The Lion of Frenchman Street, страница 1
The Lion of Frenchman Street
Teresa Noelle Roberts
Copyright © 2016 by Teresa Noelle Roberts
This novella originally appeared in the boxed set NOLA Naughty Nin9 (Boundless Tales, a subdivision of Lust Bites Magazine; 2016).
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Published by: Teresa Noelle Roberts, Mansfield, MA
Inquiries should be addressed to Teresa Noelle Roberts
Cover photo: © Bezik/BigStock.com
Teresa Noelle Roberts
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Dedication and Acknowledgements
About the Author
You might also enjoy Drive
You might also enjoy Out of Control
Other Books by Teresa Noelle Roberts
On Kelsey’s first night tending bar at a New Orleans jazz club, she catches the eye of handsome saxophonist—and Dominant—Peter Lyons. He sweeps her into his world of music and kinky sex, introducing her to fierce pleasures she’s always dreamed of. As they explore the crazy, romantic city she comes to love as much as he does, she’s falling hard for Peter, too. Even though he claims “true love” is for songs, not real life, it’s hard to resist his rope skills and his vintage movie star looks, his passion for life and the hints of pain in his blue eyes.
But Kelsey’s only tending bar as a stopgap. When she’s offered a dream job out of town, Peter’s old scars break open and everything goes out of tune. Can music, passion, and the magic of New Orleans get them back in harmony?
This novella originally appeared in the boxed set NOLA NAUGHTY NIN9. This version contains new material.
KELSEY NEVER IMAGINED the bartending she’d done in grad school, not the graduate degree itself, would support her in New Orleans. But her job in the education department of the Aquarium of the Americas lasted less than a month before funding upheavals meant she was cut to fifteen hours a week.
Her parents had figured she’d pack up and move back to Massachusetts, but she was determined to stay. She told herself it was part of the New Orleans experience, since practically everyone she’d met in her adopted city needed a side gig to get by.
As of tonight, hers was tending bar at The Dubious Concoction on Frenchman Street, a restaurant and jazz club known for creative cocktails.
And, apparently, jazz musicians who dressed like updated versions of Frank Sinatra. The men of tonight’s group, the Lions of Frenchman Street, all wore sharp suits, ties, and fedoras, and played an enticing mix of jazz classics and popular songs from her grandparents’ youth.
The vocalist wore a snug-bodiced, full-skirted vintage style dress that accented her lush figure; its tropical colors set off her dark complexion. The suited men were a diverse bunch: an elderly black man on piano, a wiry young drummer who appeared to be part black and part Asian, and an Italian-looking trumpet player about Kelsey’s parents’ age.
But the long, cool drink of red-headed sax player—he had to be the one who gave the group their name, with his fierce, contained, feline grace—was the one who made her pulse quicken and her panties threaten to catch on fire at any moment.
Which would be impressive considering how damp they were.
That man was inspiring some seriously dirty thoughts. He seemed to make love to the music he played, to control it and at the same time let it flower, shaping it gently but firmly. After one song, she wanted him to make love to her in the same way.
Tender but kinky, that was how it would be.
In her wildest dreams, that is.
He hadn’t even made eye contact. If he ever did, she’d risk spontaneous combustion. His eyes were blue, she thought, but that cool blue could set her aflame.
She was going to have to stop gawking at him. She had to focus on something other than wanting him to tongue her more sensitive body parts the way he did his mouthpiece. Otherwise she wasn’t going to be able to tell an Old Fashioned from a gimlet, not to mention dredge up the recipes for local favorites such as the Sazerac, drinks she didn’t have memorized because they weren’t common orders at her last bartending gig in Providence. And she’d be totally lost on the night’s complicated cocktail specials, which more and more people were ordering as the evening went on.
She marveled that the audience could tear their attention away from the music and the visual feast to order more drinks. Her wallet was glad they were, of course. But how could they not stare at the sax player and lose themselves in music and fantasy? Granted, a good percentage of them wouldn’t appreciate a good-looking man the way she did, or respond to that kind of controlled intensity with Pavlovian predictability. Even vanilla people who preferred their eye candy female, though, should recognize this as seriously fine jazz while they were enjoying the vocalist’s flamboyant curves. Yet they were talking to each other over the music.
She winced, thinking of all the times live music had been a soundtrack to a night out with friends. She’d like to think it had all been mediocre but inoffensive background noise.
She suspected, though, she’d missed some fine music because no one in the group had been as drop-dead gorgeous as Mr. Saxophone.
Unfortunately—make that fortunately for everything but her concentration—he was in her line of sight a lot of the time because the stage was front and center in her end of the club. When she turned away to grab bottles, she’d see the musicians in the antique mirror on the wall behind the dark, tastefully battered vintage walnut bar, and her gaze would go straight to the sax man.
The club buzzed with conversation and drink orders poured in from the waitstaff and customers who came directly to her bar. But the noise, except for what she needed to hear to do her job, faded, drowned out by the delicious music.
Even when she was busy trying not to poison anyone by screwing up an unfamiliar cocktail, the sound of that sax encircled and enticed her. All the musicians were good—the piano and trumpet players were old-school excellent, the drummer talented without trying to take over, and the vocalist’s big, silky voice was well suited to songs made famous by women like Ella Fitzgerald. But the sax player often took the lead, leaving the vocalist to take a break and the others to offer a quiet underlayer of sound.
By the end of their second set, she was pretty sure she’d want to take the sax player home even if he looked like the north end of a southbound horse.
But he had the cool and the wicked blue eyes of Sinatra, cheekbones that could cut glass, and tousled red-gold hair that was the only messy touch in his cool elegance. She wanted his long hands moving over her body the way they moved over the keys of his instrument. She yearned to strip off that pale gray linen suit and see if he was as elegantly built as he appear
If she was being honest with herself, she wanted a lot more than that, but if she let her fantasies get too detailed, she’d spill expensive whiskey or put ten splashes of Peychaud’s Bitters into a drink that needed only one.
All her nerve endings proclaimed she needed the man with the sax, but her brain knew she needed this job more. Sure, there were plenty of bartending jobs in New Orleans, but since she already had the one at The Dubious Concoction, she’d prefer to keep it.
The end of the set brought a great rush of customers to the bar, each one wanting a more complicated creation than the last. Bacon-infused bourbon and leather-scented bitters. Muddled berries and mint and three liqueurs. Muddled beets, for God’s sake.
She was keeping up, though, getting into the groove. It helped not to have live music. The Coltrane coming over the speakers was exquisite, but didn’t demand the same attention as a hot man making great music right in front of her.
She handed one of the crazy beet drinks to a customer, then bent down to pull an Abita from the fridge beneath the bar for a waitress to deliver. When she stood, Abita in hand, she found another customer ready for her.
The sax player.
“Limeade, please,” he asked in a voice like cane syrup and amber with a splash of bourbon.
She blinked. He repeated himself.
“Gin or rum in that?” Hey, good, she’d managed to ask a sensible question instead of drooling. “It’s on the house for musicians.” Which he undoubtedly knew, but repeating it helped her remember the house rules.
“Just limeade. I still have two more sets and it’s thirsty work. Booze comes later.”
Right. Limeade. In the fridge. It usually served as the base for one of their gin cocktails, a concoction with Thai basil and a single bird chili as a garnish, although a few people had ordered it straight.
It would have helped if she couldn’t feel those intense eyes watching her every move.
Not that he was watching her in an interested way. When you were waiting for a glass of something cold, you might study the bartender intently. Especially if you were wondering why she seemed to find pouring a glass of limeade so hard.
It wasn’t hard, was it?
Oh I wish it was hard…and in me.…
No, glass, then ice in the glass, then get out the pitcher. Thinking about sex is not helping. Especially not sex with someone who’s waiting for his drink—and who’s a lot more important to this bar than I am.
Once the thought of sex was in her head, though, she couldn’t get rid of it. Not with him close enough she could imagine him reaching across, touching her. No, grabbing her and pulling her over the bar to him. He wasn’t built like a linebacker, but he was tall and his shoulders filled out the suit jacket. He could probably do it.…
A throaty chuckle alerted her that the glass was full to the rim. No, the limeade was over the rim and spilling.
Oh damn. Make that oh fuck.
She righted the pitcher immediately. At least he hadn’t been leaning on the bar, so his suit was safe, and she hadn’t spilled enough to splash anyone else in the area. Nothing like ruining someone’s fancy outfit to make sure your first night at a new job was your last. “I’m so sorry,” she muttered as she grabbed a rag. “I can’t believe I did that. Simplest drink of the evening and I messed up.” She swiped frantically at the puddle. It wasn’t that big, but she felt like an idiot.
Would he guess she’d been lost in a fantasy about him or would he assume she was incompetent? Probably the latter. Which wasn’t the way to make an impression on the gorgeous guy or her new boss, who’d probably hear about this snafu straight from the musician. Bartenders were a dime a dozen. Even in New Orleans, where good musicians played on every corner, a sax player like this guy was worth keeping happy. Especially if, as she suspected, he brought the whole talented group with him.
At that thought, she started scrubbing harder.
A long hand closed around her wrist. “The bar’s vintage. Don’t wear a hole in the varnish.”
She felt her face flaming and looked away, muttering another apology.
“Not a big deal. You’re new, right?”
She nodded. For a while she’d imagined her panties would catch fire. Now she was pretty sure her face would. “Must be obvious.”
He gave her hand a quick squeeze and released it. “That little spill? It could happen to anyone. It’s more that I play here all the time and haven’t seen you before—and I’d remember you.” He smiled a hundred-megawatt smile that made her heart and her clit flutter in the same syncopated rhythm. “Before you say it, it wouldn’t be for your drink-spilling abilities. I like your tats and the way you dance along to the music as you work.”
Gently, quickly, he traced one finger along the autumn leaves that flamed up her right arm. Usually she’d pull away and snap, “Don’t do that,” if someone touched her without permission—and since she’d gotten the tat, she’d become a magnet for that kind of discourtesy—but this unexpected caress, instead of infuriating her, sent thrills of pleasure radiating from her wrist through her entire body.
While she was still shivering, he bent down and carefully sipped enough of the overfull drink that he’d be able to move it.
Sweet baby Jesus, she’d give anything to be able to check out the view from behind—she noticed quite a few women and a couple of men were doing just that. But the view she had was impressive, kind of like a lion at the watering hole. It could have looked silly, but somehow it didn’t.
And he played here all the time? She’d never survive.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, he straightened. “Should be safe now.” Another blinding smile. He extended his hand. To pick up the drink, she figured.
But it went right past the glass and clasped hers. “Peter Lyons. I’d love to talk more when there isn’t a line waiting for your attention.”
She nodded, too stunned for a second to remember she was supposed to respond. Then her brain kicked in again. “Kelsey D’Amato. I’ll be here until midnight.”
“So will I. After midnight, then?” His bourbon-and-cane-syrup voice hit notes that made her clit want to sing.
Before Kelsey could say anything other than “Yes,” several more drink orders assailed her from both people at the bar and waitstaff. By the time she could pay attention again, Peter had headed back to the little stage, leaving the empty limeade glass and an outrageously large tip behind.
“He’s something, ain’t he?” a rumbling bass voice whispered. Antoine, the senior bartender on tonight, was a burly black man with what she thought must be a bayou accent. Not as French-infused as her white Cajun supervisor at her museum job, not almost South Boston mellowed with a hint of sweetness like Peter, but butter-rich and very Southern. In some of their earlier conversations, she’d thought subtitles would be mutually useful, since her crisp New England accent and his gentle slur might as well be two different languages, but this sentiment she understood completely.
“He’s a great musician,” she assented, not ready to reveal her lust to a new colleague.
“And he fronts a terrific group. And he’s as hot as August on Bourbon Street.” Antoine sighed. “Swings your way, not mine, and I think he likes you. You lucky bitch.” The way he said it transformed “bitch” into a compliment. “But Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday I get a great view and the ladies all tip well because he makes them happy.”
“Good lord,” she blurted. “Three nights a week? That may slay me. I’ll melt away and die of the sexy.” Oops, that was the outside voice. So much for not letting Antoine know about her lecherous thoughts. At least he’d admitted his first; it was a bonding moment or something.
“Yankees must be made of weak stuff if you can’t handle a handsome musician flirting with you. And darlin’, he was definitely flirting.” With a grin, Antoine returned to work.
The Dubious Concoction stayed open until 3, but live
Peter Lyons sidled over to the bar, carrying the case that held his sax. She hadn’t noticed before that the band on his gray fedora was a pale yellow, the color of his tie.
He looked like a character from a vintage film, the one who at first might be either the hero or the antihero. He definitely wouldn’t be the villain, but he might be the charming playboy character who either would have to reform to get the heroine or would lose her at the end, though a gaggle of girls would still wait a turn to have their hearts broken.
Luckily, times had changed and so had stories. Playboys didn’t need to reform to become heroes, depending on the story.
She was pretty much open to whatever story Peter Lyons and his updated-vintage look and his sexy hands wanted to spin for her, as long as it wasn’t a murder mystery. If it was a short piece of erotica…well, no guarantee she’d be in New Orleans for long, given her work situation. She might as well enjoy her time here.
If nothing else, the game of getting to know an attractive man, the back-and-forth dance of flirtation, was enjoyable even if it didn’t lead to sex, let alone romance. But the way Peter smiled as he approached her suggested this might be hooking up, not just having a drink with a co-worker.
He ushered her out of the bar, one hand on the small of her back. The warmth of his palm burned into her skin through her black jersey skirt, and the thinner layer of a paisley-print gauzy top with light, slit sleeves.
The Dubious Concoction, though air-conditioned, had been warm. Still, the air on Frenchman Street slapped her, a tropical miasma of river water, stale booze, distant spices. Even with the notes of piss and stale beer inevitable in a neighborhood of bars and nightclubs, in a hot, humid town where public drinking was legal, Kelsey liked it. So different from her Massachusetts hometown’s smell—salty and oceanic, with a definite fish-and-industry undertone in some neighborhoods. It was early October and her mother was covering her garden back in Gloucester to protect it against frost. Here, the season was still ripe with possibilities.