Be My Baby
Detective Beau Dupree has more important things to do than babysit a Yankee rich girl newly arrived in New Orleans for the grand opening of Daddy’s new hotel. Assigned guard dog duty despite his protests, he vows to get himself pulled off the assignment by driving the oh-so-proper Juliet Astor Lowell beyond the bounds of her good-girl restraint. Once she demands he be replaced, he can get back to doing what he does best– real police work.
It’s a foolproof plan.
Until Juliet lets her hair down. Then all bets are off.
Between the Covers
I have a sneaking fondness for alpha men and bad boys who have secret nurturing sides. They’re my idea of the best of both worlds when it comes to the male species. Since that’s often the type of hero I write, it will probably come as no surprise that when I devised the idea for BE MY BABY, that was the hero I wanted for my story. But I also wanted to explore how difficult it can be to give up a long held dream — even when you’ve outgrown it.
Enter Beau Dupree, a tough, New Orleans cop who was forced as a young man to give up his love life in order to raise his three outspoken sisters. He lives for the day when the youngest is finally out of the house and he can make up for lost time with women, women, and more women– and the badder the better. That day is nearly upon him.
But will he be able to give up his young man’s fantasy when a good girl who’d like to be bad arrives in town to show him there are other dreams to pursue that may be even more fulfilling?
How much fun was THAT to write?
Awards + Kudos
- 3 weeks on the USAToday list, climbing to #64
- Named one of Romance Writers of America’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 1999
- 6 weeks on the Ingrams top 50 list, climbing to #8
- A Romantic Times/Barnes & Noble Top Pick
- #3 on the Waldenbooks bestseller list
- “Andersen captures the undeniable attraction of opposites in Dupree and Lowell’s steamy relationship.” ~Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
Juliet Rose Astor Lowell paused in the shade of the marble columns outside the 8th District police station and discreetly blotted her forehead with the back of her wrist. Drawing in a deep breath, she softly expelled it. Lord, it was hot. And so humid. Just the short walk from air-conditioned car left her feeling limp. She peeled a clinging yard of voile away from her thighs and gave her dress a delicate shake to promote air circulation. She’d been in New Orleans less than an hour and already things were entirely different than what she’d envisioned when she left Massachusetts.
But that was mostly due to this unscheduled stop. She had thought to have the tiniest bit more freedom down here; that seemed a small enough thing to wish for. After all, she was away from Grandmother’s rigid constraints, in a city whose name was synonymous with enjoyment and whose inhabitants certainly had no preconceived expectations of her as an Astor Lowell. And it wasn’t as if she’d planned a wild spree of dancing naked across tabletops, for heaven’s sake– she had simply thought to loosen the ever-present restraints a little. Just enough to take a really deep breath.
But even that small measure of emancipation was to be denied her. Once again Father had arranged matters without bothering to consult her, dropping this little bombshell as a fait accompli over the limo phone. Crown Hotels had received a letter protesting the opening of the New Orleans Garden Crown. He’d read it to her over the phone, and if it had struck her as somewhat less of a threat than an ardent treatise against the bastardization of an historic landmark, that simply didn’t signify. Father wanted police protection for her, so here she was, all choice removed from her control. She pulled open the door and entered the building.
Her ears were still attuned to the crisp accents of New England, so the slow, soft drawls of the officers manning the counter sounded almost foreign. When she turned away from the desk and followed the directions to the captain’s office, she inconspicuously –but avidly– observed everything around her. She’d never been in a police station before, and it felt both exotic and full of energy.
The man who rose from behind his desk when she tapped on his door was neither. He had the prosperous, well-fed look of a politician– Father’s kind of person; exactly the sort she was accustomed to dealing with. The man’s brown hair was expensively barbered, his ruddy cheeks shone from a close shave, and his suit was cleverly cut to minimize the appearance of a middle that had began to spread. Police work must pay better than she’d thought.
“Captain Pfeffer? I’m–”
“Ms. Juliet Lowell,” he overrode her enthusiastically. His voice at least was exotic, dripping elongated, honeyed vowels. He rounded the desk and extended a smooth, manicured hand.
Astor Lowell. She swallowed the impulse to correct him, though the desire to do so was purely automatic after years of conditioning at Grandmother’s knee. Smiling politely, she shook his hand.
“Please,” he said, patting her hand avuncularly as he lead her into the office. “Do c’mon in and have a seat. Your fawtha and I had a long talk, and I’ve been expectin’ you.”
“Yes, I know.” Juliet sat. Though it was most likely futile, she insisted quietly, “Father was a bit precipitous, I fear. There’s truly no need for me to monopolize the services of an officer whose time could be better employed elsewhere.”
“Nonsense. Sergeant Dupree is happy to be of assistance. Don’t you worry your pretty little…well.” He cleared his throat, undoubtedly seeing something in her expression that warned him he was wandering down an avenue unpopular at best. “The New Awleens Police Department is always happy to assist a pretty lady,” he substituted heartily, which was not a great improvement in Juliet’s opinion. “We believe in assigning the best to the best. I was personally hand-picked by the Commissionah himself to be acting captain when my predecessor left on an extended vacation. And I in turn have handpicked the detective best suited to be your escort.”
Juliet smiled politely. Then her brows drew together. “Detective? Oh, but…I thought you said he was a sergeant.” This just kept getting worse and worse. Bad enough to usurp the services of an officer– now she had visions of taking a detective away from a murder investigation.
“There is no official rank of detective in the NOPD. Most of ’em hold the rank of Police office III or Sergeant.” He waved the distinction aside. “I must say we’re all verra excited that Crown Hotels has decided to grace our fair city with one of their fine establishments. Why, society has hardly talked of anythin’ else.”
Somehow she doubted that, but at least this was an area in which she was comfortable. She’d waited years to be in charge from conception to start-up, and the New Orleans hotel was her baby. “Yes, we’re also quite excited about the Garden Crown,” she agreed.
“As well you should be. And you needn’t be concerned for your safety while you go about your business, because we’re heah to see to it that you aren’t left alone and unprotected for a single moment.”
That’s what Juliet was afraid of.
“I understand y’all have quite a roster of excitin’ pre-opening events planned,” the captain continued enthusiastically.
“Yes, we do.” Juliet briefly summarized the upcoming social schedule. He looked at her so expectantly that she concluded with automatic courtesy, “You and your wife must join us for one.”
“Why thank you, Ms. Lowell, I know she’d like that. She’s a Collier, you know. From the Savannah Colliers.”
“Is she.” Juliet had no idea who the Savannah Colliers were, but she supposed it explained his apparent wealth. Long-standing instincts decreed it unlikely he was the descendant of old Southern wealth, for he had the too-eager-to-impress unctuousness she associated with Father’s sycophants. Manners instilled from the cradle, however, dictated the only acceptable reply. “Most likely you’re already on the list then, but I’ll be sure to have my assistant send you an invitation.” She stole a glance at her watch.
Pfeffer caught her at it, which would have appalled Grandmother, but at least it had the benefit of hustling him along. “I realize you’re busy– let me just summon Dupree.”
He reached for the phone on his desk, but Juliet rose to her feet. “We needn’t pull him away from his duties.” Father might have a feudal belief that the welfare of the Lowells had priority over anyone else’s, but Grandmother maintained that an Astor Lowell did not inconvenience others for the sake of her own comfort. And Grandmother’s rules took precedence in Juliet’s social training, since she had essentially raised her from the time of Juliet’s mother’s death and had therefore had time to drum them into her from birth– whereas Father had merely dropped into her life from time to time to lay down a new law before departing to re-immerse himself in his precious corporation. “Please,” she insisted now. “We can just as easily go to him.”
Pfeffer continued to punch out numbers. “No. Trust me, little lady, you need to begin as you mean to go on with Sergeant Dupree. While I can assure you he’s one of New Awleens finest, he does tend to rise above himself if you give him the least little opportunity. It’s bettah to make him come to us.”
Juliet didn’t want to be here in the first place, and having her wishes ignored with such head-patting condescension by a man she was rapidly coming to suspect was a petty little tyrant was the push that crossed the line. Gaze level and her voice icy, she said, “But I insist.”
A fleeting irritation registered on Pfeffer’s face, but he set down the receiver and stood. “Yes, of course,” he said smoothly. “Whatevah you wish.” He came around the desk and then stood aside with an obsequious smile to allow her to precede him from the office. “Right this way. We’ll take the elevatah.”
“Josie Lee’s on the warpath,” Beau Dupree informed his partner gloomily. “She says I’m overprotective and smothering, and she’s moving out.” He looked at Luke Gardner. “You think I’m overprotective?”
Beau scowled. “Bullshit. Hell, if it weren’t for this case, I’d pack her damn bags myself– I dream of the time I’m no longer responsible for everyone. As things stand, though, she’ll move out over my dead body.” He shook his head in disgust. “Overprotective, my ass.”
“Beau, for Christ’s sake, listen to yourself. When are you gonna let yourself off the hook for that, man? It wasn’t your fault.”
“The hell it wasn’t.” Beau’s scowl deepened. He’d allowed his baby sister to come to a strip joint late at night. It didn’t matter that she’d tracked him down via his cell phone, or how insistent she’d been that she had to have the car, refusing to let him get back to work until he’d agreed out of pure frustration to let a friend bring her by to get the keys. He should have insisted that he needed it himself, even though he’d ridden with Luke. Sure, he’d extracted her promise that the friend would drop her off where he’d left the car parked near the station and wait until she was safely inside. Big fuckin’ deal. He and Luke had been staking out the joint in the first place because of the Panty Snatcher, a man who broke into women’s homes and forced them at gun point to strip and hand over their lingerie, terrorizing them with the unspoken possibilities of what else he might force them to do before he melted back into the night with his booty. Beau had known damn well the club was the only common denominator of the pervert’s last two victims. He’d had no business letting Josie Lee anywhere near the place.
“It’s not like I couldn’t use the peace, Gardner. I’d love to have the house all to myself. And I live for the day that I get my old sex life back.” Now there was an understatement. He’d been fantasizing about the day for ten solid years.
Luke grinned. “Balls developin’ a blueish tinge?”
Beau gave him a look. “Hey, you try raising three opinionated sisters and see what it does to your nuts. It hasn’t exactly been the wild bachelor lifestyle it was before my folks died.” Then he, too, grinned. “The minute Josie Lee’s out the door, though, I’m picking it up right where I left off. First thing I’m gonna do–”
“–Is find me a little blonde with big tits. Or maybe two blondes– or a blonde and a redhead– I’m not fussy. Then I’m climbing into bed with her or them, and I’m not comin’ up for air for a week.” The thought carved a smile on his face, which disintegrated when his friend kicked his foot off the opened lower desk drawer where it had been propped. Beau straightened in irritation. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”
“Sergeant Dupree,” Pissant Pfeffer said with rigid disapproval from behind him. “You will kindly watch your language, sir. There’s a lady present.”
Beau turned in his seat. Oh, great– his favorite bureaucrat. And if that wasn’t enough to just make his day, Acting Captain Peter Pfeffer was accompanied by a long-legged woman who regarded him with huge grey eyes, as if he were some unique species in the zoo. He gave her a slow once-over in return.
“I’d like to introduce you to Ms. Juliet Lowell,” Pfeffer said with that unctuous snake-oil-salesman’s smile that always set Beau’s teeth on edge. “Your new assignment,” he added with vicious triumph. “Ms. Lowell, meet Sergeant Beauregard Dupree.”
Juliet felt the sudden tension of every person in the squad room and realized she had made a mistake when she hadn’t allowed Captain Pfeffer to send for his detective. This smelled suspiciously of a power play, and due to her insistence it was being played out in a public forum.
When the man whose conversation they’d interrupted had turned lazily in his seat and appraised her with black eyes so heavily lashed they drooped at the outside corners, Juliet had prayed it was the handsome bald guy with the engaging grin just beyond him who would be her new bodyguard.
No such luck, of course. Her heart began to bang against the wall of her chest as the black-haired detective climbed to his feet and gave her a comprehensive once-over. He wasn’t particularly handsome. Which was just as well, since gorgeous looks would have been overkill. The man was extremely… male. He was more male than any Y-chromosome-bearing individual she’d ever come across. A snatch of his conversation whispered through her mind. Week-long sex with multiple partners? Dear God, did people truly do that sort of thing? She stared at him, repelled and yet fascinated at the same time.
He returned her gaze, one thick, dark eyebrow lifted, and a corner of his mouth quirked as if he were privy to something that secretly amused him. Then he turned to face Captain Pfeffer and his black brows lowered, amusement conspicuously absent. Every eye in the room was on him and everyone seemed to be holding their breath, as if awaiting an explosion. But he merely exchanged a glance with the other detective and said with a mildness that Juliet instinctively knew was fraudulent, “I already have an assignment, Pete.”
“That’s Captain Pfeffer!” The ranking officer puffed up with indignation as he spat the correction. “And your assignment is what I say it is, Dupree. I say it’s Ms. Lowell.”
The detective was only average height, maybe five ten or eleven. His shoulders were wide, however, his hips were narrow, and he had the lean muscle mass of a swimmer. Black hair feathered his forearms and was visible behind the unbuttoned placket of his polo shirt. His jaw, too, was dark with five o’clock shadow, though it was only eleven in the morning. He looked tough and competent as he stared at the captain, and his cool control made his superior appear soft and nearly hysterical in contrast. It was therefore a surprise when the detective suddenly rolled his shoulders and turned to her in compliance with Pfeffer’s order.
“Miz Lowell,” he said silkily, thrusting a hand out at her. He, too, had a slow, lazy drawl, but Juliet saw the energetic fury in the depths of his black eyes. “This is my partner–”
“You don’t have a partner, Dupree,” Pfeffer interrupted.
“Bite me,” Beau invited, but explained to Juliet, “The NOPD decentralized in ’96. Luke here was my partner before then, and I’m not about to start callin’ him my ex-partner at this late date.” He indicated the man with the smooth-shaven skull. “In any case, meet Sergeant Gardner.”
“Ma’am,” the detective said, but although Juliet acknowledged his greeting with a polite dip of her head, she couldn’t seem to pull her gaze away from Sergeant Dupree.
He was a little sweaty; she could see it in the sheen along his throat and where his black knit shirt stuck in spots to his chest and stomach muscles. But the hand he wrapped around hers to shake was dry and brown-skinned, long fingered and hard. And it was warm, very warm.
Juliet dropped it as soon as was decently possible, feeling flustered and edgy. Curling fingers that retained the sensation of his touch within the shielding folds in her skirt, she felt heat climb up her cheeks. The men in her world had hands that were smooth and pale and somehow cool. A frisson of uneasiness crept down her spine.
“Beauregard will be at your service as long as you’re in New Awleans,” Captain Pfeffer said pompously and gave the detective a glare. “Right, Dupree?”
Keeping his eyes on her, Beau took a step that brought him much too close and cocked his head quizzically. “Is there a particular reason you need babysittin’, dawlin’?”
Unaccustomed to physical contact, she stepped back. Though she was too mannerly to protest the endearment, her chin came up and she’d opened her mouth to offer a cool reply when Pfeffer jumped into the breech.
“Ms. Lowell is down heah to open the Garden Crown, a fine new jewel in the glitterin’ tiara that comprises the Crown Hotels,” he said expansively.
“And she’s– what? –had the heap burgled already and needs a cop?” Beau’s eyes were insolent as he looked down at her. “In that case, sugar, you’ve come to the best.”
“Watch your tongue, Dupree. Ms. Lowell has received a threatening letter and I’m assigning you to keep her safe.”
Breaths were sucked in throughout the room and everyone drew back as if Beau were a ticking bomb primed to go off. Juliet wished she understood what the hell was going on. Clearly there were underlying subtexts here she didn’t understand. Sergeant Dupree’s black eyes glittered with pure fury as his gaze wrenched from her face to the captain’s.
“Guard dog duty?” he said through clenched teeth.
“Her fawtha was quite insistent, and he is Thomas Lowell after all. Here’s a copy of the letter.” Pfeffer thrust it into Beau’s hands. “I’m sure you’ll want to study it. And of course you’ll be gratified to know you’ll also be Ms. Lowell’s escort for all the hotel’s pre-opening functions,” he added with gusto.
“Oh, shit,” someone murmured.
Beau scanned the letter. When his dark-eyed gaze raised, it locked on her face. “Daddy must have some connections,” he said with soft-voiced contempt. “‘Cause this–” the white paper in one hand smacked against the long, brown fingers of his other “–is pure bullshit, but it looks as if he just bought his baby girl a brand new boy anyway.”
If his initial charm had made her heart pound, having all that fury transferred to her added an almost frantic throb to its erratic rhythm. Somehow this man managed to wreak havoc with her usually unshakable composure, leaving her feeling entirely unstrung. Always remember who you are. Her Grandmother’s arrogant exhortation offered unexpected comfort, and she could use every ounce of ammunition at her disposal.
She gave him a cool smile.
He narrowed his eyes at her and said insolently, “You don’t talk much, do you, angel-face? I like that in a woman.”
His partner rolled his eyes and Captain Pfeffer snapped, “That’s quite enough, Sergeant. You will mind your mannahs and address her as Ms. Lowell.”
Beau’s hard gaze left her face and zeroed in on the captain’s. His voice lost its honeyed drawl as he lashed out, “Or you’ll do what, Acting Captain Pfeffer? Remove me from her case and put me on somethin’ a little less… important… like the Panty Snatcher case?”
“Forget that piddly-ass case!” Captain Pfeffer’s polished facade cracked as he thrust his jaw pugnaciously near Beau’s. “I’ve given you your assignment, and you’ll do what you’re damn well told, or I’ll strip you of your gold shield.” It was an idea he clearly relished.
“Oh, please,” Juliet protested in distress, but Beau cut her off.
“Come on, Miz Lowell.” His hand wrapped around her wrist and he headed for the door, pulling her in his wake.
“Dupree!” Pfeffer’s voice behind them was a peremptory warning to halt, but Beau never slackened his pace.
Stumbling along behind him, Juliet cast a brief look over her shoulder at the Captain and Sergeant Gardner and gave them a helpless shrug. Then they were lost to sight as the warm-skinned hand that held her captive yanked her out the door.