Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Unknown Woman

The Unknown Woman

3.0 2
by Laurie Paige

See All Formats & Editions

They were supposed to be tourists, not detectives.

There's a dead woman in Matt Anderson's hotel room and he has no idea how she got there. When Kerry Johnston appears from next door to help, both she and Matt recognize the woman as a local waitress and practitioner of voodoo. That's all anyone seems to know about her, but it's not enough for Matt and


They were supposed to be tourists, not detectives.

There's a dead woman in Matt Anderson's hotel room and he has no idea how she got there. When Kerry Johnston appears from next door to help, both she and Matt recognize the woman as a local waitress and practitioner of voodoo. That's all anyone seems to know about her, but it's not enough for Matt and Kerry.

While alive, this woman had sensed a hidden sadness in the two strangers and directed each of them to a special healing ceremony. As Matt and Kerry investigate her death, something strange starts to happen: the sadness lifts, replaced by a growing certainty that the two of them are meant to be together.

Product Details

Publication date:
Hotel Marchand Series , #3
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
250 KB

Read an Excerpt

KERRY JOHNSTON STUDIED the brochures on New Orleans that she'd picked up that morning. Here she was, having lunch in the famous French Quarter, and she was feeling down. This trip was supposed to cheer her up after the difficult year she'd just had, not leave her feeling more lonely than ever.

The restaurant she'd chosen, up the street from the Hotel Marchand where she was staying, had a charming Old World atmosphere and seemed bustling after the slump caused by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Fortunately this area of the city was higher than districts west of the river and hadn't suffered as much flood damage. She surveyed the historic buildings with their lovely fretwork of iron lace. They reminded Kerry of elderly ladies dressed in their finest outfits, waiting for gentlemen callers.

She winced. Maybe that would be a description of her one day.

Well, she didn't feel old and she wasn't waiting for anyone, but she sure wished she didn't feel so blue. "Here you are."

The waitress, dressed simply in black slacks and a crisp white shirt, expertly placed a huge salad, complete with crayfish and a secret house dressing, in front of Kerry.

The woman's name tag read Patti, and she was truly beautiful, with blue eyes and the blackest lashes Kerry had ever seen. Her smile was infectious, and her complexion, a blend of tan and rose, was flawless.

By contrast, Kerry felt rather plain with her short spiky light brown hair and hazel eyes, her face pale from the Midwest winter.

The waitress was at least ten years younger than Kerry, maybe twenty-five. She looked vivacious and happy with her life, and on her finger was a gold ring with an intricate ropedesign.

From a lover? Kerry wondered. She sighed inwardly as her gaze drifted to her bare ring finger. Last summer an engagement diamond had sparkled there.

"Are you here for Mardi Gras?" the waitress asked in a friendly manner, placing a glass of iced tea and a basket of hot rolls on the table.

"Well, not the whole season," Kerry replied, returning the smile. "I have a week. The trip was a birthday present from my friends back home."

"How nice of them. Where do these friends live? Perhaps I can meet them?"

Her soft laughter was enchanting. This woman was exotic and beautiful enough to be a movie star.

Kerry felt as stale as day-old bread. "White Bear Lake, Minnesota -- a tiny place that no one's ever heard of. It's near the St. Paul-Minneapolis area."

"It sounds charming," Patti said.

"Are you a native of New Orleans?" Kerry asked, thinking her accent and manner of speaking suggested that.

"Mais oui."

"Creole?" Kerry asked, smiling at the obvious pride in the lilting voice. From a TV documentary, she knew those of Creole descent often prided themselves on speaking fluent French without the patois of the Cajun population.

"Yes. My people have been here a long time. We are descended from the same line as Empress Josephine, who was born, as my own ancestors were, on Martinique. My family moved to Louisiana. She married Vicomte Alexandre de Beauharnais, son of the French governor of the island, and lived in Paris."

"Where she met and later wed Napoleon Bonaparte after her estranged husband was executed," Kerry concluded, recalling her history lessons.

Patti's eyes sparked with delight. "It's a romantic story, is it not?"

"Except possibly from the Vicomte's view," Kerry said drolly, causing Patti to laugh.

A couple came and sat down at the next table. "Enjoy your lunch," Patti said, then turned to attend the new guests.

Kerry wasn't sure whether the waitress's story about her ancestors was true or a put-on for the tourists, but she found it interesting. Just as she had been cast aside for another woman, Josephine Bonaparte had been replaced by a younger woman who could give the emperor an heir.

At least Ben had married someone her own age, Kerry thought, a divorced classmate who'd returned to town for their high school reunion. Kerry's fiancé of four years had fallen for Marla like a "ton of bricks," as he'd so eloquently -- and rather shamefacedly -- explained.

It turned out he'd had a crush on her their entire senior year and the flame had rekindled the minute he'd seen her again. Kerry had said she understood and returned his ring, freeing him to find happiness with his new love.

Since then, she'd often wondered if a four-year engagement should have told her something. Neither of them had been in a hurry to make that final commitment.

With a philosophical shrug, she determinedly put the past behind her. That had been in July. This was January.

In fact, it was Twelfth Night, the very beginning of the Mardi Gras celebration. Actually, her friends had wanted to get her a reservation on her birthday, Valentine's Day, but the hotels were booked solid then.

She glanced heavenward, thankful for small favors. Being alone in New Orleans -- the most haunted city in the U.S., according to the brochures, and certainly one of the most romantic -- on Valentine's Day, her birthday, would have been too much.

Blinking away sudden tears, she sipped the iced tea until she was over the attack of self-pity. When she finished the meal, which was delicious, she reviewed the brochures once more, annoyed by her inability to make a decision about what to do.

"Have you been to the voodoo museum?" Patti asked, pausing at Kerry's table after serving salads and drinks to the couple. "Most visitors seem to enjoy it." She glanced at her watch. "You should go there this afternoon if you're free. From two until three is usually a good time. The museum is quieter then."

"Thanks. That sounds like the perfect place to begin sightseeing on my first day in New Orleans."

"Have fun," the waitress said brightly before sailing off once more to attend to her customers.

After leaving a generous tip, Kerry left the restaurant and wandered around Jackson Square and the streets of the French Quarter. Going into a tourist shop, she checked out various voodoo-related souvenirs with her nephew and two nieces in mind.

Poor kids. They all had chicken pox. Her sister Sharon was supposed to be on this trip with her, but when the kids got sick, she'd had to stay at home. Shane, Kerry's eleven-year-old nephew, was into mystery and magic these days, and had requested a shrunken head, but his parents had vetoed that idea.

Thinking a voodoo doll might be a good substitute, Kerry checked the bottom for the price and was annoyed to see that the doll was made in another country. She put it back.

One of the brochures had mentioned a place that stocked "authentic" voodoo items made by local practitioners. She studied the map the concierge at the hotel had given her that morning. The shop was a block from the museum, which was located on a nearby street in the Quarter.

It wasn't two o'clock yet, so Kerry decided to stroll the sunny streets of the Big Easy, before delving into the darker side of America's most haunted city.

SHORTLY AFTER TWO, Kerry arrived at the voodoo museum. The jawbone of an alligator was mounted over the front door. From her reading, she knew this was a good Ju-Ju, meant to ward off evil spirits.

If the thing didn't fall on her head, she would count that as lucky, she decided as she went inside.

Kerry understood at once why the waitress had suggested she come during a quiet hour. The museum was tiny, the bottom floor of an old row house. If she'd met someone in the hall, they would have had to turn sideways to pass.

The pungent aroma of incense tickled her nose. The place was so silent the hair stood up on the back of her neck. A sign indicated a modest fee to see the artifacts, so she began to count out the exact amount. "Please come in," a low feminine voice said. "I am Queen Patrice, your guide into the other-world."

Kerry nearly dropped the money as every nerve in her body tightened spontaneously.

A woman in a type of gypsy outfit stood in a doorway off the hall. She wore a purple scarf over her head. Sooty black hair spilled from under it and lay in waves down to her waist.

Her eyes were outlined in black with a long line that slanted up to her temples. Bands of purple and gold were brushed over her eyelids, and her full lips were a brilliant carmine.

The blouse she wore matched the scarf and coordinated with a swirling skirt of purple, green and gold, the traditional colors of Mardi Gras. Dangling earrings, sparkling bangles and several necklaces of gold coins completed the outfit. There was nothing threatening about the woman, but Kerry felt slightly uneasy.

"You have arrived at a propitious moment," the woman told her. "Come. I will show you the other rooms."

"Who do I pay?" Kerry asked, indicating the cash clutched in her hand. She made herself relax.

"I'll take it."

In the flick of an eyelash, the money disappeared into a fold in the woman's skirt. With a swishing sound and a rippling wave of purple, green and gold, the voodoo queen led the way into another room. "Ah, Jolie is awake. Would you like a picture taken with her?"

Kerry's heart did a double back flip when she spied a huge python -- no, two of them. "A picture?" she echoed.

The woman's eyes narrowed. "It is a great honor." Kerry knew her nephew would be awed and overjoyed to show off the photo to friends. "Uh, sure. How much does it cost?"

"Nothing. I'll use your camera."

"Oh." Kerry handed over the digital camera, a gift from Ben two Christmases ago. A tiny pang went through her, but she ignored it.

"I'll see if she's willing." The woman opened the cage. "Madame Jolie? I have someone here for you."

Kerry briefly worried that the rest of that statement might be "to eat." The snake looked more than large enough to swallow a person who was five-two and wore a size four petite dress.

"Ah, she's agreed."

Meet the Author

Some people describe "conflict" as two dogs and one bone. For Laurie Paige, it was growing up with four older brothers and two older sisters. Everyone felt free to boss the youngest member of the family. She claims this abundance of advice on improving her behavior was directly responsible for developing her stubborn streak.

Fortunately the family lived on a farm in Kentucky, four miles from the Tennessee border, and there was lots of room to roam...and avoid her older siblings. As a four-year-old, her chores were to help churn butter and, in summer, to keep worms out of the vegetable garden. Where were those hungry robins when she needed them to pluck a fat caterpillar from a tomato leaf?

Laurie loved Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Picturing herself as a cowgirl, she rode their two farm horses every chance she got, as well as the prize sow her dad was fattening up for market. Laurie reports the sow bucked like a horse while she held on to its ears for dear life. If you try this, be sure and tuck your toes under its front legs to stay on. And yes, pigs have teeth...a lot of them!

Shortly before she started first grade, her family moved to town. Heartbroken at leaving her four-legged friends, she recovered upon discovering the library. It was the most wonderful place--thousands of books. She read The Little Engine That Could at least once a week. In the museum upstairs, she played chopsticks on the harpsichord. That started a lifetime love of museums.

She met her future husband in the Sweet Shop. (That really was the name of the place). She was 16; Bob was 20, home on leave from the Navy. After Laurie finished high school, they married and headed off to Florida and the U.S. Space program. There, they worked, attended college, learned to surf in the warm waters off Cocoa Beach, met the Original Seven astronauts, had a daughter, and adopted a dog and two cats.

After getting a degree in math (daughter was in sixth grade by then), Laurie worked as a reliability and computer engineer, receiving an Outstanding Achievement Award from NASA for work on the Apollo-Soyez mission and for developing an Automated Problem Reporting System for the Space Shuttle.

Working in the missiles and space business was like being in the military. The family was transferred from Florida to California, back to Florida, then Texas and finally California again, where they still live.

Laurie admits she has loved every place she has lived and made lasting friendships in each community. She just returned from Florida, visiting friends in Orlando and Fernandino Beach and stops in between. She and Bob also met other families on vacations to Montana (hiking, backpacking, and fishing), Lake Tahoe (skiing), and Hawaii (windsurfing) and have recently discovered cruise ships (Alaska and icebergs; Caribbean and snorkeling).

She recently made many new friends when she and eight other women went to Belfast, Ireland, for two weeks, building houses for Habitat for Humanity. She found it a wonderful endeavor--hard work but very fulfilling, a bonding experience for all, both American and Irish, who participated.

Traveling and studying maps is one way she gets ideas for romance stories. She loves villages and ghost towns, hidden valleys tucked between imposing mountains and funny names like Dead Horse Creek and, nearby, Dead Man's Bluff. Mmm, sounds like a story there.

She haunts cemeteries and studies family names, guessing at connections between them. Or making up her own. That's how the opening scene in Only One Groom Allowed came into being; she was hiking in the mountains and came across an old graveyard...and got drenched by a sudden shower while engrossed in reading the tombstones.

Her second book, South of the Sun, came about when she watched a report on TV concerning a scientific expedition to the South Pole. Then someone told her of an article in a magazine about how to identify a true lover from a rake. Thus the idea of a romance during a trip to Antarctica with the hero being the leader and the heroine being a psychologist testing her white lab rats in the harsh environment sprang into being. Her family warns friends that anything they say may, and probably will, appear in one of her books!

For those whose life and marriage may seem impossible at the moment, she reminds them, "All the reasons you fell in love are still there, but perhaps buried under worries and responsibility. Find them again, then hang in there.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Unknown Woman (Hotel Marchand Series) 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
White Bear Lake, Minnesotan native Kerry Johnston came to New Orleans to get away from the heartbreak of her fiancé of four years suddenly marrying someone else. However, the Big Easy though still recovering from Katrina is upbeat especially the French Quarter but even the voodoo fortune teller fails to move Kerry out of her doldrums. --- Adding to her woes is a power failure that impacts the Hotel Marchand that she is staying at. She even hears the cursing and stumbling of the guy in the next room, who finds a corpse in his bed. Kerry goes over to help writer Matt Anderson, who is clueless as to how Patti the voodoo museum docent and waitress that both met earlier today ended in his bed. As Pattie showed kindness towards both of them, they mutually agree to investigate though neither knows how to conduct a homicide inquiry. One thing they do know is that Patti¿s healing spell works as Kerry and Matt fall in love. --- The third Hotel Marchand contemporary romance is a fine atmospheric New Orleans amateur sleuth tale. Readers will agree with Patti¿s assessment when she met the lead couple (separately) that the sad duo would find love and happiness together. The story line is fast-paced as Matt and Kerry fumble their investigation while fostering their attraction and admiration for one another. Readers will appreciate the latest visit to the Hotel Marchand. --- Harriet Klausner