As I turned again to see if I was still being chased, I collided with someone, and strong arms closed around me. A strangled sound escaped my throat that would have been a scream, had I enough air in my lungs. I looked up into the kind face of Remy Delacroix.

"It's all right, chère," he murmured, holding me tight and smoothing my hair.

I sobbed with relief and buried my face against his chest. Why being held by Remy made me feel safe was beyond me, especially when I'd felt threatened by him the night before. It must have been a familiar face in the crowd in this strange town on this strange day. Truly, being in Remy's arms felt comfortable and almost familiar.

"It's all right," he said again. "Look."

Lifting my tear-streaked face, I saw the black man from the Voodoo shop standing there holding my hat. I'd left it behind in my flight. Embarrassment flooded my cheeks with heat as I turned to take it from him.

"Thank you. I'm so sorry," I blubbered.

He was looking over my head at Remy with a bemused expression. He glanced down at me and smiled, looking much less sinister outside in the daylight.

"You're welcome," the man said, patting my hand. "Take care."

As I watched him walk away, I became aware of Remy's arms still holding me and looked up at him.

"Well, I feel really stupid now."

Remy reached into his pocket and pulled out a pressed handkerchief, with which he dabbed at my tear-streaked cheeks. With a watery smile, I took it from him and finished the job myself. We stepped apart, though his hand remained on my back. The handkerchief smelled wonderfully of the clean sea air and faintly of fragrant cigar tobacco. I held it against my lips and tried to remember where I'd smelled it before. Remy watched me, his expression expectant and patient, his hand still smoothing and soothing my back. Not sure what to do with the soiled hanky, I held it crumpled in my hand.

"Well, I'm sure I look a wreck now."

"Nah. You're beautiful," Remy said, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. "I think you could do with something to drink though. Come with me."

He took my hand, and we walked in companionable silence to a small sidewalk café with wrought iron tables and chairs languishing in the shade of a green striped awning. As we sat, I couldn't help but feel we'd stepped into the past and into a cooler place. A waiter, wearing a long white apron appeared almost immediately.

"Iced tea?" Remy asked me.

I nodded, and the waiter disappeared inside the building.

"Thank you, Remy." It was the first time I'd said his name aloud, and it felt lovely on my tongue and lips.

"For what, chère?" he asked, taking my hand and rubbing his thumb over the knuckles.

I shrugged.

"I don't know. Just for being there, I guess. I don't know what would've happened to me otherwise."

Remy raised my hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he smiled.

"I wouldn't let anything happen to you."

The waiter arrived with a frosty pitcher of tea with mint leaves floating in it and two ice-filled glasses on a tray.

"Will there be anything else?" he asked.

"Not right now," Remy replied. "Thank you."

Remy poured a glass for me, and I downed it quickly. The cool sweetness soothed my throat and calmed my stomach. Remy laughed and filled my glass once again.

"Slower this time, or you'll be sick."

Smiling, I clasped my hands in my lap and forced myself not to reach for the glass again right away.

Leaning back in his chair, Remy crossed his legs and removed a silver case from a pocket inside his jacket. He took one of his thin cigars and a wooden match from it, struck the match on the bottom of his shoe, and lit the cigar. I watched, fascinated.

"I don't think I've ever seen someone actually strike a match that way, except on TV," I said.

He shrugged.

"I like the old ways."

"I can see that. I like that about you."

"I like every little thing about you, chère."

His eyes crinkled around the edges when he smiled. I'd never seen a man so self-possessed and easy in his own skin. Again, he wore a suit, cinnamon tan this time, his tie tucked inside his vest, and the gold chain of a pocket watch peeked out between the edges of his jacket. He also wore a gold signet ring on his pinky.

"How come you look cool as a cucumber in this heat?" I asked.

"I'm used to it, I guess. I lived here all my life."

We talked about so many things, sitting there, and nothing at all, it seems. I can remember very little of it, and it all seems like a dream now. After we'd sat there for a long while, Remy offered me his arm, and we walked for ages. He pointed things out to me, told me the history, told me personal stories, funny anecdotes. He bought me dinner at another little place that I'd never have noticed on my own. Afterward, we strolled through Jackson Park, then sat close together, side by side on a bench, watching people pass by in the pink-tinged evening.

Remy draped his arm around my shoulders and kissed me for the first time, there in the park. It didn't seem like a first kiss though. We kissed again, and this time our lips opened, and our tongues grazed, and I knew.

I broke away and gazed at him in wonder.

"It was you, wasn't it, Remy?"

"What was me, chère?"

"It was you in my dreams."

He grinned.

"I was in your dreams?"

"Tell me."

"Casey, they're your dreams. How can I tell you anything about them?"

It was getting dark, and his face was in shadows, so I couldn't read his expression. I knew, though. He leaned in and kissed my cheek, then my ear, then down the side of my neck. My head rolled back, almost involuntarily, baring my neck to him. As he nuzzled, I clung to him, panting. He finally found my lips again before pulling away.

"We should go before I end up making love to you right here," he said.

Remy stood and pulled me to my feet, and we walked back to my hotel hand in hand. There was no question that he would accompany me to my room, just as there was no question that he would wait while I bathed. When I emerged from the bathroom, wearing only a silky short robe, he wasn't in the room. I found him sitting in the chair on the balcony. He pulled me into his lap and kissed me, one arm around my back, fingers entwined in my hair, and the other smoothing up and down my bare legs.

He'd taken off his jacket and tie and vest and opened a few buttons on his shirt. Pulling the two sides of the collar open, I pressed a kiss to his throat, licking the salty sweet skin with the tip of my tongue. I moaned against his neck, as his hand slipped underneath my robe and squeezed my ass.

More than anything, I wanted to be skin to skin with him, to feel his naked body against mine. I stood and held my hand out to him. He took it and followed me inside, closing the door behind him. Once inside, he pulled me close for another kiss, both hands squeezing my buttocks this time and holding me firmly against his hardness.

Remy stepped back and reached between us for the sash of my robe. He untied it, and I shrugged, letting the silky fabric slide off my shoulders and puddle at my feet. In brazen wantonness, I stood naked before him, watching his eyes traverse the hills and valleys of my body. My nipples hardened as his gaze lingered over the mounds of my breasts, the pink buds drawing up and tingling, aching for his touch. I'd never been so immodest, so unafraid.

"Tu es très jolie," he murmured.

You are so pretty. Funny how I knew what he said, even though I didn't speak French.

"Thank you." It came out as a whisper.

I reached out to unbutton his shirt, carefully sliding each button free, one at a time, while Remy's fingertips glided up and down my back, my shoulders, my neck, my behind. His eyes watched mine, his lips slightly curved. When I reached his waist, the next button was tucked inside his pants, so I unfastened his belt and then his trousers and let them fall. We both smiled as I released the last couple of buttons and pushed the shirt from his shoulders. It, too, fell to the floor, leaving Remy wearing only silk underwear that buttoned at the waist. My hands paused there, fingers grasping the waistband.



"You are très jolie too."

He laughed, throwing his head back and pulling me close.

"Merci, sugar. Merci."

The warmth of his skin against mine and the taste of his lips were intoxicating. As we kissed, he stepped neatly out if his trousers, then bent to swoop me up into his arms. He carried me to the bed and laid me in the center, then stepped back, unfastened his underwear and pulled them off. Climbing onto the bed, Remy pushed himself between my legs and lay over me, bracing himself on his elbows, the thick hardness of his cock nestled against my sex. My eyes drifted shut as he bent to kiss me. I wrapped my arms around his waist and pulled him tighter against me. I knew that mouth, that body. They were almost as familiar to me as my own.

Our tongues curled together as we kissed, so that it was difficult to feel where mine ended and his began. Finally, Remy pulled back and kissed my chin, then my cheek, then the side of my neck.

"Mmmmm, dèlicieuse," he said, licking my throat.

His mouth trailed down my chest to the valley between my breasts, where he pressed a kiss. His hands pushed my breasts together from the sides, and he traced the tip of his tongue around one nipple before sucking it into his mouth. I moaned and writhed beneath him as his teeth clamped on my aching flesh and pulled. My hips thrust upward, tucking him even further into my drenched chasm. We ground against each other before Remy pulled back and slid into me, filling me with his hot flesh. I gasped at the tightness and wrapped my legs around his hips.

I clung to him with my arms and legs and my mouth, my hungry body feeding on him, delighting in him, reveling in pleasure, drowning in desire. Remy rolled onto his back as we fucked, pulling me with him, still joined, so that I was riding him. He slipped a hand underneath me, his fingertips finding my clit and stroking it. I climaxed, quivering against him, squeezing his length inside me, my essence coating us both. Moments later, when Remy erupted inside me, I came again.

His arms wrapped around me as I collapsed against his chest, his cock still inside me. I wished I could keep him there forever. As our bodies cooled, he slipped out of me, and I rolled to one side, still within the circle of his arms. He let go only long enough to pull the covers over us, and I slept. We made love again later, in the dark, but when I awoke in the morning, Remy was gone.

"No," I whispered, frantically searching for my robe.

I slipped into it and tied it around my waist. Then I saw him. He was sitting in the chair on the balcony again, fully clothed.

"I thought you were gone," I said, stepping out into the morning sunshine.

Remy held a hand out to me, which I took. He pulled my hand to his lips and pressed a light kiss to the back of it. Then he sighed and stared out into the courtyard, his eyes far away.


I knelt at his feet, between his knees, laying my arms along his thighs. He looked down at me and smiled. It wasn't his usual exuberant, laughing smile. It wasn't even the wry grin. It was a smile devoid of all emotion. The smile people reserved for photograph poses.

"You're leaving," I said, knowing, in fact, that he was already gone.

"I'm sorry, Casey. I have to."

"No. I won't let you."

His eyes closed, and when they reopened, they looked weary. I noticed that Remy's black hair was shot through with silver here and there, which I hadn't seen before.

"You don't need me anymore, chère."

"Yes, I do! How can you say that?" I cried.

He smoothed my hair back from my forehead with his palm.

"Because it's true. You are stronger than you realize."

"No. Take me with you," I sobbed.

"I can't."

"Please, Remy. Please."

I buried my face against his stomach, my fingers clenched in the fabric of his jacket.

"It's not your time yet."

I looked up at him then, puzzled, yet comprehending in some small way.

"There's nothing left for me here. Take me with you. Please?"

Remy took both my hands in his and held them against him. He shook his head and looked away for a moment, then back.

"Alright," he said. "Tonight."

Later that afternoon, I was alone, trying to nap, when there was a knock on my door. A package had arrived for me. A note written in thick black ink on creamy linen paper was included:


Wear this tonight. I will send a

driver for you at seven o'clock.



Inside the box was a deep green silk evening gown with a matching wrap and, much to my delight, a beautiful mask covered in the same fabric. It was the type that was held on a stick and was encrusted with rhinestones and gorgeous feathers. I supposed we must be going to some sort of Halloween party, and this was my costume.

I spent the rest of the afternoon primping. My hair, I swept into an up-do, befitting the glamorous, old fashioned evening gown. Examining myself in the mirror, I felt like a movie star with my sparkling eyes, red lips, and generous cleavage. The plunging neckline of the gown and my upswept hair made my neck appear long and graceful. I was greatly pleased with the whole effect.

Promptly at 7:00, the front desk called to announce my driver had arrived. Expecting some sort of car, I was surprised and charmed at the sight of a horse-drawn carriage. Happy and expectant, I rode through the liquid New Orleans night, gazing up at the stars and wondering about my new life. We left the French Quarter and entered the Garden District, which I had not yet seen. The crowded city streets gave way to wider, tree-lined avenues, the houses becoming larger and further apart, some with lighted jack-o-lanterns that winked at me in the darkness. The carriage came to a stop in front of a large, white two-story house with many floor-to-ceiling windows and white columns and a wrought-iron railinged veranda running along the second story.

The windows were all lit, and I could see people moving inside. The driver helped me out of the carriage, and as I made my way up the front walk, I was struck with familiarity. I'd seen this house before. The tarot card. Of course. I paused for a moment as a chill licked up my spine and goose bumps sprang out on my arms. A house of lies. It was coincidence, surely. The card was just representational of typical New Orleans architecture.

Shaking off my apprehension, I continued up the walk to the front door. It was opened by a uniformed doorman, and I was shown into a foyer. Remy appeared immediately and took me in his arms.

"Bonjour, chère."

He kissed my lips, then stepped back, still holding my hand and let his eyes rake over me. I held the mask to my face and struck a pose.


He kissed me again, then pulled me by the hand along a short corridor into a room that must have been an office or library and closed the door.

"I have something for you. Come," he directed, motioning me to a chair in front of the desk.

He sat behind the desk, opened a drawer, and removed a flat leather box, which he pushed toward me across the shining expanse of the desk.

"For you, my beauty."

Inside the box, nestled on a bed of black velvet, was an emerald and diamond necklace. Delicate yet substantial, it was the perfect complement to my gown. The large emerald in the center was teardrop shaped and gleaming with inner fire. It was obviously old and very valuable.

"Oh, Remy," I gasped. "It's beautiful, but..."

"It has been in my family for many years, and now it's yours."

"I don't know what to say."

Remy laughed, his deep, rich laugh, and came around the desk to fasten the necklace around my neck. He then led me to a mirror, where he stood behind me and nodded his approval.

I smiled at his reflection and my own.

"It's perfect. Thank you, so much."

Turning in his arms, I kissed him. Then, linking my arm in his, I let him lead me to the party.

That swirling, glittering night is all a blur to me now. There were candles and flowers and gracious, beautiful people everywhere, some masked, some not. Food and liquor flowed freely, and there was a band and servers, and my every need or want was anticipated before it was fully realized. I danced, mostly with Remy, but other times with nameless, faceless gentlemen, who made me laugh with their witty repartee. Indeed, I felt as if I'd known them all forever, been born to this life and this house.

When it became too warm inside, Remy took me on a walking tour of his gardens. We kissed in the moonlight and magic, and I felt so happy, so complete.

Once the party broke up, I followed Remy up the stately staircase to a large bedroom with tall windows, which a person could walk through to the veranda. We made love for what seemed like hours and hours on a huge old four-poster bed. When I finally drifted off to sleep, wrapped in Remy's arms, it was to the sound of his voice.

"Je t'aime, mon ange, de tout mon cœur. Don't ever forget it."

I love you, my angel, with all my heart.

"Wake up, chère."

I could tell it was morning by the light on my eyelids. I felt too warm and cramped.


I opened my eyes and was blinded by a headache. Too much champagne, I thought.

"How'd you get in here?"

My eyes focused on Remy's face, except it wasn't Remy. The man who was talking to me looked a lot like him, but it was like looking at Remy through a distorted lens or a carnival mirror.

I was lying cramped on an old moth-eaten chaise, still wearing my gown. My hair was still pinned up, albeit messy and loose, even though I'd taken all the pins out before I'd gone to bed with Remy the night before. I sat up and glanced around. There were some other men in the room. Four or five of them, milling about, watching me. They looked like construction workers. The room, Remy's bedroom, didn't look the same. The furniture was gone except for the ratty old chaise, and many of the window panes were broken. The cream striped wallpaper was tattered and dingy and missing in some spots. Yellowed rags and cobwebs that used to be curtains hung at the windows.

"Where's Remy?" I asked.

"Remy who?"

"Remy Delacroix," I replied in my terrible accent.

The man's face registered surprise. He stood and addressed the other men in the room.

"Why don't y'all take a break?"

They all shuffled out, glancing back at me and laughing, thinking, no doubt that I was a hapless drunk or a crazy person.

I stood and tried to gather my belongings. My hands shook, and sweat had begun to pour off me.

"Whoa, hold up there, ma'am. You don't look so good. Sit back down."

"N-no. I need to find Remy. I need to go."

I took a step and swooned, falling against the man, who gently pushed me back onto the chaise. He walked across the room to a cooler, from which he extracted a bottle of water and handed it to me.

He crouched in front of me again and waited for me to drink, then said, "How 'bout you tell me how you got in here?"

"Remy brought me. This is his house. Who are you?"

"I'm Christian Delacroix. This is my house, and it was locked from the outside. I want to know how you got in."

"I was invited by Remy. I came through the front door. There was a party last night."

"A party? Here?" Christian looked perplexed.

"Yes! Except it didn't look like this," I said, glancing around the room.

I stood again and gathered my things.

"I need to go. I need to find Remy."

"Remy Delacroix?"

I nodded and gathered up my things and tottered on my heels across the room. I needed to get away from this guy who was so like Remy but not.

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