Friday, April 25, 2014

Mob Vengeance in 1891 New Orleans - Tempt Me Not...

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Time travel with a darker twist. This is the basis for my erotic dark fantasy, Tempt Me Not," now on sale with other time travel romances at Amber Heat this month.

The period in history I chose as a very dark twist was the perhaps little known mob justice for the murder of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy, Nineteen men of Italian descent were indicted for the murder, of which nine were scheduled for a speedy trial. Those nine were subsequently acquitted of the murder, leading to an outraged angry mod in pursuit of justice. Some headlines described this 1891 lynching of 11 Italians as the largest mass lynching in the history of the United States.

Being of Italian descent, and being a writer, I wanted to know more. Hence my research began, taking me from the life of Chief David Hennessy, to maps of 1890-91 New Orleans, to organized crime and mob hierarchies in New Orleans crime families, to parishes, to the jail where the men were imprisoned. I found books, such as  "Italians in New Orleans" by Joseph Maselli, and Vendetta by Richard Gambino (with the movie, Vendetta with Christopher Walken, based on that book of the same name). And these just skimmed the surface of the research I did regarding this time period in New Orleans.

This is the problem when you love the digging into research, you go on and on and on. But in the end, Tempt Me Not is an erotic time travel dark fantasy which takes place during this very dark period of New Orleans history.

Diantha Harald, at the weakest moment in her life, makes a deal with a seductive demon named Zacchias, who wants something from her that she’s unwilling to give. Asher Smith has also made a deal with Zacchias, but little does he realize the demon plans to use him to tempt Diantha. If Diantha breaks her contract with the demon, she will lose her soul. If she does as Zacchias wants, she could lose much more, including a love she has only just discovered. 
As the end of Diantha’s contract with Zacchias draws closer, the demon changes the a demon is wont to do. The only thing he can’t do is steal what Diantha isn’t willing to give. Free will must be applied in Zacchias’s world and it’s the only thing that stops him from taking what he wants. But Zacchias never loses. To teach Diantha a lesson and force her to submit to his demands, the twisted demon sends her back to repeat a time loop again and again. 
Only Asher can save Diantha now. But first he must find her. And a desperate deal with the demon may be their only hope...

And here's an excerpt:

"How would you like me to style your hair this morning, Signora Harald?"

Diantha felt the delicate touch of her maid, Gianna, as she sifted through her thick, blond hair, kneading her tender scalp in soothing, rhythmic motions, separating, lifting, and smoothing. Gianna's hands drifted down to ease the tight muscles in Diantha's slender neck, and she sighed, allowing her to weave her magic.

Staring fixedly at the reflection in the dressing table mirror, Diantha didn't recognize the woman staring back at her. She hadn't for a long time. Closing her eyes, she allowed her thoughts to drift--a dangerous action at the best of times.
It seemed a dream. No, more a nightmare that repeated endlessly. Zacchias had changed the rules once again and sent her to this time to teach her a lesson. The black-hearted bastard.

Memories etched in her mind of the future she'd left behind, of a time when everything had been simple and where she'd had control over her own life. A career, a fiancé, a life. How had she lost control? Her life had spiraled out of control at the moment her car had impacted the tractor trailer and her world had taken a nosedive toward disaster, never to recover. Meeting Zacchias, the demon with the face of an angel, on that fate-filled night had changed everything. The appearance of Asher Smith into the dark world where Zacchias had taken her had offered her some hope, some relief from the demon world they both lived in. But it hadn't been enough to keep her safe from Zacchias's twisted, angry penance.

Opening her eyes, she studied the reflected room. Harry, her patron in this loop of time, spared no expense when it came to his comfort, and to his possessions. The room was filled with his masculinity and the heavy, dominating presence of the Victorian age. Directly behind her set a massive, mahogany, tallback bed, the headboard carved intricately with a fleur de lis repeating pattern. The enormous furniture suited Harry admirably, but whenever Diantha lay upon its crisp, thick bedding with Harry hovering above her, both he and the bed dwarfed her until she deemed herself nonexistent lying there pressed suffocatingly between them.

When Harry wasn't around, she found herself veering to the more feminine fainting couch of walnut and buttercup yellow soft, velvet cushions for her rest. Harry hated the piece because it was so out of place with the rest of the furniture. She'd paid heavily to retain the piece, but it had served to provide her the only moments of peace she received in this hated time.
A moment of surreal murkiness descended upon her, and, suddenly, she couldn't recall why she was here or how she had arrived. She was losing her sanity and that was exactly what Zacchias wanted.

A shadowy movement behind her drew her focus, and she glanced up to stare into the inquiring large, velvety brown eyes of Gianna. Her thoughts refocused and her memory cleared.

Ah, yes. Now she remembered, yet wished she hadn't. The soft bristles of the brush swept down through her long, pale hair that was the color of ghosts----remembered shades of a distant time----one she was barred from returning to. This current paramour enjoyed her pale beauty--it's why he'd settled upon her when they met at Sally Soliel's House of Pleasure. He liked all things white. Pure, he called it, and he thought she'd resembled an angel fallen at his feet. For now, she was the only purity in his life. It was her responsibility to fill the void encompassing his everyday life with light, away from his demanding family, his work, his hunger to climb to the top of society and remain there.

With her, he was the one in control. Always. It was what he paid her to do--yield to him in all things. He saw to her comfort, gave her everything she could have desired, as long as she provided him the illusion of innocent purity and catered to his every need.

Tempt me not.

If only she had uttered those words when she first met Zacchias in that other lifetime, at the meeting of darkness with the dawn. If only she had said, "let me do what I must do and leave me to it. Go away and tempt me not."

But she had not. She had succumbed to temptation as surely as Eve had bitten into the apple. She had bowed to the sin of vanity tempted enticingly by a powerful demon. Vanity had certainly erupted into a deadly sin for her. And she would now pay the price over and over again. For she had been imprisoned in this darkness of history and would remain so until Zacchias chose to release her.

It was a demon's bargain and she should have realized the cost of temptation. Zacchias never lost, it was simply a question of how high the price would be in the end. Even though slavery didn't exist, 1890s New Orleans came pretty close--for women and for immigrants bent on achieving a better life. For women, freedom was still a glint in the fierce eye of feminine rebellion. Beauty was revered and placed on a pedestal, a perfect temperament, perfect reflection was what mattered. Perfect service. It didn't matter what lay beneath the still, pale waters. Any flaw either in temperament or looks and she'd be thrown into the cesspool, swallowed whole, left to die, to be eaten alive. Or to burn in the final fires of damnation. And Zacchias had flung her here to teach her a lesson about the balance of price.

She fought learning his lesson with every fiber of her being. But slowly, with each passing loop of time, it ate at her, like water against rock, lapping and tearing away at the fiber of strength. Would she be left just a small, impotent pebble, unable to stand her ground against the surging strength of a determined demon?

This was New Orleans, a decadent time of the past, a world of corruption and death and yellow journalism. Where a man's friends could be bought and sold for the price of power. Where a woman might sell her soul for the price of a loaf of bread to feed her family. Where hate thrived in the steamy heat of southern manners.

Zacchias was no mortal man and he had offered her something no human could. Not even the doctors who had tried to repair her after the near fatal accident that had left her scarred and tormented.

He had seemed to offer her hope, a miracle that she grasped with both hands, eyes wide open. All he had asked was seven years of service. What was a mere seven years? But contracts between humans and contracts made with a demon where two quite different things. Especially with the twisted mind of a demon like Zacchias. In Zacchias's world, his demon's word was the shifting law by which they all must live and try to survive. The one thing she had learned was that no one left his compound unless he deemed it so. No one. Ever.

She had soon discovered that time could be drawn out endlessly in the hands of a demon. When she had refused that final request, he'd thrown her into a time loop--a span of two years repeating time and time again with no way out. Yes, seven years had been turned into a hellish eternity as she grappled to survive and repeat those last two years over and over again as he waited for her to utter the words accepting him into her body or giving him her soul.

Tempt me not.

She couldn't recall any longer how many loops she had survived. At midnight tomorrow he would come again to offer her the same bargain as always.

At the end of the first loop she'd thought it was over, her contract up, and he would have to let her go. That was human understanding, not demon law. He simply rewound time over and over again to suit his purposes.

With each cycle ending, she felt her determination weaken. She knew what came next, always the same, yet always subtly different. The outcome was always the same. The only power she had to end it was to agree to his terms.

She felt her strength eking out. All she had to do was say yes and she would be free. She could have her life back. She would no longer be just a toy, a possession to be flung from one hand to the other. She would be free.

Tempt me not.

In April  get it for $3.25 at Amber Heat