I haven’t really written songs into any of my work. The one blatant exception is my free read, a serialized story that my readers help me plot. Early on, when they selected their heroine, they let me base the character on…me! This opening scene is exactly like something that would happen to me, and exactly how I would have handled it. Enjoy the snippet!
On a whim, romance author DiDi Devereaux decides to travel to remote Louisiana bayou country to take possession of a house she inherited from a reclusive relative. But before she reaches her destination, she drives her car into a ditch to avoid a large animal that leaps into her path. Rescue comes in the form of a sexy sheriff, whose gruff demeanor seems to hide a feral attraction. As DiDi settles into her new home she finds herself torn between her attraction to the sheriff and the raw, handsome bad boy whose offer to help her renovate her home is a little too convenient and tempting.
Nothing in Bayou Noir is what it seems. When strange things begin to happen, her natural curiosity leads her into danger…
DiDi Devereaux bounced her head to David Draiman’s gorilla-like chant. She’d popped her Disturbed CD in the player after she’d turned onto the small county road. She liked listening to hard rock when she wrote a fight scene or needed a little courage. Raucous, masculine music rarely failed to rev her engines.
Unfortunately, the music wasn’t working its magic now.
Her headlights barely cut through the thick fog, forcing DiDi to slow her car as she peered over the steering wheel at the narrow donkey trail of a road. She’d left the highway twenty minutes ago and knew she’d entered bayou country by the thick forest pressing against the road from both sides and the muggy quality of the air. She’d rolled down her windows because her AC fogged up the windshield, but still had to swipe her palms against the glass to clear it enough to continue.
Why she’d decided to finish the journey at night, she didn’t know. But she never questioned an impulse, and never really regretted any of the mishaps she’d fallen into as a result of ignoring good advice. Many of her stories came from those misadventures—and inspiration, of late, was getting pretty thin.
A road trip was just what she needed to “fill the well”.
On a whim, she’d removed the deed to the Gauthier House from her safe deposit box on Monday after she’d moved her furniture into storage and let her apartment go. Originally, she’d been torn between seeking a summer rental in the Yukon and heading Down Under.
Then she’d remembered the property she’d inherited three years earlier. A dilapidated house in a section of boggy bayou with a dock that led into the swamps. The lawyer who’d handed her the deed and the keys had told her to sell it—or let it return to the land. No use fighting the age of the place because it would be a money pit.
She’d been satisfied to let the document lay at the bottom of her safety deposit box, beneath her passport and a CD that stored every page of every book she’d ever written, just in case catastrophe hit and she had to start all over again. Nothing was more valuable to her than the dreams she’d created on paper, nothing was more meaningful. She’d sacrificed a lot to be where she was, edging toward the top of the bestsellers’ lists and finally getting those contracts that fed her gypsy soul.
Now, she had money to sink into the old plantation house. Enough to pay someone else to do the work while she plunked away at a keyboard with an iPod in her ears as workers sawed and hammered around her.
She could make this work—if she ever found the damn place.
The clerk at the gas station fifteen miles back had told her she’d never find her way in the dark on these back roads, that she’d wind up hopelessly lost and it wouldn’t be until some backwoods Cajun found her car in the swamp that the mystery of her death would be solved.
He’d cheered up at that thought, saying he bet 20/20 might pay him for an interview. And the little prick had smirked as he said it. Which only made her mad and even more determined to forge ahead.
But things were looking bleak. She considered pulling to the side of the road at the first rest stop, if she ever found one, or at a widening of the road’s shoulder and sleeping in her car until the morning. Wouldn’t be the first time.
David D was giving her a headache, so she glanced down to eject the CD.
When she looked back up, something large and black darted into the road in front of her then stood there, caught in the headlights.
She slammed on her brakes, causing her car to swerve onto the soft shoulder. Her tires caught the edge of the road and sank, spinning the rear of the car around. Before she could compensate, her car left the road, crashing into the ditch, water splashing up the hood and drowning her windshield in water and long grass.
The engine sputtered to a halt. The headlights dimmed. Then water seeped through the floorboard.
DiDi lifted her feet, clutched the steering wheel hard and closed her eyes. Just for a moment, just long enough to still the thoughts racing too fast through her mind to process.
The car was stuck. But the water wasn’t deep enough to drown her. She had time to react.
She flicked her ignition, but the starter sputtered. Using the battery alone, she lowered her window. She bent and reached to the floor and swung her hand around until she caught the handle of her purse. Straightening, she clutched both sides of her window and climbed out.
She stepped into stagnant, swampy water that filled her shoes and soaked her jeans to the knees. “Shit. I hope the alligators won’t like the taste of me,” she muttered. “Or that whatever jumped in the road isn’t looking for dinner.”
In the distance, she heard the roar of an engine. She slung her purse over her shoulder, grabbed handfuls of the grass at the sides of the ditch and crawled up to the side of the road.
Headlights blinded her for a moment, but she lifted her hand, praying she wasn’t flagging down a serial killer and hoping if she was that he’d spare her life long enough for him to tell her his story.
A car pulled alongside her, the passenger window whirred downward. An emblem on the side of the car had her sighing with relief. A police car had halted beside her.
“Ma’am, do you need help?”
The soft southern inflections in the deep, rasping voice soothed her fears. She leaned down and braced her hands on the open window to peer inside.
“My car’s in the ditch,” she said, eyeing the large shadow of the man behind the wheel.
“I can see that,” he said calm as could be. “Need a lift?”
“I need a tow. And probably repairs. Water’s in the engine.”
“Get in. I’m heading into Bayou Noir. Henri’s gas station isn’t open this late, but you can get a room at the motel for the night and figure things out in the mornin’.”
She nodded, hesitated for a second, hoping he wasn’t a rapist posing as a cop, and then opened the door to slide onto the bench seat. When she closed the door, she turned to get a better look at her savior. Her mouth dried in an instant.
Even shadowed, she could tell he was handsome. Strong, rugged features, a blunt nose and square chin. A dark full head of hair, cut short and with a slight curl to it.
Probably married. Nothing that delicious wouldn’t have been wrestled to the altar long ago.
He studied her while she stared back, his dark gaze flicking over her hair, and she lifted her hand to comb through it, feeling suddenly self-conscious. Then her mind began to click as she inventoried the person beside her, thinking she couldn’t have found a better hero for her next novel. “I’m DiDi Devereux,” she said holding out her hand.
“Sheriff Mason Breaux.” He gave her a quick, impersonal clasp that left her palm burning. “Anything you need from your car?”
Not a flicker of recognition had glinted in his eyes. Good. “Um…my suitcase. It’s in the trunk.”
He put the squad car in park. “Give me your keys and I’ll get it for you.”
Handsome and a gentleman. Mmmm. “I left them in the ignition.”
He nodded, let himself out of the car, and she watched as he plunged down the bank.
Things were indeed looking up. Already her fingers were itching to tap on keys and capture her first impressions of her backwoods cop. Her mind leapt back to the cause of her current dilemma—the large animal that had stood defiantly in the center of the road.
If she hadn’t known it was impossible, she would have sworn it was a panther. A black panther. But they didn’t exist in North America outside of folktales, and tawny Florida panthers no longer roamed this part of the south.
No, it was far more likely that she’d spied a large dog. Her imagination had simply traded one prosaic image for the fantasy her artist’s soul craved. But what would be the harm in creating a story, wrapped around the tale of a stranded tourist who found a strange enchanted land deep in a Louisiana bayou where black panthers roamed?
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