The Cuvier Widows Series by Sylvia McDaniel

tcw-barragebanner

About The Books

Wronged (The Cuvier Widows #1)

Historical Romance Categories: Mystery/Thriller, Bigamy Publisher: Virtual Bookseller Release Date: December 30, 2012 Heat Level: Sensual Word Count: 100,000

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | Smashwords

Marian Cuvier didn’t know how to react when she learned that the man she called husband and father to her children, Jean Cuvier, had been murdered. Yet, the biggest surprise was when the detective informed her that she’s not the only woman Jean married. There are three Cuvier Widows and one is suspected of murder.

When Marian learned of her husband’s death, humiliation, shock and anger were the only emotions she felt for Jean. For the last several years, their marriage has been in name only. Now she’s determined to safeguard her children’s future and save their only source of income, Cuvier Shipping. Jean’s handsome business partner, Louis Fournet thinks Marian’s should not be leading her husband’s business. The man has a way with women that Marian finds alluring and arouses feelings she’s never experienced.  Louis Fournet is a temptation she finds hard to resist.

Betrayed (The Cuvier Widows #2)

Historical Romance Categories: Bigamy Publisher: Virtual Bookseller Release Date: December 30, 2012 Heat Level: Sensual Word Count: 100,000

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | Smashwords

Nicole Cuvier went to New Orleans to share the most wonderful news with her husband only to discover him in a hotel room murdered, with two other women claiming to be his wife. It seems there are three Cuvier Widows and one is suspected of murder.

For years, Nicole Cuvier had tried to erase the shame of her illegitimate birth and start the family she longed for with her husband, Jean. As the mistress of Rosewood, she owns one of the largest plantations on the River Road in Louisiana. Now, she’s pregnant, unmarried-a widow with a plantation dependent upon the sugar cane crop to survive. She needs a temporary husband. Handsome Maxim Viel, a drifter, comes to her rescue and marries her, but unbeknownst to Nicole, Maxim wants more than a temporary arrangement. He has the power to heal her shattered heart, but could his past be intertwined with Rosewood?

Beguiled (The Cuvier Widows #3)

Historical Romance Categories: Mystery/Thriller, Bigamy Publisher: Virtual Bookseller Release Date: December 30, 2012 Heat Level: Sensual Word Count: 100,000

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | Smashwords

Jean Cuvier forced Layla’s father to sell his shipping company and marry his daughter, or so she believed. Until the morning the servants wake her with the news that Jean is dead and she quickly learns she’s not the only Mrs. Cuvier. Jean has three widows, but Layla is the only one accused of Jean’s murder.

The District Attorney has enough motive and evidence, to send Layla to the gallows. Forced to turn to the man she blames for the sale of her father’s shipping company, she must trust Drew Soulier, to save her life. Though Drew’s the best attorney in New Orleans, he doubts her innocence. As tensions mount, Drew and Layla face a passion they can’t deny. Can Drew save her from hanging?

Sylvia-7805-LR-Color

About The Author

Sylvia McDaniel and the love of her life, Don, live in Texas with son Shane, Putz the klutzy dachshund and Ashley our shy dachshund. During the day, she works for a small insurance agency, helping clients with their commercial insurance coverage.

The weekends are spent working out in the garden until the temperature climbs above ninety degrees. Recently, with the help of her husband, she learned to make homemade blueberry and blackberry jam. Cooking is not her favorite past-time and she prefers Don’s cooking any day of the week.

Currently, she’s written fourteen novels.  Her novel, A Hero’s Heart, was a 1996 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist. Sylvia is President Elect of Dallas Area Romance Authors.

Connect with Sylvia McDaniel

Email | Website | Blog | Plotting Princess Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Excerpts Of Each Book

Wronged (The Cuvier Widows #1)

New Orleans, 1895

Marian Cuvier for years thought her husband kept a mistress and that her marriage to Jean Cuvier wasn’t worth the paper their marriage license was printed on. Still, the sight of the man she had spent the last twelve years of her life with—borne two children and made a home for—lying dead on the floor of a bedroom in the Chateau Hotel ripped a sob of anguish from her throat

“What happened?” she cried, her mind reeling with thoughts of her fatherless children wrenching her heart.

Policemen stood around the body in small groups, ceased their low whispers and glanced her direction, their gazes stern, but curious.

A man half-bent over Jean’s body turned and gazed at her, his dark eyes intense. “Who are you, Madame?”

“I’m his wife, Marian Cuvier,” she said, starting to tremble from the shock of her husband’s death. His body lay twisted grotesquely on the floor, his skin an odd pinkish hue.

Oh God, no matter how much I hated him, I would never have wished him dead!

The man crouching over the body slowly rose to his full height, his brows drawn together in a frown. “His wife is sitting in the next room Madame.”

“What?” she asked, not sure she heard him correctly. “I’m Marian Cuvier. I’m his wife. Who are you?”

“I’m detective Dunegan.” He gave her a stem look and took her by the arm, leading her from the bedroom.

Unable to resist, she glanced back perhaps for the last time at the still form that long ago had been her lover, and of late an absent husband. She closed her eyes, the image of the handsome man she’d married twelve years ago foremost in her mind. When she opened her eyes she looked toward the detective, not at the corpse who’d never been a good husband.

“Madame, I will ask you again. Who are you? His wife is sitting in the next room.”

Confusion rippled through her and she pulled away from the man as they entered the parlor. “That must be his mistress. I am Mrs. Jean Cuvier, we’ve been mar­ried for twelve years.”

The hotel clerk, who earlier had summoned her from her house and brought her to the Chateau Hotel, cleared his throat to draw the detective’s attention. He leaned over and whispered something to the younger man who glanced again at Marian.

As if she were at a play, she watched from a distance as the scene unfolded before her, a sense of uneasiness holding her in its grip. The body lying on the floor of the bedroom looked like her husband, Jean, who was expected home today. She supposed the corpse littering the floor must be her cold-hearted husband, the man who had visited her bed fewer times than he had the church, which was almost never.

Detective Dunegan gazed at her, his expression one of bewilderment. “My apologies, Mrs. Cuvier. There seems to be some confusion. The hotel clerk confirmed you were indeed married to Mr. Cuvier. If you’re his wife, then, who is the woman who was with Mr. Cuvier?”

The detective watched her closely as if he feared she would be overcome by the news her husband had died in a hotel room with another woman. Clearly, the detective had no clue that her marriage existed only on paper. How could she explain that her husband no longer found her attractive? That Louis often sought the com­pany of other women.

Impossible. So she said nothing about the state of her marriage. Let the police figure it out, maybe they could find the reasons why her husband no longer made love to her.

Marian lifted her chin and consciously pulled her shoulders back. Made of stronger fabric than most women, she would weather this storm, just like all the others Jean put her through. She ignored the way her insides began to quiver.

“Perhaps she is his mistress,” she acknowledged, her suspicions about Jean realized.

Damn him, did he never think of their children?

The door to the room burst open and a blonde woman dressed in an exquisite, embroidered crepe lisse flouncing with white India silk, hurried into the room. Her heart-shaped face and soft blue eyes looked dis­tressed and her complexion pale. “Where is he? Is he all right? They told me he was ill.”

The detective put himself between the young woman and the door to the room where Jean’s body lay sprawled.

“Who are you?” Officer Dunegan asked, halting the stylish woman who looked almost like a young girl.

“I’m Mrs. Cuvier,” she replied, her face anxious. “I went by Jean’s office and they sent me over here. Is the doctor with him?”

“Good Lord, another one?” the detective muttered, gazing at both of them.

“Who did you say you were?” Marian questioned as she stared at this woman in disbelief.

The woman gave Marian a quick disdainful glance. “I’m Mrs. Nicole Cuvier, Jean’s wife. Now, where is my husband?”

Marian wondered if she’d heard her correctly. Did she say she was Jean’s wife?

The detective glanced at Marian and then at the other woman. “Jean Cuvier is dead.”

Marion watched the woman as her trembling hand clutched her delicate throat. Her eyes reflected horror, while her face tightened with shock and her body swayed. For a moment Marian thought the newcomer would faint and she wondered if this whole scene was a bad dream.

“No! No!” the blonde woman cried, tears rushing to her eyes. “Dear God, no. He can’t be! Let me see him. Please tell me this is a mistake. Where is he?”

The detective glanced at Marian who stood staring at the scene in front of her, shock freezing her at the woman’s outburst. Jean had likely never been faithful, but how many women could one man be involved with? And did he really marry them?

“I’ll take you to him,” the man said taking Nicole by the arm. “I’m Detective Dunegan, with the New Orleans police.”

He led the latest Mrs. Cuvier into the bedroom where the body lay sprawled on the floor. Marian stood in the center of the parlor, not knowing what to do, feeling like the ground had been ripped from beneath her feet.

Two other women claimed to be Jean’s wife! The latest wife was young, attractive, and certainly more appealing for Jean to bed than herself. Could the women be lying about their marital status? Yet the new­est Mrs. Cuvier certainly appeared the grieving widow, more so than even Marian. If she were lying, she cer­tainly played her part well.

Or could this be some ploy to cover his murder? Extort money? None of this felt real, but it didn’t feel like a lie either. Speculation, but possible.

When the detective and the young woman returned, Marian still stood in the same place, the policemen walking a wide path around her as she stood transfixed, staring, stunned by the day’s events.

The room filled with the sounds of the newest Mrs. Cuvier’s soft sobs, and Marian felt the most incredible urge to comfort her. To shield her from the hurt that Jean could so easily inflict. She shook herself. When Nicole learned of Marian’s identity, she would not accept Marian’s offer of solace.

“I think we need to remain calm, sit down, and find out what happened,” the officer said, his voice firm and reassuring.

Calm? Remaining composed seemed impossible when you suspect your husband had found you so inappetent that he kept not one but two women to stimulate his sexual desires, leaving you to wait for him to return to the home you shared.

“What—what … happened,” Nicole sobbed, her face streaked with tears. “How did he die?”

Marian gazed with interest at the detective. What did it say about her relationship with Jean that she hadn’t even thought to ask that but rather just accepted the fact that Jean was dead.

“Poisoning. We suspect that his wi… the woman we found him with poisoned him.”

Nicole spun around and glared at Marian through her tears.

Marian gazed back at the angry and beautiful young woman, until she realized Nicole thought she had killed Jean. “Not me. There’s another woman.”

“What do you mean another woman?” Nicole asked.

“You’re not the only Mrs. Cuvier in this hotel suite.”

“I don’t believe you,” Nicole said almost hysterical.

Marian wanted to laugh, but thought it would be cruel and there was already more than enough pain in this hotel room. So instead she remained quiet, let the detec­tive explain the situation.

The detective took Nicole by the arm and motioned for Marian to follow him. They walked into an adjoining room where a girl who looked like she should still be in school sat staring out the window at the horizon, her dark eyes glazed and distant.

“Layla,” the detective said, releasing Nicole. “Tell these women how the man you’re suspected of killing was related to you.”

She turned her oval-shaped face toward the door. Hair as black as night was swept up off her neck in a coiffure that left wisps of curls swirling around her pale face. She glanced at the detective and raised her brows in a disdainful look that was both elegant and disapprov­ing. “I told you I did not kill my husband.”

Nicole moaned, the knowledge seeming like a blow to her. “What are you saying? You lie. You can’t be married to Jean?”

The girl stared at Nicole, not responding.

“Did you marry Jean Cuvier?” Marian asked gently feeling more certain that Jean had married each one of them. If Jean had done what she suspected, she had a sudden premonition they were all going to need con­soling in the next few minutes.

“Yes,” the young girl said, her voice starting to trem­ble. Her bright red lips pouted.

Marian squeezed her eyes shut, letting the waves of pain almost over­whelm her at Jean’s deception. How could he do this to her? To the others? To their children?

“That can’t be. He married me. He’s my husband,” Nicole said, her voice rising, the pain and hurt audible in her voice.

“And mine,” Marian said quietly, as she sank down onto a nearby chair. “I’m Marian Cuvier. I married him twelve years ago at St. Ann’s Cathedral.”

Nicole turned abruptly and looked at Marian in disbe­lief. “No. That’s impossible.” She paused, her face con­torted in disbelief. “No. We were married four years ago. I don’t understand. He would never do something so horrible.”

“And I married him a year ago,” Layla whispered, her face turning ashen.

“Impossible. Jean loved me. That’s … that’s big­amy!” Nicole said, shaking her head from side to side.

“Yes it is bigamy. We’re all married to the same man,” Marian replied, her voice distant and hollow. Her insides were numb. Her mind slowed to a crawl, as she comprehended the situation. “And now we’re all Jean’s widows. The Cuvier Widows.”

Betrayed (The Cuvier Widows #2)

They Met Over His Dead Body

New Orleans, 1895

For the first time in their marriage, Nicole Rosseau Cuvier disobeyed her husband Jean. Though he told her never to come to his office in New Orleans without him, the news she had simply could not wait. And his office was just several hours by boat down the Mississippi River.

Yet her joy dimmed when she arrived at her husband’s shipping company, and the clerk mysteriously informed her that Jean was ill and gave her his room number at the Chateau Hotel.

In the entire four years they’d been married, Jean Cuvier had never been ill.

Nicole burst into the hotel room, uncertain what she would find. Her gaze swept across the open room to a man dressed in a shabby suit in conversation with a refined lady with dark hair and smoky-gray eyes. “Where is he? Is he all right? They told me he was ill.”

The man stepped between Nicole and an open door where she could see uniformed men standing around an unidentifiable body stretched out on the floor. Who could that be lying on the floor?

“Who are you?” the man asked, blocking her path.

“I’m Mrs. Cuvier,” Nicole said anxiously. “I went by my husband’s office and they sent me over here. Is the doctor with him?” she asked, trying to peer around the man to see into the other room.

“Good Lord, another one?” the man muttered, gazing back at the lady he’d been speaking with.

“Who did you say you were?” the woman inquired as she stared at Nicole, her gray eyes large and questioning.

Nicole didn’t have time to chitchat with this woman, whoever she was. If Jean were ill, he needed her. “I’m Mrs. Nicole Cuvier, Jean’s wife. Now where is my husband?”

The man in the shabby suit coat glanced at the other woman and then turned his gaze on Nicole. “Jean Cuvier is dead.”

Nicole felt as if someone punched her in the stomach. With a trembling hand she clutched her throat, trying to hold back the scream that seemed to swell and lodge itself in her throat. The room swayed precariously as a dizzy spell overcame her, the words reverberating through her mind. Her beloved husband was dead.

“No. No,” Nicole cried, tears rushing to her eyes, hysteria bubbling up, threatening to overwhelm her. “Dear God, no. He can’t be! Let me see him. Please tell me this is a mistake. Where is he?”

“I’ll take you to him,” the man said, taking Nicole’s arm and gently guiding her. “I’m Detective Dunegan, with the New Orleans police.”

Nicole heard the words, but her mind didn’t comprehend what he was saying. Police detective? What was a detective doing here with her husband? He led her into the bedroom where the same body she’d seen earlier lay sprawled on the floor, surrounded by people.

Please, God, that couldn’t be Jean.

She caught a glimpse of dark hair tinted with silver, the color of Jean’s hair. The man wore pajamas the same dark brown that Jean loved, a silk robe wrapped around his still form.

At the detective’s motion, they moved aside and let her in close to see the man she loved, who lay twisted on the floor, his skin an odd pinkish hue that looked unnatural. She knelt beside him, her hand reaching out as her fingers touched his cold flesh. Quickly, she drew her hand back, the sensation confirming that her husband’s lifeblood no longer flowed, his warm, loving touch now just a memory. A sob tore from her throat as she gazed at Jean, feeling as if this couldn’t be real.

Gently the detective helped her up from the floor and led her back into the main room of the hotel suite. Nicole sobbed for her husband, who’d taught her so much about life. Their short time together had been filled with love and laughter, and even today she’d come bringing him such joyous news.

“I think we need to remain calm, sit down, and find out what happened,” the officer said, his voice firm and reassuring.

Calm? How could she remain calm when she’d just found out her husband was dead? That no longer would he hold her in his arms or his smiles brighten her day.

“What—what. . . happened?” Nicole sobbed, tears streaking down her face. “How did he die?”

“Poisoning. We suspect that his wi—the woman we found him with poisoned him.”

Nicole spun around and glared at the finely dressed woman through tear-streaked eyes. Could she be Jean’s killer?

Her large gray eyes returned her gaze unflinchingly. “Not me. There’s another woman.”

“What do you mean, another woman?” Nicole asked, confused.

“You’re not the only Mrs. Cuvier in this hotel suite,” the woman advised her.

Another Mrs. Cuvier? What was she talking about? Nicole didn’t understand. The only other Mrs. Cuvier was a distant relative of Jean’s who lived hundreds of miles away. Why were they lying to her?

“I don’t believe you,” Nicole said, fear making her almost hysterical.

The detective took Nicole by the arm and mo­tioned for the other woman to follow him. They walked into an adjoining room where a young woman sat staring off at the horizon, her dark eyes glazed and distant.

“Layla,” the detective said, releasing Nicole. “Tell these women how the man you’re suspected of killing was related to you.”

She turned her oval-shaped face toward the door. Hair black as night was swept up off her neck in a coiffure that left wisps of curls swirling around her pale face. She turned dark, censorious eyes on the detective and raised her brows in a disdainful look that was both elegant and disapproving. “I told you I did not kill my husband.”

Nicole moaned, the woman’s words confirming her worst fears, yet she couldn’t believe this was happening. There had to be a mistake. “What are you saying? No! You lie. You can’t be married to Jean.”

The girl glanced briefly at Nicole, not responding.

“Did you marry Jean Cuvier?” the distinguished woman asked her.

“Yes,” the young girl said, her voice starting to tremble. Her bright red lips pouted.

“That can’t be. He married me. He’s my husband,” Nicole said, her voice rising, the pain and hurt audible in her voice, unable to control the fear that raged through her.

“And mine,” the woman said quietly as she sank down onto a nearby chair. “I’m Marian Cuvier. I married him twelve years ago at Saint Ann’s Cathedral.”

Nicole turned abruptly and stared at her in disbelief. “No. That’s impossible.” She paused, comprehension as fleeting as the wind. “No. We were married four years ago. I don’t understand. He would never do something so horrible.”

“And I married him a year ago,” Layla whispered, her face turning ashen.

“Impossible. Jean loved me. That’s . . . that’s bigamy!” Nicole said, shaking her head from side to side. Jean would never hurt her this way. He loved her. He told her over and over how he loved her more than any other woman.

“Yes, it is bigamy. We’re all married to the same man,” Marian replied, her voice sounding uncaring and cold. “And now we’re all Jean’s widows. The Cuvier Widows.”

Nicole sobbed. Dear God, she’d come to town to tell Jean that after four years she finally was expecting their baby. And instead she’d learned that the father of her child, the man she loved with all her heart, was a bigamist—and he’d been murdered.

Beguiled (The Cuvier Widows #3)

New Orleans, 1895

Sunlight glittered through the windows of the St. Louis Hotel, casting bizarre shadows over the dead body of Jean Cuvier. A sparrow trilled a happy song in the courtyard outside the posh hotel suite, the sound eerie and disturbing. Layla Cuvier stared at the corpse of her husband lying on the floor and knew that from this day forward, her life would forever be changed.

No longer will I have to endure his touch.

Her eyes confirmed what Colette, her servant, had told her. Jean lay sprawled on the floor, his brown robe wrapped around him, his face a peculiar shade of pink. Needing the confirmation of what seemed so obvious, she reached down and touched his hand. The feel of cool flesh beneath her fingers sent a shudder through her and she recoiled in revulsion.

“Mrs. Cuvier, a doctor is on his way and the hotel manager has sent for the police,” said Colette, wringing her hands in an anxious manner.

Layla felt numb as she stared at the man she had shared a house with for the last year. As his wife, she should feel sorrow at his death, but relief and a sense of peace filled her. She had barely tolerated Jean’s presence.

She rose and nodded to her servant and friend. “Please help me dress before the doctor arrives.”

“Of course,” the maid said, but glanced at her hesitantly.

“Did Mr. Cuvier say anything about feeling ill?” Layla asked, gazing at her husband’s still form.

“No. But I went to bed before you retired,” the maid said. “Did you hear him call out?”

“After I shut my bedroom door, I heard nothing last night,” Layla said, knowing the sleeping draught had ended her insomnia. The draught created a dream world filled with people and color, and a world so different from reality. Yet she would have heeded Jean’s call if she had heard his cry for help. “So many nights he slept in the chair.”

And Layla loved the nights he left her alone.

“It’s so sudden. How do you think he died?” Colette asked.

“I don’t know. He hasn’t been ill.” Layla gave Jean one last glance, stunned at his death. Their last conversation was an ugly reminder of his evil ways and she couldn’t help but wonder if his heart could have failed him. Though their marriage had been a farce, she had never expected him to die. “Let’s hurry. I’d rather greet the authorities fully dressed.”

“Are you all right?” Colette asked gazing at her worriedly as they entered Layla’s bedroom. “You seem so composed.”

Layla gave the woman a quick glance as she shed her nightgown. “I’m a little shaken, yet I feel strangely calm.”

Calm and relieved, she hoped that now his ugly secrets would die with him and she could escape this farce of a marriage and return to her home.

Hurriedly Layla chose a black dress appropriate for a widow. She had barely gotten her ebony hair swept up off her neck in a coiffure that left wisps of curls swirling around her face when Colette opened the door to the police. They swarmed into the suite, covering the rooms like a bevy of ants.

Layla stepped out of her bedroom, and into the doorway of Jean’s bedroom to watch with interest as a uniformed policeman leaned over Jean’s prostrate body lying on the floor.

The voices of the officers seemed distant and removed and the scene before her surreal, like a colorful nightmare.

A short ugly little man dressed in a shabby brown suit separated from the others and walked toward Layla.

“Mrs. Cuvier?” he asked, his intimidating eyes focused on her.

“Yes?” She felt as if he stared deeply into her soul, but she had nothing to hide and met his gaze, undaunted by his beady gaze.

“Detective Dunegan of the New Orleans Police.”

They walked the short distance to the lavishly decorated parlor of the suite.

“Please sit.” She pointed to a chair in the small sitting area as she sat across from him.

“How did your husband die?” he asked. He took out a notepad and a pencil from his tattered coat pocket.

“I don’t know. My maid awakened me this morning with the news that she’d found Mr. Cuvier lying on the floor of his bedroom. I hurried into his room, where I found him lying there, his body already cold,” she said, clenching her hands in her lap. “I have no idea how long he’s been dead.”

Layla glanced toward the bedroom, half expecting Jean to walk through the door, laughing that he had fooled them all.

“When did you last see him alive?” the detective asked.

She thought back to the night before. They had fought fiercely and she had been determined to return home to Baton Rouge this morning. She had intended to meet with an attorney to see what kind of legal recourse was available to her, but miraculously nature had taken care of things.

Now she prayed the ugly truth would die with Jean and she could return to her previous life. She licked her lips nervously.

“The last time I saw Mr. Cuvier was around midnight,” she said, remembering how she had left him in the parlor asleep in the very chair the detective occupied.

A man stood in the doorway to Jean’s room with a stethoscope hanging around his neck. “Detective Dunegan, can I speak with you a moment5

Through the open window, she could hear laughter in the courtyard of the hotel, the sound incongruous with the atmosphere in the suite.

The two men disappeared into the bedroom. Their muffled voices held an excited undertone, though she could not understand what they said. As the minutes passed, she sat feeling more nervous, wondering whom she should contact regarding jean’s death.

“Now where were we?” he asked. “Oh, that’s right. You said the last time you saw the deceased was around midnight.” He paused and frowned at her. “Did you and Mr. Cuvier sleep in separate rooms?”

“Yes. My husband kept odd hours, and I have trouble sleeping and don’t like to be disturbed.”

“So, you heard nothing in the night? He didn’t call out to you for help or assistance?”

“No, I took a dose of a sleeping draught not long after he came home.” She gave the detective a puzzled glance. “Do you always ask these kinds of questions when a man dies?”

“I’m just doing my job, Mrs. Cuvier,” he said matter-of-factly.

Layla glanced around and noticed that more and more policemen seemed to be filling the hotel suite. They stood around in little clusters talking, occasionally glancing in her direction. A few of the officers seemed to be combing the room as if they were looking for something.

“What are they doing?” she asked alarmed. She had never heard of the police doing this when someone died.

The atmosphere seemed charged with some ominous foreboding that she didn’t understand.

He ignored her question. “How would you describe your marriage to Mr. Cuvier?”

“Why are you asking me these questions? How could my relationship to my husband be any of your business?” she asked, distressed. “He’s dead! Shouldn’t you be calling the coroner?”

“Ma’am, the coroner is with your husband. Now please, Mrs. Cuvier, just answer the question.”

She gazed at the detective, feeling suddenly uneasy.

“Our marriage was fine. My husband traveled frequently and we seldom saw one another,” she said, a cold chill going down her spine. She glanced back to see a policeman coming out of her room holding her vial of laudanum in his hand. “Where is he taking my medicine?”

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Cuvier, it will be returned to you in good time,” the detective said, not looking at her, but nodding to the policeman.

Uneasiness filled her every breath and she didn’t understand why the police seemed so engrossed with Jean’s death. “How did my husband die?”

“I’m asking the questions, Mrs. Cuvier,” the detective said, ignoring her query. “Did you and your husband have an argument last night?”

She paused looking at the man, uncertain how to answer the question. “We had a slight disagreement”

You selfish bastard! The words she had yelled at Jean reverberated through her mind and she knew she could never tell them the whole truth about their quarrel. Otherwise they would think she had been involved in his death.

“What was the fight about?”

“It was such a minor disagreement, I scarcely recall,” she lied. “I think I’ve told you enough. You need to tell me why you’re asking all these questions.”

The detective gazed at her, his eyes cold. The room became silent and she felt like hundreds of eyes were focused on her. A creeping sensation started along the base of her spine and suddenly she felt afraid. Everyone stared at her as if she had done something horrible.

Even the bird that chirped noisily through the window had ceased its singing and all sound was suspended in uncanny silence.

“How did my husband die?” she insisted, her voice rising. The detective watched her, his beady eyes intent. “Tell me!”

“According to Doctor Benson, your husband was poisoned.”

The room seemed to fade as Layla felt her body go numb. Poisoned? “Oh—Oh my. No. It couldn’t be, that’s impossible.”

As soon as she uttered the words, she knew a whole host of people who would like to see her husband dead. And before the day was over, there would probably be even more who cheered at the news.

“Oh, God!” she said, realizing the depth of trouble that would soon surround her.

“Can you tell me what your husband ate or drank last night?”

Uneasy, Layla swallowed. “I don’t know what he had for supper, since he wasn’t here. I gave him his usual cup of tea before he went to bed.”

She knew she had put laudanum in his drink, as she often did, but she had not intentionally killed him, and she had definitely not poisoned him.

Could she have given him too much?

A shiver ran through her. Did she, accidentally kill Jean with her antidote for passion? The detective stared at her, waiting.

He leaned in close, his voice demanding. “Did you poison your husband, Mrs. Cuvier?”

Her heart pounded in her chest. They would think that she killed Jean if they found out what she had learned last night, the reason for their fight, the fact that her marriage was a complete farce.

“Of course not! I would never kill anyone,” she said emphatically.

“You’re extremely calm and cool, considering your husband just died. You haven’t shed a tear.”

Layla couldn’t help but realize what he said was true. She didn’t feel any grief or remorse that Jean was dead, only a sense of relief at being free, but that didn’t mean she had killed him.

“My father arranged my marriage to Jean. Ours was more a marriage of convenience. But I would never poison him. That would be a sin.”

Silence echoed in the room filled with people eager to hear her every word. She closed her eyes, hoping that when she opened them, she would awake and realize this was just a nightmare, not reality.

“You said you gave your husband a cup of tea. Did you put anything in his tea last night Mrs. Cuvier?” She glanced away, wanting to lie, knowing whatever she said would incriminate her even though she was innocent.

“I didn’t kill Jean!” she said gazing at him.

“Answer the question, Mrs. Cuvier,” he said, his voice harsh and forceful. “Did you put anything in Mr. Cuvier’s tea?”

She swallowed nervous, knowing no one would believe her innocent. “I—I put a touch of laudanum in his tea.”

A gasp sounded in the room.

She responded quickly. “To help him sleep. He didn’t sleep well. I did it all the time and he’s never had a reaction before.” She clenched her fists. “I didn’t kill Jean.”

The detective tensed, but said nothing. His pencil scratched noisily against his notepad as he hurriedly wrote her comments.

When he looked up, his face was expressionless, his eyes intense, like a hunter closing in on its prey.

“Mrs. Cuvier, I need to interview your servants. Could I ask you to wait in your bedroom? When I’m ready to continue our interview, I’ll let you know.”

“You want me to just sit in my room and wait for you?”

He raised his bushy brows. “Yes, ma’am.”

Layla stared at him in shock. How could he think she killed Jean? Sure, she hated him, but she could never harm him or anyone else, for that matter. This was crazy. Everything seemed to be spinning out of control. Since yesterday her life had disintegrated into shambles.

“I didn’t kill my husband,” she said one more time as she rose from her chair. She walked toward her bedroom, her head held high, wanting to pack her suitcase, knowing instinctively that it would be the wrong thing to do. She sat down in a chair by the window and stared out at the courtyard below. How could this be happening?

She hated Jean, but to the world they had presented the image of a happily married couple, keeping their problems behind the closed doors of her bedroom. But to physically harm him would damn her forever, and even Jean wasn’t worth spending eternity in hell. She had prayed her life would change, but never this drastically. And never like this.

For what seemed like forever, though probably less than an hour, Layla sat looking out the window, watching the birds flitter about the courtyard as they flew from one tree to another. Caged and restless, she wished she could fly away so easily. Finally, the door opened and the detective walked in followed by two women. Layla refused to acknowledge them, fear gripping her insides with a tightening hook.

“Ma’am,” the detective said, releasing a young blonde woman who had come in with him. “Tell these women how the man you’re suspected of killing was related to you.”

What? They hadn’t officially charged her with anything. Was this some kind of trick? She turned toward the door and gazed at the detective, trying not to react to his words and contain a cool composure. “I told you I did not kill my husband.”

The blonde woman with eyes red-rimmed from crying moaned. “What are you saying? No! You lie. You can’t be married to Jean.”

Layla knew in that instant who the two women were and she didn’t know how to respond. She felt so ashamed, yet she had done nothing wrong. Jean had duped her just like the others.

“Did you marry Jean Cuvier?” the older distinguished-looking woman asked, her expression calm, though her green eyes shimmered with tears.

“Yes,” Layla responded, a slight quiver to her voice.

“That can’t be. He married me. He’s my husband,” the blonde woman said, her voice rising, her pain and hurt audible in the bedroom.

Layla resisted the urge to tell her she could have Jean. She had never wanted him.

“And mine,” the other woman said quietly, as she sank down onto a nearby chair. “I’m Marian Cuvier. I married Jean twelve years ago at Saint Anne’s Cathedral.”

The blonde turned abruptly and stared at her in disbelief. “No. That’s impossible.” She paused, her face twisted into a mask of horror. “No. We were married four years ago. I don’t understand. He would never do something so horrible.”

“And I married him a year ago,” Layla whispered, painfully aware of how they had been deceived and how the world would soon know of Jean’s deceit.

“Impossible. Jean loved me. That’s . . . that’s bigamy!” the blonde woman said, shaking her head from side to side.

“Yes, it is bigamy. We were all married to the same man,” Marian replied. Her voice sounded hollow and she appeared to be in shock. “And now we’re all Jean’s widows. The Cuvier Widows.”

Layla stared at Jean’s wives and knew that though she had only found out about her husband’s perfidy twenty-four hours earlier, she would never reveal she knew beforehand of Jean’s terrible deeds. For if the detective found out, he would surely believe that she had killed Jean in response to learning of his deceit. And though she hated him for his lies, she could never have killed him.

Margaret Tidwell

I am a 32-year-old blogger. I write about my life and my struggles with Multiple Sclerosis. I also am a huge book worm and I have been doing book reviews for years now. I also blog about adoption, Multiple Sclerosis, and things that go on in my life.

Margaret Tidwell

Margaret Tidwell

Margaret Tidwell

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Margaret Margaret

Comments

  1. They look like great books. Thanks for the review.

    BTW–I have 7 giveaways running at my site if you want to stop over and take a look. Hope you have a wonderful week!

    Diane 🙂
    http://www.dianeestrella.com
    Diane Estrella recently posted…Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh BOOK GIVEAWAY!My Profile

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge