Demon Lover from Whispers Collection #1

Let me be ruined.

Excerpt From Demon Lover

New Orleans, 1859

David Nataniel is a depraved and wicked man. I do not dispute that now nor did I in the past. He is a dangerous man to know. A woman risks a great deal in attracting his notice or making his acquaintance. I understood this about him from the start, but never once did I believe I would live with the consequences. After all, why would a woman such as I not be safe from him?

He is a compelling man because of and despite what he is. His given name is pronounced in that lovely way the French have; Da-veede. Despite the beauty of his name, his is not a beautiful face, but rather a striking one, with edges and curves too harsh for beauty. His eyes are grey, his hair dark. He is tall and always dressed to perfection. When he walks into a room, he owns the house, the city, the very world.

They say he keeps a quadroon mistress, that he gambles and drinks to excess. That he fatally shot a jealous husband. They say he drove his wife to an early grave. That he has seduced and ruined innocents. That he has more than once blackmailed an unwilling woman into his bed.

He has been acquainted with my father since I was a girl and Papa and I lived in a house not far from the French Quarter. Papa never remarried after my mother died and so we lived alone in that house. By the time I reached twenty-seven years of age I had long been resigned to the solitude of my life. As a girl, I never thought anything but that I would marry a man I loved and have children we adored.

In truth, by my twenty-seventh year, I had never yet been held close in a man’s arms, never heard a whispered endearment fall soft upon my ears. I imagined it, though. At night, I longed for that. Dreamed of that.

David Nataniel remains Papa’s most important client. I don’t know if they were friends. I think, perhaps, they never were. He is not an easy man to like. Nataniel dined with us from time to time and sometimes came for coffee, though he and Papa always closed his office door to discuss private matters. Nataniel paid no attention to me beyond what was polite.

Once, though.

Once.

I knew he was at the house, but he was always with Papa so I had no reason to expect I would see him except perhaps when he took his leave. It was afternoon, and the air promised rain, and I did what I sometimes do in moments of such ripeness. I walked into the garden in the interior courtyard of our house and stood by the roses, breathing in the fragrance. Like the roses, I endured the heat and the heavy air.

Rain fell soft at first, and I closed my eyes and lifted my face to the sky. Drops hit my skin, now harder, faster. Ridiculous. Imprudent, even, to stand there letting the rain fall on me, but who was there to see except the servants? I stood there, rain pelting me, and I smiled with fierce joy. In such moments, the world is more real. More intense. I didn’t care about the wet. Let me be ruined.

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