Read an Excerpt
By Nina Bruhns
Chapter OneNew Orleans Police Detective Auri "Creole" Levalois backed up deep into the sweltering shadows of his new French Quarter apartment's balcony. From his hiding place, he watched the woman in the apartment across the narrow courtyard slowly pull down the zipper of her dress. It was August, about 9:00 p.m. and still hot as a night in Hades.
It wasn't because she was undressing that Detective Levalois watched her, shrouded behind the hanging plants. Although that certainly added an interesting angle to the situation. Hell, if you were stuck doing surveillance for days on end, you might as well have something sweet to look at. But Creole was after something much more important than a nice view.
The woman lifted her thick blond hair off her neck, strolled to the fridge and reached into the freezer for a tray of ice. He silently studied her delicate chin, straight nose and long, elegant neck, all silhouetted by the refrigerator light. Dieu, she was a pretty thing.
He'd lucked out when he'd been able to flash his police credentials and leap to the top of the waiting list for the vacant apartment directly across from the woman named Muse Summerville. The modest complex was typical French Quarter - ancient two-story brick buildings surrounding a postage stamp courtyard choked with flowers and greenery. Ribbon-narrow brick walkways used to lead to streets on either side, but years ago the gate to the street on this end hadbeen bricked up. He and the Summerville woman now shared the deserted back side of the courtyard, their balconies forming a tight arch over the overgrown cobblestoned path, a scant four feet of air separating the black wrought iron railings. Very cozy.
From Creole's spot on his own balcony he could clearly observe her entire second-floor apartment. Like his, it was small, just a kitchen-dining-living-room combo and a bedroom with a bath attached. Tall, curtainless French doors led from both rooms out onto a balcony that ran the length of the apartment.
Just yesterday he had taken the plunge and moved his few belongings here. He didn't work out of the Quarter's Eighth District police station, but where he lived at this point in time was irrelevant. It was just a place to leave his stuff while he was out sifting through the dregs of New Orleans, pursuing his private revenge.
As long as he got what he was after, nothing else mattered. And Muse Summerville would give him what he wanted. One way or another, he'd make sure she did.
She moved from the kitchen into the bedroom, and he idly wondered what she'd done with the ice tray. With an irritated shrug he shifted his pinching shoulder holster to a more comfortable position. He'd really have to concentrate.
That evening he'd trailed her from her job at the law office of Leavy, Dell and Roland on Camp Street to a small restaurant in the Quarter, where she'd eaten alone, then home to Burgundy Street - also alone. It occurred to him a woman who looked as good as she did shouldn't be doing anything alone.
Where was her slimeball boyfriend? It definitely wasn't like him to leave his woman unattended. Not good. Not good at all.
Creole eased himself into a cramped iron bistro chair and wiped at a bead of sweat that trickled down his temple. The object of his surveillance turned her back on him, giving him an eyeful of slim waist and bare shoulders exposed by the wide-open zipper of her dress.
Nice. The male in him hummed appreciatively. Si belle. Of course, looks were deceiving. Muse Summerville might have the body of an angel, but she was anything but nice. The woman was involved with some bien mauvais drigaille, some very nasty people.
He grabbed the tumbler of bourbon he'd set on the nearby table and closed his eyes, fighting the wave of rage that swamped over him at the thought of those people.
Unfortunately, during his quick search through her apartment yesterday he'd come up empty. The lock had been child's play. But he'd found neither hide nor hair of her small-time-hood boyfriend, Gary Fox. No address, no implicating letters or documents, not even a photograph. Either the scumbag was being very careful or he had cleared out. For Creole's own sake, he hoped it was the former. It was tough enough to stay sane in the broiling summer humidity of New Orleans under the best of circumstances, but if he'd lost the only lead on his brother's killer, he'd really go nuts.
He was counting on this unauthorized stakeout of the Summerville woman to lead him to Fox, and from him to Fox's boss - the man who had murdered his brother.
If Fox had soured on Muse, Creole could be in for a very long wait. Not to mention possibly getting thrown off the force if the captain found out he was still pursuing a case he'd been specifically barred from investigating. But he wasn't about to fail. He'd find out what he needed to know to bring Luke's killer to justice, even if it meant losing his career in the process.
He took a long, cooling sip of bourbon and opened his eyes again, calmer. The heat was still oppressive, but at least he'd beaten the rage back to where it belonged - in the blackest recesses of his heart.
Through the ornate curlicues of their two balconies and the open French doors of her bedroom, he watched the woman pause by the nightstand on her way toward the bathroom. There was a click and he recognized the tinny whine of KBON, a Cajun music station. His focus shifted to her pink satin-sheeted bed and to the purse and briefcase she'd tossed there upon arriving home a few minutes ago. His eyes narrowed consideringly. He'd give a lot for five minutes alone with that briefcase.
She kicked off her four-inch heels and grabbed a clip to pin up her long hair. But she didn't slip out of her dress until after she'd shut the bathroom door behind her. For the second day in a row, Creole was mildly surprised. Her skimpy file hadn't pegged Muse Summerville as the modest type. Not by a long shot.
Creole leaned back in his chair and tried to relax while he waited for her to emerge from the bathroom. Picking up his tobacco pouch, he rolled himself a cigarette.
He really should quit. It was a filthy habit, but one he and Luke had forced themselves to calmly master as adolescents, after going through hell together. Smoking had bonded the foster brothers during those grim times in a kind of wordless ritual of courage, and he hadn't quite been able to shake it since. Not that he'd really tried. He liked the coarse edge it added to his tough-guy image. It suited his purposes.
Shame he couldn't light the damn thing. If he did, he'd reveal his presence to the woman. Bien. He'd save his nightly smoke until after she went to bed. If yesterday was any indication, she'd hit the sack as soon as she finished her shower.
Right on cue she emerged, wrapped in a towel big enough to cover the essentials but small enough to give a man ideas. Her pale breasts spilled plump and round above the towel, begging for a man's touch; her bare, shapely legs went on for miles, hinting at other hidden delights. For a breathless moment he imagined those legs wrapped around his waist, her silky hair floating across his -
He frowned in annoyance. He shouldn't even be thinking such things. This woman was nothing but bad news. He had no business being attracted to her ... even if it seemed half of New Orleans shared his opinion of her enticements.
And she didn't mind flaunting them, either. Her uncurtained bedroom was littered with heaps of cheap, gaudy, green, purple and gold Mardi Gras necklaces. Everyone knew what a woman had to do to earn those necklaces up on Bourbon Street.
Pulling open a dresser drawer, she leaned over and sifted through its contents, drawing out a sheer black baby-doll nightie.
Sacré. Creole's mouth went dry, his mind dancing with unbidden visions of her sprawled across her queen-size, satin-sheeted bed wearing nothing but that nightie. Then she shook her head, replaced it and took out what looked to be a man's muscle-style undershirt and a pair of boxer shorts. Disappointment rolled through him, thick and powerful.
"Aw, honey," he muttered under his breath. "Don' do this to me, chère."
He drilled a hand through his hair and slugged back a stiff belt of bourbon. Le bon Dieu mait la main. God help him. Where the hell was Fox? The man was either dead or a flaming idiot to leave a woman like this alone for two nights.
Excerpted from Sweet Revenge by Nina Bruhns
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.