but why nitpick? Her love life is just like the musical compositions she researches--undiscovered. It's time for Maggie to let loose and go wild. In a dive bar on Bourbon Street, Maggie makes a real find in the house band's keyboard player. He's hot. Sexy. Flirtatious. Soulful. And she could swear he's playing an unknown piece she's been researching, which is impossible, unless he's dead. . .

Centuries before he was a badass vampire with a rock-star wardrobe and Big Easy charm, Ren was Renauldo D'Antoni, a composer on the verge of great success until he was betrayed. No one could ever know that, but tonight, the shy strawberry blonde with the big eyes and obviously borrowed outfit actually seemed to recognize his long-lost composition. Now, she wants to know about the composition, and Ren wants to know her. . .intimately. But what starts as attraction--and distraction--just might lead to the biggest discovery of their lives. . .

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Publishers Weekly

Musicologist Maggie Gallagher and friends arrive in New Orleans from Washington, D.C., for a much needed vacation. On the grave of a legendary voodoo priestess, Maggie makes a wish for a "hot fling." Later that night, she hears strains of the mysterious sonata she's been hired to authenticate coming from a Bourbon Street bar. Ren Anthony, the man behind the keyboard, is the leader of the Impalers, a bar band specializing in drippy '80s pop. He's also a vampire, or rather, a lampir (an immortal energy sucker rather than a blood guzzler), and in mortal life was Renauldo D'Antoni, a composer born in 1785. Ren, believing all the women he loves are doomed, tries to avoid relationships, but sparks fly when Maggie walks into the bar. Whether or not Maggie can change Ren's mind about getting involved is pretty much all the plot there is, but Love (I Only Have Fangs for You) lets the good times roll while they find out. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Kensington Publishing Corporation
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Any Way You Want It



Copyright © 2008 Kathy Love
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-1856-8

Chapter One

"That is what you are offering the most famous and powerful voodoo priestess in New Orleans?" Maggie glanced at her friend Erika, then back to the cracked, weathered tomb, then to the items cradled in her palm.

"I just scratched Xs into her final resting place, I can't imagine she'll mind these."

"She doesn't mind the Xs," Maggie's other friend, Jo, said, skimming the voodoo book she'd bought at one of the strange little shops along Dumaine Street. "They symbolize your three requests."

"I get three?" Maggie managed to ask seriously. "Just like with a genie?"

"Genies don't exist," Erika stated, as if the very idea was so ludicrous she couldn't believe Maggie had even mentioned it. So Maggie didn't bother to point out they apparently believed in the wish-granting powers of a voodoo queen, who'd died sometime over a hundred years ago.

Maggie looked back to the tomb, which was covered in Xs and other symbols designed to communicate with the long-dead woman laid to rest inside. Obviously others believed too, but Maggie couldn't help feeling it was all a little silly. Still, she had made the Xs. So she wasn't completely dismissing the idea, was she?

"Erika's right," Jo said, glancing up from the book long enough to raise a disdainful brow at the objects in Maggie's cupped hand. "Marie Laveau expects something better than that. It says she expects items that are personal to the one making the request; an offering that has the giver's energy attached to it."

Maggie stared at her usually sensible friend. They were talking about a dead woman, weren't they? As far as Maggie knew, the dead really didn't expect much at all, but she decided not to mention that to her suddenly very superstitious friends.

"Well, there's nothing personal about those," Erika stated, eyeing Maggie's choice of offerings with a grimace.

"Well, they're all I've got. Marie can take them or leave them."

Both of her friends frowned at Maggie's cavalier attitude. If Maggie wasn't mistaken, they also appeared a bit nervous, as if they expected Marie to unseal her tomb, march up to them, and start complaining in person. Or maybe worse. What did dead voodoo queens do when they got an gift they didn't like?

Maggie looked down at the items in her palm. Maybe she should rethink all this. She laughed slightly that she was actually worrying, too-although she had to admit her chuckle sounding a little strained, even to her.

Maggie could understand Erika's reaction to all this. She was more open to the idea of magic and ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. But Jo? Maggie never would have guessed her sensible friend would buy into this.

"You two are taking this all way too seriously," Maggie said as she stepped forward to place the offering beside a vase of now wilted, but obviously once beautiful, and probably expensive, flowers.

"I would at least leave the ChapStick," Erika said, just as Maggie would have placed the offering beside the others.

Maggie glanced back to them. Erika nibbled her bottom lip, eyeing the tomb worriedly. Jo didn't look up from the book, but did nod in agreement.

Maggie shook her head. "What does Marie Laveau need my ChapStick for? I'm not suffering dry and cracked lips for a dead woman. I'm leaving these," Maggie said, deciding then and there she wasn't going along with this any more than she already had. She dropped her gift onto the cracked step of the tomb. "I'm pretty sure Marie will be fine with this."

Again her friends cocked doubtful eyebrows. Then all three friends stared down at the offering-two sugar-coated pecans-covered with a fine smattering of lint.

"Weren't you the one who said they were delicious and addictive-the veritable crack of the nut world?" Maggie asked Erika, suddenly feeling the need to defend her decision.

"They are-but not after they've been floating around the bottom of your pocketbook."

"They're only a little worse for wear." Maggie realized her own voice sounded noticeably doubtful now. Great, the superstitious duo were getting to her.

"Well, you've already left them," Jo said with a resigned sigh. She snapped the book shut. "Make your wishes."

"And make them something exciting," Erika said, then added, "and naughty."

Maggie frowned at her friends. "Who are you two? And what have you done with my normal friends?"

"Oh, please, you always knew we were freaks. Just make your wish-before she realizes what a crappy offering you left her," Erika said.

"Make the wish you want," Jo said, shades of the sensible friend returning-sort of. She was still talking about the wish as if it was going to actually happen.

Maggie shook her head, amused and exasperated all at once. But then she closed her eyes and concentrated. She didn't even know what she wanted for a wish. On the off chance it did work, what would she want?

Her thoughts drifted back to why she was here in New Orleans. She was trying desperately to forget the past six months. So what would help her do that?

"Wish for a gorgeous man and a hot, sexy fling," Erika said, from close to Maggie's right shoulder. Maggie's eyes popped open and she shot her friend a shocked look.


"It's a good wish," Erika said.

And Jo gave her a halfhearted shrug, as if she would like to deny it, but just couldn't.

Did she really seem that much in need of a good roll in the hay? She decided she probably did. She made a face at her friends, then closed her eyes again, attempting to think of something more realistic, more obtainable. And not so ... well, frankly, ridiculous.

But Erika's suggestion kept popping back into her head like the repeating chorus of a pop song, irritating yet oddly compelling.

A hot fling. Yeah, like that was ever going to happen. To her.

She squeezed her eyes shut even tighter. What did she really want?

A strange, nebulous image of some man appeared in her head. Great, now that the idea had been planted, she was even getting images of the man she'd want to have a fling with. Yikes.

Ah, what the hell. It wasn't like Marie Laveau's spirit or whatever was going to rise from the grave and grant her wish anyway. And if by some miraculous twist of spiritual fate she should meet a gorgeous guy who wanted to have a hot, sexy fling-with her, which would never happen-it would certainly prove Marie Laveau was fine with lint-covered pecans. Or that she had quite a sense of humor.

Chapter Two

"I ate way too much," Maggie groaned as she stepped out onto the sidewalk.

"I drank way too much," Erika said and giggled. Maggie laughed too. They'd all had a bit too much to drink.

But this was vacation, Maggie thought, and if anyone deserved to get a little tipsy, she did.

The sun had set beyond the ornate, yet run-down buildings while they were in the restaurant. Now the side street was dim, all the bright colors of the day muted to varying shades of gray. But the air was still warm and heavy with humidity, and the shadows and hair-frizzing dampness didn't dull the energy crackling in the air.

Maggie had sensed that energy as soon as she'd arrived there, that afternoon. She could admit it to herself now that she was feeling a little more ... open, with the expensive chardonnay heating her blood. It was an energy that had nothing to do with the excitement of going on vacation for the first time in years, or being in a new city.

Oh, she'd definitely been excited about going on this trip. Getting away from her dull box of an apartment outside of Washington, D.C., was much needed, as was getting away from her job. She loved her job, but as her friends said, it was a job where she could hide away with her moldering sheet music and avoid life.

Yes, she was excited, but this was a different feeling from that one. This wasn't an exhilaration inside her, it was more of an energy around her. As if the city had its own aura. Its own life. And she was now caught up in it, pulled right into its essence.

She chuckled to herself. Here she'd been finding it amusing that her friends were getting all mystical-she was doing the same thing. Of course, the wine might be helping her with that too. But whatever it was about New Orleans, she was glad to think about something other than her often very, very dull life. And Peter. That situation certainly hadn't been dull, but it had been the kind of escapade she could have easily done without.

Ack! She wasn't going to let him sneak into her thoughts-not even for a minute.

She was going to think about the wonderful vibe of the city. She stopped walking and took a deep breath.

As soon as she'd stepped out of the cab and set her feet on the gritty, cracked streets of the French Quarter, she'd felt something. A latent dynamism, a crackling hum in the air.

She giggled slightly under her breath. Okay, maybe the three glasses of wine had been a bad idea. It was making her thoughts rather out-there. She was getting as suddenly and strangely cosmic as her friends. But she did feel more alive here.

As if to accent her thoughts, Jo paused outside a small cafe, little more than a hole-in-the-wall.

"Listen to that," she said, swaying to the lively zydeco drifting out onto the street. She began to dance as if it was the most normal thing in the world to break into a jig on the sidewalk; as if being here energized a person so much that they just had to dance.

Erika joined in, possessed by that same need, but Maggie could only sway along with them-she was too busy listening to the music. Music-with its own power, its own life force.

Maggie could hear the horns and the snare drums and the accordion. In her mind, she could see the notes dancing, skipping over the staffs like her friends danced across the cracks in the pavement.

Maggie smiled, closing her eyes, wanting to see the music more clearly.

"Come on," Jo called, her voice shattering Maggie's thoughts, sending the notes scattering. Maggie opened her eyes, having no idea how long she'd stood there absorbed in the song.

Her friends had moved on and were waiting at the intersection for her.

"I like that music," Maggie said as she joined them.

"Is there any music you don't like?" Erika asked.

"Not much," Maggie said. "After all, music is my life."

"But," Jo said pointedly, "you are not here to think about your work. You can think about dancing. You can think about singing."

"I did see a karaoke bar when we were riding into the Quarter," Erika added.

"No karaoke," Maggie insisted.

"You can even play music," Jo said, continuing her train of thought.

"Where would I do that?" Maggie asked, but Jo was not going to be distracted.

"But you cannot think about music in the context of your work," she said.

"That's right. You are here to live a little. Not work."

Maggie sighed. "I like my work." Not to mention she hadn't been thinking at all about the items she'd received in the mail just a day before she was to leave for this trip. Well, not until her friends mentioned work.

"I like my work too," Jo said. "But I don't intend to think about kids or grammar or reading comprehension. I want to dance."

"Yeah, me too," Erika agreed.

Maggie laughed, but she lingered behind, still hearing bits of the music. Still seeing the notes in her head. The way they would look written down. Some bits she couldn't quite see. Having heard the song just this one time, and now from a distance, she couldn't see it exactly. But she could make out most of it. Black and white notes dancing the different beats of zydeco across sheets of paper.

"Are you coming?" Erika said, as they started down the street away from her again.

"Where are we going?" Maggie asked, doubling her steps to catch them.

"Bourbon," her friends said in unison, then they dissolved into tipsy laughter.

Maggie smiled too, but then she shook her head. "Why don't you two go on? I'm kind of tired." Which wasn't untrue. Their flight had left Dulles Airport at six that morning, and they had only dropped off their luggage at the hotel before they went right into tourist mode. They were staying right on Bourbon Street, but she knew her friends were not headed there to go back to the hotel. And Maggie really did feel the need to rest.

Even now, this newly sensed energy was swirling around her, making the air thick and her head a little woozy. The wine wasn't helping, but she didn't really believe it was the alcohol-not solely.

"No way," Jo said, catching Maggie's elbow, pulling her along. "You are not sneaking off to read or listen to classical music or whatever boring thing you normally do."

"Right," Erika agreed.

Maggie laughed, but she did try to get her arm out of Jo's grasp. Jo wasn't letting go-not without a fight, it appeared.

"Those things aren't boring," Maggie argued. Besides, Jo read twice as much as Maggie did, and she had a healthy knowledge of classical music. They'd attended many symphonies together.

"Okay, they aren't," Jo agreed. "But they aren't what you do on vacation. Especially a vacation in New Orleans. Hotel rooms are for sleeping only."

"Well," Erika said slowly, "and other things."

Jo thought about that, then nodded. "Right, but that usually ends in sleeping."

Maggie frowned for a moment, losing track of what they were talking about briefly, then she understood.

She shook her head. "I don't remember you two being quite so sex obsessed."

"And you aren't sex obsessed enough," Jo informed her. "Now come on, you can't come to New Orleans and miss Bourbon Street."

"I'm here for ten days," Maggie pointed out. "We could wait a night. I am honestly tired."

"No," Erika and Jo said, speaking again at the same time-a habit that was actually getting a little irritating, Maggie decided-as Erika caught her other elbow, and her friends pulled her down the sidewalk. She gave in, allowing them to lead the way.

"Erika and I are only here for five nights. And we need them all," Jo said.

Maggie sighed. That was true. Her friends were leaving her early, something she was not happy about. What would she do in a city like this alone? She'd already noted this was a place filled with couples and groups.

She supposed she'd better take advantage of having both her pals here. Her pace picked up.

Even unfamiliar with the layout of the city and muzzy from the wine, Maggie didn't need to be told when they reached Bourbon Street. She blinked at everything around her. The flashing lights, the loud, slightly distorted bass of bands singing party favorites, the distinct smell of trash, beer and ...

Was that vomit?

Add to that neon signs that said things like LIVE SEX ACTS and FULL NUDITY. Holy cow.

"This is ... something," she managed, peering around, not sure where to look next.

Even Jo and Erika, who were definitely worldlier when it came to bars and partying, gawked in awe.

"This is pretty amazing," Erika finally said, after they'd all stood mesmerized by a pair of female mannequin legs in black stilettos, kicking in and out of a club's windows.

"You definitely don't see that every day, do you?" Jo said.

Maggie almost said that she'd never seen that, period, when her attention was seized by a distinct strain of music, somehow reaching out to her over the warring chords of "Jessie's Girl," "Living On A Prayer," and "Summer of '69."

Without thinking, she took a step toward the sound, and then another, until she'd zigzagged through the crowds of revelers to a bar on the corner of Bourbon and some cross street.

She stopped on the sidewalk, staring at the building. The place was shabby, paint peeling from the wood, the sidewalk around it crumbling and layered in filth. But from her spot on the street, she could see the stage through huge open windows; a band was setting up. And she could clearly hear that distinct melody. Piano notes swirling through the air, a sound as out of place in this world as she felt.

Again, her feet moved until she found herself in the bar, standing in front of the stage, peering up at the person playing the music. Music that no one else should know.

Well, no one but her and possibly a few other authenticators. And the person who wrote it, of course, but that person was long since dead.

"Wow," Jo said from beside her, dragging Maggie's attention away from the music. "Good eye. That guy's pretty darn hot."

Maggie blinked back at the stage, for the first time noticing the man actually playing the music. He was tall with long hair in a shade somewhere between chestnut brown and dark mahogany, cascading over his broad shoulders.


Excerpted from Any Way You Want It by KATHY LOVE Copyright © 2008 by Kathy Love. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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