Rugged vet Paul Belue was part Clark Gable, part Cajun Gypsy, and all male, but when Caroline Fitzsimmons arrived to train his pet wolf for a movie, he vowed to drive her from his bayou mansion!
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
About the Author
Deborah Smith was a newspaper editor before she became an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romances, including the books A Place to Call Home and Blue Willow. She has published more than 30 novels over the course of her career and is now focusing on writing fiction with romantic elements.
Read an Excerpt
PAUL BELUE slammed both large, sinewy fists onto the tabletop with a force that sent a shiver through the crowded trailer. He was happy to note that everyone from the producer to the script girl jumped.
"Nobody works with Wolf but me! He doesn't need another trainer, no! He doesn't need stress reduction or better vibes! Look, I've had enough! I let you film in my house, and you've turned the whole bottom floor into an obstacle course! I nearly kill myself going to the kitchen! Enough! You're not bringing some silly woman in here to use some sort of silly California techniques on my timber wolf!"
"Dr. Belue, you're yelling again. We agreed that you wouldn't yell," the director said firmly.
Paul glared at a spike-haired young woman, then at Frank Windham. "Cajuns yell!" he bellowed, waving his hands. The crowd of people leaned back, their faces chalk white.
Their silent reaction was what he'd come to expect. Movie people, poo-yie! They didn't know how to have a good, loud, soul-satisfying fight. That's why Frank, the producer, suffered from tension headaches. Even now Frank was rubbing his fingers against the silver-streaked brown hair at his temples.
"We have a contract, you prickly s.o.b.," Frank reminded him smoothly. "And I'm losing thousands of dollars every day that your mutt refuses to work. You have no choice. If you don't let me bring a professional trainer here, I'll sue you up one side of the bayou and down the other."
Paul leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms over his chest, and eyed the producer lethally. "I see."
"A lot of producers swear by this trainer. She's worked with the biggest names in the business — Spuds MacKenzie, Benji, Morris the Cat. Her effect on animals is almost eerie."
"Bien," Paul retorted dryly. "A Beverly Hills witch."
"You'll like her. I promise."
Frank was proud of his skill in diplomacy, but he knew he'd just told a whopper of a lie. Inside her small circle of friends Caroline was respected and adored. Outside that circle she was merely respected. He'd seen her reduce troublemakers to shreds, and she was already in a foul mood over this job.
Paul Belue commanded respect in general and something more where women were concerned — slavelike devotion. Every female on the set thought he was part Clark Gable, part Cajun Gypsy, and all stud.
But Caroline wasn't a typical woman. When she got through with him, he'd carry his hide away in little pieces.
"Wolf won't obey anyone but me," Paul informed him.
"Then why won't he pay attention to your commands anymore?
You're a veterinarian. Why don't you give him an antidepressant or something?"
Paul rose to his feet slowly, his exuberant anger turning quieter, more deadly. "I'd rather stuff you with antidepressants. Wolf doesn't need them. Just give me time to figure him out. He's not as simple as a dog."
"He's half Labrador retriever. Figure that half out while the trainer takes care of the rest."
"Or you'll sue me for breach of contract?"
"Does an alligator have fins?" the producer retorted sarcastically.
"No. It doesn't."
"Whatever. I want Wolf back to peak performance as soon as possible. Come on, Paul, he's going to be a star. He's going to make a bundle of money for you. Don't throw it all away because of pride."
Defeat and frustration coiled inside Paul's chest. He needed Frank's money too badly to argue. Damn, the money problem was like a sharp knife always jabbing at him. His temper was frayed because of it.
"All right, mon ami," he said in a low voice, his jaw clenched. "Bring on the lady trainer, but you be responsible when Wolf chews one of her hands off. And if she causes any trouble, Wolf will be the least of her worries."
Hell would have been cooler.
Caroline Fitzsimmons stared out the limousine's window at steam rising off the ghostly, moss-draped forest from a recent rain. How could a state be so ethereally beautiful and so hot at the same time? She tapped the intercom button imperiously.
"Yes'm, what can I do for you?" The chauffeur had a thick drawl that grated on her nerves. It was actually a pretty accent with all those lazy vowels and dropped g's, but it stirred up odd sensations that disturbed her because she couldn't quite recall the memories behind them.
"Is everything here covered in some sort of growing vegetation?" she demanded. "If I stand outside too long, will I sprout leaves?"
He had missed the joke. "Spanish moss, vines, etcetera. Is it all like this?"
"Oh. Yes'm. The Cajun country's semitropical. That's why it's a great place for growing sugarcane and rice."
"Lovely," she muttered under her breath. "Sweets and starch." To the driver she said, "What's the temperature this morning?"
"Only seventy degrees. Perfect fall weather."
"What's the humidity?"
"About eighty percent."
"Perfect fall weather if you like to live in a sauna," she muttered. "Thank you."
Caroline flicked the intercom off, slipped a Walkman headset over her ears, and listened to a tape of soothing ocean sounds. Here she was, three hours from the civilization of New Orleans, speeding through a moody, junglelike land of swamps and marshes, while her permanent went limp even in the air-conditioned limousine.
If the wolf didn't respond quickly, she'd bite him.
Big Daddy regularly wandered out of the swamp that adjoined Grande Rivage to nap in the plantation's long gravel driveway. Paul suspected that he enjoyed the warm gravel and the shady canopy of oak trees. Or maybe he just liked to hear colorful Cajun curses.
"Lousy 'gator, I should have you stuffed and mounted out here," Paul threatened.
"Where does a twenty-foot alligator sleep?" Ed Thompson asked as they circled the big reptile carefully. "Anywhere he wants to."
"Let's grab his tail. On the count. Un, deux, trois."
They latched onto Big Daddy's tail and spent the next two minutes hopelessly trying to budge the alligator. Paul glanced up at the wiry young black man pulling beside him. Sweat streamed down Ed's bare chest and soaked the waist of his khaki shorts. His face was contorted with effort. "Ed, this is like a pair of flies trying to drag the Loch Ness monster. Let's go get the tractor."
Ed nodded. "They never told us about this in college. Zoology was supposed to be glamorous."
"Nothing glamorous about 'gator rasslin', mon ami."
Paul heard the sound of a car in the distance. He looked down the driveway, and after a stunned moment cursed loudly.
It must be the animal trainer. In a limo. A limo. Even the brat-pack types in the movie had come down from New Orleans in a chartered bus.
"Definitely impressive," Ed commented.
An idea occurred to Paul, and he perused Big Daddy thoughtfully. "Leave him, Ed. Go feed the panthers. I'll take care of this."
"Fine." They dropped Big Daddy's massive tail and danced away as the alligator flipped it from side to side. "Are you just going to let him stay here like an ugly speed bump?"
"I'll think of something."
Ed nodded again, then headed for the trail to the wild animal compound.
Caroline looked up from reading Vogue as the limousine came to a stop. She peered out the window and gasped in awe at the magnificent trees that lined the drive. Their massive, gnarled trunks proclaimed great age. She could almost picture Rhett and Scarlett driving past them in a horse-drawn carriage.
She drew her earphones off and punched the intercom button. "Is this the Grande Rivage plantation?"
"Yes'm. The driveway, anyhow."
"It's magnificent. But why are we stopping?"
"There's a man and an alligator in the middle of the road."
Caroline lifted her brows drolly. "They've been run over?"
"No, ma'am. At least — I'm not sure about the alligator, but the man's okay. He waved for me to stop."
"Well, please tell him to move his walking handbag out of the way. I'm in a hurry."
"Yes'm." She returned to reading. A minute later the driver came to her door and opened it. Caroline sniffed delicately as warm, muggy, sweetly scented air flowed into the car.
"Ma'am, the fellow says, 'De 'gator, he's not moving, moan amee.' You'll have to walk the rest of the way."
"How far is it?"
"Ohhh, couple hundred yards. Picture two football fields end to end." Caroline lowered her chin and gazed at him solemnly. "I'll consider walking when it's two tennis courts." She paused, grimacing.
"Is the man Cajun?"
She hoped fervently that this plantation wasn't staffed entirely with Cajuns. If her mother's family was any indication, their down-home nobility was one of the biggest media-created myths of the last decade.
Caroline nodded to the chauffeur. "Tell Frenchy that de 'gator, he is moving."
"Uh, yes'm, I'll see what I can do."
He shut the door. Caroline shifted anxiously against the limo's seat. She just wanted to get to the plantation house — Frank had described it so lovingly — unpack her things, and stretch out in a cool room.
"Sir, the lady says you'll have to move the alligator."
Paul stared down at the sweating, uncertain chauffeur. "The lady refuses to get out and walk, yes?"
"Uh, yes. She's not dressed for walking, see. And she doesn't like the heat."
Paul inhaled slowly, his fists clenching and unclenching. "Let me make certain before I do anything. This is Caroline Fitzsimmons, yes?"
Narrowing his eyes, Paul looked at the limo and smiled. No Beverly Hills prima donna was going to meddle with his wolf. "I'll talk to the lady."
Caroline fidgeted, wondering what kind of crude, backward man blocked their way. To distract herself she fished through her Louis Vuitton travel bag and selected a pair of wraparound sunglasses with sleek silver frames. She put the glasses on and retrieved a gold compact from the bag.
She was checking her lipstick when her door was jerked open so hard that the limo rocked. Startled, Caroline dropped her compact and twisted quickly toward the invader.
"Haul your butt out of this car, crèche!"
He had an incredibly deep voice. It was the voice of doom, if doom had a Cajun accent. Her mouth gaping, Caroline stared up at him.
He blocked the sun. He was big, or maybe he just seemed that way because he was so close. He wore only faded jeans and muddy, laced-up work boots, one of which he placed jauntily on the edge of her door like a challenge.
Caroline blinked rapidly and swallowed. Her mind took control of her gaping mouth and snapped it shut. She reached behind her on the seat, clasped a white umbrella with black polka dots, and brandished it at him like a club.
"I don't know what swamp you crawled out of, but go back to it," she ordered. "I'm here on business. You've obviously mistaken me for someone who enjoys the odor of sweat and dirt."
Muscles flexed in his brawny arms as he leaned forward. He flashed her a startlingly white smile. It had all the warmth of a dog's snarl.
Thank goodness he was backlit by the sun so that she could hardly see his features. He was overwhelming enough as it was.
"Caro-line Fitz-simmons," he said with slow emphasis. "I know who you are. And you've come to the wrong place if you think you're going to pull a princess routine. Get out of that car and walk."
Caroline tried to peer past him. Her chest rose and fell swiftly. "Driver! We're leaving now!"
The hulk threw a gaze over his shoulder at her slack-jawed chauffeur. "Don't move an inch, friend."
Mad and more frightened than ever, Caroline jabbed the tip of her umbrella into the invader's stomach. She might as well have poked a brick wall. An angry brick wall.
He glared down at her in amazement. "You just lost all your Brownie points, and you didn't have many."
"Get your boot off my door," she ordered in a grim voice. "Or I'll poke something soft."
The subtle, preparatory tightening of his body should have been a warning, but she missed the clue. She aimed the umbrella at the bulge in the front of his snug jeans.
"Lady, you'll spend a long time looking for anything soft on me," he retorted. Then he snatched the umbrella from her grasp, threw it onto the grassy roadside behind him, and reached into the car with both hands.
Caroline's palm connected on his cheek with a loud crack just before he got her by the wrists.
"Out of there!" he yelled.
She wasn't certain how he did it, but he jerked her from the limo with so much powerful grace that it didn't hurt.
Caroline tottered beside the car, the heels of her black pumps sinking into the gravel. He let her go and she nearly fell backward into the seat. Grasping the door frame on both sides of her, she gave in to blind fury.
"Who do you think you are, you backwoods cretin?"
She swung at him with one fist and caught his jaw squarely. Caroline heard his teeth click together with the force of her blow. Her cocktail ring left a tiny cut on his cheek.
Astonishment made his mouth drop open. He raised one hand to his jaw as if to confirm that she'd just hit him.
"I've been kicked, stomped, bitten, and spit on by everything in the animal kingdom," he told her in a deadly tone. "Except a Barbie doll." He planted his hands on the hood of the car, effectively trapping her between his arms.
Caroline kept her fist raised but stared at him in a daze of horror. This anonymous bully was now going to kill her, she was certain. He looked totally uncivilized. His hair was Indian black with only a hint of softer shadings. It hadn't seen a comb recently. Although layered, it was long enough in back to brush the tops of his broad shoulders.
He had a chest full of tightly woven muscles covered in a thick black pelt. At the moment she could imagine him pounding that chest like an angry gorilla.
She drew her fist back. "Step away, you bastard," she warned. "I don't know what you're after, but you'll be sorry you wanted it." Though he didn't budge, his eyes narrowed lethally. Caroline winced. Why couldn't she have said step away, please, you bastard?
"You're going back to California on the next plane!" he shouted. Then he shook both fists in the air and began calling her names in French. They were undoubtedly as unpleasant as they sounded.
He was so dramatic and so thoroughly mesmerizing that she watched him in silent awe. His face was strong-featured and handsome, but hardly pretty. His nose was rather large. But his eyes — his eyes were amazing, such a light blue that they stood out like translucent sapphires against his deeply tanned skin.
"Who are you? I don't care what you think! Shut up!" she interjected. That only provoked him more.
In the midst of yelling Paul realized that he couldn't drag his gaze away from her. She looked upset, but not frightened ... maybe that was the attraction. Maybe it was her damned calculated aura of mystery. He could see very little of her face.
She wore dark sunglasses and a black scarf with fine white dots. The scarf was wound under her chin and around her neck in a style reminiscent of the fifties. A smooth, straight strand of strawberry-blond hair peeked out decoratively on one side of her forehead.
When he stopped yelling she simply stared at him for a moment. Her driver still stood in the distance, his mouth hanging open.
"Finished?" she finally inquired.
Her skin was flushed with anger underneath a golden tan. Her nostrils flared rhythmically at the end of a short, aquiline nose. Despite the deadly way she had her lips clamped together, they looked luscious.
She smirked at him. "Whoever you are, I'm going to kick your sweating hulk off this place so fast that you'll feel like gumbo in a hurricane."
"You will, eh, crèche?" Paul raked her up and down. "You're not dressed for anything so physical."
She was the epitome of fashion in a white dress with enormous padded shoulders and a skirt that barely came to mid-thigh. Skin-tight pants extended from under the skirt and stopped just below her knees, outlining extremely pretty legs. The legs, cased in white hose, continued in the same curvaceous way all the way down to her highheeled black shoes.
"Okay, Tarzan, seen many women lately?" she inquired in a tone that could have frozen a volcano.
"Not any dressed for the circus."
He gazed disdainfully at her knee pants. They had a tiny polka-dot print that matched her scarf. A wide black belt made her waist look too small for her height — she was only a few inches shorter than he was. Paul smiled at the indignant way her lips pursed.
Her chin came up. "A fashion critique from a wild boar is hardly worth considering."
"You look like a piece of candy wrapped up in too much paper. By the time a man got you unwrapped, he'd forget that he was hungry."
Excerpted from "Hot Touch"
Copyright © 1989 Deborah Smith.
Excerpted by permission of BelleBooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love Deborah Smith, but was disappointed because of the length of this book. It was excellent writing, but I wanted more....
I read this book when it was originally released in the Loveswept group of books. I have always loved this book! This was one of the few at that time that combined romance with a paranormal edge that I just fell in love with. Paul at the beginning comes across as a cranky, stuck in his ways man who really doesn't want the people in his home but he needs the money. He certainly doesn't think his wolf needs the help of anyone else to perform, let alone someone from Hollywood. Enter Caroline. She has been called in to hopefully get wolf to do what he needs to do for this movie. But she comes across as stuck up, bossy, and high maintenance. Until you truly get to know her and what she hides about herself. She has her own set of secrets and fears. Little does she know that Paul will be just the person to set her free from her own fears and be the one to accept her for who she is! Love, love, love this book!!