Authors: Lynn Shurr
de Mardi Gras
The Mardi Gras Series
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Courir de Mardi Gras
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Carla Hostetter
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
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Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Mainstream Edition, 2014
Print ISBN 978-1-62830-513-5
Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-514-2
The Mardi Gras Series
Published in the United States of America
Praise for Lynn Shurr
“Shurr is a wonderful storyteller.”
~The Romance Studio
“Very easy reads, well written, combined with conflict, believable plots and secondary characters that make the story come alive.”
~Jane Lange, Romances, Reads & Reviews
“Lynn Shurr’s stories have that distinctive Louisiana flavor...and make you eager for another taste.
~J.L. Salter, Author
For my quiet sister, Celeste, because of all she does.
The Courir de Mardi Gras or Mardi Gras Ride is a country custom of the Cajun prairies and takes the place of fancy parades, floats, and balls found in the cities of Louisiana. Lately, I have seen the event referred to as the Courir du Mardi Gras as being more proper French, but Cajun French has never been proper French, so I will stick to the way I first heard of it.
On Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, costumed riders gallop from house to house begging for the ingredients to make a communal gumbo: a bag of rice, a pound of sausage, a sack of onions or flour, and best of all, a live chicken that is tossed into the air to be chased down by the members of the ride. This form of celebrating Mardi Gras harkens back to the Middle Ages when revelers went from door to door seeking coins or small gifts of food and entertained with songs and stunts. Needless to say, much of the revelry is of the drunken variety, though in today’s world this has been toned down as entire busloads of tourists follow the riders on their course.
Courir de Mardi Gras
is my third book with a Mardi Gras theme. This theme and the locale of Cajun Country is all that loosely connects them. Sometimes characters from one story will make a brief appearance in another tale, but mostly, the stories stand alone.
Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball
explored the meaning of the formal Mardi Gras celebrations of the past.
Mardi Gras Madness
portrayed a small town Mardi Gras. Now, we come to a country party with
Courir de Mardi Gras
Whatever the location, the masks and mystique of Mardi Gras lead to a turning of the plot—a brief affair, a hasty marriage, an abduction of a pretty woman. Anything can happen on Mardi Gras day, and often does. Enjoy the celebration!
On the morning of Suzanne Hudson’s farewell to Philadelphia, she sat on the very edge of Paul’s bed and attempted to apply a pair of pantyhose to her legs with a minimum of mattress shakage. If Paul had remembered to shut the mini-blinds the previous evening, she might have completed the chancy maneuver in the living room of the apartment without giving a free peep show to street level traffic. The bathroom was still too humid from a hurried shower to allow nylon to glide easily over flesh. Coiffured, dressed, and ready to be on her way, she had only this small logistical problem to solve. Suzanne reasoned if the hollow thunder of hot water drumming in a fiberglass tub had not awakened the one who slept like the dead, then neither would a small jiggle of the mattress.
Paul’s king-sized bed filled all the available space in the small bedroom. She simply had nowhere else to lean. There, a successful completion of the challenge. Lying on his back, arms splayed, mouth open, blond stubble so light as to be barely noticeable, Paul resembled a well-fed, untroubled child. He slept on with the wintery morning sunshine throwing bars of light across his body through slits in the bedroom blinds.
She slipped into her sensible traveling shoes and, glancing into the still-misty bathroom mirror, straightened the red silk scarf that stood in for a tie on the white oxford cloth blouse. “Suzanne Hudson is dressed for success, dressed for success,” she chanted mentally. “Navy blue is a positive color for a suit, a good travel color, and an attractive foil to honey-brown hair”—though to be completely honest, her hair was more brown than honey. Today, very little of it showed since she’d attempted to duplicate Dr. Dumont’s chic twist, subduing the thick, curly strands with combs that matched her hair color. Small wisps already escaped around her ears and forehead, but that could not be helped now.
Her suitcases stood by the front door. The purse containing the plane ticket beckoned from Paul’s glass-topped coffee table. Tiptoeing out of the bedroom, Suzanne continued to make her escape. After removing her heavy, red wool coat from Paul’s closet and wrapping her head carefully in the matching muffler withdrawn from the sleeve, she pulled on her fleece-lined leather gloves and let herself quietly out into the hall. From the doorway of 3-C, she nodded goodbye to 3-B, her old apartment, now stripped of all belongings, the bed and dresser returned to her adolescent bedroom in Villanova, the secondhand couch and the dining room set from the unpainted furniture store now in the hands of new owners. Everything else was boxed and stored in the attic on Pine Street to await her return. The elevator came quickly. The taxi summoned by cell phone arrived in five minutes. Sigh of relief.
As the cabbie stood in the steam of the exhaust and stowed her bags, Suzanne settled back into the taxi’s musty cushions smelling of cigarette smoke and sub sandwiches, and reveled in her flight away from safety and security, from predictability and routine, from Paul Alvin Smith, Jr. What a close call. She’d almost convinced herself she wanted and needed a man like Paul.
After the Barry Cashman affair, she had been very cautious, feeling her way emotionally through her senior year at the university and into graduate school like a leper with numbed fingertips. She tried to recall Barry’s exact parting words. Once vivid red scars in her mind, they had faded to a pale pink.
Oh yes, he said, “I wanted to experience someone artistic and uninhibited before I settled down in Middletown with Beth Ann. You must admit she’ll make a better attorney’s wife, especially if I go into politics. But she’ll never equal your enthusiasm in bed, Suzanne—so hot, so ready to try anything. When I’m with her, I’ll be thinking of you.” At least, she’d had the presence of mind to knee him sharply where he would remember it just as long.
Her pain, equally sharp, manifested itself in a shoulder-length haircut, the donation of all her handcrafted, natural fiber clothes to the thrift shop, and an abrupt veer from a fine arts career of painting ethereal pictures of castles in the mist. She took up a more sensible course of art history studies with some business management thrown in to guarantee a real job running a gallery or curating in a small museum sometime in the future. Abandoning her interest in Renaissance Italy, she immersed herself pragmatically into Victorian America. She wanted to be someone’s beloved, not someone’s experience. Since that didn’t seem possible, time to get practical both in love life and career. Her parents, perplexed but inwardly relieved, approved of her lifestyle changes. Although things had not worked out with Barry of the suits and matching vests, they concluded he had been a positive influence.
No wonder Paul Smith had such instant appeal. When her parents amiably agreed they would provide support for two years of graduate school in museum management because they put Blake through law school, Suzanne upped the ante to include a modest apartment. After all, they paid Blake’s fees at the fraternity house all those years while their daughter commuted to the university. So, she moved into 3-B and met Paul Smith, 3-C.
Paul, as solid, dependable, and dull as a cement block wall, worked as a computer analyst. His habits were so regular she could to intercept him at 7:45 a.m. on the stairs or at 6:45 p.m. by the mailbox. A date with Paul inevitably consisted of dinner at a nice restaurant, a show, and a kiss at the door. After rough seas and cold plunges with Barry Cashman, Paul Smith relaxed her like a tepid bath. Honestly, she believed him to be exactly what she wanted until the proposal came as predictably as the red velvet box with the satin lining containing the diamond solitaire engagement ring. While the waiter poured the champagne, she felt the sudden need to plead for more time and his understanding. She answered not “yes” but “maybe.”
She slept with Paul that night. He might have thought of this as a consolation prize or a promise for the future or a way of binding her to him. It could have been any of those things to him, but not for Suzanne. She wanted to discover in Paul the passion and stimulation she’d had with Barry. No one, absolutely no one, could be as bland in bed as Paul in everyday life.
Wrong. The man she considered marrying made love as methodically as he rotated the tires on his Chevrolet sedan when the required mileage came around. Foreplay consisted of warm breath blown in the ear, two kisses with slightly parted lips, five minutes of stroking beginning just above the breasts and moving downward at the speed of four inches per minute, and then penetration and rhythmic pounding for another five minutes.
He kept his eyes tightly closed and breathed like a Lamaze mother through his mouth. His beat never varied until the final stroke after which he rolled aside, said “thank you,” and passed into a deep, death-like sleep. Looking up at the wall above the bed, she thought he must have a flow chart posted outlining each step of the carnal act, but evidently he had the procedure memorized. In the fifteen minutes elapsing from start to finish, her answer changed from “Maybe” to a “Hell, no.”
Paul did not believe her. Doggedly, he continued courting with dinners and shows and occasional references to the “consummation of our love,” which had not been consummated again. On her last night in Philadelphia, he offered the two-carat ring again.
“Not now, Paul,” she answered, distracted by the waiter who waited to open the champagne. “Let me sleep on it.”
Thinking she might have wronged the man—first times are always awkward and tense—except for the first time with Barry, she tried Paul’s brand of lovemaking again. Afterwards, she looked in the drawer of his night table for the manual he must have been following, but the drawer stood empty. This wasn’t pity sex, more like trying to talk herself into a safe, secure marriage sex. By morning, certain they would have made each other miserable for the rest of their lives, she made her escape.
She would call Paul and tell him so when she landed in Atlanta for her transfer flight. He’d be up and awake, showered and shaved, and drinking his morning coffee. Not at all like her to be a coward—she’d told off Barry easily enough—but Paul was such a nice guy. Why roust him out of a sound sleep to tell him she did not love him?
“Where to, miss?”
The cabbie must have asked the question before, but since the meter was running, he showed extraordinary patience with his passenger. Suzanne thought she saw a small movement at the blinds of 3-C.
“The airport. Hurry, please!”
“What time’s the flight?”
“Not until nine.”
“Mind if I take it a little easy, then? The roads are slick.”