Slow Heat in Heaven


By Sandra Brown

Formats and Prices




$12.99 CAD



  1. Mass Market $8.99 $12.99 CAD
  2. ebook $7.99 $11.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 1, 1991. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Grappling with hidden family secrets, forbidden passions, and a business in peril, the adopted daughter of a Louisiana mogul must confront the past to bring peace back to her hometown.The adopted daughter of the most powerful man in town, Schyler Crandall was a brokenhearted girl when she left Heaven, Louisiana. Now a crisis has brought her home to a family in conflict, a logging empire on the brink of disaster, and seething secrets that make Heaven hotter than hell. Everyone in Heaven has a secret: Schyler’s beautiful younger sister, Tricia, with her cruel lies; Ken, Tricia’s handsome husband, who married the wrong sister; Jigger, the pimp and ruffian with plans of his own; and Cash, a proud, mysterious, and complex bad boy with a wild reputation. It is dangerous for Schyler to even be near him, yet she must dare to confront the past — if there is to be any peace in Heaven.


Begin Reading

Table of Contents

A Preview of Low Pressure

Also by Sandra Brown


Copyright Page

In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at Thank you for your support of the author's rights.

Chapter One

At first she wasn't sure he was real.

She had been dozing. Her head rested on her bent arm, which had gone to sleep and had started to tingle. She woke up and opened her eyes, then stretched languorously and turned her head. That's when she saw him. She immediately forgot her discomfort.

She thought he was a trick of her unfocused eyes or a product of late afternoon drowsiness and midsummer ennui. She blinked several times. The image remained.

The outline of his body was as detailed as a silhouette cut out of black construction paper with tiny manicure scissors. It was cast against a showoff sun that was making one hell of an exit. The horizon was as gaudily striped as a sultan's turban. It boasted every vibrant hue ranging from vermilion to gold.

Like the pines, he was motionless. The trees stood as majestic and tall as sentinels. Their spiky branches were still. There wasn't a breath of breeze. Above from where Schyler lay, Spanish moss drooped from the sprawling limbs of the live oak, looking more desolate than usual, mourning the unrelenting humid heat.

The unmoving form was undeniably male. So was the stance. Ah, yes, his stance was definitely, arrogantly masculine. One knee was bent, throwing his hip slightly off center.

It was intimidating to wake up from a nap and discover someone standing not twenty yards away watching you with the silence and patience of a predator. It was doubly disconcerting to find that that someone was a self-assured and cocky male who clearly saw you as the trespasser.

Most disturbing was the garden hoe that lay across his shoulders. It appeared innocuous. His wrists were hooked over the handle, his hands dangling carelessly. On the streets of London, a man carrying a garden hoe across his shoulders would attract attention. In rural Louisiana during the summertime, it was a common sight.

But there wasn't so much as an onion patch on this section of Belle Terre. The fields where sharecroppers cultivated vegetables were miles away. So Schyler had reason to be alarmed. The sun was going down, she was alone and, relatively speaking, a long way from the house.

She should challenge him, demand to know who he was and what he was doing on her property. But she said nothing, perhaps because he looked more a part of Belle Terre than she did. He blended into the landscape, was one with it. By comparison, she seemed out of place and conspicuous.

She didn't know how long they had been staring at each other. At least she thought they were staring at each other. She couldn't distinguish his face, much less tell what he was looking at so intently. But instinct told her he was watching her and that he had been for quite some time. That unnerving thought goaded her to act. She sat up.

He started toward her.

His footsteps hardly rustled the ankle-deep grass. Moving silently and sinuously, he slid the hoe off his shoulders and gripped the long handle with both hands.

All the self-defense instructions Schyler had ever heard burrowed cowardly into the farthest corners of her mind. She couldn't move, couldn't speak. She tried to suck in a deep breath so she could scream, but the air was as dense as quicksand.

Instinctively she shrank against the massive tree trunk and shut her eyes tightly. Her last impression was that of the sharpened blade of the hoe. It glinted in the remnant rays of sunlight as it made its swift, downward arc, making a thunking sound when it landed. She waited for the agonizing pain to assault her before she keeled over dead. But it never came.

"Get your nap out, pichouette?"

Schyler blinked her eyes open, amazed that she was still alive. "What?"

"Get your nap out, Miss Schyler?"

She shaded her eyes against the brilliant sunset, but she still couldn't distinguish his face. He knew her name. His first language had been a Cajun dialect. Other than that, she didn't have a clue as to who he was.

Snakes slithered out of the bayous. She'd been taught from infancy to consider all of them poisonous. That reasoning seemed to apply to this situation.

The thunking sound had been made by the sharp blade when it bit into the grass. The man was leaning on the hoe now, both hands innocently folded over the blunt end of the handle. His chin was propped on them. But his benign stance made him no less dangerous.

"How do you know me?" she asked.

A pair of saturnine lips cracked open briefly. The fleeting facial expression wasn't a bona fide smile. It was too sardonic to pass for genuine.

"Why, it's common knowledge around Laurent Parish that Miss Schyler Crandall has come home from London-town."

"Only temporarily and only because of my father's heart attack."

He shrugged, supremely indifferent to her comings and goings. Turning his head, he glanced at the rapidly sinking sun. His eyes reflected it like the motionless waters of a bayou when sunlight strikes it at the right angle. At that time of day the surface of the water looks as solid and impenetrable as brass. So did his eyes.

"I don't repeat gossip, Miss Schyler. I only listen to it. And I only pay attention when I hear something that could affect me."

"What are you doing here?"

His head came back around. "Watching you sleep."

"Before that," she said sharply.

"Gathering roots." He slapped the small leather pouch attached to his belt.

"Roots?" His answer made absolutely no sense, and his cavalier attitude irritated her. "What kind of roots?"

"Doesn't matter. You've never heard of them."

"You're trespassing on private property. You've got no business on Belle Terre."

Insects hummed noisily in the silence that followed. His eyes never wavered from her face. When he answered, his voice was as soft and elusive as the wished for breeze. "Oh, but I do, pichouette. Belle Terre is my home."

Schyler stared up at him. "Who are you?"

"You don't remember?"

Comprehension dawned. "Boudreaux?" she whispered. Then she swallowed hard, not really relieved to know who she was talking to. "Cash Boudreaux?"

"Bien! You recognize me now."

"No. No, I didn't. The sun's in my eyes. And it's been years since I've seen you."

"And then you had good reason not to remember." He grunted with amused satisfaction when she had the grace to look away, embarrassed. "If you didn't recognize me, how did you know who I was?"

"You're the only person living on Belle Terre who isn't…"

"A Crandall."

She ducked her head slightly, nervous at being alone with Cash Boudreaux. For as long as she could remember, her father had forbidden her sister Tricia and her to even speak to him.

His mother was the mysterious Cajun woman, Monique Boudreaux, who lived in a shanty on Laurent Bayou that wound in and about the forested acreage of Belle Terre. As a boy, Cash had had access to the outlying areas but had never been allowed to come this close to the house. Not wanting to take issue with that just yet, Schyler asked politely, "Your mother, how is she?"

"She died."

His blunt reply startled her. Boudreaux's face was inscrutable in the descending twilight. But had it been high noon, Schyler doubted his features would have given away what he was thinking. He'd never had a reputation for being loquacious. The same aura of mystery that cloaked his mother had cloaked him.

"I didn't know."

"It was several years ago."

Schyler swatted at a mosquito that landed on the side of her neck. "I'm sorry."

"You'd better get yourself home. The mosquitoes will eat you alive."

He extended his hand down to her. She regarded it as something dangerous and was as loath to touch it as she would be to reach out and pet a water moccasin. But it would be unspeakably rude not to let him assist her to her feet. Once before she had trusted him. She hadn't come to any harm then.

She laid her hand in his. His palm felt as tough as leather and she felt raised calluses at the bases of his fingers that closed warmly around her hand. As soon as she was on her feet she withdrew her hand from his.

Busily dusting off the back of her skirt to cover the awkward moment, she said, "Last I heard of you, you were just out of Fort Polk and on your way to Vietnam." He said nothing. She looked up at him. "Did you go?"


"That was a long time ago."

"Not long enough."

"Uh, well, I'm glad you made it back. The parish lost several boys over there."

He shrugged. "Guess I was a better fighter." His lip curled into a facsimile of a smile. "But then I always had to be."

She wasn't about to address that. In fact, she was trying to think of something to say that would graciously terminate this uncomfortable conversation. Before she did, Cash Boudreaux raised his hand to her neck and brushed away a mosquito that was looking for a sumptuous spot to have dinner.

The backs of Cash's fingers were rough, but their touch was delicate as they whisked across her exposed throat and down her chest. He looked for her reaction with frank interest. His gaze was sexual. He knew exactly what he was doing. He had brazenly committed the unpardonable. Cash Boudreaux had touched Schyler Crandall… and was daring her to complain about it.

He said, "They know the best places to bite."

Schyler pretended to be unmoved by his insinuating stare. She said, "You're as ornery as ever, aren't you?"

"I wouldn't want to disappoint you by changing."

"I couldn't care less."

"You never did."

Feeling severely put down, Schyler stiffened her posture. "I need to get back to the house. It's suppertime. Good seeing you, Mr. Boudreaux."

"How is he?"

"Who? My daddy?" He nodded curtly. Schyler's shoulders relaxed a degree. "I haven't seen him today. I'm going to the hospital after supper. I spoke with one of his nurses by telephone this morning who said he'd had a comfortable night." Emotion dropped her voice to a husky pitch. "These days even that is something to be grateful for." Then in her most refined, Sunday-company voice she said, "I'll tell him you inquired, Mr. Boudreaux."

Boudreaux's laugh was sudden and harsh. It startled a bird into flight from the top of the live oak. "I don't think that'd be a very good idea. Not unless you want the old man to croak."

If her swift calculations were correct, Cash Boudreaux was approaching forty, so he should have known better than to say something so flippant about a seriously ill man. His manners hadn't improved with maturity. He was as coarse, as rude, as undisciplined as he'd been in his youth. His mother had exercised no control over him whatsoever. She had let him run wild. He was constantly into mischief that had ceased to be cute by the time he reached junior high school, where he fast became the scourge of the public school system. Heaven, Louisiana had never spawned such a hellraiser as Cash Boudreaux.

"I'll say good evening, then, Mr. Boudreaux."

He executed a clipped little bow. "Good evening, Miss Schyler."

She gave him a cool nod, more characteristic of her sister than of her, and turned in the direction of the house. She was aware of him watching her. As soon as she was a safe distance away and beneath the deep shadows of the trees, she glanced back.

He had propped himself against the trunk of the live oak, which half a dozen men standing hand to hand couldn't span. She saw a match spark and flare in the darkness. Boudreaux's lean face was briefly illuminated when he lifted the match to the tip of his cigarette. He fanned out the match. The scent of sulfur rode the currents of Gulf humidity until it reached Schyler's hiding place.

Boudreaux drew deeply on the cigarette. The end of it glowed hot and red, like a single eye blinking out of the depths of hell.

Chapter Two

Schyler slipped through the trees, stumbling over dense undergrowth in her hurry to reach the security of the house. On the creaky footbridge, her head was engulfed by a buzzing cloud of mosquitoes. The bridge spanned the shallow creek that separated the woods from the manicured lawn surrounding the house like a neat apron.

Reaching the emerald carpet of thick St. Augustine grass, Schyler paused to regain her breath. The night air was as heavily perfumed as a Bourbon Street hooker. Honeysuckle lined the banks of the creek. Gardenias were blooming somewhere nearby, as well as wild roses, waxleaf ligustrum, and magnolia trees.

Schyler cataloged the individual smells. They were resurrected out of her childhood, each attached to its special memory. The scents were achingly familiar, though she was long past childhood and hadn't set foot on Belle Terre in six years.

No English garden smelled like this, like home, like Belle Terre. Nothing did. If she were blindfolded and dropped onto Belle Terre, she would recognize it immediately by sound and scent.

The nightly choir of bullfrogs and crickets was warming up. The bass section reverberated from the swampy creek bottom, the soprano section from overhead branches. Out on the spur, a mile or so away, a freight train's whistle hooted. No sound was as sad.

Schyler, closing her eyes and leaning against the rough bark of a loblolly pine, let the sensations seep into her. She crossed her arms over her chest and hugged herself, almost afraid that when she opened her eyes she would awaken from a dream to find that she wasn't at Belle Terre in the full bloom of summer, but in London, shrouded in a cold, winter mist.

But when she opened her eyes she saw the house. As pure and white as a sugar cube, it stood serenely in the heart of the clearing, dominating it like the center gem in a tiara.

Yellow lamplight, made diffuse by the screens, poured from the windows and spilled out onto the deep veranda. Along the edge of the porch were six columns, three on each side of the front door. They supported a second-story balcony. It wasn't a real balcony, only a facade. Tricia frequently and peevishly pointed that out. But Schyler loved it anyway. In her opinion the phony balcony was necessary to the symmetry of the design.

The veranda wrapped around all four sides of the house. It was enclosed with screens in back, made into what had once been called a sleeping porch. Schyler remembered hearing her mother, Macy, talking about the good times she'd had there as a child when all her Laurent cousins would sleep on pallets during family get-togethers.

Personally Schyler had always preferred the open veranda. Wicker chairs, painted white to match the house, were strategically placed so that whoever sat in one might enjoy a particular view of the lawn. There were no eyesores. Each view was worthy of a picture postcard.

The porch swing that Cotton had suspended for Tricia and Schyler to play on was in one corner of the veranda. Twin Boston ferns, each as plush as a dozen feather dusters tied together, grew out of matching urns on either side of the front door. Veda had been so proud of those ferns and had fussed over them endlessly, scolding anyone who brushed past them too quickly and too close. She took it as a personal injury if a cherished frond was torn off by a careless passerby.

Macy was no longer at Belle Terre. Nor was Veda. And Cotton's life hung in the balance at St. John's Hospital. The only thing that remained unchanged and seemingly eternal was the house itself. Belle Terre.

Schyler whispered the name like a prayer as she pushed herself away from the tree. Indulging a whim, she paused long enough to slip off her sandals before continuing barefoot across the cool, damp grass that the automatic sprinkler had watered that afternoon.

When she stepped off the grass onto the crushed shell drive, she winced at the pain. But it was a pleasant discomfort and evoked other childhood memories. Running down the shell drive barefooted for the first time each season had been an annual rite of spring. Having worn shoes and socks all winter, her feet would be tender. Once it was warm enough and Veda had granted permission, the shoes and socks came off. It always took several days for the soles of her feet to toughen so that she could make it all the way to the public road without having to stop.

The sound and feel of the shell drive was familiar. So was the squeak as she pulled open the screened front door. It slapped closed behind her as she knew it would. Belle Terre never changed. It was home.

And then it wasn't. Not anymore. Not since Ken and Tricia had made it their home.

They were already in the dining room, seated at the long table. Her sister set down her tumbler of bourbon and water. "We've been waiting, Schyler," Tricia said with exasperation.

"I'm sorry. I went for a walk and lost all track of time."

"No problem, Schyler," Ken Howell said. "We haven't been waiting long." Her brother-in-law smiled at her from the sideboard where he was topping off his glass from a crystal decanter of bourbon. "Can I pour you something?"

"Gin and tonic, please. Heavy on the ice. It's hot out."

"It's stifling." Crossly, Tricia fanned her face with her stiff linen napkin. "I told Ken to reset the thermostat on the air conditioner. Daddy's such a fussbudget about the electric bill. He keeps us sweltering all summer. As long as he's not here, we might as well be comfortable. But it takes forever for this old house to cool down. Cheers." She tipped her glass in Schyler's direction when Ken handed her the drink.

"Is it all right?"

Schyler sipped from her drink but didn't quite meet Ken's eyes as she replied, "Perfect. Thanks."

"Ken, before you sit back down, please tell Mrs. Graves that Schyler finally put in an appearance and we're ready to be served."

Tricia waved him toward the door that connected the formal dining room with the kitchen. He shot her a resentful look but did as he was told. When Schyler dropped her sandals beside her chair, Tricia said, "Honestly, Schyler, you haven't been home but a few days and already you're resuming the bad habits that nearly drove Mama crazy up until the day she died. You're not going to sit at the dinner table barefooted, are you?"

Tricia was already aggravated with her for holding up dinner. To maintain peace, Schyler bent down and put her sandals back on. "I can't understand why you don't like to go barefooted."

"I can't understand why you do." Though Michelangelo could have painted Tricia's smile on an angel, she was being nasty. "Obviously there's some aristocratic blood in my heritage that is grossly lacking in yours."

"Obviously," Schyler said without rancor. She sipped from her drink, appreciating the gin's icy bite and the lime's tart sting.

"Doesn't that ever bother you?" Tricia asked.


"Not knowing your background. Sometimes you behave with no better manners than white trash. That must mean that your folks were sorry as the day is long."

"Tricia, for God's sake," Ken interrupted with annoyance. Returning from his errand in the kitchen, he slid into the chair across the table from his wife. "Let it drop. What the hell difference does it make?"

"I think it makes a lot of difference."

"The important thing is what you do with your life, not who gave it to you. Agreed, Schyler?"

"I never think about my birth parents," Schyler replied. "Oh, I did now and then when I was growing up, whenever I had my feelings hurt or was scolded or—"

"Scolded?" Tricia repeated with disbelief. "I don't recall a single time. Exactly when was that, Schyler?"

Schyler ignored her and continued. "I'd get to feeling sorry for myself and think that if my real parents hadn't given me up for adoption, I would have had a much better life." She smiled wistfully. "I wouldn't have, of course."

"How do you know?" Tricia's sculptured fingernail lazily twirled an ice cube inside the tumbler, then she sucked her fingertip dry. "I'm convinced that my mother was a wealthy society girl. Her mean old parents made her give me up out of jealousy and spite. My father was probably someone who loved and adored her passionately but couldn't marry her because his shrewish wife wouldn't divorce him."

"You've been watching too many soap operas," Ken said with a droll smile, which he cast in Schyler's direction. She smiled back.

Tricia's eyes narrowed. "Don't make fun of me, Ken."

"If you're convinced that your birth parents were so wonderful, why haven't you tracked them down?" he asked. "As I recall, Cotton even encouraged you to."

Tricia smoothed the napkin in her lap. "Because I wouldn't want to upset their lives or cause them any embarrassment."

"Or because you might find out they aren't so wonderful. You couldn't stand to eat that much crow." Ken took a final drink from his highball glass and returned it to the table with the smugness of a gambler laying down the winning ace.

"Well if they weren't rich," Tricia snapped, "at least I know they weren't trashy, which I'm sure Schyler's real parents were." Then she smiled sweetly and reached across the table for Schyler's hand. "I hope I didn't hurt your feelings, Schyler."

"No. You didn't. Where I came from never mattered to me. Not like it did to you. I'm just glad that I became a Crandall through adoption."

"You always have been so disgustingly grateful that you became the apple of Cotton Crandall's eye, haven't you?"

Mrs. Graves's appearance gave Schyler an excuse not to acknowledge Tricia's snide remark. The housekeeper's name was appropriate, since Schyler was sure a more dour individual had never been born. Schyler had yet to see the stick-figure woman crack a smile. She was as different from Veda as possible.

As the taciturn housekeeper went around the table ladling vichyssoise out of a tureen, Schyler felt a stab of longing for Veda. Her smiling face, as dark as chicory coffee, was a part of Schyler's memory as far back as it went. Veda's ample bosom was as comfortable as a goose down pillow, as protective as a fortress, and as reassuring as a chapel. She always smelled of starch and lemon extract and vanilla and lavender sachet.

Schyler had looked forward to being enveloped in one of Veda's bear hugs the moment she crossed Belle Terre's threshold. It had come as a crushing disappointment to learn that she'd been replaced by Mrs. Graves, whose meager bosom looked as hard and cold and uninviting as a granite tombstone.

The vichyssoise was as thin and spiritless as the woman who had prepared it, served it, and then slunk back into the kitchen through the swinging door. After one taste of the chilled soup, Schyler reached for the salt shaker.

Tricia immediately leaped to the cook's defense. "I told Mrs. Graves to stop cooking with salt when Daddy's blood pressure started getting so high. We're used to it by now."

Schyler shook more salt into her bowl. "Well I'm not." She tested the soup again, but found it unpalatable. She laid her spoon in the underserver and moved the plate aside. "I remember Veda's vichyssoise too well. It was so thick and rich, you could stand your spoon in it."

With controlled motions, Tricia blotted her lips with her napkin, then carefully folded it into her lap again. "I might have known you'd throw that up to me."

"I didn't mean—"

"She was old, Schyler. You hadn't seen her in years, so you're in no position to question my judgment. Veda had become slovenly and inefficient, hadn't she, Ken?" She asked for his opinion rhetorically and didn't give him time to express it. "I had no choice but to let her go. We couldn't go on paying her salary when she wasn't doing her work. I felt terrible about it," Tricia said, pressing a hand against her shapely breasts. "I loved her, too, you know."

"I know you did," Schyler said. "I didn't mean to sound critical. It's just that I miss her. She was such a part of Belle Terre." Because she'd been living abroad at the time, Schyler couldn't countermand Tricia's decision. But a slovenly and inefficient Veda Frances was something Schyler couldn't fathom.

Tricia paid lip service to loving the housekeeper, but Schyler couldn't help but wonder if she had been acting out of spite when she let Veda go. There had been numerous occasions when her sister had been anything but loving toward Veda. Once she had rebuked Veda so insultingly that Cotton lost his temper with her. There had been a terrific row. Tricia had been banished to her room for a full day and had been grounded from a party she had looked forward to for weeks. Although Tricia was capable of carrying grudges indefinitely, Schyler was sure there had been a more serious reason for Veda's dismissal.

No amount of salt or pepper made the chicken casserole that followed the cold potato soup taste good to Schyler. She even tried seasoning it with Tabasco sauce straight from the bottle, which was a staple on any table belonging to Cotton Crandall. The red pepper sauce didn't help either.

However, she gave Mrs. Graves's culinary skills the benefit of the doubt. She hadn't had much appetite since she had received the overseas call from Ken, informing her that Cotton had suffered a heart attack.

"How is he?" she had asked fearfully.

"Bad, Schyler. On the way to the hospital, his heart stopped beating completely. The paramedics gave him CPR. I won't bullshit you. It's touch and go."

Schyler had been urged to come home with all possible haste. Not that she needed any encouragement. She had pieced together frustrating flight schedules that eventually got her to New Orleans. From there, she had taken a small commuter plane to Lafayette. She had rented a car and driven the remaining distance to Heaven.

When she arrived, her unconscious father was in an ICU at St. John's, where he remained. His condition was stable, but still critical.

The worst of it for Schyler was that she wasn't sure he even knew she had come home to see him. He wafted in and out of consciousness. During one of her brief visits to his room, he had opened his eyes and looked at her. But his face had remained impassive. His eyes had closed without registering recognition. His blank stare, which seemed to look straight through her, broke her heart. She was afraid Cotton would die before she had a chance to talk to him.


Startled, she looked up at Ken, who had addressed her. "Oh, I'm sorry. Yes, I'm finished, Mrs. Graves," she said to the woman who was staring down censoriously at her virtually untouched plate. She took it away and replaced it with a blackberry cobbler that looked promising. Hopefully the sugar cannister hadn't been discarded along with the salt box.

"Are you still going to the hospital after supper, Schyler?"

"Yes. Want to come with me?"

"Not tonight," Tricia said. "I'm tried."

"Yeah, playing bridge all day is hard work."

Ken's dig was summarily ignored. "Daddy's Sunday school teacher brought by a get well card from the class and asked us to deliver it. He said it was a shame that Cotton had to recover in a Catholic hospital."

Schyler smiled at the deacon's religious snobbery, though it was typical of the area. Macy had been Catholic and had raised her adopted daughters in the church. Cotton, however, had never converted. "Heaven doesn't have a Baptist hospital. We have no choice."



    --Publishers Weekly

    "A masterful storyteller, carefully crafting tales that keep readers on the edge of their seats."
    --USA Today

On Sale
Jul 1, 1991
Page Count
464 pages

Sandra Brown

About the Author

Sandra Brown is the author of sixty-nine New York Times bestsellers, including the #1 Seeing Red. There are over eighty million copies of her books in print worldwide, and her work has been translated into thirty-four languages. She lives in Texas.

Learn more about this author