Yesterday I unveiled the blurb to Duty Bound. Today–I’ve got an excerpt for you! I hope to set a release date–very-very-soon!
Officer Mathieu Mouton sat at one of the four-top tables along the windows of Café Du Monde and gazed out at the darkening city, a sense of foreboding deep in his gut. The glitz and glitter of New Orleans stared back at him, like a young woman hungry for her beau. If it wasn’t for his sister, Mathieu would have been at home flipping through the channels, scratching his dog, Gator’s head, trying to put another week behind him.
Instead, he checked his phone again.
She needs your help, Mathieu.
He grimaced at the echo of his sister’s words as she’d cornered him in their mamma’s kitchen after the weekly family dinner. Damsels in distress were a dime a dozen in New Orleans and getting entangled in a charity project was not on his to do list. But no one said no to Lola. Not even grandmère. If Lola wasn’t poised to take over the Assistant District Attorney spot opening up in the spring, grandmère would have made Lola a voodoo queen. It ran in their family since grandmère’s grandmère.
The coffee in his cup was cold, the beignet untouched.
If this broad didn’t show up in the next…
The café door opened and a bell chimed. A woman wearing a cherry red coat that covered her from knee to chin stepped in and shook the chill from her body. She carried a backpack that was stuffed until the seams strained.
Mathieu sat forward, propping his elbows on the table as he studied the patron.
She turned, honey blonde hair streaked with golden brown flipping over her shoulder as she surveyed the room. Her eyes snagged on him immediately and he sucked in a deep breath.
“C’est sa couillion.” He was a raving lunatic.
No wonder Lola hadn’t told him the name of the woman he was meeting. She started toward him. Even Mathieu could feel the cosmic pull between their two bodies. It’s what had drawn him to her all those years ago—and was the reason he’d left.
“Lisette Babineaux, haven’t seen you in a minute,” he drawled, rising to shake her hand.
Tricky, Lola. Real tricky.
Lisette’s gaze flicked from his hand to his face before she put her small palm against his. Her skin was still soft and her nails were chipped, but painted with a pale pink polish. Despite the good quality of her clothing, it was dirty and worn. That didn’t make sense. The Babineaux family was well off, and their little princess had never wanted for anything. But a lot changed in the years since he’d left her. He wasn’t the same boy he’d been back then.
She’d always been delicate, refined, as if she’d stepped out of a painting of some debutant ball. Too fragile for a man with his dark tastes, but he’d hungered after her regardless. In his inexperience, he’d thought he could be a different man for her, one who didn’t crave bondage with his women. He’d been wrong.
A handful of years hadn’t changed her appearance all that much. Her hair was shorter, her eyes just as green, and the smattering of freckles preserved the air of youth about her, but there was a wariness to her that was new.
“I know. It’s good to see you.” She unbuttoned her coat and draped it over the back of her chair. Under the coat she wore a long-sleeved black shirt and jeans. Nothing too flashy, but it had never been her clothes that drew the attention.
“Have a seat, please.” Mathieu didn’t know what to make of the woman settling in across from him. They’d been something to each other once. “Lola tells me you’re in a spot of trouble.”
Lisette chuckled, a deep, husky sound that was music to his ears. “That’s it? Tell me all your problems? No hello? Hi? How you been?”
Mathieu studied her, or more accurately, the woman she’d become. The black knit shirt, jeans and knee-high boots spoke of someone trying not to stick out, and yet she chose to wear a come-get-me red coat. Lisette was in trouble and didn’t know how to handle it. If Mathieu listened to his cock, he’d take her home under the false premise of protecting her from whatever evil had her running. And then she would run from him.
This was a bad idea.
Another woman, not all that long ago, had needed his help. Her pleas for protection, promises of love and affection had dried up. She’d been out of his life barely a year, and he’d gotten drunk at the small apartment he and his dog now called home to celebrate; it had felt sad and pathetic instead.
“It’s getting late. I’d rather we cut to the chase, if you don’t mind.” Mathieu would hear her out, give her some advice and send her on her way. The Babineaux family should be capable of taking care of their own.
Lisette blinked and her mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. She blew out a breath and shook her head, appearing to collect herself. “This is not how I pictured this happening.”
“Right, sorry about that.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you are.” She pointed at his cup. “You drinking that?”
He shook his head.
“Do you mind?”
“Help yourself.” He pushed the cup and pastry toward her.
Lisette gulped down at least half of the cold coffee before setting the mug down with a clink. She sighed and folded her hands on the table in front of her. He smothered memories wrapped in warmth of Lisette doing exactly this little act with her hands a number of times before saying something serious.
“You don’t want to help me, do you?” Her gaze seemed to bore past his skin, straight to his soul, and for a moment, he was back on campus, sitting under the magnolia trees, a blossom in her hair.
Mathieu shook the memory from his mind. He hadn’t seen that girl in a long time.
“It’s not that I don’t want to help you, but it seems awfully odd. Come to a cop, off duty? Wouldn’t it be better if you went to the authorities?”
“You don’t even know what’s going on.” She frowned.
“Are you going to turn me down without even hearing me out?” Her voice rose as she spoke until she realized the few other patrons were staring and she ducked her head.
As a police officer, it was Mathieu’s nature and conditioning to protect people, but he’d learned the hard way that damsels in distress were better served within the bounds of the law. He couldn’t pretend he knew better. When it came down to it, he was part of a system of government that did its job when people allowed it.
“I’ll give you what advice I can. I even know who’s on duty tonight.” Mathieu knew this decision was the right one; trying to save her would destroy him in the process. But he hated saying no to those cypress green eyes. It tore something out of him, and God knew he didn’t have much left to lose.