A Dangerous Dance [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Pauline Baird Jones
eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller/Romance
eBook Description: Dorothy returns to Oz for a dangerous dance? His whole career, Remy Mistral has fought for reform in a state where corruption is an art form. Now is his chance to quit talking about reform and make his move to change things, but two things stand in his way. One is a woman, the other a killer.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, Published: Texas, 2004
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2011
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Remy Mistral was watching for the opening and still he almost missed it. Out of the corner of his eye he caught the impression of a break in the dense foliage on his left and hit the brakes. There was no one behind--and hadn't been for the past half hour of driving--so he backed the sleek gray Mercedes, and turned into the even narrower side road with a swaying lurch as his car's suspension tried to adjust to the sudden downgrade in conditions. Two car lengths along, he found his way barred by a vine-covered gate.
A push of a button silently lowered the tinted window. He rested his arm on the frame as warm, thick air rolled in carrying the pungent scent of growing things. With one finger he pushed his sunglasses down, the better to pierce the green and yellow shadows and vines that prevented him from finding a pattern in the ornate gate's grill work.
Remy shifted to neutral and pushed open the door, letting more humid air rush in and overpower his car's air conditioning. He slid out and stretched--it had been a long ride from New Orleans--slipped off the jacket of his gray Armani suit and draped it carefully over the seat back. Only then did he approach the gate.
On either side, a thick layer of vines clung to the gate, and a fence marched into shadow in an unyielding line. Remy tugged at the vines at the center of the gate, until he could see the pale, yellow gleam that marked the road through a line of oak and cypress trees dripping with the gray ghosts of Spanish moss. A few more tugs and he found and traced the letters scrolled into metal.
The estate had been named to remind Magus Merlinn of the years he spent in Australia, and perhaps the Wizard designation had grown from that. It certainly wasn't because Magus had Klan associations. It wasn't even clear if he'd been given the title or taken it. What was certain, he'd been a wizard at creating success out of nothing. Ten years ago, he'd turned his attention to the governor's mansion, with a run for the White House to follow, but a bullet had stopped the legend. Yesterday, a homemade knife in a prison yard had stopped the Wizard's killer.
Was it a coincidence that rumors of a revival in Oz had started sometime before yesterday, though no one could quite say when or where they started? All Remy knew for sure was that in the good old boy taverns of power, rumors about Dorothy's return bearing the Wizard's standard had started to circulate as the first candidates hopeful of replacing the sitting governor started testing the waters. What no one seemed to know was who she intended bestowing that standard on--or if she planned to carry it herself.
Remy rarely did a straight news story anymore, but politics were king on his talk radio show and a scoop on Dorothy's plans wouldn't hurt his ratings any--or at least, that's what he'd told himself during the drive to Oz. The crazy plan he kept pushed to the back of his head as he looked at the firmly barred gate. It looked like it hadn't moved since the Wizard last passed through it in a fancy wooden box. Remy had to wonder about the reliability of his source.
He gave the gate a shake and stepped back. Was it locked or rusted shut? He had some WD-40 in his trunk, if rust were the problem. He checked the closure, but found no chains or padlocks holding it in place and, despite the wads of plant crap on the gate itself, there was adequate clearance between gate and ground.
"Damn." He shook it again, but couldn't tell what was the obstruction was. Unless a tornado miraculously appeared and lifted him over it, Oz was going to be tougher to crack than he expected--if Dorothy was even there--
Before he could finish the thought, a shrill shriek broke the silence as the gate pulled from his hold and began to ponderously swing open, exposing the road. Weed-choked and broken in spots, but still clearly yellow, and clearly brick, leading to the heart of Magus Merlinn's lost Oz.
"I'll be damned." With a last, wary look around, Remy slid behind the wheel of his car, engaged the gears and pulled through. Behind him, the gate closed with an ominous clang.
"Death, taxes--and Remy Mistral. I told you he'd come." Dorothy Morgana Merlinn watched the car pass from the camera's view, then looked down at Titus, working the security monitors. "Can I see him again?"
In a few moments, he had one monitor showing a replay of Remy at the gate, even as the monitor next to it showed his car moving carefully along the road toward the house.
Titus leaned back in the chair and looked up at her. He was a small, lethal man with light brown hair and cool eyes. Only once had he failed his primary task as body guard. Dorothy didn't blame him for what happened, but she knew he blamed himself. "How did you know that ill wind would come?"
She smiled. "A mistral is a cold wind, not an ill wind."
Though when she looked at the close-up, freeze-framed face in the monitor, it wasn't cold she felt. Titus fine-tuned the picture until the broad, high forehead, ending in strongly marked brows as dark as his hair, came into sharp focus. His eyes were dark, too and deep set, perfect for brooding or piercing other people's secrets--or unlocking female hearts. His nose was straight and almost elegant above a full mouth and firm chin. No, it wasn't cold, but heat she hadn't meant to feel. She couldn't afford the luxury, not if she wanted to lay Magus's ghost to rest and reclaim her life.
Titus blew out a sigh filled with frustration. "I wish I knew what you were up to."
He looked up, his gaze sharpening as he tried to bore through her eyes into that place where her thoughts and desires simmered. She turned to more fully accommodate him. If she could deflect him--
His mouth twisted wryly. "That's the first time you ever looked like him."
He didn't sound pleased, but she smiled as she felt power push back the unwelcome heat, or maybe it mixed with it, turning it into something stronger than each was alone. If Mistral wasn't cold, she would be, until all Louisiana felt it and knew the truth of what happened ten years ago.
She stood up and reached for the door, two steps away. "Good. I don't want anyone to doubt I'm his heir this time."
His eyes flashed with remembered pain. "Just...be careful, chere'."
She looked away from him. "I'm always careful. We won't fail this time."
"He doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of even making it through the primaries. He's made too many enemies."
"Which is why he's driving his lovely car up our miserable yellow brick road right now--probably cursing us and himself every inch of it. Ambition's a bitch."
"But not as dangerous as revenge, chere'."
"I don't want revenge. I want justice." She pulled the door open.
"Justice." He shook his head. "That's even more dangerous. And dang near impossible to get."
She smiled at him. "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things," she said, before she stepped out, letting the door swing shut behind her. She started across the weed choked yard, her gaze sweeping for fire ant hills. Even after ten years away, there was so much she remembered, but what she remembered the most right now, was her first--and last--meeting with Remy Mistral.