If you loved him, could you tell him? And would he abandon his lonely mission and give his heart to you?
1840’s New Orleans is no place for an independent woman. Amid the intrigue and glamour of the delta city, Lucie must find her own way as she struggles to recover from devastating loss and the shattered dream of a happy ending. As she forges a new life, the last thing she wants is to be beholden to a man – especially a man as infuriating and intriguing as the mysterious newcomer from Spain.
Stephen Arroyo is charming and cagey, a cool-headed gambler with a shadowy past. Robbed of what was most precious to him, Stephen is caught in a fierce battle for revenge and redemption.
Lucie and Stephen need each other, in ways they can only begin to understand. But can they overcome the demons that entrap their hearts and allow their uneasy alliance to blossom into love?
This meticulously researched and wildly romantic historical novel takes readers from the jungles of Mexico to the glittering elegance of 1840’s New Orleans. Creole Moon is the first Kindle release from historical romance author Genevieve Stuart.
Amazon US http://amzn.to/1nG83Aq
Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1dgkEpC
The rain continued into the evening, and still there was no sign of Thierry. Lucie went up to her bedroom, but even after Nancy had brought her a cup of warm milk she couldn’t sleep, and, dressed in her peach silk wrapper, she returned downstairs to wait. Gilbert tried to bring her a lamp, or at least stir the fire, but she waved him off to bed. She wanted only to sit by herself, waiting for her husband.
How long should it have taken him to find Hébert and pay him? Lucie thought grimly of the route home from the Swamp, the seediest area of the city, where Hébert had his tiny, disreputable office. Gallatin Street alone was lined with gambling houses and taverns, and on his best days Thierry was hard pressed not to visit his favorite establishments there. If he succumbed to temptation again, she could only hope that it was after he had managed to pay the debt to Hébert.
After a while Lucie drifted off to sleep in her chair, only to wake with a start. She thought she heard the front gate creak; it couldn't be Thierry -- he always rode his horse around to the side and woke Gilbert, no matter how late the hour. Lucie rose and glanced at the clock over the mantel: two in the morning. She hurried into the front hall .
A single oil lamp lit the foyer, making the banister cast great shadows upon the wall. Lucie pushed aside the drapes and peered out at the rain-drenched street. Coming through the wrought iron gate was a hunched figure, which staggered a little as it made its way up the walk. Lucie felt a thump of fear in her heart, and took a few frantic steps backward, intent upon calling Gilbert for help.
But before Lucie could open her mouth to cry out, the heavy front door flew open and the figure stumbled in, bringing a flurry of wet leaves with it. Lucie saw that it was not one man but two: Stephen, with Thierry half hidden under his black greatcoat. Stephen had his arm around the other man's shoulders, supporting his weight, and Thierry's head lolled back alarmingly. "Oh, Stephen," Lucie whispered, aghast. "Has there been an accident?"
Stephen glanced at Lucie's face, and gave her a brief, wry smile. "No accident, madame. And no injuries, as of yet. Your Thierry got himself into a small disagreement over a card game, and rather than let him face his opponent in this condition, I elected to bring him home to you. Help me get him to the parlor."
As she hurried to grasp Thierry's arm, Lucie noticed the strong smell of cheap liquor, and her heart sank.
"I suppose he's lost a great deal of money in the process," she said weakly, thinking of her two hundred dollars.
"I have not yet attempted to search his pockets," Stephen gathered up his coat and handed it unceremoniously to Lucie, "but I'll wager that you're right."
With that, Stephen swung Thierry's half-conscious form over his shoulder, carried him into the darkened parlor and dropped him into a wingchair.
"He'll do, for now, but he's likely to have quite a sore head in the morning."
He straightened up and looked over at Lucie, who stood in the doorway. She was staring at Thierry's slumped form with a mixture of despair and pity. Clasping her dressing gown tightly around her, she ran her hand through her unbound hair, seemingly unaware of how wildly unacceptable were the lateness of the hour and the informality of her attire. Stephen half smiled at the thought of how furious she would be with herself in the morning, and it struck him that he had never before seen her with her hair unpinned. It lent her an air of abandon, and he found himself picturing her waking in the morning in his big bed, smiling at him, her hair a red-gold, tousled cloud ...
Stephen sucked in his breath, and Lucie broke from her reverie and looked at him, her eyes shadowed. "Ah, Stephen," she shook her head, "Truly I don't know what to do."
He stiffened, and then with one swift motion he had crossed to her and was holding her shoulders in his hands. Lucie couldn’t see his face clearly in the darkened room, but when he spoke his voice was low, and the urgency in his tone astonished her.
"Sometimes I ask myself why I allow you to suffer."
Flooded with sudden anger and shame, she remembering his warning about Thierry just a few days earlier. "Who are you to allow me anything, Stephen? This is my responsibility, and Thierry is my husband! It is not your place to -- "
"My place!" Stephen's fingers bit into her shoulders. He took a ragged breath, but when he spoke again his voice was even. "Do not presume to tell me what my place is. Everything you have here you owe to me, down to the gold your husband gambles with. I have been patient in all things, because it served me to do so, but no more. I have tired of being a party to your foolish playacting."
"Is it so foolish, then, to try to keep a decent home and care for my husband?" She stood straight, filled with domestic righteousness, forgetting for the moment how miserable Thierry had made her. "Then again, monsieur, what does a scoundrel like you know of decency!" Lucie hissed.
Stephen gave a low laugh, but did not relax his hold on her. "A great deal more than you, apparently. Does it not concern you, Lucie, that while you hold your head high and play the great lady, your husband is carousing with the lowest forms of life in the city? That he is dragging you and your precious family name, the name you have worked so hard to preserve, down into the mud with him, and everyone knows it?"
His barb hit its mark. With a cry of outrage, Lucie tried to twist out of his painful grip, but before she could free herself Stephen jerked her toward him and stared down into her eyes. "It's time you faced the facts, Lucie, and looked the truth in the eye," he said flatly. Lucie frantically searched her mind for a retort, but before she could answer, he bent and covered her mouth with his.
Lucie swayed under the hot fury of his kiss, and of his hands as they left her shoulders, sliding down her back to encircle her waist. He pulled her closer, until she could feel the hard length of his body against hers. Her hands were pressed against his chest, and she could feel the slow, steady beat of his heart through the clean, crisp cotton of his shirt. Stephen kissed her slowly, hungrily, tasting her sudden, salty tears and the sweetness of her mouth. Murmuring something against her lips, he brought one hand up and entwined it in her hair.
The heat of his skin, the roughness of his face exhilarated her, terrified her. She tried to turn her head, tried to catch her breath and tell him to stop, but he only held her tighter, his mouth tracing the lines of her jaw, her throat. She heard his voice through the roaring in her ears: “Oh no, querida, don't push me away."
He buried his face in her neck, his lips seeking out her tender flesh until she gasped. She was dizzy, blinded, her senses melting into a warm, delicious river that flowed through her entire body. Inexplicably she raised her hands to his face and brought his mouth back to hers, knowing only that she needed to return his kisses .
This was what it was like, she thought with something akin to triumph, the passion she had suspected but never known. All these months, when Thierry's fumbling, painful attentions had left her cold and lonely, dreading the next time, she had been secretly afraid that she would never know what it was to welcome a man's touch. Suddenly, here was Stephen, who had always seemed so remote and untouchable, taking her into the warm, rock-hard circle of his arms as if he would never release her. And even as she let herself be carried away by the feel of him, she marveled at the unexpected gentleness concealed underneath his arrogant, possessive touch. She slid her hands around his neck and molded her body to his with a shudder of utter abandon. He smelled of starch and shaving soap and saddle leather, and his hair was soft, entwined in her fingertips.
Stephen paused for a moment at the swiftness, the completeness of her response; then he gathered her fiercely to him, letting his hands explore the warm curves of her body, kissing her as if her mouth were the source of life and sustenance. "Lovely," he murmured against her lips.
Suddenly, a pained moan rose from Thierry's inert form on the chair, and Stephen froze, his arms still around her. The world came rushing back in all its stark reality, and with a sob, Lucie wrenched herself from Stephen's grasp . Her knees scarcely supported her and her breathing was wild and ragged, as if she had run a great distance.
She could not look at Stephen, too afraid to see the expression on his face. Instead, she glanced over at Thierry. His eyes were still closed, his face slack; he muttered her name in his sleep. Trembling, Lucie turned, searching for Stephen's eyes in the half-darkness. There was a long silence, and then he spoke from the shadows .
"How easy it is to forget that you are a married woman. Your pardon, Madame Chabrier." And he was gone.