A Dangerous Dance

Overview

Dorothy returns to Oz for a dangerous dance...
His whole career, Remy Mistral has fought for reform in a state where corruption is an art form. Now is his chance to quit talking about reform and make his move to change things, but two things stand in his way. One is a woman, the other a killer.
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A Dangerous Dance

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Overview

Dorothy returns to Oz for a dangerous dance...
His whole career, Remy Mistral has fought for reform in a state where corruption is an art form. Now is his chance to quit talking about reform and make his move to change things, but two things stand in his way. One is a woman, the other a killer.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594140983
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 8/5/2004
  • Pages: 317
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.89 (d)

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Chapter One

REMY MISTRAL WAS watching for the opening and still he almost missed it. Out of the corner of his eye he caught the impression of a break in the dense foliage on his left and hit the brakes. There was no one behind—and hadn't been for the past half hour of driving—so he backed the sleek gray Mercedes, and turned into the even narrower side road with a swaying lurch as his car's suspension tried to adjust to the sudden downgrade in conditions. Two car lengths along, he found his way barred by a vine-covered gate.

A push of a button silently lowered the tinted window. He rested his arm on the frame as warm, thick air rolled in carrying the pungent scent of growing things. With one finger he pushed his sunglasses down, the better to pierce the green and yellow shadows and vines that prevented him from finding a pattern in the ornate gate's grill work.

Remy shifted to neutral and pushed open the door, letting more humid air rush in and overpower his car's air conditioning. He slid out and stretched—it had been a long ride from New Orleans—slipped off the jacket of his gray Armani suit and draped it carefully over the seat back. Only then did he approach the gate.

On either side, a thick layer of vines clung to the gate, and a fence marched into shadow in an unyielding line. Remy tugged at the vines at the center of the gate, until he could see the pale, yellow gleam that marked the road through a line of oak and cypress trees dripping with the gray ghosts of Spanish moss. A few more tugs and he found and traced the letters scrolled into metal.

Oz.

The estate had been named to remind Magus Merlinn ofthe years he spent in Australia, and perhaps the Wizard designation had grown from that. It certainly wasn't because Magus had Klan associations. It wasn't even clear if he'd been given the title or taken it. What was certain, he'd been a wizard at creating success out of nothing. Ten years ago, he'd turned his attention to the governor's mansion, with a run for the White House to follow, but a bullet had stopped the legend. Yesterday, a homemade knife in a prison yard had stopped the Wizard's killer.

Was it a coincidence that rumors of a revival in Oz had started sometime before yesterday, though no one could quite say when or where they started? All Remy knew for sure was that in the good old boy taverns of power, rumors about Dorothy's return bearing the Wizard's standard had started to circulate as the first candidates hopeful of replacing the sitting governor started testing the waters. What no one seemed to know was who she intended bestowing that standard on—or if she planned to carry it herself.

Remy rarely did a straight news story anymore, but politics were king on his talk radio show and a scoop on Dorothy's plans wouldn't hurt his ratings any—or at least, that's what he'd told himself during the drive to Oz. The crazy plan he kept pushed to the back of his head as he looked at the firmly barred gate. It looked like it hadn't moved since the Wizard last passed through it in a fancy wooden box. Remy had to wonder about the reliability of his source.

He gave the gate a shake and stepped back. Was it locked or rusted shut? He had some WD-40 in his trunk, if rust were the problem. He checked the closure, but found no chains or padlocks holding it in place and, despite the wads of plant crap on the gate itself, there was adequate clearance between gate and ground.

"Damn." He shook it again, but couldn't tell what was the obstruction was. Unless a tornado miraculously appeared and lifted him over it, Oz was going to be tougher to crack than he expected—if Dorothy was even there—

Before he could finish the thought, a shrill shriek broke the silence as the gate pulled from his hold and began to ponderously swing open, exposing the road. Weed-choked and broken in spots, but still clearly yellow, and clearly brick, leading to the heart of Magus Merlinn's lost Oz.

"I'll be damned." With a last, wary look around, Remy slid behind the wheel of his car, engaged the gears and pulled through. Behind him, the gate closed with an ominous clang.

* * *

"DEATH, TAXES—AND Remy Mistral. I told you he'd come." Dorothy Morgana Merlinn watched the car pass from the camera's view, then looked down at Titus, working the security monitors. "Can I see him again?"

In a few moments, he had one monitor showing a replay of Remy at the gate, even as the monitor next to it showed his car moving carefully along the road toward the house.

Titus leaned back in the chair and looked up at her. He was a small, lethal man with light brown hair and cool eyes. Only once had he failed his primary task as body guard. Dorothy didn't blame him for what happened, but she knew he blamed himself. "How did you know that ill wind would come?"

She smiled. "A mistral is a cold wind, not an ill wind."

Though when she looked at the close-up, freeze-framed face in the monitor, it wasn't cold she felt. Titus fine-tuned the picture until the broad, high forehead, ending in strongly marked brows as dark as his hair, came into sharp focus. His eyes were dark, too and deep set, perfect for brooding or piercing other people's secrets—or unlocking female hearts. His nose was straight and almost elegant above a full mouth and firm chin. No, it wasn't cold, but heat she hadn't meant to feel. She couldn't afford the luxury, not if she wanted to lay Magus's ghost to rest and reclaim her life.

Titus blew out a sigh filled with frustration. "I wish I knew what you were up to."

He looked up, his gaze sharpening as he tried to bore through her eyes into that place where her thoughts and desires simmered. She turned to more fully accommodate him. If she could deflect him—

His mouth twisted wryly. "That's the first time you ever looked like him."

He didn't sound pleased, but she smiled as she felt power push back the unwelcome heat, or maybe it mixed with it, turning it into something stronger than each was alone. If Mistral wasn't cold, she would be, until all Louisiana felt it and knew the truth of what happened ten years ago.

She stood up and reached for the door, two steps away. "Good. I don't want anyone to doubt I'm his heir this time."

His eyes flashed with remembered pain. "Just…be careful, cheré."

She looked away from him. "I'm always careful. We won't fail this time."

"He doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of even making it through the primaries. He's made too many enemies."

"Which is why he's driving his lovely car up our miserable yellow brick road right now—probably cursing us and himself every inch of it. Ambition's a bitch."

"But not as dangerous as revenge, cheré."

"I don't want revenge. I want justice." She pulled the door open.

"Justice." He shook his head. "That's even more dangerous. And dang near impossible to get."

She smiled at him. "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things," she said lightly, before she stepped out, letting the door swing gently shut behind her. She started across the weed choked yard, her gaze sweeping for fire ant hills. Even after ten years away, there was so much she remembered, but what she remembered the most right now, was her first—and last—meeting with Remy Mistral.

Then, like now, change was in the air with an electorate primed for reform and longing for a candidate with a touch of magic to believe in. Enter Magus Merlinn aka the Wizard, whose magic touch had transformed several failing Louisiana businesses into jobs for voters. He'd been convinced the same magic could transform the State's unwieldy bureaucracy into something more responsible and responsive to the failing economy. Magus had the gift of engaging people, not just in his ideas, but in him—and his only daughter was no exception. She smiled, remembering the surly eighteen year old she'd been when she first met her father, angry about the years he'd been missing from her life, still grieving for her mom. Right away he'd made it clear he didn't take guilt trips. She could take what he was offering or not. Her choice. Or so it had seemed. When Magus smiled, the choices always narrowed to what he wanted. And thank goodness for it or she'd have missed her short time with him.

Unfortunately, her youth had made her ill-prepared for the bumps and jolts of politics, the hordes of media types howling around the hot campaign—or the bullets that stopped Magus's drive for the mansion.

As she always did when Magus filled her thoughts, she touched the place on her chest where a bullet had passed through Magus and hit her. Like the fictional Dorothy, there were risks in hanging with a wizard.

Which brought her full circle back to Remy Mistral, who'd been part of that media frenzy back then. She remembered hearing one of Magus's aides commenting that he wouldn't be in the pack long. Even as green as she'd been, she could tell he had a break-out personality. To her young eyes, he'd seemed lit from within and vibrantly real in a mass of mostly plastic people.

She'd never expected him to notice her. Even if she hadn't been plain and colorless, who could see anyone but the magnificent Magus? But he had noticed her, his dark eyes finding her in Magus's shadow for a heady, disturbing moment. Then he'd dismissed her with casual and complete indifference.

It stung then, and it still did, she had to admit. It was hard to acknowledge to herself the crush she'd had on him, but she'd come here to face all her demons. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered so much if Magus hadn't been killed so soon after. Like circling buzzards over dead meat, Mistral had blown through her life and intruded on her grief. His final, punctuating comment had been to dismiss her again, as a person and to question whether she was Magus's daughter and could take over his legacy. His contempt had been the bookends of her father's death—and the frame, or maybe it was the lens, through which she viewed that terrible time.

What, she wondered, had changed his focus and kept him in Louisiana? Everyone had been so sure it was only a matter of time before he was picked up by a national news outlet. Instead, he'd moved into talk radio.

And now here he was, looking for her, finally curious about the Wizard's daughter. Once again, she felt that tug of uncertainty. She'd managed her father's affairs, despite of and over the objections of the naysayers, always with Mistral's words stinging in her ears. Time had wrought its changes on them both, and now fate had returned them full circle to where they'd started.

The sitting governor was almost at the end of his two terms, leaving the field wide open once more. Even better, the voters' passion for reform had not abated and there was a definite anti-incumbent feeling simmering beneath a lot of surfaces, if the New Orleans mayoral race was any indication. And with the desire for reform, came the desire for the return of a Wizard, according to the letters she'd received. The power, his power was still there, waiting to be harnessed anew. Some of Magus's old cronies looked to be making their move on his legacy. It was now or never.

She wasn't the Wizard, the long years in exile had taught her that again and again, but she was his daughter—with the inalienable right to bestow his power where she wished. They'd find it out soon enough.

As for Remy Mistral, that he'd once been contemptuous of her probably wasn't a good reason for setting him up. But it was a reason.

Copyright © 2004 Pauline Baird Jones

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 25, 2011

    This is now a legal edition of my novel. :-)

    This edition is authorized by me and legal! thanks for your patience in waiting for a legal edition to release. :-)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2010

    Selling this book violates my copyright

    B&N has persisted in selling this edition despite my and my former publisher's repeated attempts to get them to stop. Respect my copyright and please don't buy this edition.
    Pauline Jones, the author

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fine Bayou romantic suspense

    The Louisiana state politicians all want the endorsement of Dorothy Morgann Merlinn for Governor as they know she has some influence being the only daughter of Magnus ¿Wizard¿ Merlinn though he was assassinated ten years ago. However, Dorothy has returned to the family estate Oz because she knows the time is right to learn who paid recently killed Verrol Vance to pull the trigger.---- Talk radio host Remy Mistral visits Dorothy, who has never forgotten that he contemptuously wrote her off as a nothing just before and after her dad was killed. Dorothy offers Remy a proposition that she supports his run in exchange for he being the target of the assassin as she expects an attempt on anyone she might support. He agrees with the stipulation that they marry, which adds depth to her so-called support of him. As Remy runs for governor as an outside reformist with Dorothy¿s support, they fall in love, but her plan works too well and both are in jeopardy from an unknown assailant.---- Up front L. Frank Baum is not the killer as Pauline B. Jones pays homage to the great author¿s terrific Oz novels with obvious references. The political romance story line is exciting as Dorothy knows that one of her father¿s ¿allies¿ killed him, but which one. Though there a couple of twists too many, fans will appreciate this Bayou romantic suspense in which the daughter of the deceased Wizard of Oz seeks justice but finds love instead.---- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted February 17, 2010

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