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Authors: Melissa Macneal

Evil's Niece

BOOK: Evil's Niece
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Evil's Niece

Melissa MacNeal

Rover Books

New York

www.RoverBooks.com

This book is a work of fiction.
In real life, make sure you practice safe sex.

This book is made available in electronic form by permission of VirginBooks by RoverBooks.
www.RoverBooks.com

First published in 2003 by
Black Lace
Thames Wharf Studios
Rainville Road
London W6 9HA

Copyright © Melissa MacNeal 2003

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

ISBN 0-7952-0225-3
DOI 10.1335/0795202253

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The author and publisher specifically disclaim any responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this book.

1 Taken by Surprise

New Orleans, 1897

New Orleans kept her secrets like a sultry Creole courtesan, leaning over wrought iron railings to lure her lovers down narrow streets with French names, into secluded Spanish courtyards where curious eyes couldn’t follow.

Or so it seemed. Ever since I’d married Chapin Proffit, I’d been amazed and amused by his city’s flamboyance. As I walked along Rue Dumaine, past shuttered brick buildings with an air of ancient mystery, I had to wonder about a place where one could pass a convent school, and then enter a voodoo temple where a dark-skinned priestess poked pins into dolls. Born and raised in St. Louis, I was ever aware of being the outsider here. A square peg trying to fit in the inner circle of the New Orleans elite.

Of course, Madame LaRue was all too happy to have my business. I’d just finished my final fitting of several new gowns — too ostentatious for my taste, fashioned of flashy fabrics and daring designs. The seamstress, however, insisted that, as the wife of a man who sat on the Cotton Exchange and lived in the Garden District, I should set the trends rather than follow them.

‘You must dress the part,’ she intimated in her French accent. ‘Everyone judges Mr Proffit’s success by the way he adorns his wife.’

I detested being a social ornament, on display to enhance Chapin’s reputation, but I was at least living well. Extremely well. That I was strolling the streets of the Vieux Carré alone was something these snooty aristocrats would simply have to live with.

On a whim, I detoured down another block to where I thought the Beau Monde Club would be — my husband was lunching there, with men who had political ambitions for him. As a woman, I would never set foot in the Club’s hallowed halls, where I imagined gentlemen puffing on Cuban cigars and sipping expensive brandy after a lavish meal. But I wanted to see it, just to gain a sense of place; to root myself more thoroughly in this city which, after seven years, still felt foreign to me.

And there it was: a tall, corner building of whitewashed brick and maroon shutters, its balcony outlined with the wrought iron that gave this French section of the city its distinctive flavour. I was studying the railing’s curlicues when the door opened, and out stepped my husband. As he glanced around, I found him handsome in a golden sort of way, with blond waves highlighting his chiselled face and a light linen suit cut to complement his slender physique.

I almost called out to him — just as a young lady stepped from behind the alley’s oleander bushes, smiling saucily. He kissed her hand with something more than Southern courtliness, and my heart lurched. I stepped behind the nearest building, afraid to observe them further but too curious not to.

A clutch of men emerged from the club, their expressions inquisitive.

‘Allow me to introduce my niece, Savanna,’ Chapin piped up. He then named the three men, who bowed as they took in Savanna’s alluring figure and revealing red dress.

Niece, indeed! I’d never before seen this pretty blonde, much less heard of any Savannas in the family. A sudden queasiness made me cling to the cool brick of the building I hid behind: my assumptions of a stable marriage were dissipating like the steam rising from the street.

As the men went their separate ways, Chapin quickly escorted his companion in the opposite direction. I decided to follow. I didn’t want to know where they were going, but an aristocrat’s wife had to gather information about her sheltered, narrow world from wherever she could.

I never dreamed I’d be watching my husband cheat.

He ducked down an alley that led to a gated courtyard — an oasis of wisteria and hibiscus among the closely constructed buildings, sequestered from the prying eyes of passers-by.

But not from mine. When that gate swung shut, I slipped up to see what Chapin had in mind for this ‘niece’, who’d been clinging to him like the ivy climbing these houses. His hours away from home, when I assumed him to be conducting the Proffit family’s business, took on new meaning for me — the unassuming wife, who believed such indiscretions were only other women’s concerns.

Chapin kissed Savanna hard on the mouth, and then spun her around to face a banana tree in the centre of the courtyard. She was panting, the hussy! No stranger to this illicit trysting, she grabbed the trunk of the tree and encouraged her lover to lift her crimson skirts. Her bustled behind and swishing silk petticoats blocked my view, but my husband was unfastening his pants like his fly was on fire. Need smouldered on his patrician features until his eyes glowed like prisms.

It was that glow that hurt me most; that fire in his loins that scorched my heart. Anger consumed me, for I was being betrayed in the worst way, but as I gripped the iron bars of that gate, it was a deeper wound he cut with his infidelity:
envy.
Envy so green and bilious, I covered my mouth to keep from screaming.

Savanna was thrusting her backside at him, and he entered her with such force that her gasp camouflaged my own. With her eyes squeezed shut, she didn’t notice the banana tree’s phallic red bloom hanging just above her — an ironic piece of scenery. The ecstatic look on her young, flawless face was the last straw. As she panted out what she wanted him to do, and how hard she wanted him to pump, I had to turn —

But I was trapped against the gate!

A large, male body pressed me so close against one of its iron poles that my breasts bulged around it. When he rubbed a rock-hard erection against my hips, that place between my legs got so aroused by the hard bar that I saw shooting stars.

I choked back a cry. Bad enough that I’d caught my husband with a lover; now a total stranger had captured me with the same intent!

‘Shh,’ he whispered, stifling my cry with a large hand. ‘Can’t let them know we’re here. We might get quite an eyeful.’

A molasses drawl tickled my ear, along with warm breath that smelled of brandy. The leathery palm covering my mouth rubbed my lips suggestively, but I wasn’t about to kiss it. It protruded from a white French cuff held together with a gold stud, and the coat sleeve was unrelenting black — like my captor’s sideburns, when he brought his face around to mine.

That dusky Creole complexion and renegade grin belonged to Dewel Proffit, Chapin’s bastard half-brother. His shirt collar was a blinding white that made his eyes stand out in the shadows; eyes of a dazzling blue that I would have found extremely attractive had they not belonged to a man of such dubious reputation. The very man my husband had warned me never to associate with, much less trust.

Dewel turned my head, so I once again beheld the spectacle in the courtyard. Chapin grimaced as his body rocked against the backside of his conquest, whose expression matched his own. Together they struggled towards release, rutting like dogs in an alley despite their fine clothing.

And, as a strangling sound erupted from my husband, I could only stare in disbelief, with a raw, rasping sadness.

So that’s what a climax looks like. That’s how I’m supposed to feel when Chapin…if he would ever take me with such passion.

I shook these thoughts from my head, for they were every bit as disturbing as the man behind me. With a low chuckle Dewel undulated, making that iron bar cut heavily into my chest. My breasts rose high and tight in my corset, protruding lewdly through the gate’s openings with my nipples in the lead. A brandy-scented hand caressed my mouth, and powerful thighs forced mine apart for unspeakable intimacies with that unyielding spindle. I felt extremely vulnerable and unladylike. Far more aroused by my captive state than I cared to admit.

My husband was ravaging his playmate again, and the sight of them inflamed my private parts. I furtively positioned myself so my clothing rubbed that desperate little nub, carried away by the soft moans and gyrating of the rake behind me. My eyes closed and the sensations became so intense I quivered, my need rising beyond decency — beyond the inhibitions that had previously prevented me from —

I jerked backwards as though struck by lightning, overwhelmed by such a dazzling jolt.

Dewel chuckled. ‘You’re shakin’, sugah. Is it from rage, catchin’ your man with his little tidbit? Or do you want me real bad?’

I didn’t dare answer that, much less try to talk between this bastard’s fingers. His other hand had snaked around my waist and roamed upward, until he was squeezing a breast — as though he had the right to take any favours he pleased! Once again I butted against that shameless erection, trying to shrug out of his muscled arms. When the lovers pulled apart, this brazen Proffit had the audacity to steer me into the nearest alley with his hand still across my mouth.

‘They’ve gotta get out through that gate,’ he explained. ‘If Chapin can have his little secret, we might as well have ours, Miss Eve.’

I broke free and slapped him. ‘You indecent, despicable —’

‘Yes, and yes, I am.’ Dewel’s Creole features glowed with mirthful pride. ‘But I’ve kept you from betrayin’ yourself to your husband and causin’ a nasty little scene.’

‘He told me he was attending a luncheon at his club.’

‘And so he did. I sat at the same table.’

‘But he said it was political,’ I blurted. ‘He introduced that little floozy as his
niece
, when she’s no relation whatsoever. And who knows how long she’d been there? Like a puppy awaiting its master!’

Dewel’s smile waxed indulgent, and then he listened — until the clank of the gate announced their departure. His lush lips curved into the arrogant, egotistical grin I’d associated with this younger Proffit ever since I’d met him at my wedding. His black suit made him look undeniably wicked, showing off the sturdy frame of a man who managed a sugar plantation — an estate he’d inherited from his daddy, much to Chapin’s chagrin.

He was night to Chapin’s day; dark and moody and sensual — a legacy of the Creole whore who bore him. And he knew how to control a moment with exasperating aplomb.

‘My sweet, naive Miss Eve,’ he began. ‘Young ladies with rich
uncles
, so to speak, often wait for their benefactors to emerge, hopin’ to share a few stolen moments. It’s beyond your comprehension, I know, but if you’re as smart as I think you are, you’ll tuck these things away for when the information can be most useful.’

‘Is that how you inherited the cane plantation? Using — or making up — information to influence your daddy’s decision?’ I blurted.

All of Chapin’s warnings concerning the illegitimate heir to the Proffit’s estate on the bayou came to mind as I watched the man in front of me. No one in her right mind would trust him! He had the sparkling blue eyes of a playful angel — like Chapin, and their father — but his burnt-sugar skin and raven hair snapped with a Spanish accent. His arrogance topped everything, however. Dewel Proffit acted
entitled
to the lion’s share of his father’s fortune!

‘Our daddy had good reason to bequeath me the plantation, Miss Eve,’ he said in his most polished drawl. ‘His legitimate son remains the figurehead of the family, with a mansion in town and a seat on the Cotton Exchange, and all the privileges that go with his station. But just as Chapin has told you only negative things about me, he will never reveal
why
Daddy settled his estate this way. It’s not in his best interest.’

‘So what am I supposed to do about this…this new
situation
?’ I demanded. My brother-in-law was the last person I should ask, but my exasperation was burgeoning like the erection that tented his trousers. ‘I can’t stand idly by as though nothing has happened!’

His smile grew catlike, and he shrugged with the nonchalance of the very rich. ‘Perhaps
you
need a niece, Mrs Proffit.’

I slapped him, outraged at his impertinence. But I was angrier because he was right: in this Southern aristocracy, ruled by good old boys and their connections, a wife either stayed in her place or found herself without one. My world was a prison gilded with gentility, but its invisible bars stood as rigid as the one Dewel had pressed me against. He would no more assist me than he would divulge those family secrets he’d alluded to.

And, damn him, the beast had caught my wrist and was running his pointed tongue along the strip of skin between my glove and my cuff, delighting in my distress. I tried to pull away — tried harder to ignore the sheer carnality of this intimate contact — but Dewel was no gentleman. He only held me tighter, unbuttoning my cuff so his tongue could tease further up my forearm.

‘Let me go, you disreputable —’

‘Yes, perhaps it
is
a niece you need,’ he whispered, bringing his face mere inches in front of mine. ‘Or perhaps what you really want is a good fuck.’

I was stunned speechless, my arm still suspended in his grasp. And then, to my horror, I burst into tears. Dewel had cut too close to the truth, had guessed the humiliating secret about my marriage. And about me.

‘All I ever wanted was for Chapin to handle
me
the way he…I…shouldn’t be exposing myself to you —’

‘All in good time, sugah.’

‘— but when he…he whirled her around and entered her, like a dog humping a bitch in —’

‘Made her moan, didn’t he?’ Dewel whispered in his hypnotic baritone. ‘Did it make you horny to watch, Miss Eve? I bet your drawers are drenched. I’d love to lick that honey from —’

Again I slapped him. But all I got for my efforts at self-defence was my backside against the brick wall of the house, where Dewel swiftly positioned me. ‘I should never have assumed you’d understand my plight, much less care about my feelings!’

‘Oh, but I do, darlin’. More than you know.’

His eyes, as blue as the midsummer sky and twice as hot, targeted mine. ‘You probably aren’t aware, but had I not spotted you, during that trip to settle our daddy’s affairs in St. Louis, Chapin wouldn’t have had the balls to propose. How he landed you is no secret, but why you’ve stayed with him is a mystery to me.’

My family received a generous settlement in exchange for my hand in marriage — which I saw as a dutiful daughter’s contribution to her family’s finances, after Daddy’s market speculations went bust. So I was intrigued enough by Dewel’s allusions to stop sniffling, but not bold enough to question the secrets lurking in his bottomless blue eyes…eyes so similar to my husband’s, yet far more compelling.

BOOK: Evil's Niece
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