I loved this one!
From the author:
Danielle Dupree, daughter of a prominent judge, was the closest thing to a princess that the sleepy Louisiana town of Blue Bayou ever had. Her passionate teenage love affair with Jack Callahan was cut short for reasons that were never clear to Dani -- but were all too obvious to Jack, the sexy bad-boy son of Judge Dupree's housekeeper.
Thirteen years later, Dani, a widow with a son, comes home to start a new life and is surprised that Jack, too, has moved back to the bayou. A former DEA agent who is now a bestselling author, Jack has bought Dani's childhood home, Beau Soleil. But even as their passion reignites, Dani and Jack know that secrets hang in the air
. . . and that the past may ruin their second chance at a once-in-a-lifetime love.
The sky was darkening, the only visible light a band of purple clouds low on the western horizon. Dani had forgotten how quickly night came to the bayou. As she steered the rented boat through the maze-like labyrinth of waterways, fireflies lit up the waning twilight while nutria and muskrats paddled along, furry shadows in waters as dark and murky as Cajun coffee.
Bullfrogs began to croak; cicadas buzzed; blue herons glided among the ancient cypress which stood like silent, moss-bearded sentinels over their watery world.
The boat's light barely cut through the warm mist falling from low-hanging clouds; when the ridged and knobby head of an alligator appeared in the stuttering glow, looking like a wet brown rock amidst the lily pads, Dani's nerves, which were already as tattered as a Confederate soldier's gray uniform, screeched.
"This is nuts."
If she had any sense at all, she'd cut her losses now and return to town. But she'd already come this far, and unless both her internal homing device and the boat's G.P.S. system had gone entirely on the blink, she couldn't be that far from Beau Soleil.
She checked her watch. Despite the way the isolation and deepening shadows had seemed to slow time, she'd been out on the water for less than half an hour.
"Five more minutes," she decided. If she hadn't reached Beau Soleil by then, she'd turn back.
A moment later she came around a corner, and there, right in front of her, was the Greek Revival antebellum mansion. Dani was glad she'd undertaken the nerve-racking trip tonight; as bad as the plantation house appeared, it would have been far worse to first see it again after all these years in the hard, unforgiving glare of southern sunlight.
The double front entrance harkened back to a time when if a suitor happened to catch a glimpse of a girl's ankles, he was duty bound to marry her. In a typically southern blend of practicality and romance, the house had been designed with dual sets of front steps - one for hoop-skirted belles, the other for gentlemen escorts. The ladies' staircase had crumbled nearly to dust; the other was scarcely better, held up as it was with a complex design of erector-set-style metal braces.
Beau Soleil had survived being set on fire by the British in the War of 1812, cannonballed, then occupied by Yankee soldiers - and their horses - during the War Between the States. It had also stalwartly stood up to numerous hurricanes over its more than two centuries. Seeing the once noble plantation house looking like an aging whore from some seedy south Louisiana brothel made Dani want to weep.
It had belatedly dawned on her, after she'd left town, that her plan to catch Jack unaware could backfire if she came all the way out here only to find the house dark and deserted. But she'd been so frustrated that she'd acted without really thinking things through.
The light in the upstairs windows of the once stately house was an encouraging sign and she eased the boat up to the dock that was still, thankfully, standing. It appeared to be the same dock her father had paid Jack to build the summer of her seventeenth birthday, the summer her carefree, youthful world had spun out of control.
With a long-ago learned skill some distant part of her mind had retained, she tied up the boat behind an old pirogue and then studied the house. Amazingly, most of the centuries-old oak trees had survived time and the ravages of storms; silvery Spanish moss draped over their limbs like discarded feather boas left behind by ghostly belles.
She lifted her gaze to a darkened window on the second floor and envisioned the reckless teenager she'd once been, climbing out that window to meet her lover. Her skin, beneath her white T-shirt, burned with the memory of Jack's dark, work-roughened fingers encircling her waist to lift her down from that last low-hanging limb.
"A smart fille like yourself should know better than to sneak up on someone at night in this part of the country," a deep, painfully familiar voice offered from the blackness surrounding her.
Dani yelped. Then hated herself for displaying any weakness. Splaying a palm against her chest to slow her tripping heart, she turned slowly toward the gallerie .
He was hidden in the shadows, like a ghost from the past, with only the red flare of a cigarette revealing his location.
"You could have said something. Instead of scaring me half to death."
"If I figured you and I had anything to say to each other, I would have returned your calls." His voice was even huskier than Dani remembered. Huskier and decidedly uninviting.
"So you did get my messages."
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