Read Deja Voodoo (A Cajun Magic Novel) (Entangled Suspense) Online

Authors: Elle James

Tags: #Suspense, #Romance, #romance series, #Elle James, #entangled publishing, #voodoo, #Entangled Suspense

Deja Voodoo (A Cajun Magic Novel) (Entangled Suspense) (10 page)

BOOK: Deja Voodoo (A Cajun Magic Novel) (Entangled Suspense)
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“I’ve noticed that. Besides, she’s got a man living with her.”
And he growled at me when he caught me in your sister’s bedroom
.


What?

“I take it that’s news to you.”

“And here I thought she was a confirmed bachelorette. She must really care about this guy to let him move in with her. I’ll have to call Mom for the scoop. In the meantime, keep your head low.”

“Will do.”

“Hey, Ed, if you want all the latest gossip on the comings and goings in Bayou Miste, pay a visit to Mozelle Reneau, or spend some time talking with my mother or Joe Thibodeaux.”

“Got it. How’s that trial going? Are you gonna free up anytime soon to help out down here?”

“Doesn’t look like it. I’ve had some of the guys here volunteer to help babysit our witness, even Dean.”

“He’d lower himself to play bodyguard to our diva?”

“I think he wants a piece of the limelight when we bring her in to testify.”

Ed snorted. “I could do without that kind of help.”

“Exactly the reason I chose you for the job.”

“Thanks. Send the city dude to the bayou to wrestle the alligators. I see how it is.”

Ben laughed. “You can handle it, as long as you don’t take the plunge. Alligators love things that make a big splash.”

Nice.
He pocketed his smartphone and continued his stroll along the streets of Bayou Miste, keeping a close eye out for two-legged snakes and four-legged alligators.

Hell, a desk job was looking better every minute.


“I can’t believe you did the nasty with Ed.” Calliope kneeled below Alex’s feet, holding her ankles while she did a set of fifty crunches on a mat.

Some local businessmen were playing a game of three-on-three on the basketball court at the other end of the building. Man-Sport sat on a pile of mats nearby, watching as the men played, ready to jump up and chase the ball every time it rolled his direction.

Alex had pushed herself and her aerobics classes hard today and she couldn’t let up now. Every time she gave herself downtime, she thought of Ed, and she couldn’t afford to dwell on what couldn’t be. Her abs burned with each repetition until she fell back against the mat. “It was a mistake. Can we not talk about it?”

“Are you kidding me?” Calliope let go of her ankles and rolled back on her heels. “I want all the details.”

“Your turn.”

“I’m not the one needing to burn off my sexual frustrations.”

Alex rose to a kneeling position and pointed to the mat. “Get down and give me at least thirty.”

Calliope dropped onto her back, bending her knees. “You don’t have to be bitchy.”

“If you’re doing sit-ups”—she grabbed her friend’s ankles and leaned into them—”you won’t have the breath to grill me.”

“You used to be fun.” Calliope groused and, huffing and puffing, gave a halfhearted attempt at crunches. After twenty-five reps, she collapsed against the mat. “So how was he?”

Alex sat back and drew her heels in, dropping her knees sideways, and bent over until her forehead touched the floor. “Freakin’ incredible.”

Calliope jumped to her feet. “What did you say?”

“Freakin’ incredible. He was freakin’ incredible.” Alex looked up, her heart pinching in her chest. “I told you, I didn’t want to get involved with someone who wasn’t going to stick around. I’m not cut out for long-distance relationships, and my life is here.” She rose and folded the mat, stacking it in the pile beside Sport. “It’s just as well. He’s not into long-term relationships, either.”

Calliope darted in front of her. “He said so?”

“No, but he didn’t protest when I told him I wasn’t.” She dodged around Calliope and headed for the room she’d set aside for karate classes. “Come, Sport.”

Sport hopped off the mats and followed.

Running to keep up, Calliope pointed out, “Those are two entirely different things. He might be looking for his perfect match. And that could be you,
couyon
.”

“I’m not stupid. Don’t you and Sport need to go for a walk, or something?”

Sport grinned and grabbed Calliope’s hand. “Callipuppy take Sport for walk.”

Calliope frowned at her. “Fine. But don’t think you’re getting out of talking this easily.” She slipped her arm around Sport and stared into his eyes. “You’re so cute. I can’t resist.”

Alex frowned. “Calliope.”

“Don’t think you can give me advice on love, either.
You’re
the one who’s all messed up.” She turned and marched Sport out of the room, calling out over her shoulder, “I’ll bring Sport home later.”

With a sigh, Alex bowed, stepped onto the mat, braced her feet slightly apart, and bent her knees. She balled her fist and struck out at the air, pulling her arm back sharply.

“This where you take out all your frustrations?”

She spun and dropped into a defensive position, her arms drawn into her sides, ready to strike.

Ed leaned against the doorframe, no hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips, his face poker-straight, his brown eyes near black with intensity.

“How did you find me?” She shook her head. “No, don’t tell me. Mom.” She turned away and resumed her stance, this time throwing a double punch. “Why are you here?”

He slipped out of his shoes, bowed, then advanced on her, closing the distance until he stood so close she could smell his aftershave. “What happened last night?”

She shook her head. “Nothing.” Her stomach clenched. She balanced on one foot and kicked the air as if she could kick her emotions into outer space.
Damn the man for coming into her world and making her question her life
. “I told you it was a mistake.”

“No, it wasn’t. Look at me and tell me it was a mistake.”

When she didn’t, he laid a hand on her arm. “Alex.”

Something snapped inside, and she swept out her leg, planted her palm on Ed’s chest and shoved.

He landed on his back and she came down on him, pressing her knee into his chest. “Why can’t you leave me alone?”

He lay there for a moment, staring up into her eyes. “Because I can’t.” Then he erupted beneath her, flipped her onto her back, and pinned her to the mat with the full length of his body, trapping her wrists above her head. “Your words are telling me one thing, but your body language has an entirely different story.”

“I told you, I don’t want to see you anymore.”

He shook his head. “Now, see? There you go again.” He leaned close, his lips hovering over hers. “Look into my eyes and tell me you don’t want to kiss me.”

She struggled beneath him, refusing to face him. When she couldn’t break his hold, she made the error of locking gazes with him. All the fight seeped out of her.

“Tell me,” he repeated.

“I don’t…” She bit her lip, her body burning everywhere his touched hers, and she wanted his lips to claim hers so badly she could already taste them. “Damn you.” Glaring up at him, she whispered, “Kiss me, already.”

His mouth came down on hers, crushingly possessive.

When he released her hands, she threaded her fingers through his hair and dragged him closer, deepening their connection, her tongue thrusting through to slide along his.

Time seemed suspended as they lay on the mat, locked in a kiss that rocked her world and scattered all her well-laid plans for her life and future to the four winds.

At last, he raised his head, his eyes glazed, his cock nudging against her. “Told you.”

“Why did you come here today?”

“I needed a workout.”

“Alex?” A voice sounded outside the room.

He swore under his breath.

She squirmed beneath him. “Let me up.”

He rolled to the side and she jumped to her feet just as Harry ducked through the door.

“Oh, there you are—” Harry’s gaze bounced from her to Ed, who was rising from the floor, straightening his shirt. “Sorry, did I interrupt something?” She grinned. “I can come back later.”

“No. You didn’t interrupt anything. Ed was just leaving.”

“Actually, I came to see if I could get in some time on the weights.” He turned the full wattage of his killer smile on Harry.

Alex groaned inwardly, her tummy tightened, and her core ached. How was she supposed to concentrate on her business with Ed in the building?

Harry instantly fell for his charm. “Of course! I can show you the weight room, if you like.” She darted a glance at Alex. “Unless you’d rather have Alex show you.”

She waved her hand. “No, please. Show him. I have errands to run, then I’m headed back to Bayou Miste. Can you take my afternoon classes?” She didn’t really have anything pressing, but she had to get out of the same room with Ed to regain some sense of self-control. Every time she was around him, she couldn’t think straight. Her structured existence fell to pieces.

“You could use some time off, Sis. You’ve been tense the past couple days. Why don’t you go out for lunch, go shopping, or get a manicure? I’ll cover for you.” Harry hooked Ed’s elbow and led him away, smiling up at him.

She loved her sister, but at that moment, she wanted to scratch her eyes out.

Ed is mine
.

Whoa
. Where had that thought come from? He was no more hers than the moon. He was temporary. She was firmly rooted in her life here in the bayou, near a family who needed her.

With a blunt reality check, she reminded herself that Ed hadn’t made any declarations with his kiss or while making love the previous evening. He’d bought right into the short-term quickie idea, and probably wanted to add it to his list of vacation activities to be enjoyed while in Bayou Miste.

She slapped a hand to her forehead.
Of course
. He only wanted the fling she’d offered him in the beginning. Except, where she’d wanted to end it after one amazing hop in the sack, he wanted to take it through the rest of his stay.

Then what?

Then life would return to normal. The spell on Sport would wear off, and her structured, predictable life would resume.

She tugged her shirt in place, bowed at the corner of the mat, and left the karate room, realizing she was deluding herself. Never again would she look at those mats the same way.

Crap
. Why did Ed Marceau have to pick Bayou Miste as his choice for a vacation in the first place?

Chapter Nine

Ed really hadn’t had the time to work out that morning, and he wasn’t exactly sure why he’d headed for Morgan City when his job was to keep his eyes open in Bayou Miste. But after his early fishing date with Joe, he’d made a pass through town in his Jeep and headed to Morgan City.

What he’d hoped to accomplish with that kiss was another mystery.

Alex Boyette wasn’t part of his plan. Bayou Miste was a detour on his road to a promotion in the Criminal Investigations Unit of the Louisiana State Police. He knew what life as an officer of the law did to marriages. His ex-wife had left him after three years of sitting at home alone more nights than he’d been there.

Then why had he gone back for more, when Alex had told him to get out and stay out of her life?

Because she was beautiful
.

No, that wasn’t all. Because she cared about others, not just herself, and she wouldn’t abandon family.

But she had a man living with her. One she’d admitted caring for.

After a quick tour of the weight room with Harry, he made his excuses and headed back to Bayou Miste and to work. With a bounty on Phyllis Ragsdale’s head, he didn’t have time to play with the locals, no matter how tempting.

As he cruised through Bayou Miste, his stomach rumbled. The town was so small it couldn’t justify the usual fast-food chains. His choices were limited to the Pancake House and the Cajun Kettle. He pulled into the Cajun Kettle’s lot and parked.

The outside of the building didn’t inspire great confidence in what lay within. Weathered white paint peeled from the sides, mildew gave the entire building a greenish tinge, and the wrought iron tables and chairs sitting on a concrete pad had long since lost the umbrellas meant to shade customers from the hot Louisiana sun.

He pushed through the screen door and a bell jingled over his head. Inside, the lighting was dim and it took a moment for his eyesight to adjust. Red-and-white-checkered vinyl tablecloths covered the mishmash of tables and booths in the interior. The black and white linoleum tiles shouted the fifties—and probably dated back to then, based on their worn appearance. The order counter was so old it looked gnawed on by local wildlife. But the Cajun seasonings scenting the room promised better fare than ambience, and made his stomach rumble even louder.

An older woman with coppery red hair and gray roots collected a paper bag from the counter and turned. When she spotted him, she smiled. “You must be Mr. Marceau. Joe’s been tellin’ me all about you.”

“I’m sorry, should I know you?” He held out his hand.

“Mozelle Reneau, but you can call me Mozelle or Miz Mozelle.” She turned to the chalkboard listing the menu items. “Clovis makes the best shrimp ’n’ okra gumbo in the parish. It is
très bon,
and the blackened catfish is fresh. Joe caught them this morning. But you know that.”

Knowing what Joe used to catch the catfish, he opted for the gumbo. He placed his order with the big man behind the counter, who would better fit the role of a bouncer at the Raccoon Saloon.

While he waited, Mozelle continued to talk.

“We don’t get too many folks come to visit in Bayou Miste. Seems like we’ve had more than our share just this week.”

His ears perked. “Is that right? I thought I was the only visitor.”

“Oh, no.” She laid her hand on his arm. “A retired gentleman rented Joe’s cottage the same day as you rented Barb Boyette’s. Funny, you two coming on the same day.” She shifted her bag of food to her other hand. “Interesting man, Mr. Mills. Goes out every day in his boat for hours and comes back without any fish. Wonder what he does out there all day long.” Mozelle stared into the distance. “Who knows? We’ve had stranger visitors than that. Take the
couyon
who came in this morning, asking about airboat rentals.
Dit mon la v
é
rit
é
!
Tell me the truth! No one rents airboats. Anyone who’s been out in the bayou knows you have to have experience handling them, and they aren’t cheap.”

“Did he give you his name?”

Mozelle’s brows wrinkled. “No, as a matter of fact, he didn’t.” The bell over the door jangled and Mozelle started. “
Coo wee!
Look at the time. I promised I’d be back in ten minutes. Joe’s bound to be growlin’ for his lunch. Nice to talk with you,
cher
. Stop by after fishin’ for some beignets tomorrow morning. I make a fresh batch every other day.” She scooted out the door, leaving blessed silence in her wake.

Ed took a seat by the window where he could watch the town’s main street. Before long, the burly cook emerged from the kitchen carrying a huge, steaming bowl of gumbo and a plate of crackers. The scent of shrimp and spices wafted up, making Ed’s stomach rumble in anticipation. As he dug his spoon into the thick liquid, the bell over the door rang again, and Alex sailed in.

“My usual, Clovis, please.” She turned to find a seat, spotted him, and rolled her eyes. “Are you following me?”

“Seems I was here first.” He lifted his spoon. “Look, you might as well join me. I promise not to attack you or your food.”

She frowned at him.

“Come on, Alex. Relax. What’s having lunch with me going to hurt?”


Mais
,
non
. I guess it won’t.” Her feet dragging, she walked across the floor and dropped into the seat across from him, letting out a huge sigh. “How long did you say you’d be in town?”

“Counting the days already?” His lips twisted. “A week, maybe two. Then I’ll be gone and you won’t have to bump into me anymore.” That thought made a hard knot twist in the pit of his belly. Having known Alex for only a day, he found he liked her company and might miss it when he left.

Clovis set a bowl of gumbo in front of Alex with the requisite plate of crackers.

“Thanks, Clovis.” She lifted her spoon and nodded. “
Bon app
é
tit
.”

They ate in silence until most of the food in their bowls had disappeared.

“I’m glad you’re not one of those women who picks at her food.” Ed set his spoon in the bowl and leaned back.

“I own a gym, teaching several aerobics classes every day. I burn calories.”

“Have you always been in this great of shape?” He raked his gaze over her, admiring the curves, clearly defined by the skin-tight exercise outfit she wore.

Her cheeks reddened. “No. I grew up chubby. In case you didn’t notice, Cajun food can be fattening. When I went to college, I learned how to control my diet.”

“And your life?”

“Yes.”

“So you went to college to learn how to become a control freak, huh?”

Her lips thinned. “If that’s what you want to call it. I like structure. So sue me.”

“And relationships are too messy?” He lifted a cracker and broke it in half, dunking it into the remaining soup at the bottom of his bowl.

“I didn’t say that.”

“I consider it implied.”

She scraped the last bit of rice from her bowl with her spoon and stuck it in her mouth, then sat back, her eyes narrowing. “You’re a mediator. I bet you have to deal with a lot of divorce cases, don’t you?”

He nodded, on edge to give the right answers that fit with his cover.

“With all those divorces, I’d think you’d be the last one to believe in long-term relationships.” She leveled a direct stare at him. “As you told my mother, you’ve been married.”

His chest tightened, that knot in his gut growing. “Divorced three years ago.”

“Why didn’t it work?” This time she raised her hands. “Sorry, that’s personal. You don’t have to answer.”

For a long moment he didn’t. “It’s okay. My job was too demanding. She wanted more…of me…of my time.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, her brows wrinkled into a frown and he realized his mistake.

“Your job? I didn’t think a mediator’s job was that demanding. Isn’t it strictly an eight-to-five commitment?”

He tossed the other half of his cracker in the bowl. “The point is, she needed me around more, and I wasn’t there.”

Alex sat across from him for an extended, silent moment, then asked, “Did you love her?”

He looked down at his empty bowl. “I don’t know. I’ve never been sure what love is, or if I’ve ever loved anyone.”

“I know it’s a different kind of love, but what about your parents?”

“Died when I was four,” he stated, his voice flat.

She leaned forward. “Your adoptive parents?”

“Foster homes.” The more she questioned, the more the gumbo in his gut churned.

When her brows furrowed and she reached out to lay a hand on his arm, he jerked away. “Look, I don’t need anyone’s pity. You don’t miss what you never had.”

She shook her head. “I can’t imagine having grown up without the love of my parents. Even now, I miss my dad so bad, it hurts every time I think of him.”

“That’s the beauty of never having loved your parents.” He regarded her evenly. “I never knew mine. I feel no pain.” He pushed to his feet. “Look. I don’t need you or anyone else. What happened last night was nothing more than good sex.”

“And that’s why you came looking for me today?” she asked skeptically.

“Yes.” He walked to the door without looking back into her empathy-filled eyes.

Anger, he could stomach. Pity? Never.

He stepped out into the bright sunshine, dragging his shades from his pocket.

“Ed!” Calliope waved from across the street.

“Ed!” Sport echoed and waved as well.

“Wait up.” Calliope glanced both ways and waited for traffic to pass.

In no mood to talk, but not wanting to be rude, he waited for them to cross. A tractor-trailer rig rumbled past from one direction. As it passed, Calliope and Sport stepped into the road.

With their attention on the big rig, they didn’t hear or see the dark four-door sedan racing down the middle of the street from the opposite direction.

Ed edged out into the street, his hand up. “Wait,” he called out to them.

The car swerved toward him and accelerated.
Jesus!

He didn’t have time to get out of the way, and braced himself for the impact. At the last moment, Sport leaped across the road and pushed him out of the way. He fell back against the curb and rolled out of range of the car’s tires.

Sport wasn’t so lucky. The car clipped him in the side, sending him flying into the outdoor tables and chairs in front of the Cajun Kettle.

Ed rolled to his feet, but not in time to catch the license plate. The vehicle had peeled out, leaving a trail of smoke.

Behind him, a scream rent the air and the door to the restaurant slammed open. Alex rushed forward, dropping to her knees beside Sport.

The man whimpered, a gash in the side of his face, bleeding onto the concrete.

Ed jerked his phone out of his pocket and tossed it to Calliope. “Call 911.” Then he bent over the man who’d saved his life.

The man Alex loved
.


Sport lay sprawled across Alex’s bed, sound asleep after swallowing three painkillers and a tall glass of water. The trauma of being hit by a car had taken its toll on him, and his old canine habit of sleeping the day away kicked in.

Alex stood on one side of the bed holding his hand. “I should never have wished him to be a man.”

Calliope sat in a chair on the other side, petting his arm. “He could have just as easily been hit by a car as a dog, and might not have survived.” She lifted his hand to her cheek, a tear trailing down her cheek. “He’s been so good about everything that’s happened to him so far.”

“Poor Sport.” Alex rubbed the masculine arm.
Damn the Voodoo magic that put him in that position
. “I want my dog back.”

“I want Sport to be okay.”

She stared across at her friend. “Oh, Calliope, you can’t fall in love with Sport. You don’t know how long he’ll be a man.”

“It’s too late, Alex.” Calliope tenderly brushed the strands of hair from his forehead, careful not to disturb the bandage on his cheek. “He’s gentle, he’s kind, and he’s everything a man should be.”

“He is, isn’t he? He’s like another member of my family.” She thought of Ed, her heart aching even more for the man who’d never known the love of a family. He’d even admitted he wasn’t sure he’d loved his wife. How sad.

At that moment a knock sounded on the door.

She didn’t have the heart to get up and answer it.

After a moment the front door squeaked open and footsteps echoed down the hallway.

Ed poked his head into her bedroom, then entered, carrying a box of chocolates. He laid it on the table beside the bed. “Calliope told me Sport likes chocolate. How’s he doing?”

“Better.”

“I still think we should have called 911. He could have internal injuries.”

She had done her best with butterfly bandages, pulling the edges of the gash on Sport’s cheek together. She, too, would rather have taken him to the hospital in Morgan City, but Calliope had reminded her he had no insurance, and worse, no name to give the administration at the regional hospital in St. Mary Parish. Ed had helped them get him back to her house and into her bed, where he’d promptly fallen asleep.

“I owe him my life,” Ed said simply. “Chocolates seem inadequate thanks for taking a hit for me.”

“I’m sure he’ll love them.” Calliope sniffed. “He loves chocolate.”

Not for the first time, frustration led Alex to pace. She left her bedroom and crossed the hall to the living room where she marched from end to end, going over and over in her mind the events of the day.

“You’re going to wear a hole in the carpet,” Ed said from the entrance to the living room.

“I can’t stand around and do nothing. I saw what happened through the window of the Kettle. That driver was deliberately trying to hit you.” She stopped in front of him. “Are you sure you didn’t get a license plate? Not even a part of it? Can’t they run a plate with a partial?”

“The police can, but I got nothing. By the time I pulled myself out of the gutter, it was gone.”

“Damn.” She ran her hand over his chest, reliving the horror of what she’d witnessed. “What if Sport hadn’t been there? What if that car had hit you?” Her hand stopped and she gazed up into his eyes through the mist of tears in her own. “That could be you banged up, or worse.”

BOOK: Deja Voodoo (A Cajun Magic Novel) (Entangled Suspense)
9.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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