Danny Rothstein, a handsome young casino owner, leaves Las Vegas for the noir splendor of 1950s’ New Orleans. Danny is a product of the button-down fifties and assumes he knows everything about women. Little does he know that he will soon enter a world of strip bars and clandestine sex clubs. His life comes apart when he meets Yvette Delacroix, a nineteen-year-old cigarette girl who has sampled life on the wild side. After a scorching encounter in a sex club, the two embark on a torrid romance that challenges everything Danny believes about female sexuality and love. At the end of Danny’s passionate journey, he learns bad girls can be very good indeed.
The New Orleans Hothouse is an explicit glimpse at the carnal underworld of New Orleans told in the first person from a male point of view. The clash between a powerful protagonist and liberated heroine are some of the provocative elements in this erotic romance set in the New Orleans and the fictional universe of the Rue de St. Marc.
Las Vegas, August 31, 1955
Nat King Cole’s velvety tones floated through the desert air like an icy breeze. My Cadillac had air-conditioning, but Nat’s singing cooled me like a summer breeze. He had a voice like frosted smoke, and even with the Caddie’s top down, the heat didn’t bother me.
The glittery neon of the Las Vegas Strip blazed in the distance, but the only lights that interested me were those in the night sky. The old timers who’d lived in Vegas during its days of cactus, lizards, and ramshackle frame buildings swore the stars burned a lot brighter in those days. I’d spent many a night gazing up at the heavens and found their words hard to believe. How could those celestials dazzle any more than they did now? In the future, after I built more casinos and Vegas became a real city, no one would care about the stars in the sky. They’d be too concerned with the ones on the Strip.
Nat’s song, “Unforgettable,” ended and Ella Fitzgerald began crooning “Midnight Sun” in her silky alto. Time to go. I donned the jacket of my black sharkskin suit, started the engine, and headed toward Highway 91 back to the Strip. The ignition key hung from a diamond-studded key ring, a birthday present from Sam—my older brother—along with the Caddie.
When I finally switched on the cars air conditioner, I felt as chilly as a lime daiquiri, even in the night heat.
Sam, the eternal joker, had once declared I needed a Cadillac to complete me. “Little brother, nothing shouts money, power, and sex like driving an Eldorado.”
He might have been right. After my first drive around town, a local scribe nicknamed me the Glamour Boy of Las Vegas, but I’d heard comments about my looks all my life. People called me handsome, some, very handsome. I’d grown up hearing “Funny, you don’t look Jewish,” all my life. Folks swore I should have been a movie actor, and my barber styled my hair like one, à la Tony Curtis.
Yes, I dressed snappily, but a casino owner can’t walk around Vegas looking like a schlub. A fellow in Los Angeles tailored my suits because when a man measured six feet three, buying off the rack was impossible. I always matched my ties and pocket-handkerchiefs, elegant and distinctive without looking fruity. My dentist had polished my teeth that morning, and even he swore I had a movie star smile. I reached for a Chesterfield but remembered promising my mother I’d quit, so I popped a Peppermint Lifesaver into my mouth instead. I checked myself out in the rearview mirror. My teeth gleamed white even in the garish light of the Strip. I’m sure my grin widened the moment I steered the Caddie past the Dunes and the Flamingo toward my destination, the neon sails of an enormous pirate ship.
“Hey, Charlie. Park the car.” I tossed my keys to an eager parking attendant before I entered the air-conditioned lobby of the Corsair Hotel and Casino—my hotel, my casino. Sam had been enamored of buccaneers since childhood and had decorated the place in tones of scarlet and gold. He’d transformed the casino into a pirate ship complete with crimson riggings and gilded portholes, and even christened the coffee shop the Yo-Ho-Ho Room.
People called the Corsair a marauder’s paradise. High rollers, travelers in western shirts and bolo ties, and little old ladies rubbed elbows with low-level gangsters, pimps, and their whores. Although the paint had barely dried, cigarette smoke already perfumed the casino and glass rings stained the oak furnishings. Still, it belonged to me, and I was in charge from the moment my Italian loafers hit the Oriental carpet. Shapely cocktail waitresses in skimpy black pirate costumes greeted me in breathy whispers. “Hi Mr. Rothstein. It’s good to see you.”
I’ve never dated any of these gals or bedded one of them. Sleeping with the help wasn’t the way Sam or I did business, even when girls offered sex—and Lord knows, they offered. I lived by three axioms: Always be polite. Don’t shit where you eat. And remember, business is business.
Still, a man is only human. I fantasized about those beautiful blondes, brunettes, and redheads with their glorious tits and asses on display. They’d saunter between the game tables on stiletto pumps, their shapely legs covered with fishnet hose, their breasts like twin torpedoes. How did they maneuver so easily, big smiles on their gorgeous faces as they balanced trays loaded with scotch on the rocks, vodka gimlets, and Manhattans? In my heart of hearts though, I knew there had to be more to a relationship with a girl than just sex.
Bruno, the floor manager, a burly tough from Chicago, stepped in front of me. “Mr. Rothstein, there you are. I’ve been looking all over for you. Your big brother wants you in his office, pronto.”
* * * *
Sam sat behind a teak and ivory desk purloined from a bombed-out Italian villa, his ass in a Louis XVI brocade armchair. He’d spent a bundle on the office decor, but every dropped jaw made the bucks worth it. A massive crystal chandelier nesting on the vaulted ceiling lit the office. Alabaster vases and marble statuary filled the room and rare tapestries covered the walls. My brother wallowed in the opulence. He ate his dinner on the finest bone china, wiped his mouth with a linen napkin imported from Belgium, and sipped ice water from a hand-blown glass chalice. Sam pointed to another brocade chair. “You, sit.”
Though he had ten years on me, we looked alike, both tall and dark-haired; however, the resemblance ended there. Sam could be a hard-nosed son of a bitch, and it drove him nuts when people called me the charming brother.
He glared at me, his eyes flashing. “Danny, I just got off the phone with that son of a bitch, Otis LeBlanc.”
Sam and I had been negotiating for months with the elusive LeBlanc, a New Orleans big shot who wanted in on the casino business. I saw fresh agitation on Sam’s face. “LeBlanc is kind of a local celebrity in Louisiana. They call him the Jolly Cajun. The lug won’t leave New Orleans no matter how much I beg. Well, you know the saying. If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain, the mountain will come to him. I’ve scheduled you on a flight to New Orleans.”
“What the hell? Sam, I don’t want to go to New Orleans. It’s a frigging steam bath this time of year. The place is full of drunks and loaded with bugs. Send someone else.”
Sam grabbed a bottle of antacids, and downed a handful with a gulp of milk. “You’re making my ulcer act up again, Danny. There is no one else. I need someone to close this deal, and so it’s up to you, baby brother. Use some of that charm everybody claims you have on him. It won’t be hard. He’s already interested.”
He eased back in the chair. “Why do you think you went to college? To be a jerk walking around the casino in a monkey suit? Go to New Orleans. LeBlanc has interests in Havana, but wants to pull out. He thinks there’ll be a revolution in a few years.” Sam guffawed at the thought then zeroed back in on me.
“Look Danny, the guy may be crazy, but he’s got cash to invest. I told him about my idea for a Southern-style hotel for high rollers, and he liked it. He eyeballed the prospectus and liked that too, so start packing.”
Regardless of how I felt, I had to think of our business. “Okay, okay. I’ll go, but I don’t have to like it.”
Sam smirked as if he enjoyed my pain. “Hey, it won’t be so bad. New Orleans has great food, terrific music, and LeBlanc owns the biggest strip joint in town. It’s a classy joint so bring your tux.”
“Sam, we’ve got beautiful girls here.”
He leaned in, a smirk on his face, his fingers tented. “Yeah, but something else might interest you. His private club, the Lucky 13.” Although we were the only two people in the room, Sam lowered his voice to a whisper. “I hear really strange stuff goes on in the backrooms. You know, deviant, kinky stuff. LeBlanc doesn’t like talking about the place since no one knows he owns it, but he said if I came to New Orleans, he’d make sure I saw it firsthand.”
I reached over to the only uncluttered corner of his desk and picked up a photo resting in an antique frame. A smiling, dark-haired woman embraced two little girls whose sunny demeanor matched hers. “Are you crazy? What about Ruthie and the kids?”
Sam’s leer suddenly disappeared. “Well if it wasn’t for them, I’d be taking that flight instead of you.”
I felt the blood coming to my face. “Sam, I’ll never understand you. You have a terrific wife and two wonderful girls, yet you envy me. It isn’t fun going home to an empty apartment every night. With a woman like Ruthie, why you dream about dipping you cock into some strange pussy in a sleazy sex club?”
He leaned back in his chair and smirked. “Because I’m a man! Ruthie’s a great gal, but sometimes a fellow wants more. Just something on the side.”
At that moment, I wanted to knock Sam’s block off, but I kept my temper and let him keep blaring. “Danny, I need you to reel LeBlanc in. Finesse him, eat grits, listen to Dixieland, say y’all to the locals, and above all go to that club. And watch out for the cops too, I hear they’re evil sons-of-bitches, and you won’t have your family around for protection.”
As a kid, I’d gotten into the occasional dustups with New York’s finest. “Look Sam, that shit happened years ago and I didn’t appreciate you bringing it up now. It’s over and done with.”
Sam gave me a twisted smile. “You still have a bit of the thug about you, Danny, and cops smell it on you. By the way, speaking of protection, baby brother, I suggest you bring rubbers with you. A lot of rubbers.” His eyes twinkled. “I expect a full report, blow by blow, if you know what I mean.”
I flipped him the bird and rose. As I stormed out the door—a massive oak portal acquired from a French monastery—I heard my asshole of a brother cackling like a crazy old broad.
By the time I’d marched to the elevator and taken it down to the casino, I’d cooled down. The moment the elevator doors opened, I heard a husky female voice through the casino din and my anger began rising once again.
“Goodness, I’ve won two thousand! Look at all those yummy chips!”
I swiveled in the direction of the roulette wheel and spied Inez. You don’t see girls like Inez Hale every day. She had skin like as creamy as peach ice cream and a shapely figure that drove men wild. Inez took full advantage of mesmerizing emerald eyes, lips like plump red pillows, and auburn hair trailing past her shoulders. She’d made herself up to the hilt, a walking advertisement for Max Factor. She’d draped her curves in a chocolate brown sheath that showed off her perfect neck and silky shoulders and scented herself with Chanel No. 5. Nothing was more dangerous than a woman who used her beauty to her advantage. Inez could be lethal.
I could write a novel about how much that broad loved showing off her wares. She pouted, simpered, and purred for a small group of admirers, and flirted with the croupier, a pruned-out old codger who wore a hearing aid.
An older gal in a square-dancing costume, her crinoline petticoats swishing, approached the table and nudged her friend. “Can you believe it, Winnie? It’s Inez Hale, the movie star.”
Inez must have heard the woman because the actress in her suddenly took over. She thrust out her tits, licked her lips seductively, and for emphasis, waved a manicured hand in the air. “Oh, I’ve got to try again.” Her charm bracelet jangled as she slid a pile of fifty-dollar chips onto the felt-covered table.
“I’m feeling lucky tonight, Alvin. Let’s see. I’m twenty-four and have red hair. Let’s put everything on Red 24.”
The small white globe revolved helter-skelter around the wheel. No one breathed as the ball circled the wheel, clacking over the wooden number-pockets. It finally landed on a crimson twenty-four. A gasp and wild applause as my redheaded stunner jumped up and down, blowing kisses all the while. “Oh, this is so scrumptious. It’s even better than having Mr. Ty Power, my costar in Twentieth Century Fox’s newest release, Trouble in Haiti, planting a big smooch on moi. I think I might just play again.”
Before she could make another move, I brushed my lips across the top of her head. “Inez, sugar, how about we cash in your chips and you hang up your spurs for the night?”
She greeted me with a seductive pout. “Just one more, Dannykins, one more.” Her glittery charm bracelet caught my eye. My hand swooped down and gripped it. “C’mon, Inez, how about it? We’ll go up to your suite, have a little dinner, and talk over things. Won’t that be swell?”
She knew I meant it and grinned. I signaled Bruno over and handed him her chips.
“Cash these out for Miss Hale, and have her winnings brought up to her suite.”
He nodded and we were off. When I took Inez by the arm, every head turned as we sauntered toward the elevator. She giggled, gushed, flashed her winning smile at everyone but me, then hissed in my ear.
“Danny, darling, you’re hurting me. Are you sure that you want to be so obvious. People might get the wrong idea about our friendship. I do have a reputation to uphold.”
The elevator doors opened. I guided her in with a gentle shove to her back and nodded to the operator. “Penthouse, please.” Then I put my lips to her ear. “Sugar, everybody knows we’re fucking, so what difference does it make?”
Inez arched an eyebrow, a deadly sneer on her face. I’d pissed her off once again. “You’re so crude.”
I couldn’t help sniggering at her because the nastier my language became, the better she liked it. “But doll face, I thought that’s what you like about me: my crudeness, along with little Danny of course.”
She sneered through gritted teeth. “Why can’t you call it making love like everyone else does?”
I grabbed her arm and turned her to me. “Because you know we don’t love each other so why kid yourself.”
She didn’t say a word, just sulked all the way up to her suite.
I’m Francesca Miller, the jazz-loving author of erotic romances, Young Adult and New Adult novels. I had the good fortune of being born in one the most diverse cities in the world, sun-kissed Los Angeles. The City of the Angels is more than just palm trees, toned bodies and beaches, it’s a fusion of people, languages and cultures.
In my past literary life, I worked a lifestyle writer for magazines in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Vancouver as well as entertainment journalist and movie reviewer in print, on-line, and on radio in the Los Angeles area. I’m a student of American history and my works are usually set in the past. When I’m not writing away, I spend my time watching movies from the golden era on TCM, delving into history, enjoying classical music and jazz and reading gothic literature.
My first published novel is an erotic romance written under my nom de plume, Lee Rene. My interest in writing erotic romance started percolating when I read Sylvia Day’s provocative novel, Bared to You. Although I’ve attempted to write romance novels in the past, I found my voice in the world of erotic literature. The New Orleans Hothouse is the first of many stories. It’s my sincere wish that lovers of dark romances join me on my journey.