When Mark Madison accepts a position as tutor in New Orleans, he does so to run away from his past. Yet he never once believed the house on Coliseum Square would actually hold the key to his future.
Royal DuCote, the wealthy owner of the house and father to a son named Luc, is dark, sexy, and haunted. Ever since the death of his wife and Luc's mother, nothing has been the same. Luc refuses to speak or let Royal near him, and putting Luc in school is out of the question, so he hires a tutor for his son. But when he meets Mark Madison, he's instantly attracted to the younger man.
As tensions build between the Mark and Royal, Luc's affliction becomes a mystery Mark wants to solve. But will what Mark discovers destroy all that is left of the DuCote family?
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (29k words)
Read a short excerpt...
...The wide foyer had dark wood floors and equally dark paneling running to the ceiling, and I felt as if I were in a cave. On the wall hung a large oval mirror, the glass reflecting my face in the light coming through the frosted glass transom over the door. On either side of it, unlit gas sconces made of brass stood guard.
I glanced at my trunk. Best to leave it here until I spoke to monsieur. I doubted the old man could carry it up to my room. Taking a few steps forward, I wondered if I should call out for the old man, but he’d never introduced himself.
What name would I call?
I moved down the dimly lit hall, past a wide staircase leading to the second floor, each tread covered in a thick carpet of burgundy and deep green floral print. Continuing in the direction I’d last seen the old man, I passing several closed doors until I reached a set of pocket doors, slid open far enough to let someone pass.
Peering in, I spotted the old man, and exhaled. The library. More dark paneling and bookcases reaching to the high ceilings. Books filled the shelves and a deep blue Aubusson carpet was centered in the middle of the room, an elaborate chaise anchoring one end.
“Excuse me?” I pushed the door open wider on its tracks and stepped inside.
He looked up at me, his eyebrows raised. “Ah. You.” He stood behind a large carved desk.
“Yes. Me.” Should I reintroduce myself? Perhaps the man was past his prime, kept on merely as some kindness for long years of service.
“Wait here. The master will be down shortly.” He stepped away from the desk, but returned to it to drop a handful of letters on it. After, he pointed to a chair opposite the desk, and left.
I sat, placing my hat on my lap, and folding my hands together to keep them from shaking. Breathed in and out in measured time, counting off the seconds from one to five as I gathered my thoughts and my nerve.
I refused to let fear overtake them and pushed away the idea Monsieur DuCote had discovered my duplicity and my crime and was, at this moment, sending the old man for the police.
To have come so far only to be caught on the edge of my escape, on the edge of redemption, was unthinkable.
Behind the desk, facing out into the library, hung the portrait of an exquisite woman. Posed as a Greek goddess sitting on a carved bench, her blonde hair curled around her head framing lovely blue eyes gazing out from the painting, and full pink lips hinting at a smile.
The late Madame DuCote?
Breathtaking. She must have slain many a man in her time. I could appreciate her beauty for what it was, an ideal, but her visage did not move me, not inside, not deep in my core.
Here is what damned me. Why couldn’t I find her exciting? Or any woman?
My hands tightened together as I struggled with my fears and my weakness.
“Mr. Madison. At last.” A deep voice addressed me, sending a shiver of awareness through me, and I jumped to my feet. I clutched my hat, my heart in my throat.
Monsieur DuCote stood framed in the doorway. His dark hair fell to his wide shoulders, and piercing brown eyes took me in. He was perhaps the most handsome man I’d ever seen.
“Yes.” I cleared my throat of its sudden fullness. “Monsieur DuCote. Pleased to meet you. At last.”
He cocked his head at me, his expression serious and sober. In his hard gaze, I knew I’d been found lacking.
I gathered my courage and advanced, hand out in greeting. “I’m sorry for not sending word, but I arrived last night and wanted to come as soon as possible.”
He stepped forward and took my hand, his long fingers closing around mine. Never before had I felt a rush of arousal like this and I cursed my weakness.
“Think nothing of it, Mr. Madison.” His gaze locked with mine and rendered me immobile, as if I were a rat charmed by a snake.
And I knew I’d not run from my death, but straight into its arms...