Read an Excerpt
By Elaine Barbieri
Copyright © 2004
All right reserved.
New Orleans, 1850
Jeanette Borneau's stylish afternoon gown contrasted sharply
with the shabby New Orleans hotel room where she stood, her
face streaked with tears. She stared at the dashing Texan a
few feet away, incredulity holding her motionless as Buck Star
snapped his traveling bag shut, turned toward her and said,
"You can't tell me you weren't expecting this to happen sooner
or later, darlin'. We both knew it couldn't last forever."
"I don't know what you mean." Her flawless complexion pale,
her voice a hoarse whisper, Jeanette forced herself to
continue, "I love you. You said you loved me. I thought you
meant those words."
"I did mean them ... for a while."
Buck scanned her face with blue eyes that had glowed with
passion while she had lain in his arms. She remembered the
first time she saw him, when their glances met and she had
known in an instant she would love him. She recalled the
ecstasy of their lovemaking, a glory that had soared greater
and more powerful with each touch. But there was neither
passion nor emotion shining in his eyes as he continued with
an offhanded smile, "Listen, darlin', I'm not saying we didn't
have a fine time together. Hell, no other woman ever pleased
me more than you did."
"Are you afraid of my husband?" Jeanette took ashuddering
breath. Her delicate features twitched as she hastened to
reassure him, "Antoine's an old man. He's no match for you
even if he should try to stop us."
"Stop us-from what?"
"That's what I came to tell you. I'm leaving Antoine and going
back to Texas with you-so I can be your wife, so we can always
"You're already married, remember?"
"I'll petition the church to have the marriage annulled!"
"You have an eight-year-old daughter."
"Celeste can stay behind with Antoine. She'll be better off
with him anyway."
Surprised that the concession did not please him, Jeanette
continued in a rush, "I never loved Antoine! I was sixteen and
desperate; he was wealthy and he wanted me. I wouldn't have
married him if there was any other way. I didn't love any of
the other men I've been with in the time since, either. You're
the only man I've ever loved-only you! We can be happy
together. We will be happy together."
Buck frowned. "Look, the truth is, I had a visit from your
husband this morning." At Jeanette's gasp, he added, "He's a
nice old man, you know. He was real civil about everything.
He's ready to forgive and forget just like he did all the
other times you found a fella who caught your eye. His only
condition is that I leave New Orleans right now and never look
"He was real generous, too, paying for the new stock I'm
having shipped in for the ranch, plus all my expenses here,
with a little bit left over besides. The way things worked
out, I'm going back to Texas practically a rich man."
Jeanette clutched a nearby chair for support. "But I love
"It's just your pride hurting because I'm ending things before
you're ready. You'll get over it."
"That isn't true!"
"You'll forget I ever existed when the next good-looking young
fella comes your way. In the meantime, your husband's home,
waiting for you."
"I love you. I couldn't bear to lie in Antoine's arms or
anyone else's but yours ever again!"
Buck swung his case off the bed and shrugged. "Whatever you
say, but the stage is leaving for Texas in an hour. I'm going
to be on it."
"Take me with you, Buck, please!" Throwing herself against
him, Jeanette pleaded, "Let me show you how much I love you.
Let me prove to you what a good wife I can be."
"Jeanette, honey," Buck paused. His voice deepened. "The thing
is, I've already got me a wife and family back in Texas, and
I'm going home to them."
Stunned, Jeanette remained motionless as Buck pried her
clutching fingers from his shirt. She was unable to speak when
he then tipped his hat and said, "Thanks for everything,
ma'am, but I'm saying goodbye."
Numbed, she watched as he drew open the door and strode out of
sight, his words trailing into the deadening silence in his
* * *
Celeste Borneau's petulant screams echoed through the opulent,
Charters Street mansion as she broke free of Madalane's
restraining grip and scrambled down the hallway toward her
mother's room. Screaming louder when her mother's devoted
nanny grasped her arm again, she shouted, "Get away from me!
Leave me alone or I'll tell my mama to fire you! She'll send
you back to walk the streets of that island you came from, and
she'll let you rot there!"
The handsome negress squeezed her arm almost painfully tight
as she glared, "Your mama is upset. She does not wish to be
"I don't care!"
Struggling free again, Celeste ran toward the doorway at the
end of the hall and burst through, then halted at the sight of
her mother lying on the bed, gasping for breath. She paid no
notice to Madalane when the silent nanny left her side to pick
up the glass that had fallen from Jeanette's hand, sniffed it,
then stood back with restrained emotion. Instead, annoyed that
her mother did not greet her warmly, she ran to the bed and
was about to shout her demands when her mother grasped her
hand in a painful grip.
"... can't go on, Celeste." Jeanette stared up at her,
struggling to breathe. "He destroyed me ... left me with
nothing." Her eyes bulging with the effort to speak, Jeanette
clutched Celeste's hand more tightly and gasped, "He never
loved me ... just made a fool of me. I hate him! You must make
him pay, Celeste. You must promise me ..."
Becoming frightened at her mother's gasping demand, Celeste
attempted to withdraw her hand. She didn't want her mother to
be sick now. She wanted her mother to take her to buy the new
hat she had promised her. She wanted-
Her mother's biting grip cut into Celeste's thoughts as she
demanded more harshly, "You must ... promise me ... someday to
make him pay."
Nodding, Celeste snatched back her hand as a strange rattle
sounded in her mother's throat.
Suddenly furious that her mother would dare disappoint her,
Celeste shouted, "Get up! Get up now!"
She was screeching and stamping her feet at her mother's
refusal to respond when Madalane dragged her away.
* * *
Her stubborn tantrum still raging an hour later, Celeste
screamed at the locked door of her room. She didn't like being
locked in. She would not stand for it! She would cry and howl
until her father came for her as he always did. Her mother
often ignored her for the pretty fellows who gathered around
her. She broke her word without a thought when one of them
whispered in her ear, but she wouldn't get away with it this
time. She'd tell her father. He would be angry, and he would
make her mother buy her a new hat, and more.
That thought inspiring her to wail anew, Celeste looked up at
the sound of a key in the lock. Her cries died in her throat
when Madalane entered, her expression grim.
She did not speak when Madalane began, "You must prepare
yourself to accept difficult news, Celeste." The negress took
a stabilizing breath. "Your mother is no longer with us. She
died at her own hand."
Momentarily motionless, Celeste then raised her chin. She
didn't care. Her father would take care of her. He would buy
her anything she wanted.
Madalane continued, "Your father was overwhelmed with grief
when he learned of your mother's death. His heart was weak. It
stopped beating." She paused again. "Monsieur Borneau is
dead." With furious tears suddenly falling, Celeste shrieked,
"No, you lie! Mama isn't gone. She's sleeping-and Papa would
never leave me!"
Her tirade was halted by Madalane's stinging slap. Shocked
into silence, Celeste listened as the devoted servant rasped,
"Your tears are useless! You cry because you think you are
alone, but you are not. I will care for you just as I cared
for your mother-but I tell you now ..."
Grasping Celeste's shoulders, Madalane leaned down to stare
into her eyes as she hissed, "Your mother's faithless lover is
responsible for her death. He is the one who stole her will to
live. He is the one who killed your father. He is the man who
took from you everything you know."
Madalane shook away the last of Celeste's tears with dark eyes
burning. She grated, "Listen to me. Remember the pledge you
made to your dying mother, for I now make this pledge to you:
Together, we will honor the promise you made. Together, we
will achieve her vengeance."
Excerpted from Texas Star
by Elaine Barbieri
Copyright © 2004 by Elaine Barbieri .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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