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Serpentine Journey

Discerning Hearts, Book Three

The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: STEAMY
Word Count: 93,720
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BROADWAY AT LAST! Since the age of six, Tye Lutierre has dreamed of the moment she steps onto the Broadway stage. In twenty-four hours her dream will be reality. What could go wrong? Almost everything, when she chooses to spend the evening with Philby Potter, a shadowy entrepreneur with a twisted view of the world. Potter avenges an imagined slight by getting her dropped from the production.

When her retaliation is eventually found out, she knows Potter will use any means, including violence, to get even. Though she swore she’d never go back, Tye returns to her family home in New Orleans, running for her life. Surely Potter can’t find her on a riverboat — can he?


“Do you want to hear me sing, or are you just making conversation?’

“Take a chair. We’ll talk some more. Want a drink?” Tye shook her head. She wasn’t drinking with this joker.

“Brisket, get me another, and this time, no ice.” He tossed his empty glass to the boy behind him.

Tye picked up his abandoned cards and shuffled them. “Tell me what you’re looking for in a singer,” she suggested.

“A dish, a doll, preferably one who can carry a tune and remember at least half the words.”

“What kind of an audience do you pull in? Tourists? Locals? Young? Middle-aged?”

“I’m just getting started. What I want is the retired crowd. Rich, middle-aged, and older. Some tourists, sure, but more local folks. Big spenders, the fortieth-anniversary crowd. Remember the big bands? I want the people who heard them first, the folks who appreciate good, danceable music. No head-banging rock or bathroom lyrics.”

“Right.” Tye dealt him a hand face down. He raised an eyebrow. He flipped over one card, an ace.

“You could have a winning hand there,” she added.

He smirked a bit and made a show of turning up a corner on the rest of the cards. “Looks like it might be worth backing.”

Tye dealt herself a hand and watched his eyes as she turned over a five and a seven.

“I think I’ve got you beat, lady.” He started to reach for the cards.

“Not unless they’ve changed the rules. Three aces don’t take a straight, the last time I checked.”

“All I see is a five and a seven. That doesn’t say a straight to me.”

Tye put one finger on the back of the next card. “Six,” she said and flipped it over to show the six of spades. “Eight.” She tapped the next one and turned it up. The eight of diamonds fell beside the six. “And the nine of hearts.” She added it to the pile.

“You always win?” Johnny asked, one pale eyebrow rising above a skeptical eye.

“Usually.” She gathered the cards. “Always, if the cards are marked. These might as well have neon lights on them.”

“You cheat at anything besides cards?”

“Depends on the stakes.”

Johnny leaned back in his chair and took the drink Brisket handed him. The grey eyes were focused now, alert and looking at Tye with narrow regard. “Who the hell are you, lady, and what do you know about marked decks?”

“My name is Tye Lutierre, and I’m the lady who sings two shows a night on this tub. What I know about marked cards is this: don’t play with strangers if the deck is cold.”

Johnny laughed out loud, a dry laugh, as if he didn’t use it very often. “Okay, songbird, show me what you can do. Brisket, go get Floyd and tell him to oil up the piano.”

Tye conferred with the man who shambled into the lounge a few minutes later, his long brown fingers tobacco stained and wrinkled. She spread her music for him, and he threaded a few bars through the room.

“Good, let’s try it.” Tye pulled a bar stool over and put it near the side of the piano. “Do it, Floyd, real cozy, like two lovers sitting by a fireplace.”

Floyd riffed an intro, soft and sexy, and edged into the opening bars. Tye eased into it, pitching a mood, a scene, and let the yearning of loss creep into her voice and weave its spell as she filled the room with the haunting words of “What’ll I Do When You Are Far Away.”

The last notes died away, and Johnny drained his glass. “God, lady, what else can you do?”