In Icy Snow Blackstone's Bargain with Lucifer, Luc Deveraux needs a wife to gain a five million dollar Trust. Julie Richmond needs a husband to keep herself and her young daughter from poverty. When the two met accidentally in a Houston 7-Eleven, Luc thinks he's found the answer to both their problems. At first, Julie turns down his suggestion, but later, in his hotel suite, she becomes more receptive to the idea:
“It’s a pretty complicated story.” Luc began. “I’m going to skip all the background stuff, I can tell you that later.”Briefly, he looked away, as if trying to gather his thoughts. He gave her a sheepish smile. “You know, this is more difficult than I thought. I’m not certain where to begin!”
“I'd suggest the beginning, but something tells me that isn’t the right spot.”
“Non.” He hesitated a moment longer, then took a deep breath. “My brother, Michel, and I were born in Paris. We lived there until my father was killed in a racing accident.”
“Automobiles. His car was struck by another one and hit a wall. He was burned to death.”
“That must have been awful for you!” Julie’s hand went over his. Once again, she quickly removed it.
He nodded slightly. “My gran'pere, Jean-Luc Deveraux, brought us to live at San Souci, his plantation in Louisiana." Luc's voice got very soft. "Three months later, my mother died. Gran’pere raised us.”
He couldn’t sit still and tell it, got up and began to pace beside the table while Julie continued to watch him.
“Gran’pere spoiled me, I admit it. Let me have everything and anything I wanted. At the same time, he was totally strict with my brother. As a result, there's always been rivalite between Michel and me. When I was twenty-four, I left San Souci but Gran’pere insisted Michel stay behind and help run the plantation.” He paused to look down at her. She’d picked up the sandwich and was nibbling on it abstractedly while he talked. “Then, I got this letter. A little belatedly, Gran’pere decided to let me know the contents of my father’s will. Papa, it seems, didn’t want me to commit the same sins he had. He established a Trust for me. I’m to get it on my thirtieth birthday, which is ten months from now.”
Julie set down the sandwich and reached for the glass of milk.
“He wrote me that there's a stipulation on the Trust. If I’m not married, settled down, and starting a family by that time, I can kiss the whole thing goodbye! It'll all revert to Michel. No way am I going to let mon petit frere get his hands on my money! So I told him--” He stopped and had the grace to looked ashamed.
“Oh no!” Julie set down the glass, looking up at him in disbelief. “You didn’t!” She didn’t wait for the affirming nod of the bronze head. “You did! You told him you were married!”
“Oui, and a year later, that we had a baby. I must have been insane.” He pulled out the chair and sat down. “Now, he wants me--all of us--to come home.”
“And you’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle.” She began to laugh. “Oh, that is good!”
“I’m glad you find this so amusant.”
“It is.” She brushed one hand over her mouth, stifling the smile that was forming. “So you want me to pretend to be your wife so you can get your money?”
“I want you to marry me, Mrs. Richmond. It has to be legal. There mustn’t be any question, any way I can lose that money.”
Marry him? The smile faded from Julie’s face. I don't know about that.
"It won't be forever." Seeing the doubt on her face, Luc went on, “Just until I get the Trust. A few months later, we'll get a quiet divorce. I’ll give you a settlement that’ll keep you comfortably, and I’ll set up an account for your daughter.”
He knew by her change of expression that he’d struck the center of the target, her most vulnerable spot. Merry. The little girl had gotten to him. Luc had no desire for fatherhood and didn’t really like kids but he wanted Merry to be secure, didn’t want her mother ever to be placed in this kind of predicament again.
“How much money are we talking about?” Julie picked up the glass of milk.
“Five million dollars.”
He tried to dodge the spray of milk as Julie choked, and began to cough.
“F-five mil--oh!” She cleared her throat, and subsided into a couple of hiccoughs as Luc pulled out his handkerchief, and began to mop the drops of milk spattering the tabletop.
“I-I’m sorry,” Julie said. “It’s just that--well, it startled me a little. My God, I can’t even imagine that much money!”
There was a splash of milk on his sleeve, soaking into the dark navy wool. Luc pressed the handkerchief against the stain. “Will you help me, Mrs. Richmond?” He didn’t look at her as he said it, didn’t want to appear to be begging.
“Do I have a choice?
“But, of course." Refolding the handkerchief, he returned it to his breast pocket. “Le Bon Dieu gave us all free will. You can say non.”
“I think some of us have a lot more free will than others,” came the rueful answer, “and it begins with a dollar sign.”
“Well?Do we have a deal?” He held out his hand.
“I guess we do.” She placed her own within it.
Briefly, they sat there, smiling at each other, Luke holding her hand, shaking it slowly.
“Tell me, were you named for your grandfather? For Jean-Luc?”
“Well--” She was waiting for an explanation.
“My father had an ironic sense of humor, Julie. He named me and my brother after les archanges.”
“Archangels? Michel--that’d be Michael, and-- Who?” For a moment, she stared at him, the blue eyes widening as she understood. “Oh, God, you mean--”
“Oui," Luc nodded. “My real name's Lucifer.”
Julie swallowed loudly and looked down at the hand still tightly holding hers.
“Does this mean I’ve just made a deal with the devil?”
“I’m afraid it does,” Luc answered.
(Bargain with Lucifer is available at Class Act Books; the sequel Brother Devil is scheduled for a May, 2010 release.)
Posted by Toni V.S. | 10:32 AM | Bargain with Lucifer, contemporary romance, Icy Snow Blackstone, Louisiana, New Orleans, Southern Romance | 12 comments »