“ELYSIAN”: adjective; (literary) delightful; glorious; blissful.
We ended Volume One in August of 1999 with NOPD Lt. Richard Fitzwilliam investigating a murder. Whose murder? Well, if you’ve read BOURBON STREET NIGHTS, you’d know. For those who haven’t, now’s your chance to grab a copy and find out.
It’s now July of 2004. Five years have passed, and things have changed for our three heroines.
Emma Weinberg is now married to surgeon Dr. George Katz and lives in a fixer-upper in the prestigious Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans. But things are not all well. Emma’s sickly and demanding father, Abe Weinberg, has moved in with them, destroying their privacy. Workaholic George spends most of his time at Tulane Hospital, neglecting his young wife. When the charming Frank Church comes into her life, Emma’s marriage is in danger.
Marianne Dashwood is trying to start a music career while working full-time at an insurance company. She has the love and support of Chris Breaux, now a psychiatrist at LSU Medical Center. But she does not know that her ex-boyfriend, John Waguespack, is doing everything in his power behind the scenes to sabotage her dreams.
As for Elizabeth Boudreaux, she has moved on from the disaster of the Spring of 1999. Leaving journalism behind, she finds success in the business world. Suddenly, her job puts her face-to-face with shipping tycoon William Darcy for the first time in five years. The man she almost destroyed, and who still owns her heart.
Their friends are here, too. Chuck and Jane Bingley are living the good life on the Northshore, while Carrie Bingley has married John Buford of Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, Richard Fitzwilliam, now a police captain, is locked in a cat-and-mouse game with drug dealer Greg “G-Daddy” Wickham, who is more dangerous than ever.
Everyone is trying to live their own Elysian dream, but for those who dare reside on the Gulf Coast, there is a cost to paradise. In those warm, life-giving waters, monsters are sometimes born…
The following excerpt is from Chapter One:
Friday, July 23, 2004
Over twenty thousand feet above the Mississippi Gulf coast, a Cessna Citation XLS+ in the corporate colors of Delta Global Shipping cruised westward through the early afternoon sky. Aboard were two of the company’s top officials. Leon Anderson, Vice President of Marketing, was catching a nap after the morning meeting in New York. His companion and boss gazed out of the window, considering his life.
William George Darcy had almost finished his first year as President and CEO of DGS. During the previous four years, he had worked in every department in the firm: finance, operations, marketing/sales, logistics, even maintenance. Meanwhile, his uncle F. Edward Fitzwilliam had served as the chief of the company. William worked hard, learning the ropes from the inside out. Twenty years of training and experience were crammed into four, one of them at the London offices of the company’s European subsidiary. When Uncle Ed ascended to take the ceremonial role of Chairman of the Board, William took the reins of the corporation.
Immediately, the sharks began circling. How was a twenty-seven-year-old going to manage a worldwide multi-million dollar shipping concern? The stockholders and institutional investors were concerned. William wasn’t fazed. Hard work and a ton of face-to-face meetings had turned the tide. His position was secure.
But at what cost? William rubbed his weary face with his hand. A personal life had been out of the question. If he wasn’t in the office, he was on a business trip. In addition, he was trying to be a father to a teenaged sister.
And I screwed that up royally, didn’t I? Almost as well as I did at Tulane.
William sighed. At least Gina didn’t show any lasting effects. “Didn’t show” didn’t mean there weren’t any, though. Maybe she’s as good at hiding her feelings as I am.
Well, she’s going back to Auburn in the fall. Out of state will be good for her. And she’ll have her debut in January. Damn, I wish Dad could be here to see it.
He isn’t, Will. Get over it.
William was satisfied the need to prove himself to the corporate world was over. Now he could commit himself to local things. For example, Economic Development/New Orleans had been on him to join their board of directors as his father had done before him. Now, he had the time.
But Elizabeth Boudreaux worked there.
So what? I’ve moved on. She’s moved on. The past is the past. Just because I’ve ruined the best thing I could’ve had is no reason to hide from life. The worst that could happen is she would refuse to talk to me. How would that be different? I haven’t talked to Elizabeth for five years.
Ha! Chris would be proud of me. He’s been on my ass for ages about this. Just took me five years to listen to him. I’ll think about the EDNO request. Meanwhile, it’s time I rejoined the human race. I’ll start tonight.
The co-pilot came on the intercom. “Gentlemen, please fasten your seat belts. We’ve been cleared for initial approach to New Orleans Lakefront Airport.”
The sleek corporate jet began its descent over the expanse of Lake Pontchartrain.
Lakeview, New Orleans
Emma was in her Volvo S60, rolling down Robert E. Lee Boulevard toward her home in Lakeview. Try as she might, she felt her tension rising. As she pulled into the driveway of her ranch house, she had to go back into her deep breathing exercises just to open the car door.
Emma let herself in the house. “Papa, I’m home!” She heard his answering grunt from the den.
“Anything on the news?”
“No, the world’s still here, Bennifer or no Bennifer.”
Emma nodded and returned to the kitchen to start her Shabbat meal while waiting on her father. Since his heart attack and retirement, Abe spent most of his days in his La-Z-Boy in the Katz’s den.
Emma quickly assembled the ingredients for the evening meal. Since her marriage, she had become a fairly good cook, thanks to lessons from Mrs. Taylor, The Kosher Cajun Cookbook, and watching a lot of Food Network. Tonight’s entrée was pomegranate chicken.
Emma was almost finished placing the food onto serving platters when the phone rang. She hesitated before picking up. “Hello?”
“Hi, sweetheart,” her husband said. “I’m sorry, but it looks like I’m going to be late again.”
“But—” Emma bit her lip and took a breath. “All right, George. When do you think you’ll be home?”
“I don’t know. I’m sitting in on an emergency quadruple bypass. Don’t wait up.”
Emma sighed. “I’ll put a plate for you in the fridge.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll grab a sandwich here. Love ya.”
“I love you too. Drive safe.” Emma hung up the phone while she desperately held on to the frayed end of her emotions. It was the fifth time that month George had worked late. The fifth time he had ruined dinner. But she was not going to cry over it—not again.
Emma had slipped into her practiced facade of control by the time she brought the platters to the table. Abe was waiting for her.
“Looks good, princess. Where’s George?”
“He just called. An emergency came up. He’ll be late.”
Emma busied herself with setting out two plates. “It happens.”
“Yeah, comes with the territory, being married to a surgeon.”
Plates served and challah covered, Emma pulled a long scarf over her head and lit two candles. “Papa, would you recite the kiddush?”
The lights were on late in the nineteenth floor Poydras Street offices of Economic Development/New Orleans. Communication Manager, Elizabeth Boudreaux, finished a column for the monthly newsletter and munched on a chicken Caesar salad. She was catching Marianne’s performance at a French Quarter jazz club that evening, and rather than drive all the way to her Metairie apartment to grab dinner before driving back to the Quarter, Elizabeth decided to get a jump on this assignment.
Her phone rang. “Hey, can I convince you to come back?” a voice said from the receiver.
Elizabeth laughed. Peter Kimmel, her old boss at the ad agency, started every phone call to her that way. “Nope, I’m chained to the wall here. What’s up?”
“We have the proofs for your new ad campaign ready.”
Elizabeth glanced at her clock. “And you’re calling me at seven thirty to tell me that? How’d you know I was here?”
“I didn’t. I was going to leave a message on your voice mail. But since you asked—why are you still at work?”
“Why are you?”
“Because since my best worker abandoned me for EDNO, I’ve got to do all this stuff myself. Now, answer the question.”
“Because I have no life.”
“What about Anthony Riviere? I though y’all were dating.”
“Were, darling, were. We broke up over a month ago.”
“Is it because he’s working for Senator Landrieu in Washington now?”
Elizabeth sighed. “Partly. Long-distance romances are hard, but it just pushed up the inevitable. Tony’s a nice guy—for somebody else.”
“You always were picky, Lizzy. What are you waiting for?”
Elizabeth dodged the comment. “You, Peter darling.”
“Right. I’d just have to divorce my wife of thirty years. Lizzy, do yourself a favor and get out of that office. It’s Friday night, for God’s sake.”
“It just so happens I’m meeting some friends in the Quarter.” She glanced at her clock on the office wall. “Oops…I’ve got to get going or I’ll be late.”
“Good. Go have fun. I’ll talk to you next week.”
Elizabeth hung up the phone, saved her work, grabbed her purse, and dashed for the elevator, waving at the cleaning crew as she ran by. She walked out of the lobby onto the street, knowing she could retrieve her car from the parking garage later. Her heels clicked as she walked down St. Charles Avenue towards Canal Street. Across Canal, St. Charles became Royal Street as Elizabeth entered the French Quarter. She made her way up one block towards the Lake to get to Bourbon Street, and then continued along through the warm summer evening as darkness fell and the streetlights came on until she reached a small jazz club.
As expected, there was a table in the back reserved for her party. She was the first to arrive, so she sat down and ordered a chocolate martini from the waitress. Her drink delivered, Elizabeth looked around the club as she sipped the decadent concoction. The place was about three-quarters full, tourists making up half the crowd—based on clothing and fanny packs.
At eight precisely, the lights dimmed slightly as the band came on the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen,” an announcer intoned, “Marianne Dashwood!”
A spotlight illuminated one wing of the stage, and Marianne walked on in a black-on-black sequined pantsuit. The spaghetti straps of the top showed off her shoulders. She smiled at the light applause and started into the first song of the set, the Gershwin standard “’S Wonderful.”
Elizabeth swayed with the music, lightly keeping time by tapping on the table. Suddenly, she was aware of a presence near her. She glanced up behind her and was startled to see a tall, dark-haired man standing next to the table.
“Hello, Elizabeth. Long time no see.”
A few blocks away, William Darcy exited the Canal Place Cinema with his sister, Gina. They stood outside the theatre on the third floor of the Canal Place shopping mall, next to the food court.
“Want to get a beignet?” William asked.
Gina thought for a moment. “No, that’s okay. Let’s go home.”
They moved towards the escalator. “So you can IM your friends?”
“Of course. Chat awaits!”
They walked out the front door, next to Saks Fifth Avenue, onto Canal Street. The warm summer night air enveloped the pair.
“Pretty night,” William offered as they strolled past Harrah’s Casino towards the Warehouse District.
“Yeah. Too bad you’re spending it with me.”
“What do you mean? There’s nobody more important in my life than you!”
“Sad, ain’t it?”
“Will, you know I, like, totally love you, but you shouldn’t be spending a lovely Friday night with your sister. How lame is that? You should be out walking hand-in-hand with some babe.”
“I am with a babe.”
“Eww—gross! You know what I mean!”
William squeezed her hand. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”
After the first set was done and the band retreated backstage, Marianne reentered the cabaret from a side door and made her way to the back of the room. As she approached the table, Elizabeth waved.
“Mari! Look what I found”—she grinned as she pointed to the man sitting beside her—“acting like I hadn’t seen him in years instead of last week!”
Marianne greeted Elizabeth first before turning her attention to the gentleman. “Do I know you, sir?” she asked as she gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“I would hope so.” Dr. Chris Breaux gave her hand a squeeze as he helped her to a chair.
Elizabeth gave him a mock-severe look. “Don’t be too nice to him, Mari. He was late.”
“What can I say? Work, work, work.” Chris held up his hands as he grinned. “At least I heard your first song.”
“The fruits and nuts in the psych ward giving you trouble, Chris?” teased Marianne.
“Mari!” Elizabeth laughed .
“Nah, she’s right,” Chris said as he leaned over to kiss Marianne’s cheek again. “I could open a store.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “You two really deserve each other.”
Marianne laughed as she hugged her boyfriend’s arm. “I know. Isn’t it great?”
It was well after eleven when a weary Dr. George Katz finally pulled his Lexus into his driveway. Quietly letting himself in, he saw Abe had fallen asleep in his recliner again. George used the remote to turn off the TV before making his way to his bedroom.
He found the lamp on his side of the bed still on, but his wife was sound asleep, a book by her side. Gently he placed the book on her nightstand before undressing in the bathroom. As he again approached the bed, he took a moment to gaze at Emma. Her dark hair was splayed over her pillow as she lay on her side, facing the nightstand. The room was warm, despite the air conditioning and ceiling fan, and she had pulled the covers down to her waist. Her lovely face was relaxed, her breathing deep, and her glorious breasts were barely contained by her nightgown.
George sighed. Emma was so beautiful it hurt. Such a precious gift he had been given. It was his responsibility to care for it. Yet, he was a man, and he ached for her. Perhaps, if Abe was sound asleep and Emma was willing …
George’s musings were interrupted by the blare of the TV. Abe had awakened.
Muttering a soft curse, George walked over to his side of the bed. Extinguishing the light, George got in and went to sleep.
The other books of CRESCENT CITY are:
- BOURBON STREET NIGHTS: Volume One of CRESCENT CITY (available now)
- RUIN AND RENEWAL: Volume Three of CRESCENT CITY
(out Sept. 1)
Meanwhile, the prequel to CRESCENT CITY, THE PLAINS OF CHALMETTE: a Story of CRESCENT CITY, is also available.
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“It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story…”