Gypsy Magic by Rebecca York\Ann Voss Peterson\Patricia Rosemoor released on Sep 24, 2002 is available now for purchase.
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Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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Chapter OneThe old woman lifted her lantern, the dim glow flickering off the Spanish moss that trailed from the dark branches above her head.
Somewhere in the far reaches of the bayou, an animal called out. An animal whose pain echoed her own.
Sinking to her knees on the damp ground, she threw back her head and gave voice to her anguish. It was all over now. Her only son, her beloved son, was condemned to die. For a crime she knew he could not have committed. He had made mistakes. She had warned him of the consequences, but never in her wildest imagination had she thought it would come to this.
She let her tears flow then. Tears of anger and regret. And when the storm of weeping finally subsided, she gathered her strength for what she must do. From the pocket of her long skirt, she pulled the bandanna with the objects. The pen. The paper cup. The metal tack.
Spreading the cloth on the ground, she stared at the tokens she had stolen. None was of material value. But they held the power she needed. For each belonged to one of the people she was going to curse tonight.
With bony fingers she touched each object in turn, calling on her inner strength, summoning the dark powers she had learned to control long ago.
For she had the Romany gift of turning the tables on her enemies. She'd done it since she was a child.For small offenses and large, yet never anything so large as this.
Her enemies had taken her most precious possession - her son. He was lost to her now. Lost by trickery and deceit. But the three people who had cut out her heart would pay in kind. They would feel the pain she had felt. For they each had a son: Wyatt Boudreaux, Garner Rousseau, Andrei Sobatka. And each would suffer a fate worse than death. A fate that would follow him till the end of his days.
In a low voice she began to chant the ancient words of her people, weaving in a curse for each man as she conjured up his face.
Her hand clenched the pen. "Justice is blind," she whispered, then joined the curse with the name of Wyatt Boudreaux.
"Love is death," she intoned as she crumpled the paper cup in her hand and said the name of Garner Rousseau.
Finally she picked up the tack, her finger caressing the cold metal as she said, "The law is impotent," then linked the name with Andrei Sobatka.
Three times more she repeated the ritual before gathering up the objects in her bandanna and knotting the ends. Pushing herself erect, she stood swaying on unsteady legs, then shuffled to the bayou edge where cypress knees jutted like gravestones from the dark water. She tossed the bundle into the murky depths, watching it sink before she turned, picked up her lantern and walked back through the humid darkness to her trailer, smug in her satisfaction that she had evened the score.
* * *
Ten years later ...
The Gypsy carnival had returned to Les Baux, Louisiana, as it did every summer. For the past four years, Wyatt Boudreaux had avoided the place the way an alligator trapper avoids quicksand pits.
Now he was back - for his dying father's sake. "Wait right here for me," he said to the cabdriver. "I won't be much more than an hour."
"It's your nickel." Henry Beaver answered. Henry was one of only two cabbies in Les Baux, which meant that he and Wyatt had an ongoing relationship. A love-hate relationship.
The humid evening air pressed around Wyatt like damp cotton. The old Ford wasn't air-conditioned, and he could already feel his white dress shirt sticking to his back.
With a sigh, he climbed out and turned toward the noise of the midway. A tall, muscular man with dark hair, blue eyes and a scar that pierced his soul, he stood for a moment taking in the carnival spread out at the edge of town along the bayou's low bank.
He heard the delighted squeals of children, the screams of teenagers riding the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Gypsy barkers urging people to try the games of chance. Beneath the running shoes he almost always wore, he felt the layer of wood chips spread over the grass. On a deep breath, he dragged in the aromas of cotton candy, roasting hot dogs and fried dough.
"Hey, you're blocking the entrance, mister," a boy complained. He sounded like he was about eight.
"Son, that's not polite," a man said - probably when he noticed Wyatt's dark glasses and the white cane he held.
"Sorry," the boy mumbled. Wyatt swallowed to dislodge the knot in his throat as he moved to one side. "No problem."
Sura May LePage, one of his research assistants, had scanned the newspaper's map of the midway into his computer. Then his special software had read him the locations of the various attractions. He'd memorized the layout so he could find his way around.
But he wasn't here for pleasure. He was here because his father had been chief investigator on the "Gypsy murder" case that had captured the headlines in the Les Baux Record ten years ago. Carlo Mustov, a rough and belligerent carny, had murdered Theresa Granville, the wife of one of the town's most prominent citizens - Mayor Richard Granville. After finally exhausting his appeals, Carlo was scheduled to die in the state penitentiary in Angola next month. And Dad wanted to make sure nobody screwed up the process.
Wyatt couldn't hold back a sardonic laugh. Of course, by sending his son on this mission, his father was sending the wrong man. Two years ago Wyatt had been a top detective on the New Orleans police force. Now ... now he kept himself sharp by working on old cases and lending his expertise to the local police force, which was why he knew nobody else was going to poke into the Gypsy murder case anytime soon. Everybody considered it a done deal - except Dad - who seemed to have some nagging fears that Wyatt couldn't understand.
But he could reassure his dying father that the carnies were going to keep their noses out of it. He'd speak to Milo Vasilli, the owner. Milo was one of the Gypsies, but he'd played straight with the cops on this case - to avoid trouble with the town. Maybe he'd even been secretly relieved that Carlo was out of the way, since the young man had been a troublemaker - a thorn in his side.
Using his cane to identify obstructions, Wyatt started down the midway, counting off the paces, picturing the noisy crowd around him and the various tents and concession stands as he passed them. He had some minimal vision left - a sense of light and dark - so he could detect where the temporary structures blocked the lights strung above the carnival grounds.
About halfway down the midway, bodies pushed against him, and he was pretty sure that laughing teenagers were having some fun with the blind man.
He had time for a flash of anger before he lost his footing and dropped his cane. Instinctively he caught the edge of a tent flap with his hands.
The boys moved on. He was alone. With a sigh, he started to search for the cane when the scent of perfume wafted toward him, and he went absolutely still. Damn. Fate had literally pushed him into the fortune-teller's tent. In his mind he pictured the interior - opulent with bright hangings, fringed pillows and a velvet-covered table.
Excerpted from Gypsy Magic Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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