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A fine work of art?
Legendary engineer Darryl Boudreaux is a master with his hands, and his creative genius is unparalleled. Many a woman has desired Darryl's expert tutelage, but he is off the market?for anything serious. Experience has convinced him to focus his passion on his work.
When architect Camryn Charles gets sight of her new partner, she is determined to keep things professional. This is easier said than done. Is it the ...
A fine work of art
Legendary engineer Darryl Boudreaux is a master with his hands, and his creative genius is unparalleled. Many a woman has desired Darryl's expert tutelage, but he is off the market—for anything serious. Experience has convinced him to focus his passion on his work.
When architect Camryn Charles gets sight of her new partner, she is determined to keep things professional. This is easier said than done. Is it the heat of the smoldering French Quarter, or is it Darryl's quiet sexiness that is raising her temperature? Camryn would never sacrifice her integrity for a few wanton moments between the sheets. Yet Darryl's burning gaze suggests there could be something more between them—something that could dare them both to lay everything on the line .
Annoyance painted Darryl Boudreaux's expression as his gaze shifted from the line of police cars encroaching in his driveway to the Jaguar XF pulling into it. He prepared himself for the barrage of questions he knew would be coming from his older sister, Maitlyn Parks, who was flinging her thin frame out of the luxury vehicle.
Minutes earlier Darryl had been unnerved by the sound of sirens blaring toward the front of his home as his former girlfriend Asia Landry laid sobbing into the wool fibers of his newly installed carpet. The small-caliber handgun that she'd pointed in his direction moments before lay on the floor by her side, still as ominous as when it had been aimed at his head. Now he stood, troubled by the spectacle of it all, just imagining what his neighbors had to be thinking. He let out a deep sigh, blowing warm air past his full lips.
"What the hell is going on here?" Maitlyn asked as she bounded up his front steps. "Are you all right?"
"Fine as wine," he said sarcastically, his expression shifting into a mask of indifference. "What makes you think anything could be wrong?"
Maitlyn shot him a look of irritation, countering with her own sarcasm. "Uh, maybe because Asia has her face pressed against the glass in the back of that police car, looking like she stepped right out of someone's horror movie, that's why!" Maitlyn pointed with her index finger.
Darryl sighed. "She had to have one last hurrah."
"Darryl, this is—" Maitlyn started before the two were interrupted by a uniformed police officer. The man extended a clipboard in Darryl's direction.
"Mr. Boudreaux, sir, we just need to get your signature. Then we're going to take Miss Landry down to the police station."
"What will happen then?" Darryl asked as he took the clipboard from the man's hand and swiped his moniker across the document that was secured to it.
"Miss Landry will be booked and held until she can see a judge in the morning. He and the district attorney will decide what happens then, sir. I can assure you, though, that they take possession of a weapon and threat to cause bodily harm very seriously."
Darryl nodded as he handed the formal complaint back to the officer. "I leave for New Orleans later tonight. I'm scheduled to be away on business for the next few months. Is that going to be a problem?"
The officer shook his head. "I don't think so, sir.
And we have a number to contact you should it be necessary, correct?"
"Yes, and thank you. I'll also make sure my attorney contacts the D.A.'s office about that restraining order."
As the man in uniform wished him and Maitlyn a good night, Darryl pushed his hands deep into the pockets of his khakis. His gazed locked on the woman whose face appeared permanently fused to the faintly tinted glass pane.
Asia Landry looked crazed, but not nearly as crazed as when Darryl had told her their relationship was finished and he no longer had the desire for a future with her. He had tried to be as civil as possible, hoping against all odds that they could end their relationship amicably and remain friends. But when he had said goodbye and had wished her a bright and prosperous future, the one good screw in her brain stem had come unhinged.
As Darryl and his sister watched the police cars pull out of his driveway, he couldn't help but wish that he'd listened to his brothers when they told him to break up with Asia on neutral territory, their suggestions ranging from a local Starbucks to the public library. But no, he'd wanted to be more sensitive to Asia's feelings, not wanting to cause her any public embarrassment, and so he'd invited her to his home.
Now, as his neighbors waved at him, eyeing him with raised brows before disappearing behind their own closed doors, he was the one left feeling mortified. Maitlyn's nagging suddenly broke through, intruding on his moment of reflection.
"We told you she was crazy! How many times did we tell you that witch was a raving lunatic!" Maitlyn sighed with exasperation.
"Thank you, Mattie. Smack my hand for not paying any attention to all that advice you and the rest of our family dish out every minute of every day," Dar-ryl said dryly.
Maitlyn cut an eye in his direction as she assessed the wreckage in his living room. His glass coffee table had been shattered. His personal possessions had been thrown from one side of the room to the other. Everything was in a complete state of disarray. And then she saw the bullet holes through the family portrait that hung on the wall. Maitlyn's palm flew to her mouth as she stepped in to take a closer look. Tears rose to her eyes.
She shook her head as she turned to face her brother, meeting his intense stare. Noting her distress, he shrugged his shoulders as he reached to wrap his arms around her. "It's okay, Maitlyn," he said, trying to make light of the situation.
"No, it's not," she said, visibly shaking. "You could have been hurt. She could have killed you!"
As Darryl hugged his sister tightly, he had no words. He could still hear the harsh sound of that gun being cocked and the shots that had rung through the air as bullets had whizzed by his head. He refused to let it show but the moment had been lifealtering, everything feeling as if it had changed. He closed his eyes as he gathered his thoughts.
"I'm fine and that's all that matters. Now, if you help me get this mess cleaned up, I'll buy you dinner."
Maitlyn swiped at her eyes. "Don't worry about cleaning up. I'll handle it while you're gone. Are you all packed?"
He nodded. "Yeah, my luggage is in the bedroom."
"Then let's just go grab something to eat and I'll make sure everything is as good as new after I drop you off at the airport. Right now, though, I need a drink."
"Are you sure?" Darryl questioned.
"What's a big sister for?" Maitlyn said, forcing a smile on her face.
Darryl smiled with her. "Well, since you're being a good big sister, I need one more thing from you," he stated firmly.
"I need you to promise me you won't tell the folks about what happened."
"Promise me, Mattie!"
Maitlyn met her brother's gaze and held it for a brief moment. As she slowly nodded her head, she slid both her hands behind her back and crossed her fingers. "Whatever you want, Darryl," she said unconvincingly.
"I mean it," Darryl intoned as he headed toward the back bedroom and his luggage, instinctively knowing that every one of his siblings would know about what happened before the clock struck midnight. "Don't you dare tell Mommy and Daddy!"
Grabbing his leather bags, he headed back to the front of his home and his sister, who was still assessing the damage Asia had caused. As he stood beside her, he was suddenly grateful for the time away. By midnight he'd be on the red-eye flight headed east, soaring sky-high as he headed to his parents' home in New Orleans.
Tomorrow he'd be back to work, ready for one of the most rewarding opportunities of his career. And with any luck everything about his time with Asia Landry would soon be nothing but a bad memory.
Katherine Boudreaux tossed up her hands in exasperation. "She tried to kill you? Lord, have mercy!" she exclaimed, the palm of her hand pressed tight to her chest.
"Asia did not try to kill me, Mom," Darryl said as he looked toward his brother for help.
The oldest of the Boudreaux offspring, Mason Boudreaux, shrugged his shoulders. "Don't look at me. I wasn't there. I was just repeating what Maitlyn told me."
Darryl blew out a deep sigh. He opened his mouth to make his point when their father interjected. "Just for the record, son, when a woman points a gun at you and pulls the trigger, she's past the point of trying to scare you," Senior Boudreaux said matter-of-factly.
Darryl rolled his eyes. "Maitlyn has blown this whole thing out of proportion."
"We wouldn't have even known if it hadn't been for your sister," Katherine noted, her finger waving at her son. "And I'm not happy about that. I'm not happy at all." Katherine shook her head. "Come get some breakfast. Y'all got a long day today," she ordered.
Mason glanced at his brother. Both men knew their mother was angry and Katherine Boudreaux angry could get them all hurt. He tipped his head toward Dar-ryl as he turned to follow their mother.
Darryl muttered under his breath as he made his way out of the room. "I swear I'm going to wring Maitlyn's neck for this."
Mason smiled as he and his father locked gazes. "I'll talk to him," he said softly.
Senior nodded his approval. "Darryl needs to take this more seriously. Now, let's go get some breakfast before your mother beats him, you and me, too."
By the time Darryl and Mason made their way through New Orleans to the Roosevelt Hotel, the two men were laughing heartily. Breakfast had been tense as their mother had slapped bacon, eggs and grits onto their porcelain plates. But by the end of the meal she'd calmed down enough to listen to Darryl's apology. Mason had been poking fun at him since.
"It's just like what happened when that mess went down with me in Thailand. The old folks were mad because they heard about it from the girls and not from me. Your sisters will get you in trouble every time. I don't know why you haven't learned that yet," Mason said with a robust chuckle.
Darryl shook his head. "Maitlyn better be glad we're not kids anymore, because I'd find a mud hole for her sure 'nuff!"
Mason grinned. "But Maitlyn kept her promise. She didn't tell them. She just told the rest of us. Your other sisters all called and broke the news to them. Then, of course, the minute I walked through the door they were looking at me to confirm it. You know you should have called each one of us and made us pinkie swear."
"I'm still going to wring her neck," Darryl exclaimed.
Mason shook his head. "So what do you plan to do?"
His brother shrugged. "Nothing. The court system will deal with Asia and I plan to focus all my attention on this project."
"I'm sure that throwing yourself into your work will make it all go away," he said, a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
With a roll of his eyes, Darryl changed the subject. "So, what's Mr. Charles like? I'm really looking forward to working with him and his firm."
Mason smiled. "Kenneth is quite the character. I think this will be a great partnership."
"I'm anxious to meet him and his son, Cam. That's his son's name, right, Cam Charles? I admire a lot of his work, as well."
Mason's eyes widened. "Oh, Cam's not a—" he started, suddenly interrupted by the cell phone chiming loudly from the breast pocket of his suit jacket. He held up his index finger, gesturing for Darryl to hold his thought. Mason pulled the device into his hand, grinning as the smartphone's screen projected an image of his wife.
Phaedra Stallion-Boudreaux exclaimed joyously on the other end. "Good morning, good-lookin'! Are you busy?"
"Darryl and I are headed into a meeting. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Missing you, though."
"I miss you, too, darling," he said, his voice dropping an octave. "How long are you planning to stay in Texas?"
"That's why I'm calling you, actually. I have to fly to New York. I've been hired to get some shots of the city for a tourism project. I'll be there for at least a week, and then I'll head to New Orleans."
Mason nodded into the receiver. His wife's photography career was important to her and despite the abundance of wealth they shared, he supported her desire to work and have her own. She'd been fiercely independent when they'd first met and was even more so since she'd become his wife.
"Mason, you still there?" Phaedra questioned.
"Sorry, baby. I'm fine," he responded. "Are you going to be okay traveling by yourself?" he asked.
Phaedra laughed. "I can't believe you asked me that," she said. "But for the record, I won't be alone. Mark is going with me."
Mason laughed with her. "You know how I worry about you."
"I'm not the one who goes around getting kidnapped," she teased, reminding him of the time she'd had to call upon her newly discovered brothers to help find him in Thailand. She continued, "I'll be fine. You're just as bad as my brothers."
Her husband grinned as he thought about his new in-laws. Phaedra had only recently come to know her four brothers, John, Matthew, Mark and Luke Stallion. Doing business with the family had been the catalyst that had opened the doors to his relationship with their baby sister. He would be forever grateful. "We'll, I'm glad he'll be there with you. Just stay in touch with me, please."
"You know I will," she said, making kissing noises through the receiver. "I love you!"
Mason laughed softly. "I love you, too, baby! I'll call you after my meeting, okay?"
"I can't wait," Phaedra said.
Disconnecting the call, Mason stood with a wide grin on his face. He tossed a glance over at Darryl, who was rolling his dark eyes. "Live and learn, Darryl. My woman never tried to shoot me," he said smugly.
"Asia wasn't my woman," Darryl said sarcastically.
Their bantering continued as they made their way to the upper suites that Mason had rented for temporary office space. As they stepped over the threshold, the doors closing behind them, both men shifted headfirst into business mode.
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