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That Voodoo You Do by Myla Jackson********
Voodoo on the Bayou
by Elle James (aka Myla Jackson)
“By day a frog, by night a man, ‘til de next full moon...”
At first, lawyer and ladies’ man Craig Thibodeaux thought Madame LeBieu’s chant was a strange bayou joke. But the voodoo worked and Craig is spending his days as...well, a small green frog. Now he has only two weeks to find love, or his new froggy transformation becomes permanent.
When she receives the anonymous toxic water sample from Bayou Miste, research scientist Elaine Smith decides a trip to the bayou is the perfect excuse to escape the lab, and forget about her cheating ex-fiancé. Then she accidentally stumbles upon Craig’s oh-so-fine naked form, and her science-nerd brain is overrun with naughty thoughts about her new gorgeous night-time bayou guide.
But there’s more to Bayou Miste than voodoo curses and sexy late-night trysts. Dark secrets threaten the delicate ecosystem, and there are those who would do anything to keep those secrets hidden. Even murder...
Despite the weighty warmth of the swamp, a chill crept down Craig’s spine. "Who’s the lady in the muumuu?"
The silent wonder next to him deigned to speak in a reverent whisper, "Madame LeBieu."
Craig frowned and mentally scratched his head. Madame LeBieu...Madame LeBieu...oh, yes. The infamous Bayou Miste Voodoo priestess, a notorious mishmash of Cajun-Caribbean witchdoctor mumbo-jumbo and healer. No one really knew her background, but she was both feared and revered in the community. He studied her with more interest and a touch of unease. Was he to be a sacrifice in some wacky Voodoo ceremony?
"Are you in charge of these two thugs?" Craig feigned a cockiness he didn’t feel.
"It be I who called upon dem." She dipped her head in a regal nod.
"Then call them off and untie me." Craig shot an angry look at the men on either side of him. "You’ve obviously got the wrong guy."
"Were you not de man what be goin’ out with de sweet Lisa LeBieu earlier dis very evening?"
"Yes," Craig said, caution stretching his answer, as dread pooled in his stomach. He didn’t go into the fact that Lisa wasn’t so sweet. "Why?"
"I be Madame LeBieu and Lisa be my fille grande. She say you dally with her heart and cast it aside." The woman’s rich, melodious voice held a thread of steel.
Craig frowned in confusion. "You mean this isn’t about the card game? This is about Lisa, your granddaughter?"
"No, dis be ‘bout you mistreatment of les femmes."
"I don’t get it. I didn’t touch her. She came on to me, and I took her home."
"Abuse not always takes de physical form. You shunned her love and damage her chakras. For dis, you pay."
Craig cocked an eyebrow in disbelief. "You mean I was conked on the head and dragged from my bed all because I refused to sleep with your granddaughter?" He snorted. "This is a new one on me."
"Craig Thibodeaux, I know your kind." Madame LeBieu stuck a thick, brown finger in his face. "You break hearts wherever you go, dating one woman after another and no love to show for it. You’ve wielded your loveless way for de last time." Madame LeBieu flicked her fingers, and the flames behind her leaped higher. Then, reaching inside the voluminous sleeves of the caftan, she whipped out an atomizer and sprayed a light floral scent all around him. The aroma mixed and mingled with the dark musty smells of the swamp’s stagnant pools and decaying leaves.
"So you’re going to douse me in perfume to unman me?" Craig’s bark of laughter clashed with the rising beat of the drums. The humor of the situation was short-lived when the mosquitoes decided they liked him even more with the added scent. Craig shook all over to discourage the beggars from landing.
"Ezili Freda Daome, Goddess of love and all that is beautiful, listen to our prayers, accept our offerings, and enter into our arms, legs, and hearts." Madame LeBieu’s head dropped back, and she spread her arms wide. The drumbeat increased in intensity, reverberating off the canopy of trees shrouded in low-hanging Spanish moss.
The pounding emphasized the throbbing ache in the back of Craig’s head from where Madame LeBieu’s henchmen had beaned him in his room at the bait shop prior to dragging him here. The combined smells of perfume and swamp, along with the jungle beat and chanting nut case made his stomach churn. The darkness of the night surrounded him, pushing fear into his soul.
Craig had a sudden premonition that whatever was about to happen, had the potential to change his life entirely. Half of him wished they would just get on with it, whatever it was. The other half quaked in apprehension.
The Voodoo priestess’s arms and head dropped, the drums crashing to a halt. Silence descended. Not a single cricket, frog, or bird interrupted the eerie stillness.
Craig broke the trance, fighting his growing fear with false bravado. "And I’m supposed to believe all this mumbo jumbo?" He snorted. "Give me a break. Next thing, you’ll be waving a fairy wand and saying bibbity-bobbity-boo."
Madame LeBieu leveled a cold, hard stare at him.
Another shiver snaked down his spine. With the sweat dripping off his brow and chills racing down his back, he thought he might be ill. Maybe even hallucinating.
A small girl appeared at Madame LeBieu’s side, handing her an ornate cup. She waited silently for the woman to drink. Craig noticed that his two former friends bowed their heads as the Voodoo lady sipped from the cup then handed it back to the girl. Clutching the cup as if it were her dearest possession, the child bowed at the waist, backing into the shadows.
With a flourishing sweep of her wrist, Madame LeBieu pulled a pastel pink, blue, and white scarf from the sleeve of her caftan, and waved it in Craig’s face.
"Mistress of Love, hear my plea.
Help dis shameless man to see."
"You know I have family in high places, don’t you?" Craig said. Not that they were there to help him now.
Madame LeBieu continued as though he hadn’t spoken.
"Though he be strong, his actions bold,
his heart be loveless, empty, cold.
By day a frog, by night a man,
‘til de next full moon, dis cunja will span."
Craig stopped shaking his head, mosquitoes be damned. What was the old lady saying? "Hey, what’s this about frogs?"
"A woman will answer Ezili’s call,
one who’ll love him, warts and all."
"Who, the frog or me?" He chuckled nervously at the woman’s fanatical words, downplaying his rising uneasiness. His next sarcastic statement was cut off when Mo’s heavily muscled forearm crashed into his stomach. "Oomph!"
"Silence!" Mo’s command warned of further retribution should Craig dare to interrupt again.
Which worked out great, since he was too busy sucking wind to restore air to his lungs. All he could do was glare at his former friend. If only looks could kill, he’d have Mo six feet under in a New Orleans minute.
Madame LeBieu went on,
"He’ll watch by day and woo by night,
to gain her love, he mus fight,
to break de cunja, be whole again,
transformed into a caring man."
"You didn’t have to knock the wind out of my sails." Craig wheezed, and jerked his head in Madame LeBieu’s direction. "She’s the one making all the noise, talking nonsense about frogs and warts."
Mo’s face could have been etched in stone.
The old witch held her finger in Craig’s face, forcing him to look at it. Then she drew the finger to her nose and his gaze followed until he noticed her eyes. A strange glow, having nothing to do with fire, burned in their brown-black centers. Madame LeBieu’s voice dropped to a low, threatening rumble.
"Should he deny dis gift from you,
a frog he’ll remain in de blackest bayou."
With a flourishing spray of perfume and one last wave of the frothy scarf, Madame LeBieu backed away from Craig, disappearing into the darkness from whence she’d come.
Craig’s stomach churned and a tingling sensation spread throughout his body. He attributed his discomfort to the nauseating smells and the ropes cutting off his circulation. "Hey, you’re not going to leave me here trussed up like a pig on a spit, are you?" Craig called out to the departing priestess.
A faint response carried to him from deep in the shadows. "Dôn tempt me, boy."
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