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Excerpt from “Masquerade” by A.L. Vincent

Her thoughts drifted to Quinn Olivier, as they often did on her sporadic visits. She’d never ran into him again after that summer. That glorious summer when they’d been in love, or lust. Sweaty nights, early mornings in the Quarter, sipping café au lait at Café du Monde. He’d been so different than the other boys she’d dated. He was older, not into the frat parties, the games. He’d cooked for her, taken her on real dates. He’d been a cop then, and Alex often wondered what had happened to him. Had he made detective? Had he bothered to try to find her when she left and went back to Dallas?

Had he found out she’d lied? About everything? About her name, where she was from?

Young and foolish, Alex had never told him her real name, about her prominent Dallas family, about anything, actually. When they’d met that night in that quiet little dive bar on Bourbon, she had told him her name was Bella, her family’s nickname for her.

She’d been out celebrating graduating from Tulane. She was one step closer to becoming an attorney like her father, and his father, and so on. She’d gone to the bar to order another drink when he caught her eye. He sat there, nursing a bourbon and Coke. He was twirling the ice around in the glass and watching the sweat from the glass drip off onto the napkin.

“Looks like you’re having a bad night,” Alex had said.

“I guess you could say that.”

Alex went to him then, leaning against the bar.

“Want to talk about it?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Not if it’s going to cost me.”

She laughed then. “I’m not that kinda girl.”

He smiled at her and pulled the barstool out, and Alex sat down.

They talked about everything that night: about New Orleans, music, Mardi Gras, their favorite restaurants. He told her why he was there that night. About being in court, doing his job as a cop, and how the criminal had gone free anyway.

He’d walked her home and kissed her that night. And when he did, when he pushed her up against the door, all rational thought escaped her. Caught up in the whirlwind of the affair that resulted, the lie continued. When Quinn had expressed a distaste for New Orleans gentry, the parties, the balls, the sense of entitlement, Alex knew he’d feel the same way about her.

Out of fear, she’d remained silent. The summer grew to a close, and it was time for her to return to Dallas to begin practicing law. One morning, while he was sleeping, she’d kissed him on the forehead and slid out of bed. She’d never even said goodbye.

Coward.

Seeing the lights of New Orleans in the distance, Alex shook her head.

Thank God New Orleans was a big town. The chances of running into Quinn again after all this time were nonexistent.

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