Read an Excerpt
Cat in a Topaz TangoA Midnight Louie Mystery
By Douglas, Carole Nelson
Forge BooksCopyright © 2010 Douglas, Carole Nelson
All right reserved.
â€œYouâ€™re the ex-priest,â€? Temple pointed out. â€œYou must know how we can avoid the wedding from Hell?â€?
â€œAll weddings, or the preparations at least, are from Hell,â€? Matt said.
He went on, chapter and verse. â€œIâ€™ve officiated at enough of them to know that by now. The wedding â€partyâ€™ always bristles with conflicting, intergenerational agendas. I doubt theyâ€™re all as highly dramatic as Aldo Fontanaâ€™s and your aunt Kitâ€™s, though.â€?
Temple sighed and stirred on her living-room sofa in the Circle Ritz condominiums and apartment building, where she and Matt had units atop each other on the second and third floors. As, in fact, they were even more closely on top of each other now.
The five-story, round fifties-era building was a whimsical little place even for the city of Las Vegas, which only did whimsical large and on the Strip, but theirs was a whimsical little engagement.
Their lives were Euphemism Central these days. Being â€œengagedâ€? made â€œsleeping togetherâ€? expected, but they were still â€œliving in sinâ€? in the eyes of Mattâ€™s Catholic church. In the eyes of Templeâ€™s church, Universal Unitarian, she was just a modern woman ready for marital commitment and smart enough to want to know what she was getting into.
At least now that they were â€œengaged,â€? Temple didnâ€™t have to â€œkeep her feet on the floorâ€? when she and Matt shared a sofa. Her feet were on his lap, and he was playing with the ankle ties on the resale-shop designer spike heels sheâ€™d worn previously as Kitâ€™s maid of honor at the elegant hotel wedding ceremony a couple of days earlier.
Aldo, the groom, had nine brothers, one of whom owned the Crystal Phoenix Hotel and Casino. Hotelier Nicky had been the best man, which left eight brothers to escort Kitâ€™s eight bridesmaids. (How a Manhattan resident came up with eight Las Vegas bridesmaids is another story.)
â€œOnly a best man and matron or maid of honor for our wedding, I think,â€? Temple said. â€œHow can we get into trouble with that?â€?
â€œYou still want the small civil ceremony here at Electraâ€™s wedding chapel first?â€?
â€œI donâ€™t know. We did meet here. Electraâ€™s our landlady and would love to marry us in the Circle Ritzâ€™s attached chapel. Weâ€™d be legal but weâ€™d still be sinful in the eyes of your church. Would legal make you feel any better?â€?
â€œThe only thing that makes me feel any better is you,â€? he said, his golden-brown eyes darkening.
Temple hiked a shapely but short leg onto his shoulder. â€œUntie my shoe straps and then we can discuss more important things.â€?
â€œI donâ€™t know how you walk in these things,â€? Matt said, complying.
â€œYears of being a shrimp and suffering.â€?
He smiled and moved her other foot from his lap to his shoulder. â€œFor a shrimp you have some provocative moves.â€?
â€œFor an ex-priest, you catch on fast.â€?
They grinned at each other. Then yawned.
â€œThat was a rough twenty-four hours in the desert,â€? Matt commented, â€œthen the big wedding ceremony came right after it.â€?
â€œYou were the kidnapping victim,â€? she pointed out. â€œI was only a member of the rescue party.â€?
â€œI wasnâ€™t the target. I was just along for the ride.â€?
â€œAnd what a ride! Murder in a Nevada cat house. It may not have been in Vegas proper, but it would sure make a great movie. Eight vengeful women, eight captive groomsmen, assorted associates, almost all of the last identifiable mob â€œfamilyâ€? in Clark County. Uzis, limos, hookers.â€?
â€œNot likely for my bachelor party,â€? Matt said, laughing. â€œI hardly know anybody here.â€?
â€œYouâ€™d be surprised, buddy. I think the Fontana boys plan on doing just that when we finally do get hitched.â€?
â€œNo, a fate worse than a Vegas wedding with Elvis,â€? Matt said, still laughing, and then tickling the bare soles of Templeâ€™s feet to make her join in.
She was easy and giggled away on cue. â€œStop that! Iâ€™m really ticklish!â€?
He was no fun. He stopped, then frowned. â€œI really donâ€™t know about committing to that charity fund-raiser for all of next week.â€?
â€œYou wouldnâ€™t bow out?â€?
â€œBallroom dancing isnâ€™t exactly in my rÃ©sumÃ©.â€?
â€œJust why you need to brush up before we do the wedding waltz at our reception. Not to mention youâ€™re committed to taking Mariah Molina to her freshman father-daughter dance in high school this fall.â€?
Matt groaned at the reminder. â€œI have a lot of sympathy for single working moms rearing a teenage daughter, but who named me proxy daddy of the week? And Mariahâ€™s in that embarrassing hero worship of older guys stage.â€?
â€œWhoâ€™s more embarrassed, you or her?â€?
â€œMe. Teen girls donâ€™t get embarrassed, they embarrass everybody else. Iâ€™m already freaked. This Dancing With the Stars wanna-be show isnâ€™t all wedding waltzes and dad-daughter shuffles. Those ballroom routines can be pretty risquÃ©.â€?
â€œYouâ€™re out of the priesthood, Matt. You can do risquÃ©. And kids today want dads who can rock out in the school auditorium like cool dudes. Doesnâ€™t Ambrosia think itâ€™d be good for your radio career?â€?
â€œAmbrosiaâ€™s in favor of anything that makes me a visual. She believes the world wants a Web presence, a Facebook profile, a YouTube persona, rather than just a voice in the night.â€?
â€œLetâ€™s face it. Ambrosia knows how to market radio today. You make a socko visual. Remember that billboard of you on the red suede couch? I sure do! Blond, handsome, and horizontal.â€?
â€œYeah, and all those screaming fan girls.â€? He made a face. It didnâ€™t hurt his looks a bit.
â€œAmbrosiaâ€™s your producer. Your â€Midnight Hourâ€™ is syndicated in a lot of major markets, but there are more to be won over. You can go farther than the usual radio shrink, maybe become the next Dr. Phil.â€?
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with that?â€?
â€œThatâ€™s what I get with an ace PR woman as a fiancÃ©e. P.T. Barr-num. Dr. Philâ€™s avuncular act is not only bullying, but superficial. I hope my â€Midnight Hourâ€™ digs a bit deeper.â€?
â€œIt does.â€? Templeâ€™s voice lowered to a dramatic whisper. â€œYou are the most insightful, sincere, and sexy guy on the air-waves. Dr. Phil should be quaking in his Big and Tall Man suits.â€?
â€œDr. Phil isnâ€™t a dancing bear.â€?
â€œYou wonâ€™t be a dancing bear.â€?
â€œIâ€™ve been rehearsing already, so donâ€™t bet on that.â€?
â€œOoh. Whoâ€™s your teacher?â€?
Matt hesitated. â€œNo six-feet-tall Strip chorus girls to steer around the floor, thank goodness. Most female pro ballet and ballroom dancers are petite. Sheâ€™s a brunette.â€?
â€œShould look dramatic with your fair coloring.â€?
â€œSheâ€™s the dramatic type, all right, but sheâ€™s just the instructor. Iâ€™ll actually perform with the other celebrities.â€?
â€œDonâ€™t glower. Men are so afraid of a little social dancing. Look at all those macho athletes who aced Dancing With the Stars. Football players, Olympic skaters.â€?
â€œTemple, my only â€sportâ€™ is swimming. Not exactly a coupleâ€™s pursuit. Besides. You overlook the sleaze factor. The winning ballroom dancers are all sexy.â€?
â€œAnd youâ€™re not?â€? she asked indignantly.
â€œNot for a mass media audience.â€?
â€œNonsense! This will be good for you,â€? she decreed, â€œand good exposure for your show.â€?
â€œThatâ€™s what Iâ€™m afraid of.â€?
â€œYou can practice your new steps with me. Thatâ€™ll give you an edge. Extra rehearsal time.â€?
â€œSorry. All my free time must be devoted to rehearsal eight to ten hours a day with La Tatyana. Given my night-owl working sched, Iâ€™ll have no time or energy for fiancÃ©es.â€?
â€œYou can talk Dancing With the Stars, but you obviously donâ€™t watch the show closely enough.â€?
â€œGuilty,â€? Temple admitted. â€œIâ€™m too busy to catch a weekly TV show, but Iâ€™ve seen clips.â€?
â€œMost of the pro dancers are Russian. I guess the baton has passed and the great Russian dancers of today have gone from ballet to samba.â€?
â€œSo whatâ€™s Tat-yan-ah like?â€? Temple asked, deciding it was time to flex her possessiveness.
Matt winced. â€œA Gestapo officer in rehearsal and a Lolita on stage.â€?
â€œHeavily bipolar. Sounds more like a blue movie than a dance contest. Iâ€™ll have to come to the broadcast every night of the competition to act as bodyguard.â€?
â€œIâ€™m more worried about missing a step than any domineering sexpot.â€?
â€œ â€Domineering sexpot.â€™ Now thereâ€™s a role I could aspire to.â€?
â€œDonâ€™t even try.â€? Matt tousled her luxuriant red-gold curls. â€œSexy sprite is my speed.â€?
Temple laughed and snuggled into his arms, glad to have Matt in her life and a subdued version of her natural fiery red hair color back after having a blond bleach job foisted on her for an assignment.
Into this premarital merriment a large black shadow descended.
Midnight Louie lofted over the sofa back onto their semi-twined laps, earning protests.
â€œLouie! You weigh a ton,â€? Temple said. â€œOff!â€?
Matt hefted the big cat with one hand under his belly and set him on a sofa arm. â€œHe must be protesting being left out of the wedding plans.â€?
â€œOh,â€? Temple cooed, â€œLouie was so cute as the ring bearer wearing that black bow tie collar with the ring box attached.â€?
â€œYou could see he hated the bow tie as much as I would, but he did relish center stage, as usual.â€?
â€œYouâ€™ll have to do ring bearer act again for our wedding, Louie,â€? Temple threatened her feline roommate.
He showed his fangs but stifled a hiss of contempt and jumped down to the parquet floor.
â€œI sometimes think heâ€™s trying to come between us,â€? Matt said with a frown Temple found adorable.
Matt must have driven women and girls crazy when he was in the priesthood, Temple thought, enjoying watching her beloved interact with her panther-personality alpha tomcat. Heâ€™d kill â€™em on Dancing With the Celebs. He was classically good-looking in a blond, matinee-idol way. That he never used it made his charm even more devastating.
But looks were deceiving, as usual. Mattâ€™s unhappy childhood, first with a beaten-down unwed mother and then with an abusive stepfather, had driven him to become the perfect â€œFather Mattâ€? heâ€™d never had. He liked the anonymity of radio. She was hoping the dance competition would bring out his extroverted side.
She wriggled her bare toes against his stomach, making him seize her feet to stop the teasing and eye her with un-sanctioned intentions. Heâ€™d worked hard to overcome his sad early history and was more than ready to start making some promising fresh history with her, except for the occasional qualm about fornication without benefit of matrimony.
She was a lucky girl. Temple sighed again, this time with an odd combination of contentment and excitement. She sure hoped trouble would stay out of their way until they could do something official to end these prenuptial nerves.
Excerpted from Cat in a Topaz Tango by Carole Nelson Douglas.
Copyright Ã‚Â© 2009 by Carole Nelson Douglas.
Published in 2009 by A Tom Doherty Associates Book.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
Excerpted from Cat in a Topaz Tango by Douglas, Carole Nelson Copyright © 2010 by Douglas, Carole Nelson. 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.