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By Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShe was prettier than her mug shot.
FBI Special Agent Remi Beaulieux leaned his elbows back on the crowded bar, popped a stick of Juicy Fruit into his mouth and contemplated the woman working the crowd.
Prettier and more cheerful. The FBI photographer must have caught her on a really bad day. He lifted his shot glass and took a sip of tequila. Not that it mattered. He'd just wanted to get a look at her in person.
Remi's specialty was undercover work, posing as a bad guy, convincing the other bad guys to trust him long enough to hang themselves. After weeks of meticulous planning and putting his cover in place, tomorrow he'd be slipping into the James Davies crime organization, playing the part of a drug smuggler drumming up business.
He wanted to know all the important players by sight. Muse Summerville had been the FBI's inside man - or woman - with Davies, right up until two weeks ago when she'd ended her relationship with Gary Fox, one of Davies's main gofers.
He watched as she lifted the hair off her neck and made eyes at about the tenth guy in as many minutes, a big dude in a Harley T-shirt and combat boots.
Obviously she was real broken up about it. Not that Remi was interested in the details of Muse Summerville's love life.
Still, he couldn't help but admire the view. A lithe, tall blonde with miles of shapely leg and a cute, flirty sundress short enough to make a man pray for a stiff wind. No wonder they were swarming around her two deep.
He took another sip of tequila, wiped a bead of sweat from his temple and watched as she gave a woman a big hug and started talking with her animatedly, all the while smiling and waving to passersby who greeted her.
Popular lady. No surprise. Her background file said she had lots of friends. But what did surprise Remi was that there were just as many women as men. Now, that was interesting.
The big old wooden paddle fan twirling above the dance floor must have been doing its job, for she tipped her face up and let the breeze caress her face. It was a gesture so sensual a low hum of appreciation rumbled from his throat.
She was surely not what he'd expected.
The Eyes Only FBI file on Muse he'd skimmed earlier was thick and revealing to say the least. It had been filled with page after page of information she'd gathered on James Davies over the past six months, as well as a sketchy profile of Muse and her flamboyant lifestyle. In person, Remi had been expecting a jaded, streetwise woman with no hint of vulnerability, flashing sex appeal like a neon sign.
Bien, she was sexy, all right. And obviously used to taking care of herself.
But that's where the similarities ended. Despite the short dress, spike heels and bright lipstick, there seemed to be a genuineness and intelligence about this woman that defied her reputation as a wild-living party girl. She was intriguing as hell.
Not that she was his type.
He suddenly realized she'd caught him watching her. Her gaze faltered as it collided with his, moved on, then returned.
She was just his type. In fact, she was so much his type it was almost scary. Scary enough to make him take a giant mental step back.
Garde, mon fils. Careful, boy.
It would be foolish to make contact. He wasn't authorized, and he had no reason to speak to her. Muse Summerville was the FBI's ace in the hole against James Davies, the only informant still alive whose testimony could put Davies away for good. In two days Remi'd be deep undercover, trying his damnedest to locate the bastard so they could arrest him and get him on trial.
So far Davies didn't suspect her. By making any contact at all, Remi could put both her and himself in unnecessary danger. Especially since a few days ago she'd reported she was being followed.
No problem. He'd only watch her for a little while, then slip away before she really noticed him.
Except her gaze was still on him.
Against all caution, he stared right back. He could see her swallow, then whisper to the woman next to her, who gave him the once-over and shook her head, but shot him a flirtatious smile.
He lifted his glass in an answering salute, but held Muse's gaze the whole time. Damn, he'd like to meet her.
Dieu. Jamais. Reality check.
What would he do if she actually walked over and introduced herself? Tell her, yeah, I already know who you are because I'm an FBI agent and I've read your very intriguing file and came all the way down here to Bourbon Street just to find out if what it said was true?
Luckily he was spared when a man came up to her and she turned away, sliding her arms playfully around his neck as he leaned over for a kiss.
Remi gripped his shot glass and downed the rest of the tequila in one gulp, frowning. Okay, big deal. So what if she let the guy kiss her? Her file said she liked men - the more dark and dangerous the better. What did he expect? A nun?
His scowl deepened as the man grabbed her and pulled her close. But to his surprise she broke the kiss and slipped from his grasp, laughing and urging the woman next to her to take her place in the man's arms. She left them kissing as she waved to another friend and moved on. Not that he cared.
Remi caught her eye again. This time she stopped, tipped her head and raised an eyebrow.
Dark and dangerous, eh? He could do dark and dangerous. That's why he'd done so well in his twelve-year undercover career. Remi Beaulieux defined dark and dangerous.
He didn't move. Didn't smile. Just swept his gaze over her in a very obvious male challenge.
Her lips parted a fraction, and even from across the room he could see her cheeks flush. Oh, yeah, she was interested.
Suddenly he wanted to kick himself. Ça, c'est fou! Flirting with this woman could get them both in big trouble. What if she actually took him up on his unspoken offer?
Again their byplay was interrupted by another man, and to his annoyance nearly the exact same ritual was enacted. First the kiss, then the grab, then the switcheroo, this time with a giggling friend she pulled off the dance floor.
Obviously the woman didn't like being manhandled. What was with those guys? Didn't they get that?
None of his business. She was doing fine taking care of herself. In fact, she disappeared into the crowd and he lost sight of her altogether.
Merci Dieu. Best he got out of there, anyway. He'd had no business tracking her down in the first place. He wasn't undercover yet, and this was their star witness he was messing with. He must be looking for a way to get fired. Or killed.
He elbowed his way through the throng on the dance floor, slowly easing toward the door. Bourbon Street was always a crush, and tonight was no different despite the blast-furnace heat of mid-August.
When he stepped out the door into the night, he paused for a welcome deep breath of fresh air. The smells of the Quarter made him smile in recognition: fried fish, sweet daiquiris, popcorn, the lingering tang of rotting garbage....
"Leaving so soon?"
Excerpted from Sweet Suspicion by Nina Bruhns Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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