American Heroes Series - 03 - Purgatory (10 page)

BOOK: American Heroes Series - 03 - Purgatory
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“So why won’t you look at me?”
she asked softly.

His chewing slowed and he
swallowed. “Because I’m afraid to,” he whispered. “Sweet Jesus, I’m terrified
to look at you. I’m afraid… afraid you’re just going to walk on out of here and
pretend you never met me. I shouldn’t have done that; God knows, I shouldn’t
have and I am truly, sincerely sorry if I offended you. But you are the most
beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and I have never in my life been so attracted to
anyone.”

“Do you want me to just forget
about it so we can move on?”

“Yes,” he said flatly, then
looked up at her in horror. “No, I don’t. I really don’t.”

Elliot gazed at the man for a
moment before standing up and picking up her plate.  As Nash watched, she came
around to his side of the table, set her plate down next to his, and pulled up
a chair.  The table was rather small so she was literally butted up against
him, her right thigh against his left one, her torso up against his. When he
looked at her with some curiosity and astonishment, she simply smiled.

“I’ll sit here until you don’t
feel so bad,” she said softly. “Because, I have to tell you, I don’t feel bad
about it at all. I enjoyed it.”

He was wrought with surprise and
hope. “You did?”

“I did.”

She pecked him on the cheek and
went back to her eggs. Nash could not have been more astonished or more thrilled
with her pressed up against him, eating her breakfast. He felt like he was
dreaming and thought he should probably poke himself with the fork just to make
sure he wasn’t.  It was the most amazing feeling he had ever experienced.

With his eyes on Elliot, he
resumed eating and together, the two of them silently finished breakfast as the
sun continued to rise over the bayou. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

As Nash’s unmarked car pulled up
the driveway and around the front of the house, Elliot noticed a while Nissan
parked up near the house in the shadows of a moss-covered oak tree.

“Oh!” she exclaimed softly. “Pen
is here!”

She jumped out of the car before
it even came to a halt.  Nash put the car in park, watching her run into the
house.

Reaching over into the back seat
and pulling out the take-away bag full of more eggs and potatoes for Alec, he
climbed out of the car and entered the house in time to see Elliot nearly
strangling a pretty young woman. 

As Nash watched, he could see
that it wasn’t so much strangling as it was enthusiastic hugging. It was a
joyful family reunion, the sight of which softened and warmed him. It was very
sweet to watch.

In the midst of squeezing, Elliot
caught sight of Nash out of the corner of her eye. Still hugging her daughter,
she indicated the tall man in uniform standing in the doorway.

“Pen, I’d like you to meet Nash
Aury,” she said. “His family owned the house for two hundred years before we
bought it.  Nash, this is my daughter, Penelope.”

Nash stepped into the house, a
smile on his face. “It’s very nice to meet you,” he said. “How do you like
Tulane so far?”

Penelope Jentry was an absolutely
beautiful girl with her mother’s big blue eyes and a big dimple in her chin.
She was petite, like her mother, with light brown hair pulled back into a
ponytail. She grinned at Nash, taking his outstretched hand and shaking it.

“I’ve only been there a week,”
she said. “Moving my stuff in and all that. So far, I like it. It’s a really
nice campus.”

Nash nodded. “I’m sure your mom
hasn’t had a chance to tell you, but it’s my alma mater. If you have any
questions, let me know.”

Her smile turned sincere. “Wow,
thanks,” she said. “I’m sure I will. This whole week has kind of been a
whirlwind so I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t know yet.”

“I know how that can be,” Nash
said, suddenly realizing he was still holding a big bag of food. He caught
sight of Alec and extended the bag. “For you, son. Compliments of the house.”

Alec snatched the bag, peering
into it. “Cool, thanks,” he took a big sniff. “Hey, that smells good.  I’m
hungry.”

Penelope pulled away from her
mother and tried to take the bag from him.

“I haven’t eaten yet,” she said
as it turned into a tug of war. “Let me have some.”

They began fighting over it and
Elliot took Penelope by the shoulders and directed her away from her brother,
towards the kitchen.

“Take it to the kitchen, kids,”
she instructed firmly. “And quit fighting in front of guests. You’re
embarrassing me.”

Penelope flashed Nash a bright
smile as she grabbed her brother’s arm and pulled him down the big central
hall.

“I get first bite,” she told
Alec.

He scowled at her. “No way, dude.
This is mine.” He suddenly came to a stop and turned to his mother. “Hey,
before I forget, that old black dude came back this morning wanting to know
when you were going to go visit those women.  I told him to come back later.”

“Really?” Elliot lifted her
eyebrows, turning to Nash and seeing his curious expression. “Yesterday, we had
a visitor.”

Nash’s brows drew together.
“Who?”

Elliot shrugged. “Some old black
guy by the name of Mickey came to tell us that Ms. Biffy, Ms. Tulip and Ms.
Leon wanted me to come over and visit. Do you know them?”

She exaggerated the ‘mizz’ title
to be funny, but Nash’s face had a stony expression on it.  He just stared at
her for a moment. Then, he sighed heavily, as if something had just occurred to
him.

“Now this is starting to make
sense,” he muttered, more to himself than to her. “You didn’t tell me this
yesterday.”

Elliot wasn’t sure why he seemed
displeased. “I completely forgot about it,” she said. “It was just some old
man. He seemed nice enough. Why? Is there a problem?”

Nash scratched his head, almost
irritably. “Could be.”

“Why?”

Nash glanced up at the young
people down the hall, now disappearing into the kitchen and still squabbling
over the food.  He motioned for Elliot to follow him onto the porch, which she
did. He stood there a moment, gazing out over the trees and Spanish moss,
trying to collect his thoughts in his sleep-deprived mind.  He finally turned
to Elliot, who was staring up at him with big, expectant eyes.

“Ms. Biffy, Ms. Tulip and Ms.
Leon are from the Loreau family,” he said as evenly as he could. “They live in
an enormous run-down home called The Bottoms that’s about a mile and a half from
here, up on a rise overlooking the opposite side of Black Bayou.”

Elliot wasn’t seeing the problem
yet. “The old man said that Ms. Biffy saw me moving in with her ‘looking
glass’,” she giggled. “It was really cute.”

He shook his head. “Not so cute,”
he said, rather sternly. “The Loreaus and the Aurys go back two hundred years
to the time when Jean-Pierre Loreau was a sea captain on one of Louis-Michel’s
privateer vessels. Loreau, by all accounts, was a bitter and greedy man. He
wanted everything that Louis-Michel had, including Purgatory and Ms. Sophie.
Jean-Pierre built The Bottoms on the opposite side of the bayou so he could
keep tabs on Louis-Michel.  Old family legends say that when Louis-Michel was
away, Jean-Pierre raped Sophie and she became pregnant as a result.
Louis-Michel was so enraged that he murdered Jean-Pierre on the spot. Needless
to say, there are two hundred years of animosity between the Loreau family and
the Aury family.”

By the time he was finished,
Elliot was staring at him in astonishment. “Good Grief,” she exclaimed softly.
“That’s crazy!”

He nodded faintly. “Maybe so, but
the Loreaus are a bad bunch,” he said. “Ms. Leon is the matriarch and she’s got
to be over one hundred years old. Her two daughters are Tulip and Biffy. Tulip
never had any children, but Biffy had a son, who in turn had three sons.  They
all live at The Bottoms like a bunch of criminals. If there’s any trouble in
town, there’s a good chance that it involves the Loreaus. Now this whole fire
bomb episode is starting to make some sense.”

Elliot was growing a little
fearful. “What do you mean?”

Nash shrugged, reaching to take
her hand.  He began to step off the porch, taking her with him.

“The Loreaus know about the
legend of Louis-Michel’s buried treasure,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many
times, over the years, we’ve had to chase them off the land, or register
complaints about them. They even took my granddad to court back in the 1940’s,
claiming that they were due any gold found on Purgatory’s property in repayment
for the murder of their ancestor. Whether or not they rightfully believe the
gold is theirs or they’re just being extraordinarily greedy, I don’t know.  But
now that you live here, I think I’m going to go over there and have a little
talk with them.”

They reached his car and Elliot
came to a halt, tugging on his hand. “Don’t do it,” she said quietly. “If their
family hates the Aurys as much as you’ve said they do, then they’ll think I put
you up to it and they’ll probably look at me like the enemy, too.  I don’t need
trouble like that right off the bat.”

He gazed down into her beautiful
face, thinking a lot of things at that moment, some of which had nothing to do
with the Loreau family or pirate’s gold.  He was thinking how much he didn’t
want to leave her. 

“You may have a point,” he
conceded. “But I plan to talk to them anyway. And under no circumstances are
you to go to The Bottoms, ever. You’re going to have to trust me on this one.”

She nodded seriously.  “Sure, if
you say so. But I really don’t want to come off like a rude neighbor.”

“You won’t,” he assured her,
eyeing her as he changed the subject. “Are you going to be all right while I go
home and sleep?”

She grinned. “Are you kidding?”

“No.”

She laughed softly. “I’ve been
taking care of myself for a long time,” she said. “I’ll be fine. We’re going to
continue unpacking. We’ve got a lot to do.”

He nodded, feeling his fatigue
weigh more heavily upon him.  He really didn’t want to leave, wanting to milk
every last moment with her that he could, but he knew he couldn’t hold out much
longer.

 “My brother will be here in a
little while,” he reminded her. “Introduce yourself and tell him what you need
to have done. I’ll be back in a while, at least before he leaves.”

He began fumbling in his shirt
pocket with his free hand, pulling forth a business card. Reluctantly letting
go of her hand, he flipped the card over, pulled out a pen, and used the top of
his car as a writing desk. When he was finished, he handed the card over to
her.

“I’ve written my home phone
number on the back,” he told her. “Call me if you need me.  Otherwise, I’ll see
you in a few hours.”

Elliot looked at the front and
the back of the very officious card. “Nash G. Aury, Sheriff, Ascension Parish,”
she read his title, grinning up at him. “Do you live far from here?”

He shook his head. “Not far at
all,” he replied, taking the card back from her and writing down his address.
“In fact, I’m only about six miles from here. That’s where I live so you can
find me if you ever need to.”

She took the card from him again,
looking at the address. “Where’s the city of Gonzales?”

“The town center is about seven
or eight miles from here,” he told her.

Elliot nodded and finished
reading everything on the card before finally turning to look at him. He was
leaning against his sheriff’s unit, watching her with his smoldering hazel eyes
and a faint smile on his lips. The warmth, the interest, in his expression was
unmistakable. 

“Well, Sheriff,” she held out her
hand to shake his. “It’s been a true honor coming to know you. Thank you for
everything you’ve done for my family and me. I can’t put into words how much
it’s meant to me.”

His smile grew and he took her
hand, but not to shake it. He just wanted to hold it.

“As I told you before, I consider
myself the luckiest man in the world to have met you, Ms. Ellie,” he said
softly. “And I… well, I’d like to call on you if that’s okay with you.”

So he spelled it out, plain and
simple. Elliot gazed into his handsome face, feeling some conflict arise in her
chest once again.  Her husband was dead, almost two years now, and he was never
coming back. Her life had changed.

She’d moved to Louisiana to
further cement that change, to make sure she started a new life with new people
and a new outlook. She hadn’t come here looking for a new love interest but one
had fallen right in her lap in the form of tall, dark and handsome Nash Aury.
Part of her still wasn’t ready for the attention but the overwhelming majority
of her was very interested in coming to know Nash.  

“That’s quite an offer,” she
replied after a moment. “You just met me and I just met you. What, exactly, do
you mean by ‘call on me’?”

BOOK: American Heroes Series - 03 - Purgatory
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