Secret Desires Pt. 01bymadam_noe©
This is a novel-length work, written as an erotic romantic thriller novel about 1 woman and 2 men. There is light bisexuality between the men. The plot is a mystery (of course, it's how I roll) and sex may be spaced out.
This is an unedited first draft, as is almost all my work on here, so please if you comment do so as a critique reader, not an editor. I have one of those already.
I do welcome ratings and feedback, and I hope you enjoy!
Coming home felt like traveling back in time. Gone were the beautiful mountains of ornate concrete cheek-to-jowl with towers of glass plate, the sidewalks filled with thousands of people, the noise and bustle that was the heart of the big city. Now Shannon Moreau could drive with top down on her Mustang, letting in the fresh air as the trees grew thicker and the air more humid, and the world was calm and slow.
Belle Trouver hadn't changed much in the nine years she'd been gone. The town sign still had the little metal placard hanging underneath advertising the shrimp festival hanging by one chain and the old Ludwig farm still had skinny cows grazing in tall grass just south of the road in. However there was a strip mall to the north, complete with a fast food joint and a big-box retailer, and as she found the town square there was a national chain coffee shop. The modern age had finally reached her home town. As a kid that foray into the real age could only be found an hour away in Baton Rouge.
The square was still surrounded by many family owned one-story shops, and a few with a second story of scant apartments, most of it still thriving. The two-story department store was closed, angry signs about the big box by the highway filling the windows. Ancient Jack Morris still sat on a rocker outside the Bait 'n' Tackle smoking the same pipe he had all through her childhood.
Some of the people she recognized, many others she didn't. Nine years had changed a lot. Many waistlines were bigger, hair was shorter or longer, and there were a few new faces. Most glanced curiously at her car, only the older folks seemed to recognize it and their eyebrows raised over their sunglasses as she passed through, heading for the dirt track that took her into the swamp.
Aunt Charlotte's house was the first one off the road and Shannon turned in the drive, the tires skidding slightly on the bleached white gravel. By the time she stopped she had to slap three mosquitoes from her neck and the gators had spooked, roaring gently and heading further out into the water.
Charlotte waited for her at the dock, a tall, broad woman with leathered skin, brutally short black hair, and her usual outfit of masculine brown shapeless work clothes. She complemented the willows and cypress canopy covering them, equally timeless as the ancient trees. Removing her old Dutch corncob pipe she smiled slightly as Shannon stepped out with her gym bag in tow.
"Girl, you look skinny. City living ain't doin' you no good. C'mon on down, we'll get some good food in ya, stick to your ribs, and hear me out."
"I don't know why you couldn't get a cell phone like a normal person," Shannon grumped walking down to the little skiff waiting.
Charlotte stood with one combat boot on it, the other on the shore, leaning on the long pole she guided the boat with. "Ain't never had no house phone, no 'lectricity, don' need such fancy things. Besides, better you hear this from my own lips."
Stepping onto the skiff Shannon took the only seat, a piece of the old high school bleachers bolted on by the nearest neighbor, Jim Maurice, as a thank you for years of fresh baked bread from Charlotte. She held on as her aunt used the pole and pushed away. The sturdy woman was never the type to hug, the smile had been a surprise, and it made Shannon nervous.
Even being poled it was a short trip to the house on stilts. They took it silently as the swamp noises closed in on them, bringing back a rush of memories with the press and flex of humid heat.
She fought them. Leaving Belle Trouver had been the best decision of her life, and the hardest. There were good and bad memories here, all of them had helped make her who she was. In nine years up north only one memory had haunted her, and now everything reminded her of Aiden and Nick. All the nights of sneaking out on this very skiff, seeing Aiden in the drive leaning up against his daddy's Buick, filling out a t-shirt in the most indecent way, driving around with Nick and Lucy, raising hell as only teenagers could...all that was behind her. If any of them were as smart as she remembered they were long gone.
"How's Suzie?" Shannon asked as the skiff bumped against a stilt under the dull cypress house.
Charlotte pulled out the nylon rope and began tying the skiff off as they hit the small dock. "That's why I asked you here."
The bottom of Shannon's stomach lurched, but she knew better than to push her aunt. Grabbing her bag she stepped onto the new dock and saw there was another improvement, stairs had replaced the old ladder.
"I'm getting older. I'm still spry but that ladder pained me. Come on up, cher, I got a stew on."
It was easily ninety degrees but she didn't object. Truthfully no meal in Chicago had ever equaled one of Charlotte's. The stairs took them to the kitchen with one long window running the length of the outer wall, covered with only a hole-filled screen. The stove was wood burning and still going, the cast-iron pot bubbling slightly and smelling of heaven.
Charlotte crossed to it, grabbing the gym bag and setting it on top of the counter by the door. "Sit, sit, I got some lemonade in the ice box and some fresh bread."
"Thank you, Aunt Charlotte." Obediently she sat as her aunt stirred the pot, then opened an honest-to-goodness ice box and pulled out a pitcher of lemonade, fresh-squeezed. She jiggled it to stir the sugar as she pulled down a mason jar and filled it, sliding it across the ancient wood table. It was cypress, like everything there, polished to an almost glassy surface with age. Shannon stared at it as she took a sip and instantly she felt like she was seventeen, on the edge of adulthood, aching to escape the little town and experience life.
Charlotte sighed, slumping as she spooned stew into a cracked camping bowl. "You remember The Parkers?"
"The ones that own the auto lot or the ones who run the second hand store?"
Shannon almost slammed the glass down. "She didn't run off with Little Johnny, did she? He's eight years younger than us!"
"Not quite. Big Johnny ran for mayor and won two years ago. Suzie went to work for him before that and stayed on. Together, they went missing last month." Charlotte dropped that bomb as she brought the bowls and bread over, setting it all down with a clatter.
Emptying her pipe in the clay ashtray, the older woman pushed it away to butter a slice of bread. "She wasn't never as smart as you girl, she always figgered a man with money was her ticket outta here. My shame she took to a married man more than twice her age. She told me she was in trouble, I figgered she was in the family way, but next day I found a note, same as Mrs. Parker and little Johnny did. They emptied the town treasury as best they could and took off."
"Why didn't you say any of this in your letter?"
"What would you have done, cher?"
"Called the police."
"Exactly. They're already involved and they ain't found squat. The only one I trust is that new sheriff, your friend, that young Roche."
Shannon raised an eyebrow. "Nick Roche? He's the sheriff?" She remembered him well, Aiden's best friend. The two were the most unlikely pair ever. The blond all American boy who was the football star and his best friend, a chain smoking, trench-coat wearing dark soul who rebelled against everything and everyone. "All he ever used to do was break the law." And ride around on his motorcycle, the resident bad boy who won over every girl either not in love with Aiden, or frustrated with his taken status.
"Who knows the law better than the boy who spent his life breakin' it? He agrees with me, thinks Big Johnny Parker did it himself, suckered my Suzie. Might be she wants to come home but can't, might be he has her prisoner."
Thinking of her cousin, always a wild child, what Aiden and Nick had always called a "hot mess," it was more likely Suzie had cooked up the scheme and talked her boss into it, but Shannon knew better than to try and tell her aunt that. Suzie had cut a wide swath through the boys and many of the men in town as a teenager, and Charlotte had never believed one word against Saint Suzie.
"All right then, what can I do?"
"You find people for a livin', don'tcha?"
"I'm a process server. It's not the same. I have all their addresses, the trick is just to get them to answer the door."
"Eight years of school for that?"
"These days most people with legal degrees don't go into practice, jobs are tough to find. What you need is a private investigator, not me."
Charlotte put down her spoon, her weathered face drawn suddenly. "The FBI has been here, askin' about her. I can't let my baby go to prison. If you find her, she'll listen to you. You're smart, you'll get her outta this mess."
"The best I could do would be to convince her to cut a deal and testify against John Parker. It might not keep her out of jail, but it would reduce the time."
"Or help her get away?"
Shannon pushed her chair back and frowned. "I'm not breaking the law. If it comes to that I'll find her, take you to her. You're family and I won't turn you in, but I'm not helping."
Charlotte nodded. "That's fair. You'll wanna stay a couple of days, ask around."
"I'll talk to Nick and go from there. If I go back to town I can probably catch him before dinner." She rose and stretched.
"You didn't eat your stew."
"I lost my appetite. You still have Suzie's note?"
"I'll get for you, wait righ' here." She scurried off to the bedrooms and Shannon let herself wander to the living room.
On a table was a big picture of her and Suzie, back in junior high school. Shannon smiled at her old self, a skinny nerd with thick glasses and braces, frowning behind her hair to hide it all. Suzie was petite and curvy, as blond as Shannon was dark. Even at the tender age of twelve she had dangerous curves, and a precocious look in her blue eyes that spoke of a desire to exploit the world's shortcomings.
The next showed them in high school. Shannon's glasses were smaller, her braces long gone, and she had filled out as much as Mother Nature would allow her. Suzie looked like Madonna in the '80s, already showing some of the wear and tear of her careless lifestyle.
It was worse in the photo from graduation. There they were separate. Suzie looked like three miles of bad road, sallow and hung over in her maroon gown, standing alone looking lost. Shannon was between Aiden and Nick, her own lanky height noticeably shorter than theirs. Nick's black hair was in a ponytail, his wide grin even with the dangling diamond in her ear. Aiden was filled out, his shaggy blond hair blowing in the wind as he kissed the top of her head. Her heart winced at that, remembering the last night with him, and the last night with Nick too.
The rest of the pictures showed Suzie, her hair lightened via a bottle, her makeup heavy, and always a cigarette dangling from her lips. She was smiling in them all, wearing business clothes Shannon recognized from the Frederick's Of Hollywood catalog, more costumes than true business wear.
"Here it is!" Charlotte came tromping through and shoved the note in her hand.
Shannon opened it up and read it aloud, squinting at the poor scrawl. "Momma I'm so sorry, but me and Johnny are in love and his wife won't give him a divorce. We're goin' to New Orleans and we're gonna be happy. Be happy for me. Love, Suzie." She folded it back up and slipped it into her jeans pocket. "I take it she's not in New Orleans."
"FBI don't seem t' think so."
"I'll be back tonight."
"Only one bed in your room now, Suzie's room, but it's made up for ya. You just talk t' the sheriff, y'hear?"
"Can do, Aunt Charlotte." She kissed her aunt's cheek even as the woman chuffed.
"Damn you talk like a northerner now."
"Da Bears," Shannon replied in her best Chicago accent, smiling. She grabbed her small Coach purse from the gym bag and let herself out, down to the skiff.
It had been nine years since she'd done this, but it all came back after a few false starts. She made it back to the landing, tied the boat and pole up, and then got in her car on the passenger side. There was a big gator sunning itself close to the driver's side and she gave it wide berth, though it moved lighting fast back into the water when her engine roared to life.
Gravel flew as she backed out and pointed the car towards town, heart hammering. Her first brush with the past had brought dark tidings, lord only knew what she'd find next.
Nick Roche was outside the small police station, leaning against a pole on the porch. His uniform fit well and he'd filled out nicely in the last nine years. Still rangy he was no longer skinny, and amazingly his black hair was still long, tied back. His short sleeves showed tattoos on one arm and his muscles flexed as he pulled the little cigar from his mouth and stomped it out as she parked.
Heart pounding, Shannon stepped out and shut her door, staring.
He looked her up and down in that way he always had, as if her clothes didn't matter and he liked what he saw. When they'd been seventeen and he had been her boyfriend's best friend it had bothered her as much as it got her hot and bothered. It still did both, making her palms sweat and heart race.
"Well...look what de cat dragged in."
"Nick. You went law dog?"
He stepped away from the post and pulled her into a hug. Heat flashed through her at the contact, so familiar, but so strange all at once. "An' you went all North on us." He pulled back, leaving his hands on her hips, forcing her to look up into his eyes.
"You're not still mad...are you?"
He leaned down, hot breath on her ear. "Not mad, but I think you owe me."
She gulped, things low in her body tightening. She knew what she owed him, what promise she had broken on that hot May night. There was no time for that now, she told herself, not when she had her fool cousin to find.
"I'm here on business."
He let her go and laughed almost mockingly. "Dis here's Swampwater, Louisiana," Nick said, using their old nickname for the tiny town. "Down here, cher, we mix business with pleasure. You'll be wanting to know about your cousin."
"Got it on the first try."
"Come have dinner with me, I'm starved, and you look good enough to eat. Since you're feelin' shy, let's get us some crawfish and beer at Randy's."
"Crawfish and beer I can agree to."
"We'll take your car. I'll drive."
"Woah, nobody drives my baby but me."
He walked around her to glance in. "Cher, dis here a stick shift. Same car as all dose years ago? I'm mighty proud 'n' all, but you drove all the way down from Chicago. You're tired, let me drive."
She smiled, feeling that old itch for minor adventure. "You really want to drive? Still got that bike?"
He grinned, his handsome face showing dimples that softened the hard lines. "I traded up. You want to mess up dat pretty hair?" He reached up and grabbed a piece of her dark brown locks, stroking them. Her lips parted as a shiver raced across her skin, and Nick's smile turned knowing.
"No, but I'll race you. Loser buys."
He raised a brow as she grinned and opened her door, hopping in. The engine was on before he moved, jogging around the corner of the porch. She peeled out, laughing. What she had missed most about Nick was how he brought out her very hesitant wild side, and it was a great escape from that very...tense moment.
She drove quickly but carefully from the town center, heading east along the parish road towards the old roadhouse. Once on it she opened it up but there was a single headlight in her rearview rapidly approaching.
He pulled up alongside her, grinning with a wink, then shot ahead.
He parked seconds before she reached the lot and he leaned against the bike, a shiny new Harley. Somehow, despite the brown uniform, the shiny badge, and the gun belt, he looked every inch the bad boy she remembered.
"You cheated, sheriff. You passed me without signaling, and you broke the speed limit."
Nick laughed, a rich deep sound. "Not bad, but dat's a sixty-eight, ain't it? Metal, real metal, heavy. Can't beat a bike w' all dat weight."
She locked the door and shook her wind-blown hair, ignoring the light behind his bright green eyes. "Tough to beat on the quarter mile." The roadhouse looked like a huge cabin added onto by dozens of generations, only with neon beer signs in the windows, which was exactly what it was. The trees crowded in on it, blocking the dying sun. She closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of pine. It felt so good to be surrounded by childhood smells, she thought with a sigh.
When Shannon opened her eyes he was staring at her, his look hungry. Her words died on her lips at that look and then he smiled. "Come on, you owe me dinner."
She followed him, and like in movies conversations stopped. The music kept going, Toby Keith riling everyone up, even as they stared. It was like a high school reunion a year early.
Nick smiled and slung a casual arm over her shoulders, raising several eyebrows. Shannon found herself waving limply to many people she recognized. Growing up her world had been Suzie and the boys, in high school they had added Lucy Beauchamp to the group, but the perky redhead appeared to not be in Randy's that night. However her mom was, waiting tables as always.
She winked, served a table, and put her tray under her arm walking over. "Oh my stars and garters, is it really you?"
"It's me," Shannon said with a blush, wiggling out from Nick's arm to hug her.
"Lucy's over in Porte Barre for the night. You stayin' with your Aunt?"
"For the moment."
"She'll want to see you. Nice to see you too, Nick."
"Miss Beauchamp," Nick nodded. "They never call me sheriff," he said under his breath to Shannon. "Well, your aunt does."
Shannon nodded. That was Charlotte, for the most part eminently practical. The second Nick had been elected his past had been erased in her aunt's mind, no doubt.
"Come on now, you two must have some catchin' up to do, I got a quiet booth for ya, follow me." She grabbed two ancient paper menus and lead them to the far back, where the smokers congregated, laws be damned. The menus were a futile gesture, the selection hadn't changed in fifty years and Shannon could still recite it from memory.
She slid in as Nick undid his gun belt, placing it into the booth as he slid in. "Two Buds and two plates of crawfish."
"Got it. Oh, it is so good seein' ya, girl!"
"You too Miss Beauchamp." They watched her walk off before either one spoke.
"Tell-" she laughed. "You first."
"Naw, you go ahead. You want to know about your cousin." Shannon nodded at that and Nick pulled out his cigarillos. "You mind?"
"It already smells like the Marlboro factory in here."
"I roll my own, vanilla." He lit one and indeed the smell was better than the rest around them. "Suzie kept up her ways for a while, then she went to work for John Parker at the lot. She was his secretary, never a good one, but word had it he didn't hire her for her typing skills. He got involved in some land deals when dey built the strip mall by the highway. He parlayed dat into bein' mayor and she came with. After over a year and a half they took off. He was one of de four people who could access the town account and he cleared it."