Authors: Elle James
Tags: #Suspense, #Romance, #romance series, #Elle James, #entangled publishing, #voodoo, #Entangled Suspense
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by
. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
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Cover design by Karen Phillips
Manufactured in the United States of America
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Daisy BB gun, Ford Fusion,
, Jeep, Mustang, Nike, “When the Saints Go Marching In”, Jaws, Laura Ashley, Tootsie Roll, Tulane University, Happy Meal, Boy Scouts of America, Glock, Coleman, Day-Glo
This story is dedicated to my sister, Delilah Devlin, who inspired me to take this journey into writing, as well as dragging me along on a research trip to Louisiana that turned out to be an adventure worth writing about. The airboat ride on our trip found its way into this book. Enjoy!
Bayou Miste, Louisiana
“Boyette, I hope this idea works.” Edouard Francois Marceau scrunched his smartphone between his ear and shoulder as he sat on the bench by the back door of his rental cottage. With his hands free, he pulled off a muddy boot and dropped it to the porch planks. “If it doesn’t, we may have us one dead witness on our hands, and that bastard Primeaux will get away with murder.”
“Don’t worry, it’ll work,” Ben Boyette, his partner in the Special Criminal Investigations Unit of the Louisiana State Police in Baton Rouge, reassured him. “Did you have any trouble finding the old trapper shack?”
Ed snorted. “Did anyone ever tell you GPS devices work best on roads, not waterways? Still, we managed, with a few dead ends and switchbacks. I lose this thing, I’ll have to hire a tracking dog with gills to find Phyllis and Marcus. Holy Jesus, that swamp is a freakin’ maze! Marcus and I counted no less than nine alligators while we were out there. And those were the ones we could
“Did you point them out to our witness?”
“You bet.” Ed shifted the phone to the other ear and attacked the laces on his other boot. “That ought to make even
Ben chuckled. “You think? After the drug-running, backstabbing Mafia thugs she’s been shacking up with, the alligators probably looked tame.”
“Good point.” One-handed, Ed tugged at the remaining muddy boot. The phone slipped, and he grabbed for it. “Tell me again why we’re playing babysitter to a witness and why
didn’t take this assignment?”
“Number one, I don’t trust anyone else to get our witness to the courthouse alive. I suspect we have a mole on the force. And I’d have done it, but I’m up to my neck in trials over the serial rapist case.” Ben sighed. “Since I did all the legwork, I’m the one in court. God, I hate courtrooms. But we have to nail this guy so it sticks. Otherwise, I’d be there in a heartbeat. Oh, and I have a pregnant wife at home.”
“Oh, yeah. That. Guess you’re right. Although I’d switch with you in a second. You’re the one with all the experience wrestling alligators.”
“You’ll survive. Hopefully, the only alligator you have to wrestle is my moth—” Ben stopped in midsentence as if he changed his mind about what he was going to say next. “By the way, how are your digs? Mom buy your story?”
“Yeah.” Ed padded through the small cottage, appreciating the homey feel of it. This was the kind of house he’d always pictured belonging to his grandmother. If he’d ever known her. “I hate lying to your mom, though.”
“She’ll get over it. Did my share of fibbing to get out of doing the lawn a couple times growing up.” He chuckled. “Come to think of it, I can still taste the soap. That woman could see right through every lie. She always caught me. But she loved me anyway.”
“She had to love you, you’re her son.” And Boyette was damned lucky to have her.
“I’m sure your mom did the same.”
“Don’t bet on it. Never knew her.” His voice was a bit harsher than he’d intended. A twinge of longing flickered across his subconscious, which he quickly squelched. No use pining after something he never had.
After all these years, he hadn’t realized how much he missed having a mother until he’d met Ben’s. Barbara Boyette was the consummate maternal figure. Care and concern written in every smile, wrinkle, and gray hair.
Ben cleared his throat. “Oh, by the way, do you like kids?”
Ed pushed his boots to the side and stood.
he like kids? “Never thought about it. Why?”
“No reason. Did Mom invite you to dinner already?” Ben asked.
“Don’t worry, she will.”
“Is that bad?”
“Uh, no, not at all.” Ben’s answer was a little too swift for his comfort. “She moves quickly with single men.”
“I’m not single, I’m divorced. There’s a difference. Is there something you’re not telling me?” He tamped down a sudden urge to get out of town. Fast.
“No, no. Nothing at all.” Now Ben’s voice sounded entirely too innocent.
. He should definitely run from this small town stuff as fast as his Nikes could take him.
“Mom’s a great cook. She just sometimes cooks up more than her guests are ready to swallow.”
Now he knew for sure Ben was keeping something from him. “What the hell do you mean by that?”
Ben ignored his question. “Okay, so you’re all set, then. Lay low and go fishing enough to keep Marcus and our girl fed and happy.”
“Gotcha.” He looked around the tiny cottage, the walls closing in on him already. “One question.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do with my time for the next few days?”
“Keep an eye open for suspicious characters. Did I mention fishing? Make this like a vacation, and relax.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever taken a vacation.” He scratched his head and thought back. No, he’d hung out at the office even on annual leave. All that use-or-lose vacation time got lost each year. “What does one
on a vacation?”
“Sleep until noon, girl-watch, you know, the usual thing.”
“Maybe on Cocoa Beach, but in Bayou Miste? I’d go so far as to say the alligators outnumber the people. I don’t think I’ve seen one live human besides your mother and the marina owner. Tell me, Ben, do they count the alligators in the census?”
Ben’s outright laughter blasted Ed’s ear. “Bayou Miste isn’t that bad. Think about it, you arrived in the middle of the day, right?”
“School and work should be getting out by now.” Ben chuckled again. “Just wait.”
He didn’t like the sound of his partner’s laugh, it had a devilish quality. “Wait for what?”
“To meet the family. You’re gonna love them.”
“I thought it was just you and your mother.”
Ben snorted. “Oh, no. I have eighteen brothers and sisters.”
Ed fumbled the phone and almost dropped it. “Holy hell!”
“Yeah, that’s what it’s like around my house after school.”
The introverted halls of Monti-Ed-zuma crashed around his ears.
Nineteen children in one family? What were his parents
? Obviously, they hadn’t been thinking, they’d been—
“What have you gotten me into, Boyette?”
“You’re a tough guy, you can handle it.”
As the tune to “When the Saints Go Marching In” played on Alexandra Belle Boyette’s phone for the sixth time in thirty minutes, she lay down on the couch and crammed a pillow over her ears. “Please leave me alone.” Her mother.
“Why don’t you answer it and get it over with?” One of her three best friends, Calliope, sat across from her, scraping the silver coating from a scratch-off lottery ticket, her long, wild, light-red hair fanning across her shoulders like a cape. She wore a halter top and an ankle-length, tie-dyed peasant skirt, her legs tucked under her. No matter the circumstances, she always looked relaxed and carefree.
“No way.” Alex sat up and leaned her face in her hands. “She’ll ask me again if I’ve been seeing anyone, or she’ll invite me to dinner at the house and drag some poor slob to the table with the family.”
“So? What’s wrong with that?”
“Even if I liked the guy, one look at my family and he’ll run screaming into the bayou.”
“Damn.” Calliope frowned at the lottery ticket and tossed it onto the table. Then she looked across at Alex with a smile. “Your family’s wonderful.”
“Yeah, all nineteen of them.” She rolled her eyes. “In this day and age, who in their right minds would have nineteen children?”
Calliope grinned. “Your parents.”
“Yeah, and what did it buy them?” She sat up. “An early grave for my father and insanity for my mother.” Despite her flippant words, she still felt the pain of loss. Her father had been the rock in their lives and she missed him terribly, even two years after his passing.
“Alex, your mother loves every one of you and only wants to see you happy.”
“I wish she could love me a bit less.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Yes, I do. She won’t leave me alone about love and relationships. I’m happy with the way things are. I have my own business. I’m in the best shape of my life. I have this great house. What more does she want?”
She snorted. “Big Brother Ben has that market nailed. She’ll have her first grandbaby in three months. Lucie’s getting as big as the bayou.”
“Speaking of Lucie, I saw her yesterday when I was in Baton Rouge. And you’re right. She
getting big.” Calliope smiled. “She looks great. Pregnancy must agree with her.”
“Yeah, and Ben’s over the moon. His chest is swelling so much, I doubt they can find shirts to fit him.” Alex was happy for her brother. At the same time, a stab of intense longing hit her right in the gut. She had to suck in air to relieve the pressure.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Calliope jumped from her seat on the couch. “Lucie asked me to give you something.”
Alex cringed. “Oh God, what now?”
Calliope fished in her pocket and dug out a small red velvet drawstring bag.
When Alex peered inside, she almost gagged. It smelled like something the cat dragged in from the swamp. “What
“She didn’t say. I bet five bucks it’s some Voodoo remedy.”
“Egad!” She dropped the bag on the end table. “Remember the last time she dabbled in Voodoo? She almost had the entire town of Bayou Miste under her wacky love spell.”
“But it all worked out in the end. Lucie married Ben, Maurice and DeeDee scheduled a Christmas wedding, and Elaine and Craig eloped. The whole magic thing couldn’t have turned out better. And Lucie’s been taking lessons from her grandmother.”
spell worked out all right, after a considerable amount of bad luck and a few murder attempts. But the one she put on Mo’s pet alligator gave the poor beast a bad case of puppy love for Granny Saulnier’s poodle. T-Rex
hasn’t gotten over it.”
“I don’t know what it is, honest. Lucie asked me to give it to you the next time I saw you. I did, and now my duty is done.” Calliope blinked, all innocence. “Maybe it’s a sachet you’re supposed to put in your drawer to make your clothes smell good.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Not this stuff. It could make a grown man weep. I swear it has that rank odor of stump water.” She shoved the bag toward her friend. “Take it back to her. I don’t want to risk getting caught up in one of her crazy spells.”
“Oh, no.” Calliope held up her hands. “I’m not carrying that thing around. It might give me hair in places I have no business growing hair. Or worse, maybe it’ll make me
hair that I shouldn’t. No, if you want Lucie to have it back, you’ll have to give it back to her yourself.”
“Fine, I will. Next time I’m in Baton Rouge.” She frowned at the sachet bag. “In the meantime, I have to put up with it. I hope it isn’t anything dangerous.”
The phone sang again and she flopped down on the couch, pulling the pillow back over her head. “Why couldn’t I have had Lisa and Lucie’s mother, who stays gone for twenty years at a time?”
Calliope stood at the sound of the third ring. “Because your mother loves you, and you should be nicer to her.” She reached for the phone.
“Don’t do it, Calliope,” she warned. “If you value our friendship, you won’t touch that phone.”
Calliope cocked an eyebrow and punched the talk button. “Hello?” She listened. “Yes, Mrs. Boyette, Alex is right next to me. Sure. I’d be happy to relay the message. Seven o’clock? I’m sure that would be fine. Me, too? That would be nice. Good to talk to you, too, Mrs. Boyette. Bye, now.”
“What did she want?”
“You and I are invited to dinner at her house at seven tomorrow night. Oh, and put on that slinky red dress you wore to Lucie’s bachelorette party.”
“Well, most of it.” Calliope grinned. “I added the part about the dress.”
“Thanks a lot. Don’t know what I’d do without you.” She dripped sarcasm. “But I’m willing to try it.”
Her friend dropped into the chair and tucked her legs underneath her. “I heard Lucie’s
LeBieu has been coaching her on Voodoo again.”
Alex punched her pillow and set it against the arm of the couch. “Should we consider moving to another state?”
The redhead tipped her head to the side as if considering. “Possibly.”
“Geesh. I just got the gym operating in the black, I’d hate to sell and start somewhere else.”
Calliope’s eyes lit up. “We could move to Biloxi.”
With a very unladylike “Ha!” Alex stood and paced around the room. “That’s the last place you need to move.”
“Why?” Her friend blinked.
“Don’t play dumb with me.” She stopped in front of Calliope, planting her hands on her hips. “Biloxi would be entirely too much temptation for you. With a casino on every corner, it would be like navigating a minefield.”
hooked on gambling. Besides, I could get a job in one of the casinos.” Calliope’s eyes twinkled and an excited grin spread across her face. “The pay and tips would beat what I get at the Raccoon Saloon.”
“You should be happy you landed Lucie’s old job. She got great tips.”
“So, I guess moving is out of the question.” Calliope’s smile turned downward and she heaved a sigh. “I miss Lucie.”
“Me, too,” Alex said. “Why do things have to change?”
“Yeah,” Calliope sighed again. “Why do people have to get married and move away?”
“Although Lucie seems very happy.” She could still picture Lucie’s glowing face at the wedding. How on earth had she lucked into finding the love of her life here in Bayou Miste?
Calliope’s eyes got all dreamy. “Do you think we’ll ever find someone to love as much as Lucie loves Ben?”
“Not me. I only date guys from hell.”
Alex rolled her eyes. “Why can’t that bonehead take the hint?”
“Still botherin’ you?”
As if to prove her point, her phone sang the theme for
sound grating on every last one of her nerves. She launched herself across the coffee table, snatched the phone, and cocked her arm to throw.