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Summary from Goodreads:
Thirty-one-year-old Enza Parker is struggling to change the trajectory of her life. To prove to her overbearing father she can flip a house on her own, she takes on a project much too ambitious for her––and it puts her in the path of the most alluring man she’s ever met.
Enza plans to flip the house she inherited from her estranged grandmother, Vergie, in Bayou Sabine, Louisiana. As a child, she spent summers there until the day her mother—Vergie’s daughter—inexplicably left. Since then, Enza hasn’t let anyone get close to her.
Arriving in Bayou Sabine, Enza finds her house occupied by bedeviling firefighter Jack Mayronne. Enza has no intention of being a landlord, but Jack convinces her to let him stay––in exchange for helping her with repairs. With only six weeks to fix the house and sell, she’s determined to prove her father wrong––but she didn’t count on all the delicious ways Jack could distract her.
When Enza’s fling with Jack intensifies, she finds herself entangled with a vengeful arsonist from Jack’s past. As she reaches her breaking point, she must decide: Should she sell the house and leave her past in Bayou Sabine behind for good, or can she overcome her fears and build a new life there with Jack?
Excerpt from Bayou My Love:
Bayou My Love
By Lauren Faulkenberry
The man’s hair was rumpled, as if he’d slept in that hammock all night. His shirt, rolled at the wrists, was pushed up just enough from his pants that I could see a thin band of tan skin above his belt. He appeared to be only a few years older than me, but had tiny wrinkles around his eyes and lips that suggested he’d spent more time in the sun. And he looked familiar. My mind raced, trying to figure out where I’d seen him before.
“Hi there,” he said, sitting up straight. “Are you lost?”
“No,” I said, planting my hands on my hips. Be calm, I thought. This doesn’t have to get ugly.
“I don’t get too many visitors. I figured you took a wrong turn off the main road. You’d have to be lost to end up out here.” His drawl made my ears tingle in a nice way, but the way he lounged in the hammock like he owned the place made me want to push him out of it head first.
“How about you tell me who you are,” I said. “And what you’re doing here.”
He sat up straighter, running his hands through his dark hair. It was short, but stood out in tufts, as if the wind had pulled it through the holes in the hammock. “I believe it’s customary for the interloper to identify herself to the current inhabitant,” he said, half-smiling. “Not the other way around.”
“This is my house,” I said, trying to hold my temper down. “So that makes you the interloper.”
He chuckled. “Darlin’, I think you’ve got me confused with somebody else that lives in the middle of nowhere. Who are you looking for?” His tone was even, as if this kind of encounter happened every week.
“I’m not looking for a who,” I said. “I’m looking for a house. This house. And last I checked, I didn’t have any long-lost cousins living in it.”
He glanced around him. “Well, one of us is in the wrong place. And it ain’t me.” His dark blue eyes held me in a warm gaze that in any other situation would make me want to lean in closer.
“This is my grandmother’s house,” I said, no longer caring when or where I might have seen him before. The priority was my property.
He cocked his head. “You mean Vergie?” His eyes lit up. “Well, why didn’t you say so, darlin’?” He eased out of the hammock as slow as a river. Even his voice swaggered, and I imagined what it would sound like against my ear.
I shook my head to erase the thought.
When he stood, he smoothed his shirt down against his body. Tall and muscular, he towered over me, and I’m no small woman. His shirt was snug against his broad shoulders, pulled taut across his biceps. He held out his hand, smiling like I was some long lost friend, and in spite of myself, I shook it.
“I’m Jack Mayronne,” he said. His big hand squeezed mine, and I swallowed hard as something that felt like static electricity rippled down my arm.
“Enza Parker,” I said, struggling to keep my voice firm. “You knew my grandmother?” The nagging feeling returned. Where had I seen him? At this house when I was a teenager? Recently, when I was back for the funeral? I’d blocked so many of those images from my mind, and right now was not the time to try to recover them.
His thumb slid along my palm, and I saw a tattoo peeking out from under the sleeve of his shirt, a black curve like a snake. I wondered how far up it went.
“Sure,” he said, holding my hand a little too long. “She was a fine lady. And if you come from that stock, I guess you’re all right.”
“That still doesn’t explain what you’re doing in her house.”
He grinned, shoving his hands into his pockets. He looked like he could have come from a rodeo, in his faded jeans and plaid pearl-snap shirt. “You’re just as feisty as she was, aren’t you? I always liked that about her.”
I felt my cheeks redden, and I hoped he didn’t notice. Maybe he’d think it was the heat. After all, summer in Louisiana feels like being inside an oven.
“I’ve been renting this place for several months now,” he said. A dog crossed the yard and trotted over. It lifted one ear toward the sound of Jack’s voice and then sat by his feet. “Hey, jolie,” he said, bending down to pat her on the head. She was stocky, and speckled brown and gray like granite, with expressive ears and a docked tail. Her eyes narrowed in my direction, and she let out a half-hearted bark.
“A Catahoula,” I said, holding my hand out for her to sniff.
“Yeah,” Jack said, and she snorted.
“The lawyer never mentioned anyone renting this house,” I said.
“Probably didn’t know. Vergie had only been living in the city for about six months. She let me stay here for practically nothing, just so it wouldn’t sit empty.”
“In the city?”
“She was staying in New Orleans with a friend,” he said, still stroking the dog’s fur. “Didn’t you know?”
“We were out of touch for a long time.”
“I was awful sad to hear about her,” he said. “They broke the mold when they made Vergie.”
It bothered me that he knew more about my own grandmother than I did. And it hurt when I thought about how I’d avoided this place for so long, how I’d gone so many years without seeing the woman who had been like a second mother to me. I pushed the regrets away to stop my voice from cracking. “I spent every summer here when I was a kid,” I said, sitting down next to him on the porch steps.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t let my guard down with a stranger, but the drive and the humidity had left me weak. With no breeze, the air was stifling, and I was grateful for any patch of shade.
“Me, too,” he said. “I mean, I used to work for her. Started when I was about seventeen.”
“Yard work and odd jobs. She was trying to keep me out of trouble, I think.”
I smiled, wondering if that was true.
“Strange,” he said. “We could have met years ago. Wouldn’t that be something?”
Lauren Faulkenberry divides her time between writing, teaching, and crafting artist books. Originally from South Carolina, she has worked as an archaeologist, an English teacher, and a ranger for the National Park Service. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Georgia College & State University, where she attended on fellowship. She was a finalist for the Novello Festival Press First Novel Award, won the Family Circle short fiction contest for her story Beneath Our Skin, and was nominated for an AWP Intro Award. She lives in Whittier, North Carolina, where she is at work on her next novel.
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