Wow! Iona Findley and The Hero’s Heart series are the bomb.ILC “ILC”
I appreciated the way the author embraced the sentiments that love and family are the two most important things in life.JOAN THEWES
A boss-lady and a cop. Can they unwind enough to find true love?
Delphine Toussaint is in control — of her family’s hotel, of her employees, and most importantly, of herself. When problems crop up at The Belle Alexandrine Hotel, she must rein them in — quickly — to prove herself worthy of her new position as General Manager. All her future plans are at risk if she destroys her family’s legacy as the top-rated hotel in New Orleans.
Detective Geo Shaw genuinely loves people — especially women — but when trouble crops up, he handles it alone. His forced suspension from the police department is driving him nuts, so he’ll do just about anything to solve a case — including working for the sexy, but uptight, Delphine Toussaint.
The two of them must join forces to keep the hotel on track, and win back Geo’s job at the NOPD, all while a new attraction smolders between them.
UNWIND MY LOVE is for you if you crave feel-good, contemporary romances that blend heartwarming love with family fun, suspense, and just a hint of paranormal.
Trust My Love (Book #1) Philippe and Claire
Unwind My Love (Book #2) Delphine and Geo
Reclaimed By Love (Book #3) Remy and Rachel
HERO’S HEART SERIES:
Opening Hearts (Book #1) Sam and Jessalyn
Risking Hearts (Book #2) Jake and Hope
Joining Hearts (Book #3) Zoe and Marcus
Evolving Hearts (Book #4) Andy and Amy
Finding Hearts (Book #5) Mikey and Julia
If you love joyful reads about asking for help and trusting in love, order UNWIND MY LOVE today.
“Hey, Cassie, can I get another, sugar?” Detective Geoff Shaw, just Geo nowadays, rattled the last ice cube in his glass and winked at the busty blonde bartender who was serving a pair of young lawyer types at the other end of the bar. When she tapped her finger on her wrist and shook her head in teasing disapproval, he smiled and shrugged. “C’mon, it’s five o’clock somewhere.”
Philippe Toussaint, Geo’s partner in the New Orleans Police Department, raised his brow. “You think?”
The rookie with Philippe tugged at the collar of his uniform and squirmed. Poor kid hated when any of the senior detectives butted heads.
Not Cassie, though, she came through. Winking at him, she spun towards the mirrored back of the bar, ponytail bobbing, and scooped up the bottle of Maker’s 46 bourbon, giving him a quick glance at her curvy backside. She twirled to face them again and walked the length of the cypress wood bar to where he, Philippe, and young Officer Haydel sat.
“My savior. Thank you for distracting me from the endless hours of this bogus suspension.”
Geo reached across the space between them and covered her free hand in a smooth move that earned him a sardonic smile. She knew he was playing. As a med student at Tulane when she wasn’t swabbing the bar, she didn’t have time for dating – everyone knew it. Plus, she was the kind of girl a guy would get serious about, and Geo didn’t do serious.
“You two need refills?” she asked the two on-duty police detectives, pointing to their root beer bottles.
Right then Geo wished he was the one with the no octane beer. Because that would mean he was back on the job at Missing Persons, cleared of the bogus use of force suspension.
Haydel blushed as Cassie met his gaze. Most women probably considered the crazy-smart, young detective attractive, but somehow he’d missed learning the smooth, sexy banter so common in The Big Easy.
Both the Philippe and the rookie shook their heads. “Nope, we’re on duty. We’ll leave the hard stuff to Geo here.” Philippe thumped his grounded partner on the shoulder. “Don’t get too used to these slushy lunches, buddy. I need you back at work.”
Geo’s stomach churned.
“One word from the brass and I’m back.” What if that word never comes?
The slow burn of injustice chaffed in Geo’s gut. This use-of-force bullshit might be the death knell tolling the end of his career. Sure, every officer-involved shooting required department scrutiny, but the delays in his return to work… They were unprecedented. Only powerful and affluent people, like the DuChamps, had the power to trash a man’s career. Damn every single DuChamp, and their vengeful political leverage.
Philippe slugged back the last of his soda, leaned over the bar top, and three-pointed the bottle into the recycle bin the bar backs used for empties.
“The chief will have to bring you back soon. Hell, with all the awards you’ve won on the job, he’s got no real ammunition to block your return. He’ll have to man up and tell the DuChamps to stand down, no matter how it dings his own political aspirations.”
It was true. He had won damn near every possible service award for his rank and division. From his very first day in Missing Persons, he’d known he’d found his calling. He was a finder. Maybe it was his years of experience chasing Lila, or maybe it was in his DNA. Either way, he was like a Labrador Retriever when on a case. No target could elude his search.
“Maybe, but you’ve got to admit sometimes the power players win,” said Geo. “Especially in this city. Get enough money involved and anything can happen. Just look at the mid-nineties.”
Philippe tipped his head in acknowledgement, and Haydel remained mute.
“I thought this would be over by now. But now I’m starting to wonder what else I could do. If I’m not a cop… What am I?” Arghhh. This sucks! Geo wanted to punch something but rolled his hand into a fist on the bar top instead and rapped his knuckles on the wood in three sharp knocks.
Philippe’s steady gaze tempered the panic welling up inside his body. His words reassured Geo, and his no-nonsense tone did the same.
“Everything’s going to be fine… except our stats. We’ve slipped in the ranks, buddy. Jackson and Decker bumped us down a peg with that last missing elderly solve.”
The rookie’s eyes grew wide. Poor kid looked afraid he might be blamed for the current stack ranking of the teams. He shifted away from Geo, as if expecting a sharp reply or a quick jab in the kidney.
It would be funny, except nothing about the shady politicking that kept him off the job was funny.
Geo glared down at the high polished gloss of the wood as he rolled his shoulders and struggled to temper his next words. A hard won smile eased back onto his face. “I’d fix that if I could, buddy. Guess you and the rookie better work harder, huh?”
The month and a half of forced leave, and the mandatory psych sessions, tested Geo’s sanity like few things ever had. Even the times when his baby sister, Lila, had run away were nothing like this. At least then he’d been able to do something; follow leads, press for answers and get some. Plus, the longest he’d ever lost her was five days.
Geo glanced back up to search his partner’s eyes. “What’s the news? Anything?”
Haydel’s squirm in his peripheral vision told him something was wrong. Whatever there was to know, he’d know it soon. Philippe wouldn’t lie to him. No Toussaint would, not about anything important.
“Sarge is taking some heat from above,” said Philippe.
“Heat. What heat?”
“They want him to assign me a new partner.”
Disbelief struck like the punch of a fist to his airway, stopping him from blurting out the string of foul words pummeling through his synapses.
What the fuck?
He and Philippe consistently closed more cases than any other duo on the Missing Persons team. No pissy millionaire DuChamps or lame brained politicians could undo that fact.
The hand on his arm and Philippe’s steady, unflinching stare told him to step his adrenaline surge down.
“It won’t happen. Sarge got up in the Lieu’s face and stood firm. I did the same. I also reached out directly to the brass and told them I’m not accepting a new partner when I already have one.”
“Right now, the DuChamp cousins can use as much unscrupulous gamesmanship and political capital as they want to bury you,” said Philippe. “And, yeah, it’s worked so far, but throw the Toussaint family’s influence into the mix and it’s not going to stand. How about you reconsider letting Pappa work the social clubs?”
Geo ground his teeth and reached up to massage the hinge of his jaw. “I fight my own battles.” He’d been the one to shoot Jamison DuChamp. No one else needed to suffer the machinations of the man’s living relatives. Besides, the bastard kidnapped Philippe’s fourteen-year-old niece, Alexia. DuChamp wasn’t exactly a saint.
Philippe nodded. “I get it, man, and we’ve all stepped lightly due to that family’s mourning, but enough is enough. Sure, you shot the guy, but it was justified.”
“I’d do it again too.”
Haydel leaned closer to join the conversation. “The takedown was clean and everyone knows it. Hang in there, Shaw.”
The rookie was new to Missing Persons, but he had guts and heart too, if the tight line of his mouth told the story. Haydel’s unwavering belief that everything would work out was naive, but Geo’d take comfort where he could.
“Plus, the whole team has committed to a sick-out if they don’t bring you back soon,” said Haydel. The determined smile on the rookie’s face when he referred to the subversive strike process sometimes used by disgruntled employees offered some hope. It might be illegal for police officers to strike, but they weren’t above a little ‘blue flu’ when pushed too far.
Geo swung his head between the two men. The level of commitment to getting him back was high, and not even a sliver of doubt showed in their faces. He ran a hand through his hair, and puffed out the breath of air that had splintered through his rib cage about the time Philippe said new partner.
Philippe stood and waved his arm at Cassie, who zipped around behind the tall wooden counter mixing up a tray full of brightly colored shots and martinis. When she glanced his way, he circled his hand around where the trio sat and called out, “Put this on my tab, along with whatever else Shaw here orders. But don’t let him stay long.”
A bubble of laughter and a knowing glance shot down the bar. Yup, a happy, easygoing woman, she exemplified exactly what Geo would want, if he wanted any woman for more than a few nights.
“Just for that… Another round, sweet Cassie. The good stuff.” Geo lifted his glass and slammed back the biting amber liquid, enjoying the distraction of the burn in his throat. Dread and lizard-brain anxiety warred within him as the two men walked away – his partner and…his replacement?
God, I hope not.
Cassie clunked a fresh highball of bourbon down in front of him and swiped the old one away. “Lunch, buddy?” She waved the menu at him. His stomach growled.
“Sure, I’ll have jambalaya and some jalapeno poppers on the side.”
“You got it.”
She disappeared into the kitchen, so he rotated around to skim his eyes over the rest of the bar. The place rocked it for a Tuesday. Tables sizzled with business men closing deals, society women planning charity events, and tourists resting their sore feet, all imbibing in some French Quarter fun.
A party of twenty-something women circled a table littered with appetizers and every color of cocktail possible. Several of them whispered among themselves and gave him a once over.
What the hell. They were way too young for him, but with his NOPD lockout in place, and the day growing long, he had nothing else to do. He stood, grabbed his glass, and ambled over.
“Ladies. You got room for one more?” Five flushed faces and five perky young bodies shifted his way. Expectation and hope flared in their expressions. Did they think he wanted one of them? He’d let ’em down lightly. Right now, they were having outrageous fun, and he needed some of that. Anything to take the edge off. The boredom and agony of waiting for Sarge to call him back to work were killing him.
Delphine Toussaint walked through the lobby, visually inspecting everything as she went. At the front desk, Bobby checked-in a smiling, happy couple. Mentally checking one item off her list, she continued across the high-shine marble floor to where four sets of French doors opened out into the courtyard. As the General Manager of The Belle Alexandrine, Delphine spent a large portion of her business hours on quality management.
The patio tiles gleamed, clean and clear of debris. The well-groomed, flowering plants and trees sparkled with fresh dew drops from the sprinkler system. Two young boys played near the center of the interior courtyard. They hunched over the gurgling fountain, laughing and pointing out the fish and turtles, which lived in the base of the large water feature.
Nearby, their parents leaned over a wrought iron table studying a map of the French Quarter.
She stepped up to the door opening and called out to them, “Can I help you find something, or answer any questions for you?”
“Oh, thank you, but I think we’ve got it. We were trying to find the Audubon Insectarium.” The mother tipped her head at her two boys. “It should be right up their ally.”
Delphine smiled and nodded. “I bet they’ll love the Bug Appétit exhibit. It’s not every day you can eat bugs. If those two are anything like my brothers were as kids, they’ll be grossed out, even as they gobble up those critter covered cookies and treats. They’ll think it’s cool.”
The couple glanced at each other then back at her.
“Ew. Bugs to eat, really?” The young mother shuddered and her husband laughed, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
“Sounds perfect,” he said. “After that we shouldn’t have any trouble getting them to try fried crawfish.”
“Oh, no problem there,” said Delphine. “Tell them mudbugs taste like popcorn shrimp or lobster.” She chuckled as she waved and detoured back into the main lobby. Kids were a hoot.
Back inside, she inspected the coffee station to the left of the hotel’s front doors, which proved to be well stocked and tidy. Janie, the concierge, sat nearby behind her cherry wood desk discussing which plantation tour was best with a couple of elderly women in floppy straw sun-hats. Everything looked perfect, no hitches – for now.
Satisfied, Delphine picked up her pace and walked past the gift shop, toward Spiriteaux, the lobby bar. She needed to review the work schedules for the American Culinary Conference next week. The Belle Alexandrine was renowned for being the best luxury hotel in New Orleans for conferences, as well as the top rated overall. She intended to maintain that position, so everything had to run flawlessly.
Her Pappa and Grandpere Toussaint had worked tirelessly to win that honor, and now it was her turn. Biotech America, the last conference event held at the hotel, didn’t go as smoothly as she’d hoped. Thankfully, word of the issues hadn’t reached the review sites on the internet, or even the local media. She’d laid in new systems to avoid the previous problems, now she needed to ensure no new ones cropped up. The Belle Alexandrine’s reputation – her reputation – was on the line like never before.
As she rounded the corner towards the bar, her heel caught on the carpet where it was pulling up. She righted herself and stepped inside the doorway, reaching for her phone. Maintenance should correct the problem immediately. The last thing she needed was a lawsuit.
She hung up and scanned the room to measure the general atmosphere and identify any other problems that required attention. The tables and booths were almost all full, which prompted her to move forward quickly to seat herself at the two-top booth closest to the kitchen where she always did her paperwork. Guests never wanted those seats anyway, preferring the larger booths or the padded velvet stools that rimmed the bar.
The clatter of the food prep area and the hum of waiters calling out drink orders to the bartender bothered most customers, but they disappeared like white noise for her.
“Oooh, Geo, I’m sure you know all the dangerous spots in the city. You could join us tonight to keep us safe. I know I’d feel much better with you around.”
She’d like to think it was the shrill voice that drew her attention to the six-top table, or maybe the chorus of “oooo, yes” and “great idea” and “oh, please” that followed. But it wasn’t.
It was the name – Geo.
She knew what she’d see even before she spotted the crowd of five young women who fawned over none other than her brother’s partner. He’d been in the hotel several times a week since the shooting. Before that, she’d never seen him in the bars, just at an occasional family dinner when Philippe dragged him along. Mid-day drinking, heck any drinking, seemed to be his new normal since his forced hiatus from the NOPD.
She felt bad for him. Geo’s suspension was complete nonsense. After all, he’d saved Alexia from that crazy man. Did he have to hang out here, though? Surely there was something better, or more important, to do than hanging out in her bar picking up tourists and drinking at barely past noon. Didn’t he have any hobbies, like fishing or golfing?
Then again, maybe he was fishing right now… Just not for trout.
His easy grace and smooth confidence were so… so, irritating. He lounged in a high back chair with his long, muscular legs fully extended in front of him and crossed at the ankles as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
And those girls – some of them seemed barely legal. What did he think he was doing with a bucketful of beautiful young – capital Y, Young – girls hanging on his every word? Not that she could blame the girls. The detective was sexy. No denying it.
He reached up to rub his shaggy golden hair where it curved around his ear. His stretch rippled his muscled abs, which stood out, gloriously displayed. The fabric of his thin burnout t-shirt stretched so tight it might shred with the lightest touch. Her breath caught and she force exhaled, reaching up to massage the back of her neck.
Seriously, the facts were indisputable. Geo equaled yummy. He was the kind of man who made a woman lick her lips without meaning to. Plus, he oozed that easy-going, fun-loving thing that charmed everyone.
All of which rankled. He looked up at her and grinned, lifting his glass in a toast to acknowledge her presence.
She bobbed her head in a curt reply, then lowered her eyes to her paperwork. Focus. He might not, but she had way too much to worry about to spend even one more minute thinking about him and those… those girls.
“Ms. Toussaint? We’ve got a problem.”
Delphine’s head snapped up and she saw Janie standing beside her table. The young woman’s nervous smile indicated the problem was big. Janie’s fun, gregarious personality was nowhere in sight.
Striving for calm, Delphine smiled, greeting the worried girl. “Hi, Janie. I thought we agreed you’d call me Delphine.”
“Oh, yes. Sorry. It’s just this situation.”
“Well, we think so. One of the guests is… err… might be missing.”
Delphine’s gut clenched, and worry lodged in her chest. She couldn’t quite modulate her response, cringing when she heard her own voice crack through the room.