Jennifer Blake Midnight Waltz

ISBN 13: 9780449900994

Midnight Waltz

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9780449900994: Midnight Waltz
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He possessed Amalie by the moon's sultry glow and sent her to the white-hot limits of ecstatsy. But by day, her husand, Julien Declouet, remained aloof. Who was this myserious man whose languid caress and sweet seduction she craved? Yet deep in her heart, she knew the answer. Her midnight lover was not her husband, but his handsome cousin, Robert....
From the Paperback edition.

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About the Author:

Jennifer Blake has been called "the steel magnolia of women's fiction" for her enduring career as an author. She has also been lauded as a "pioneer of the romance genre" and an "icon of the romance industry." A New York Times and international best selling author from the publication of "Love's Wild Desire" in 1977, she is a charter member of Romance Writers of America, member of the RWA and Affaire de Coeur Halls of Fame, and recipient of the RWA Lifetime Achievement Rita. She holds numerous other honors, including two Maggies, two Holt Medallions, multiple Reviewer's Choice awards, the Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times BookReviews Magazine, and the Frank Waters Award for literary excellence. She has written more than 75 books with translations in 22 languages and more than 35 million copies in print.

After three decades in traditional publishing, Jennifer established Steel Magnolia Press LLC with Phoenix Sullivan in 2011. This independent publishing company now publishes her work. FMI: http://www.jenniferblake.com. You can also find Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The force of the wind slammed the outside door behind Amalie Peschier Declouet, closing off the sound of the rain pelting on the floor of the loggia. She paused a moment on the braided rug to throw back the sodden hood of her cloak and to wipe the mud from her half boots. Raindrops gleamed on the soft brown curls of her hair, reflecting its odd, silver-blue highlights. The raindrops beaded on her dark brows and lashes and clung to the rose-petal skin of her heart-shaped face. In the salon where she stood, there was a massive mirror with a Chippendale frame hanging over a marble-topped table beside the rear entrance, but Amalie did not glance at it. Brushing distractedly at the droplets, she turned toward the door of M'mere's sitting room, which opened off the salon on the left, as the sound of voices came from that direction.

"I must refuse, of course, my dear Tante Sophia. That you would even think of such a thing is unbelievable, but that you would actually send for me and suggest it I find nothing short of amazing!"

"You are offended, cher, and it does you honor, but if you will only consider the matter without emotion, you must see that-" Madame Sophia Declouet broke off in midsentence at Amalie's impetuous entry. Spots of hectic color appeared on the woman's high cheekbones with their stretched, crepelike skin, and she flung a quick glance at the man who lounged in the chair facing her on the other side of the marble mantel. He came to his feet with controlled grace, his dark blue eyes narrowing as he turned to face Amalie.

There was an atmosphere of strain in the wide room with its cream walls, elegant champagne-colored silk hangings, scrolled mirrors touched with gold leaf, and rosewood furnishings set around the edges of an Aubusson rug. The urgency of Amalie's message faded as she glanced from her mother-in-law to her guest, then back again. "Forgive me, M'mere," she said, her clear, low-pitched voice rather breathless. "I thought-that is, I expected only Julien."

"It is of no moment, ma chère." The older woman forced a smile as she recovered her composure. "Come, you remember Julien's cousin, Robert?"

"I believe we met at the wedding?" Amalie came forward to offer her hand.

"Naturally, you did," Madame Declouet said with a laugh that still had a strident sound. "It was Robert who stood up with Julien."

Amalie had a vague remembrance of the tall figure of a man at Julien's side on that day three months ago, but she had not been able to see clearly through her veil, and afterward there had been so many new faces. She had hardly known her groom then, much less his cousin, but she had heard much about Robert Farnum since. She said politely, "Yes, of course." He took her hand, his strong, work-hardened fingers closing around it. As he bent his head in a perfunctory bow, the gray light from the windows caught in the waves of his dark hair. It also glinted for an instant in the dark blue depths of his eyes, revealing an expression of intent assessment. Amalie met his gaze for a long moment. Her fingers tingled with warmth that pulsated up her arm to merge with the accelerating beat of her heart. She was suddenly aware of the masculine force of a man, of his will, purpose, and strength, in a way that she had never known with Julien, or even with Etienne, her first fiancé. She became still, unable to breathe, unable to look away, and quite unable to return his conventional greeting. For no discernible reason, she felt vulnerable, unprotected. "Robert has been in the North on business, something about the machinery of his sugar mill, these past weeks," Madame Declouet prompted.

Amalie withdrew her hand with a small jerk, seizing, with gratitude, the topic offered. "Yes, so Julien told me. I trust your business was successfully completed, Mr. Farnum?"

He smiled, a movement of the lips that deepened the curved lines of past amusement about his mouth, but did not quite reach his eyes. "You must call me by my given name, if you please. And, yes, I was successful."

It was far too simply said to be a boast, but Amalie had the feeling that Robert Farnum did not often fail. She sent him a glance of frowning inquiry from under her lashes. His skin was dark, not with the olive freshness of the French Creole men of her acquaintance, but with the bronze color of one used to long hours in the semitropical sun of southern Louisiana. His brows were black and thick above deep-set eyes fringed with dark lashes; his nose was classically straight, and his lips were well defined, as if chiseled from granite, above the strong jut of his chin. His plain coat of dark blue broadcloth stretched over broad shoulders. Under it, his white linen shirt was open at the neck and tucked into the waistband of a pair of buckskin riding breeches. His cuffed boots were mud-splashed, but gleamed with the fastening chains of a pair of neat, smooth-roweled silver spurs. His kinship with her husband was obvious; they were much alike in coloring, height, and width of shoulder. It was in their manner that the difference between them lay.

"I am Amalie, then, Cousin Robert," she answered, willing her stiff lips into a smile and giving his name the French pronunciation that dropped the final consonant.

"Your cloak, ma chère," Madame Declouet said, "it is dripping water onto the rug. Where have you been in this downpour?" Amalie turned with relief. "Oh, M'mere," she said, giving her husband's mother the childish title that the older woman preferred, one coined by Julien when he was small, "that is what I wanted to tell you. I have come from the bayou. Sir Bent says that the water is rising, that it will be out of the banks before midafternoon and may well flood the lower rooms of the house unless a barrier of sandbags can be built. He has enlisted some of the other men from the quarters, but more must be ordered out, and M'sieu Dye is nowhere to be found." M'mere frowned. "Ungrateful man, he is never close by when needed."

Patrick Dye was the overseer at Belle Grove Plantation, a swaggering Irishman with more sense of self-worth than responsibility. Try as she might, Amalie could not like him. Still, in this situation, he was the man they needed to organize the job and stay behind the field hands until it was done.

"Perhaps he went into town? If someone were sent after him, he might return in time."

"And just as easily might not."

"What else can we do?"

That Amalie had come to the older woman, instead of to her husband, was not a matter for comment. Julien took no interest in the workings of the plantation and would be supremely indifferent to the prospect of mud in the house. The structure had, after all, been built on nine-foot-tall piers to form a raised basement with just that possibility in mind. The basement rooms were used primarily for storage and servants' quarters, though the dining room was also on that level. The main rooms occupied by the family members, however, were on the second floor. Any damage would therefore be slight. Julien would not take into consideration the appalling mess that must ensue or the effort it would take to clear it away.

As M'mere shook her head, Robert Farnum spoke. "You can leave it to me."

"You?" Amalie swung around to stare at him.

At the same time, M'mere said, "But what of your own place?"

Robert Farnum answered his aunt, ignoring Amalie's surprise. "The Willows sits on higher ground, if you will remember. I'll talk to Sir Bent, but I doubt the water will reach it. It never has before."

"We would be most grateful, then, if you are certain, mon cher?"

"I'm certain." Robert swung away from his aunt, moving toward the door.

"Wait," Amalie said, "I'll take you to Sir Bent."

He paused with his hand on the doorknob and the panel of the door half open. "I can find my way."

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