A DARING MASQUERADE
A move from Paris to New Orleans brings disaster to Elise Plaisance’s predictable life as a lady’s maid. The son of her grief-stricken mistress disappears, and Elise becomes involved in a web of deceit when she turns to a cunning gentleman for help finding the missing boy.
A CAPTAIN BEWITCHED
Captain Jesse Cross has journeyed to New Orleans with General Jackson’s army, but his biggest battle is one of the heart when he falls for a French girl cloaked in mystery.
With the city on the brink of war, their romance is born in the darkness of a moonlit courtyard and never meant to last forever.
A FUTURE IMPERILED
Deceived by an adversary and haunted by her tragic past, Elise must risk everything to rescue her mistress’s son before all is lost, and Jesse knows he has to stop her even if it means sacrificing his life to save a lady.
Captain Jesse Cross strode through the blanket of thick fog that rose from the banks of the Mississippi river and filled the dark streets of the French Quarter. A discarded playbill from an opera house lay in a mud puddle, and the muffled sound of piano music came from a closed theater where a musician practiced after the show.
New Orleans was on the brink of war. Nevertheless, on any given night, a man could attend an opera, a play, or a concert in this muggy city filled with wealthy residents who loved to be entertained.
Also, on any given night, a man could be robbed, shot, or stabbed to death. Crime thrived in the cultural city, which had its share of cutthroats and thieves who prowled the streets at night, looking for unwitting victims.
Jesse had no plans to become one of those victims.
The navy greatcoat he wore over his uniform brushed the tops of his riding boots and concealed the flintlock pistol he cradled against his thigh. As the moon ducked behind a cluster of heavy clouds, he listened carefully to the quiet footsteps that echoed his own. He had been followed since leaving a tavern on Rue Dauphine.
He continued at a steady pace, walking south on Rue Toulouse. Townhouses and shops jammed against sidewalks called banquettes in this city where French was the primary language.
The midnight hour approached. The houses were shuttered, and the streets deserted. There was no good reason to think the man trailing behind him was just out for a jaunt, not in the middle of a winter night.
Jesse picked up his pace as the damp, cold air breezed about him.
He longed to be elsewhere. Lying in front of a warm fireside, with a glass of good wine and a woman eager to ride him. That would be such a joy right now. When had he last known such pleasure? He would have to dig deep in his memory to answer that question.
He tightened his grip on his pistol. The sound of footsteps grew closer. Faster now in the darkness. Coming up behind him while he walked along the banquette as if he suspected nothing. He drew in a steadying breath.
There was nothing like the element of surprise.
He came to an abrupt halt, wheeled around and seized the cloaked figure behind him. He forced his adversary against a pair of wooden gates and shoved the barrel of his flintlock against his opponent’s gut.
“You chose the wrong man to rob.” He cocked the pistol.
A silent moment passed. There was no struggle, and he caught the heady scent of garden flowers and musk. Where the hell was that coming from?
“Capitaine Cross,” a breathless voice addressed him. “I do not mean to rob you.”
Jesse blinked. The voice belonged to a female with a French accent.
“You’re a woman?” He let out a ragged breath and lowered the pistol. “A woman?”
“Oui,” she responded in French. “I am.”
“My God.” His adrenaline ebbed, but his outrage remained. “Have you lost your mind?”
“I am sorry if I have, um,” she paused as if she were searching for the right word, “distressed you.”
“Distressed me?” He shoved away from her. “You slipped up behind me. What were you thinking? It’s a complete wonder I didn’t kill you.”
“I was trying to catch up to you, but you walk so fast.” She shrugged. “Like a man going to put out a fire.”
Affronted, he stiffened. He always walked fast. “I’m not one to shuffle along and waste time.”
She straightened her cloak and caught her breath. “Shall we take a stroll, Capitaine?”
How did she know him?
He tugged her onto the banquette where a street lamp hung from a rope suspended across the street. A haze of light shimmered through the fog. He stepped back to get a better look at his quarry.
A black hooded cloak, with beaded trim, shrouded her from head to toe. An excellent garment for pursuing a man in the dark. The deep hood obscured her face, except for the half mask she wore. The sparkling gemstones scattered across her silver mask winked at him.
He couldn’t believe a woman was out at this late hour following him.
You could expect anything to happen in this bizarre city.
He shoved his pistol in his waist belt. He figured he knew who was behind this caper. “Bonnard hatched this little plot, didn’t he?”
His cousin, Lieutenant Bonnard Reid, had been enthralled by the numerous whorehouses in the city. Bonnard acted like a kid running from one candy shop to another. He visited a different whorehouse every night and returned bragging about how the women were so adept in the art of pleasure.
Bonnard had begged Jesse to join him on his escapades, but Jesse had been too busy setting up the general’s headquarters. He figured his cousin had taken the matter into his own hands.
“Wait until I see him tomorrow. He won’t pull a stunt like this again.”
“I do not know the man you call Bonnard.” She repeated the name awkwardly.
He frowned. “But you are here intentionally?”
“Oui.” She stepped forward, closer to him.
The seductive scent of flowers and musk intoxicated him. Like her face, her body was hidden. It was all shadows and secrets beneath the cloak except for the flirty mask with its twinkling gems, but his imagination pictured her as a beautiful woman. Nude, of course.
“I am your liaison.” Her sensual voice was a mere whisper carried in the wind.
“Liaison?” The implication was so intimate that it aroused him. He reminded himself she could look like a toad for all he knew. She could have a husband and ten kids waiting at home for her.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patricia Preston is a Southern author who writes historical and contemporary romance as well as humorous Southern fiction. Her publishers include New Love Stories, True Romance, Affaire de Coeur, Cloverdale Press, The Blue and Gray Magazine, Sea Oats Review, and Carina Press. She won William Faulkner Award for Short Fiction, the Lone Star Writing Competition for Historical Romance, and Harlequin’s World’s Best Romances Short Story Competition.
Her current titles include a historical romance, To Save a Lady, two humorous short stories, “The Yard Sale” and “Laid to Rest” available on Amazon, and a historical novella, Almost an Outlaw.
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