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~Mini Book Excerpt Monday~

Jul 11, 2011

~ Masked by Moonlight ~
The Moonlight Series
Book 1

     There was no way to drop in unexpectedly on Jimmy Legere.  The eight-foot walls surrounding his sprawling estate were studded with surveillance cameras that could summon a crew of armed men in an instant. But as they approached, the wrought-iron gates stood open, almost as if to welcome guests at four in the morning. As if they'd been expected.
       
      She followed the long drive beneath a heavy lace of live oaks, through the formal gardens where statuary stood like cold, nude ghosts under the waning moonlight. In the daytime, the place had a faded elegance to it. At night, it gave her the creeps. She parked so their vehicle blocked the front steps and hesitated within its safety for a minute. There was enough of the old ways steeped in her heritage to get her nape bristling in uncomfortable wariness--a kind of walking-over-graves nervousness, making her wonder if
there were more ghosts roaming behind the pale stucco walls. The ghosts of those Legere had killed.

     Shaking off the superstitious shivers, she got out of the car. The sound of the door slamming echoed back off the mist. She didn't bother giving the grand home an admiring glance; she'd been there before. With Babineau following, she marched up the marble steps, surprised that no one had arrived to intercept them. No one ever caught Jimmy napping, which was why he was still alive. The wide porch was darkly shadowed, smelling of verbena and musty wood. She strode across it toward the massive front door.

     "Kinda early to be making house calls, isn't it, detective?"

     The low voice came out of the blackness, so close that she felt warm breath against her cheek. It took Cee Cee a moment to swallow the heart that  had catapulted into her throat. She'd nearly leapt out of her fancy new T-Bob Gautreaux-stained boots.

     "But not too early for you to be up and around," she countered in a gruff tone to cover her start of alarm. She could sense rather than see him, standing right at her elbow, a forceful presence cloaked in stillness. No
wonder no alert had been spread at their arrival. Jimmy had his big dog out on the porch.

     "That's a new perfume you're wearing. I like it. Your hair's different, too."

     "All just for you, Max. Now step back or I'm going to have to pat you down."

     "Would you?" A flash of white teeth. "I'd like that." But he did glide to a less invasive distance, to where his eyes gleamed from the shadows.

     She took a breath, letting the jitters settle, then nodded back toward the road. "Expecting company?"

     "I could tell it was you the minute you turned onto River Road."

     Max Savoie had a way of saying strange, impossible things like that as if they were true.

     "Gonna ask us in, or keep us out here in the rain like we were trying to sell you something you didn't need?"

     His voice was deep and smooth with just a subtle ripple, like rich cognac in a warm glass. "Where are my manners? You know it's always a pleasure to see you, no matter what you're selling."

     Because she was still simmering over Babineau's earlier comment, she asked, "You ever mistake me for a hooker, Max?"

     Another glint of strong white teeth. "If I had, I'da been counting out twenties."

     When he crossed between her and the front door, she got a clear look at Savoie. Dark, tall, and bold. Jimmy Legere's right hand. His silent enforcer. An always-frustrating enigma. No one knew anything about him other than the name he used, a name that led to nothing but dead ends in any of their databases. No birth certificate, no Social Security number, no driver's license, health insurance, tax records--nothing. His past was as inaccessible as the expression on his face when he turned toward her with the door held wide.

     "Apres vous."

     She and Babineau entered the dark, cavernous foyer, Savoie bringing up the rear. She heard him say soft and low to someone unseen, "Wake up, Jimmy. The police are here." Then he preceded them into one of the highceilinged parlors and turned up the lights, unmasking himself from the shadows with a dramatic flare.

     Cee Cee didn't spend a lot of time admiring men for their looks, but something about Max Savoie's face arrested her each time she saw him.

     He wasn't handsome, not even attractive in the traditional sense. He was rugged strength cut into sharp planes and rough angles. Confident without being cocky, powerful without aggression, he exuded complete
control over what he allowed the world to see, which was usually damned little.

     The fact that he could seem so forceful behind such a calm, immobile front impressed her. Not much did. Max was a man who wasted no unnecessary words or movements, his unblinking stare taking in everything
without revealing anything through eyes the color of wet verdigris, beneath lids heavy with guarded disdain.

     Or amusement. She often got the feeling that he was laughing at her on some private level, which irritated her. But the odd way he sensed things not apparent to others made her nervous. Sounds, smells, movements. He was alert to them like a mastiff on a short chain. And he missed nothing when it came to her--not the slightest nuance, every tiny alteration, in a way that she'd find alarmingly obsessive if he ever acted on it with more than slightly flirtatious words. Who the hell noticed a new perfume applied modestly to pulse points almost a full day ago? Wondering made those pulse points flutter.

     "Coffee?" he asked as they moved toward the center of the big room.

     "That would be nice." Babineau spoke up to assert his presence, aware of the way his partner and Legere's bodyguard were atuned to each other, and not liking it.

     A slight smile touched Savoie's lips. "I was wondering if you brought any. We weren't exactly expecting company."

     "This isn't exactly a social call," Cee Cee corrected.

     That cool stare held hers. "Too bad." Without glancing down, he asked, "Who's that on your shoes? Anyone I know?"

     She held on to her surprise, drawling, "You tell me."

     "DNA isn't exactly my specialty."

     "What is, Max?"

     The smile remained. He didn't answer.

     He was probably a killer. He was probably one of the most dangerous and deadly men she knew, which was why Jimmy Legere kept him so close at hand.

     "Is our unnamed friend the reason for your visit?"

     This time she didn't answer. She was noting the way he was dressed: quite nicely for almost four in the morning, in a crisp white shirt and black pants. And his inevitable red Converse gym shoes. All fresh and spotless.

     "Mind telling me what has you up so early?"

     "Still up. Playing games of chance."

     "Here in the house?"

     "Upstairs."

     "Witnesses?"

     "I'd rather not give her name, unless you need to know it." A pause; then he leaned in close. "I'd rather it was you."

     Her insides tightened up unexpectedly, and she was about to tell him off when the shock of his nearness hit home.

     He'd intruded into the personal space she held as strictly off-limits,sometimes even with excessive physical force. She didn't like being crowded or handled and wasn't shy about letting that be known. Most didn't need to be told more than once. But for some reason, Savoie never seemed to get the message. Maybe because she let him get away with it.

     He was the only man she allowed to move in on her without snapping to immediate back-the-fuck-off defensiveness. She didn't know why she'd never felt threatened by him, this big man who was most likely a ruthless murderer.

     She could feel his heat without actual contact, and though it was unsettling, it didn't set off the expected alarm bells. Because it wasn't alarm that unsettled her. It was something else--something quiet, something deep, like a secret her soul knew but wouldn't share with her mind. What was it about him that tugged a blanket of calm over instinctive agitation?

     He never touched her, not even a casual brush of his hand or unintentional bump of his body. Sometimes she perversely found herself wondering what it would be like, that contact he withheld so purposefully.

     I'd rather it was you.

     Though her heart slammed against her ribs, her reply was defensively cold. "That's not going to happen, Max."

     He eased back, moving with startling grace for a man his size. "I can dream, can't I?"

     She doubted that she was the stuff of his dreams, but her pulse didn't slow down until the arrival of Jimmy Legere. As the crime lord's wheelchair rolled into the room, Max retreated to become a silent, motionless sentinel at his back.

Visit Nancy Gideon to read more
http://www.nancygideon.com/



Stay tuned to more great excerpts and reviews from the Moonlight Series by Nancy Gideon!

To view a my review for Masked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon click here!

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