Meet Giles St. Clair from BETRAYED BY SHADOWS . . .
Giles turned to the woman standing at his side to find Charlotte Caissie regarding him with an all too insightful smile.
“If you stare any harder, you’re going to knock her over.”
He grinned, not bothering to deny it, and continued his rapt perusal of Brigit MacCreedy as she descended the stairs.
By all the Saints, who’d have guessed the bedraggled female who’d collapsed in his backseat would clean up to such an eyeful!
With her pale porcelain skin and blazing red hair, she was smoldering sex appeal in a curvy bottle-green dress. And the way she moved said she knew it. Brigit MacCreedy was a woman who could work an entrance.
Giles had a healthy appreciation for all things fine and female. His admiration for the NOPD detective currently busting his chops was a prime example. The image of her flashing his boss in lusty Big Easy fashion was burned in a favorite part of his memory. He viewed women the way a connoisseur valued art, noting textures, exquisite lines, and technique: with an eye for the beauty of things he could never possess.
Brigit MacCreedy was worthy of her own special showing. She had a rare, almost mythical appeal, so earthy in her sexuality yet unblemished in her perfection. The impossibly red hair blazed like a setting sun searing water. The tempting curve of her cheek and long, graceful neck, the artfully rouged lips with their pouty upper peaks and luscious lower swell, the arch of her brows so descriptively beckoning and yet disdainful. The way the sinuous drape of her dress cupped full breasts, showed off a tiny waist, and flared over sassy hips, leaving delicious legs bare all the way down to the kind of sexy shoes worn to get a lover all juiced up. The fact that she was an unnatural creature, like her brother, only heightened the appeal.
Because looking was stirring a need for some forbidden touching, Giles was wise enough to direct his stare elsewhere.
“What’s her story?” he asked, already intrigued by the teasers he’d glimpsed so far.
“The last time she was in town, her lover died trying to kill Max. If her story was from Grimm’s, she wouldn’t be one of the characters you’d root for.”
Why wasn’t he surprised? Still . . . “Oh, I don’t know,” Giles mused, risking another quick peek that quickly became a drawn-out inspection. “I rather like a lady with a little darkness in her heart.”
A snort. “Careful, or this one will feed you yours.”
“But not necessarily taken.” Charlotte shook her head. “Men. Flash a little cleavage and lead them around by the oral fixation.”
He pried his attention from the generous crevice in question to laugh. “We’re all just big dumb animals. Some just a little more animal than others.” He draped an arm about her shoulders for a fond squeeze.
“Mr. St. Clair?”
The sound of her voice giving his respiratory system a convulsive crush, Giles smiled down at the lovely Brigit MacCreedy. Up close, her beauty stunned. “I said time to tidy up. I should have said transform.” Admiration and awe rasped through his tone.
She granted him a small smile. “A girl has to look her best on such an occasion.”
He could think of no reply, his brain having gone completely to mush as blood flow was directed elsewhere. Charlotte poked him in the ribs and muttered, “Drooling.”
He shook off his daze to make a quick introduction. “Detective, this is Silas’s sister, Bridget.”
“Bri-zheet” came the curt correction.
Touchy. His smile widened as he crooned, “Bri-zheet. Miz MacCreedy, Charlotte Caissie, Max’s—”
“Very significant other,” Charlotte supplied, extending a direct hand.
Brigit took it in a firm clasp, strong female to strong female. “Is Max here? I’d like to thank him for not eating Silas’s heart over that little misunderstanding about his father, and to advise him not to get my only brother killed.”
“No,” Charlotte replied, a slight pinch to her voice. “He couldn’t make it.”
“Speaking of Silas,” Giles interrupted, “he’s been looking for you. I’ll take you to him.”
Brigit placed her hand on the arm he offered, nodding to the detective. “We’ll have to make some time for a little girl talk later.”
Cee Cee showed her teeth noncommittally. “It was nice to meet you.”
Giles steered her away before the potent waves of estrogen got the better of his balance.
“So,” Brigit murmured, entwining her arm with his, “is this dress more suitable?”
He laughed. “You know it is. You didn’t have to ask me. Goddesses are usually well aware of the effect they have on mere mortals.”
“You flatter me.”
“No, I don’t.” He knew her type. Brigit MacCreedy appreciated clean, refined things within a climate-controlled setting, and people who were polite, pretty, and as easily manipulated for her comfort. “Just telling the plain fact you wanted to hear.”
A brief silence, then her husky chuckle made things more uncomfortable in the area of his groin. “You are a very forthright man, Mr. St. Clair.”
“Telling the truth keeps me from having to remember the lie later.”
“I’ll have to remember that.”
He casually placed his free hand over the one she had resting on his sleeve. Soft and smooth, as he’d known it would be. The way all her pale skin would feel beneath his touch. Since he had the advantage of height, his gaze caressed from her nearly bared shoulder to the luscious swell of her breasts.
He wondered if that delicate skin freckled in the sun, finding that probability unbearably hot.
Once inside the spacious parlor, Brigit spotted Silas. Her gaze lifted, all dark, mysterious, and filled with intrigues he’d be wise not to explore.
“Thank you for the escort, Mr. St. Clair, but I can find my own way from here.” There was a subtle shift from pleasant to almost predatory in her tone as she purred, “I appreciate your assistance, as I will your discretion.”
“Happy to oblige in both things.”
He watched her cross the rest of the room with a hypnotic swing to those generous hips. So, the beguiling Miz MacCreedy didn’t want her brother to know that she’d arrived covered in someone else’s blood.
Interesting. And thankfully, not a problem he had to add to his many others.
Giles liked things arranged in neat, straightforward columns. Days of the week, morning/afternoon, day/night, black/white, right/wrong, good/bad. When something didn’t fit or fell into a gray area, that was when his life got complicated. Better to keep things simple so he wouldn’t have to dwell on them too deeply. He’d learned that from Jimmy Legere.
Living under the mobster’s roof had taught him a lot about the world. Generally, that it was a cruel, merciless place, but there was beauty to be found even in the meanest of circumstances if one looked for it hard enough. Jimmy called beauty the silver lining that quickly tarnished.
Jimmy had been no philosopher, but he’d managed to see right to the truth of things, the same way he’d read the naive college boy Giles once was. Things were usually exactly what they seemed, and no amount of wanting and dreaming would ever change that.
Brigit MacCreedy was one of those beautiful things that would appear in his harsh, ugly world to make him want and dream again. Watching her was like watching a sunrise, like seeing those first bright spring flowers pushing through the dead remains of winter. She was like poetry and music that teased the heart and transported the mind. But only for a moment. He knew the second he got closer, the minute he looked deeper, that surface loveliness would begin to dull and darken. And things would get complicated.
So he’d watch from a distance and appreciate what he saw without having to put her into one of the two basic categories that arranged the way he viewed everyone he meet. He hadn’t learned that from Jimmy. That was the lesson his own father taught him.
There were good guys and there were bad guys.
Jimmy Legere had been a Class A Number One bad guy. He’d lived every day of his life off the misery and domination of others and had never apologized for it. He was a criminal, a murderer, a bully, and a cheat who surrounded himself with those who exemplified the same characteristic. Giles had no illusions. He was a bad guy, too.
Natural and unnatural. Those were two categories he’d believed in since he was a child growing up on the bayou. There were humans and animals, but also those who walked as both. He’d known that long before he’d met Max Savoie, Jimmy’s ferocious bodyguard, and added new columns to his list. There were humans. And there were Shape-shifters. Today that column held the names of most of those celebrating in Jimmy’s former house of criminal intent.
“Got a minute?”
Giles turned to see Silas MacCreedy: good guy, Shape-shifter, friend. And today a new category: married man.
“Sure.” He followed the shifter cop out onto the wide front porch.
“I need a favor.” MacCreedy wasn’t one to mince words; Giles liked that about him.
Silas passed him a piece of paper. “That’s my number in case of an emergency. Call and leave a message. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
Giles tucked the slip into his pocket. “Thanks, Mom. Everything’s going to be fine here. Go and enjoy all those things I’d be doing if I were in your place, and don’t give us another thought.”
Silas smiled. “That’s not the favor.”
“Oh. Thought I was getting off easy.”
The detective’s mouth took a wry twist. “Not hardly. I’d like you to keep an eye on my sister.”
“As pleasant a task as that might be, she’s a big girl who doesn’t look like she needs a babysitter.”
“Wrong on both counts.” Silas paced to the rail and Giles waited for him to continue. “I love my sister, but she is the most maddening female. Given a good or a bad choice, she’ll inevitably pick the bad one, whether it’s words or actions or men.”
Giles began to think that being a bad guy might have its advantages.
“She’s going to be staying here until I get back and have time to decide what to do with her.”
“Staying here?” Giles’s heart rate took a giant leap. “What kind of trouble could she get into?”
Silas gave a short laugh. “I don’t even want to think about it.” His shoulders rose and fell heavily. “That business with the attack on Max when his driver, Pete, was killed.”
Giles’s expression tightened. “What about it?”
“She was involved with the man behind it, maybe even encouraged him. Now he’s dead, and his family might be looking for someone to pay for it.”
“Ah. So you think they might come here?”
“I don’t know, but she’s worried, so I’m worried.”
It might have been a good time to tell Silas about the blood on her clothes and her skin. A good guy would have given up that truth, man-to-man, in a heartbeat. But Giles said nothing, knowing Silas would cancel his plans for his sister’s sake—and that would put him in the middle of a lot more drama than he was prepared for.
Another part of him whispered it might be a good time to look like a good guy in the lovely Brigit MacCreedy’s eyes by saying nothing. By being the one to protect her if trouble came her way.
“She’ll come to no harm here. You’ve my word on it. I’ll watch over her like a lion with a lamb.”
Silas took his hand in a firm clasp, warning, “She’s no lamb, Giles, and she’ll fleece you if she can. Don’t trust her for a second, and don’t let her out of your sight.”
Meet Brigit MacCreedy from BETRAYED BY SHADOWS . . .
Brigit wasn’t sure what time it was when she awoke, but she sensed the lateness of the hour. As soon as her brother and his bride had left, she’d slipped upstairs and beneath the covers to lose herself to an exhausted sleep she’d hoped would last until morning. It had been all too brief and not in the least bit restful.
She’d dreamed not of recent nightmares but of the past. She had Tina Babineau to thank for that.
The big house was quiet and steeped in shadows. She rolled over and tried to sink back into slumber, but she couldn’t shut her mind down. Agitation prowled like a thief bent on stealing her sense of security, making her once again that preteen girl clutching her best friend as death screams echoed below. She could hear them still in the silence of the old house. Her father. Her mother. Then nothing, which had been worse.
Because of Tina Babineau, the child her mother had been forced to bear to link two great families. The child they’d hidden rather than surrender her to the father’s brutal clan. The child who’d been raised in safety and security because of the horrendous sacrifice Brigit’s parents had made; the child who’d gotten to live a normal, happy life while Brigit’s own was a minefield of treachery, danger, and despair.
And now they were under the same roof. Like sisters.
Needing to rinse the taste of that from her mouth, Brigit slipped out from beneath the silky sheets and padded to the bathroom for a glass of water. In the mirror, her face swam like a ghost’s, features pale, eyes swollen with a grief too terrible to be expunged by the passing of years. She missed them still, their loss a huge, aching malignancy that continued to spread without ease now that she was alone and uncertain. But safe. For the moment, she was safe.
She was surprised to see that the clothes she’d left soaking in the sink were clean and pressed on a hanger. Now someone other than her burly driver knew she’d been tangled up in violence prior to her arrival.
Considering the owner of the big estate, bloodstains were probably not all that uncommon.
She rubbed her palms up and down her arms as if they still ran with blood. Her stomach clenched against the surge of remembered terror, suddenly so close, so vivid, she could almost smell the pungent stink of cigarette and fear. That was over. She’d survived it, escaped it, and could put it behind her. Not so easy to turn away from was the thought of her cousin Kendra, left to her own inadequate devices.
Too keyed up to remain in her room, Brigit wrapped herself in the plush robe hanging on the door and wandered down the wide, curving staircase. To enjoy the illusion of freedom, she stepped out through the front door to inhale the cool if heavy night air. And the scent of cigarette hanging on it.
Her pulse lunged like a startled deer as she spun, eyes wide, body tensing into fight-or-flight mode.
It wasn’t the dead come to claim her. It was only Giles St. Clair sitting on an old-fashioned glider, rocking slowly while having an evening smoke.
“Evening, Miz MacCreedy.” His voice was a low, soothing rumble. “Catch up on your sleep, did you?”
Fright changing into fierce defensiveness, she clipped out “Yes, thank you.”
She made an expansive gesture. “Where would I go, Mr. St. Clair? I believe we’re in the middle of nowhere I want to be.” When he made no reply, she sighed. “I thought the night air might help me think through some things.”
The cigarette glowed bright and hot. “Anything I can help you with?”
“I can’t imagine how, but thank you for asking.”
“Your brother asked me to look out for you. Just letting you know so you wouldn’t think I had designs of my own.”
He had her complete attention. “Silas asked you to spy on me?”
“Not in so many words.”
“In what words, exactly?” she demanded. How dare Silas treat her like a wayward child who needed supervision! Turning her over to this—this stranger, this human! When the human in question remained silent, she growled in aggravation. “I don’t need someone looking out for me, so I’d appreciate you keeping your distance.”
“That’s what I told him.”
Her eyes narrowed into slits. She could see him lounging on the wooden swing, wearing the suit coat over an open-collared white shirt, though well-worn jeans and tennis shoes had replaced their dresser counterparts. He was a good-looking man in a ruggedly conservative way that usually didn’t appeal to her. She liked pretty men with pretty manners.
There was nothing the least bit pretty about Giles St. Clair. His hair was a close-cut basic brown with a touch of rather sexy silvering at the temples that made it hard to judge his age. Mid- to late thirties was her guess. His obvious time spent outdoors had left creases at the corners of his eyes that deepened attractively with his frequent smile. His big frame was as relaxed as his tone.
He appeared a gentle giant, with those calm blue-gray eyes and easy movements, but she wasn’t fooled by that impression.
“Don’t think for a minute that you can tell me what to do or that I’ll listen to anything you have to say.”
A slow smile. “I didn’t think that even for a second.”
That made her pause. “So what does he expect you to do?”
“Help you if you need it and get in the way of you doing anything foolish. Otherwise, I’ll be keeping that distance.”
“You do know that you’re just a puny human and I can tear through you like a slice of prime rib.”
His teeth flashed white. “I’ve always considered myself more of a slow-cooked, chuck-roast kind of fellow. Meaty, a bit of gristle, but tender if basted properly. And I think I could take you. I know a thing or two about your kind. You can growl, scratch, and bite, but for the most part, you can’t change into anything more dangerous than the average female.”
“You would wrestle me to the ground, Mr. St. Clair?”
“Only if I had to. And I’d try not to enjoy it.”
Why had she ever thought her thuggish jailer pleasant and vaguely amusing?
“I’ll do my best not to provoke any physical contact.” She could feel the hair bristling on the back of her neck and wished just once she could transform to scare the ever-loving smugness out of him. But he was right. She couldn’t go through him. So that left around him or over him.
She tamed her tone to gain sympathy. “I need to get some clothes and some other things. I had to pack in a hurry.”
“An evening dress and heels wouldn’t have been the first things I thought to grab.”
She almost smiled. “I should think not. You don’t have the figure for it.”
“How do you know? I happen to think I’ve got damn fine legs.”
She laughed; she couldn’t help herself. “Would you take me into New Orleans so I can get something to wear?”
“Oh, I don’t think we need to go that far. We have one of those where-America-shops-type stores up the road a piece.”
Her good humor fell. “I would rather go naked.”
“I’d rather you go naked, too, but it’s up to you, Bridget.”
“That’s not my name. You are a crude, disgusting man.”
“Now you’re hurting my feelings. And I so hoped we’d get along.”
“Are you or are you not an employee here?”
“I am. But I don’t work for you.”
Brigit swept back inside, slamming the door behind her, leaving Giles to leisurely finish his smoke. And ponder.
Whatever had covered her in blood had left its stain upon her. For a moment there, before she yanked up her impressive bluster, she’d been scared witless. The notion of anyone in his care shivering helplessly at the hint of threat didn’t sit well with Giles.
Whether that threat was real or imagined was something he’d have to find out.