Authors: Sandra Brown
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Romance
Schyler raised her chin. "I want you off Belle Terre by the end of the
"Who's going to get your timber ready for market?" Cash asked.
"Wrong. You can't do doodledee squat without me." He took a step closer. "And you know it. You knew it when you came driving over here, didn't you?" He braced one hand against the post near her head and leaned into her, brushing his body against hers. "Know what? I don't think that's why you came over here at all. I think you came over here for something altogether different."
His lips covered hers in a hard kiss. "Admit it." Cash lifted his mouth off Schyler's only far enough to speak, "This is what you came here for."
"I hate you."
"But you want me."
He kissed her again. The rain beat loudly against the roof, drowning out her whimpers of outrage and then of surrender . . .
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Slow Heat in Heaven
"A MASTERY OF STEAMY PROSE!"
—Affaire de Coeur
"I LOVED IT!
Slow Heat in Heaven
is an enormously entertaining book. It is fast-paced, with vivid characters, a juicy plot, sizzling love scenes, and the kind of tension that keeps you turning the pages. Sandra Brown has once again proven her talent as a storyteller."
—Lisa Gregory, author of
Before the Dawn
"FAR EXCEEDS THIS AUTHOR'S PREVIOUS
WORKS. . .
REFRESHING, A KEEPER AND A BESTSELLER."
Romance Consultant, Waldenbooks
"SEETHING WITH TREACHERY AND LUST. . . RAW, STEAMY, DEFIANT!
Slow Heat in Heaven
rediscovers the mythic South of the American novel, a place where every family has a passionate secret and every passion a cruel price—and where love must be as unflinching as hate in order to survive."
—Elizabeth Lowell, author of
Tell Me No Lies
"SULTRY AND SEDUCTIVE, A SIZZLING PAGE-TURNER
. . .
I WAS ENTHRALLED. Sandra lights the fuse on a stick of dynamite and all hell explodes in Heaven. She gives us everything: Passion, vengeance, lots of dark secrets from the past, and a sexy love story. This one definitely qualifies as compulsive reading."
—Jayne Ann Krentz,
A Coral Kiss
"MARVELOUSLY ENTERTAINING. . . A COMPULSIVE READ."
Romance Consultant, Waldenbooks
POPULAR LIBRARY EDITION
Copyright © 1988 by Sandra Brown
All rights reserved.
Popular Library ® and the fanciful P design are registered trademarks of Warner Books, Inc.
Cover illustration by Max Qinsburg
Cover design by Jackie Merri Meyer
Lettering by Dave Gatti
Popular Library books are published by
Warner Books, Inc.
666 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10103
A Warner Communications Company
Printed in the United States of America First
Printing: May, 1988
CLS 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
At first she wasn't sure he was real.
She had been dozing. Her head rested on her bent arm, which had gone to sleep and had started to tingle. She woke up and opened her eyes, then stretched languorously and turned her head. That's when she saw him. She immediately forgot her discomfort.
She thought he was a trick of her unfocused eyes or a product of late afternoon drowsiness and midsummer ennui. She blinked several times. The image remained.
The outline of his body was as detailed as a silhouette cut out of black construction paper with tiny manicure scissors. It was cast against a showoff sun that was making one hell of an exit. The horizon was as gaudily striped as a sultan's turban. It boasted every vibrant hue ranging from vermilion to gold.
Like the pines, he was motionless. The trees stood as majestic and tall as sentinels. Their spiky branches were still. There wasn't a breath of breeze. Above from where Schyler lay, Spanish moss drooped from the sprawling limbs of the live oak, looking more desolate than usual, mourning the unrelenting humid heat.
The unmoving form was undeniably male. So was the stance. Ah, yes, his stance was definitely, arrogantly masculine. One knee was bent, throwing his hip slightly off center.
It was intimidating to wake up from a nap and discover someone standing not twenty yards away watching you with the silence and patience of a predator. It was doubly disconcerting to find that that someone was a self-assured and cocky male who clearly saw you as the trespasser.
Most disturbing was the garden hoe that lay across his shoulders. It appeared innocuous. His wrists were hooked over the handle, his hands dangling carelessly. On the streets of London, a man carrying a garden hoe across his shoulders would attract attention. In rural Louisiana during the summertime, it was a common sight.
But there wasn't so much as an onion patch on this section of Belie Terre. The fields where sharecroppers cultivated vegetables were miles away. So Schyler had reason to be alarmed. The sun was going down, she was alone and, relatively speaking,
a long way from the house.
She should challenge him, demand to know who he was and what he was doing on her property. But she said nothing, perhaps because he looked more a part of Belle Terre than she did. He blended into the landscape, was one with it. By comparison, she seemed out of place and conspicuous.
She didn't know how long they had been staring at each other. At least she thought they were staring at each other. She couldn't distinguish his face, much less tell what he was looking at so intently. But instinct told her he was watching her and that he had been for quite some time. That unnerving thought goaded her to act. She sat up.
He started toward her.
His footsteps hardly rustled the ankle-deep grass. Moving silently and sinuously, he slid the hoe off his shoulders and gripped the long handle with both hands.
All the self-defense instructions Schyler had ever heard burrowed cowardly into the farthest corners of her mind. She couldn't move, couldn't speak. She tried to suck in a deep breath so she could scream, but the air was as dense as quicksand.
Instinctively she shrank against the massive tree trunk and shut her eyes tightly. Her last impression was that of the sharpened blade of the hoe. It glinted in the remnant rays of sunlight as it made its swift, downward arc, making a thunking sound when it landed. She waited for the agonizing pain to assault her before she keeled over dead. But it never came.
"Get your nap out,
Schyler blinked her eyes open, amazed that she was still alive. "What?"
"Get your nap out, Miss Schyler?"
She shaded her eyes against the brilliant sunset, but she still couldn't distinguish his face. He knew her name. His first language had been a Cajun dialect. Other than that, she didn't have a clue as to who he was.
Snakes slithered out of the bayous. She'd been taught from infancy to consider all of them poisonous. That reasoning seemed to apply to this situation.
The thunking sound had been made by the sharp blade when it bit into the grass. The man was leaning on the hoe now, both hands innocently folded over the blunt end of the handle. His chin was propped on them. But his benign stance made him no less dangerous.
"How do you know me?" she asked.
A pair of saturnine lips cracked open briefly. The fleeting facial expression wasn't a bona fide smile. It was too sardonic to pass for genuine.
"Why, it's common knowledge around Laurent Parish that Miss Schyler Crandall has come home from London-town."
"Only temporarily and only because of my father's heart attack."
He shrugged, supremely indifferent to her comings and goings. Turning his head, he glanced at the rapidly sinking sun. His eyes reflected it like the motionless waters of a bayou when sunlight strikes it at the right angle. At that time of day the surface of the water looks as solid and impenetrable as brass. So did his eyes.
"I don't repeat gossip, Miss Schyler. I only listen to it. And I only pay attention when I hear something that could affect me."
"What are you doing here?"
His head came back around. "Watching you sleep."
"Before that," she said sharply.
"Gathering roots." He slapped the small leather pouch attached to his belt.
"Roots?" His answer made absolutely no sense, and his cavalier attitude irritated her. "What kind of roots?"
"Doesn't matter. You've never heard of them."
"You're trespassing on private property. You've got no business on Belle Terre."
Insects hummed noisily in the silence that followed. His eyes never wavered from her face. When he answered, his voice was as soft and elusive as the wished for breeze. "Oh, but I do,
Belle Terre is my home."
Schyler stared up at him. "Who are you?"
"You don't remember?"
Comprehension dawned. "Boudreaux?" she whispered. Then she swallowed hard, not really relieved to know who she was talking to. "Cash Boudreaux?"
You recognize me now."
"No. No, I didn't. The sun's in my eyes. And it's been years since I've seen you."
"And then you had good reason not to remember." He grunted with amused satisfaction when she had the grace to look away, embarrassed. "If you didn't recognize me, how did you know who I was?"
"You're the only person living on Belle Terre who
isn't. . ."
She ducked her head slightly, nervous at being alone with Cash Boudreaux. For as long as she could remember, her father had forbidden her sister Tricia and her to even speak to him.
His mother was the mysterious Cajun woman, Monique Boudreaux, who lived in a shanty on Laurent Bayou that wound in and about the forested acreage of Belle Terre. As a boy, Cash had had access to the outlying areas but had never been allowed to come this close to the house. Not wanting to take issue with that just yet, Schyler asked politely, "Your mother, how is she?"
His blunt reply startled her. Boudreaux's face was inscrutable in the descending twilight. But had it been high noon, Schyler doubted his features would have given away what he was thinking. He'd never had a reputation for being loquacious. The same aura of mystery that cloaked his mother had cloaked him.
"I didn't know."
"It was several years ago."
Schyler swatted at a mosquito that landed on the side of her neck. "I'm sorry."
"You'd better get yourself home. The mosquitoes will eat you alive."
He extended his hand down to her. She regarded it as something dangerous and was as loath to touch it as she would be to reach out and pet a water moccasin. But it would be unspeakably rude not to let him assist her to her feet. Once before she had trusted him. She hadn't come to any harm then.
She laid her hand in his. His palm felt as tough as leather and she felt raised calluses at the bases of his fingers that closed warmly around her hand. As soon as she was on her feet she withdrew her hand from his.
Busily dusting off the back of her skirt to cover the awkward moment, she said, "Last I heard of you, you were just out of Fort Polk and on your way to Vietnam." He said nothing. She looked up at him. "Did you go?"
"That was a long time ago."
"Not long enough."
"Uh, well, I'm glad you made it back. The parish lost several boys over there."
He shrugged. "Guess I was a better fighter." His lip curled into a facsimile of a smile. "But then I always had to be."
She wasn't about to address that. In fact, she was trying to think of something to say that would graciously terminate this uncomfortable conversation. Before she did, Cash Boudreaux raised his hand to her neck and brushed away a mosquito that was looking for a sumptuous spot to have dinner.
The backs of Cash's fingers were rough, but their touch was delicate as they whisked across her exposed throat and down her chest. He looked for her reaction with frank interest. His gaze was sexual. He knew exactly what he was doing. He had brazenly committed the unpardonable. Cash Boudreaux had touched Schyler Crandall. . . and was daring her to complain about it.
He said, "They know the best places to bite."
Schyler pretended to be unmoved by his insinuating stare. She said, "You're as ornery as ever, aren't you?"
"I wouldn't want to disappoint you by changing."
"I couldn't care less."
"You never did."
Feeling severely put down, Schyler stiffened her posture. "I need to get back to the house. It's suppertime. Good seeing you, Mr. Boudreaux."
"How is he?"
"Who? My daddy?" He nodded curtly. Schyler's shoulders relaxed a degree. "I haven't seen him today. I'm going to the hospital after supper. I spoke with one of his nurses by telephone this morning who said he'd had a comfortable night." Emotion dropped her voice to a husky pitch. "These days even that is something to be grateful for." Then in her most refined, Sunday-company voice she said, "I'll tell him you inquired, Mr. Boudreaux."
Boudreaux's laugh was sudden and harsh. It startled a bird into flight from the top of the live oak. "I don't think that'd be a very good idea. Not unless you want the old man to croak."
If her swift calculations were correct, Cash Boudreaux was approaching forty, so he should have known better than to say something so flippant about a seriously ill man. His manners hadn't improved with maturity. He was as coarse, as rude, as undisciplined as he'd been in his youth. His mother had exercised no control over him whatsoever. She had let him run wild. He was constantly into mischief that had ceased to be cute by the time he reached junior high school, where he fast became the scourge of the public school system. Heaven, Louisiana had never spawned such a hellraiser as Cash Boudreaux.
"I'll say good evening, then, Mr. Boudreaux."
He executed a clipped little bow. "Good evening, Miss Schyler."
She gave him a cool nod, more characteristic of her sister than of her, and turned in the direction of the house. She was aware of him watching her. As soon as she was a safe distance away and beneath the deep shadows of the trees, she glanced back.
He had propped himself against the trunk of the live oak, which half a dozen men standing hand to hand couldn't span. She saw a match spark and flare in the darkness. Boudreaux's lean face was briefly illuminated when he lift- ted the match to the tip of his cigarette. He fanned out the match. The scent of sulfur rode the currents of Gulf humidity until it reached Schyler's hiding place.
Boudreaux drew deeply on the cigarette. The end of it glowed hot and red, like a single eye blinking out of the depths of hell.