Girl Meets Bayou
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by Mae Argilan
Description: There it something predictable about the natural attraction of opposites to each other. So, someone as educated as urban environmentalist Melissa Warner should have seen it coming a mile away. But blinded by her ambition and logic she plunges into a whirlwind of unexpected and conflicting emotions.
This adventure opens as Melissa is settling into southern Louisiana six months before the arrival of hurricane Katrina. Her research of the bayou soon leads to a variety of escapades with charming Cajun Calvin Cormier, even as she begins to discover what has fueled her lifelong search for a sense of belonging.
Join Melissa and Calvin as their worlds inevitably collide, and find out how much fun it can be when north meets south; when city meets country; when Girl Meets Bayou.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2011 Double Dragon Publishing
eBookwise Release Date: December 2011
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [475 KB]
Reading time: 300-420 min.
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The heat was typical for this time of year down at sea level. It was suffocating, oppressive, one more wall that had to be pushed back. It affected the forward momentum of Melissa Warner as she hurried toward her morning appointment. Her hair was the color of wet sand with golden highlights, and her eyes were carob brown with flecks of hazel. She had a pretty face with full lips that always had the appearance of being wind burned.
Every spring a serpentine mist from the Gulf of Mexico wound along the coastline, searching for a place to hole up. It invaded the crescent of land and coiled itself around the drowsy delta. It slumbered for seven stagnant months, before worming its way back out to the turquoise sea. Until then, the best anyone could do was to find a way to coexist with the infernal beast. Today Melissa was running late, and Houma, Louisiana was no place to be running.
"Salut! Comment ca va, cher?"
The greeting slowed her progress down the tile hallway. She'd been hearing far too much bad French these days. Her lithe athletic frame responded elegantly as she spun around, and kept moving forward. He jogged around her, causing her to stop short.
"Hello," she said, in her clipped, mid-western accent. "I'm fine."
The dark-haired Cajun in coveralls put his hands on his hips and regarded her with a twinkle in his blue eyes. He looked about 25, a couple years older than Melissa. His shoulders were broad, and his smile was self-assured. The word 'gorgeous' leapt to her mind. There was something so devilishly appealing about him Melissa felt her whole body tense. She had the same reaction to a guy like this as some women have to a plump hairy spider. A face this pretty was trouble, and almost always only skin deep.
"You ain't from aroun' here, are ya?" he said.
Brilliant deduction. She'd said a few syllable, and he'd seen the truth of it. She was right, a skull as empty as it was handsome.
"No, I'm not."
"Where ya from, then?"
She took a breath, and put her hand on her hip. "I wonder if you could point the way to Mr. Theroux's office. There isn't a listing in the lobby or..."
"I'll do better 'n that. I'll take ya myself," he said.
"I'm sure I can find it. I don't want to bother anyone."
"No bother. This way." He sauntered away, and she fell into step behind him.
The supervisor at Delta Drilling Technology, Inc. didn't have time for M.L. Warner. That was the message Melissa received from Mr. Theroux's 'girl'. He had more important things to do. She was left to cool her heels in the break room until she learned her lesson. That'll teach you to get lost on these back roads where all dead ends look alike.
At least it was air conditioned, unlike the Volkswagen Super Beetle where she spent most of her time. She could either fume about events over which she had no control, or decide how to approach Supervisor Theroux when, like the Great and Powerful Oz, he revealed himself. One thing was certain: it was too late now for either of them to make a good first impression. The uninvited Cajun waited with her in the Delta Drilling break room.
"Maybe it's somethin' I can do for ya, cher."
"No. Thank you." He was as close and stubborn as the humidity. "Excuse me, sir, I don't mean to..."
"Cal. My name. Calvin Cormier." He extended his hand.
"Okay, Cal. If it wouldn't be too much..."
Cal turned his hand with his palm up, like a beggar. "And you would be?"
Melissa looked into his hand. It was work-hardened, with a thick callus at the base of his fingers. A good hand, not broad and beefy, nor soft and delicate. And as he talked he used it like a maestro's wand gesturing effortlessly, but with purpose.
"Kathi, she call you M.L. So what's M.L. for?"
"Melissa Louise. Warner." She took her eyes off his hand, and met his gaze evenly. "I have an appointment with your supervisor."
"Yeah, she say Warner. I grew up with the Warner boys from Thibodeaux. You wouldn't be related, would ya? No, ya don' talk like you from Thibodeaux. You don' look like ya take this heat too well," Cal observed.
The direct approach had only invited further conversation. Maybe she'd go back to ignoring him. However, as she looked into his eyes something told her that was going to be impossible.
"Cal, is it?" she said.
She extended her hand to convey professionalism, and because she felt compelled to make contact. He took her hand between his and held onto it for a moment, smiling.
"Pleased to meet ya, Miss M.L. Warner. How can I help ya?"
She'd never liked men like Cal. They were too aware of their sex appeal. It bothered her the way they manipulated women with their casual southern charm. And it bothered her that the longer she lived in Louisiana the more susceptible she was becoming to it, as if something in the air had infected her like a blood disease. She tried to remove her hand.
What had happened to the old Melissa who had put herself through the University of Delaware in Environmental Law, who won this prestigious assignment to document the erosion of the shoreline? To make an impact here in southern Louisiana would mean her methods could be adopted all over America, not just oceanic lands, but those with vast lake fronts. This could make it possible to reclaim acres of land from the sea. The expanding population would have room to grow. Her findings could make a difference to the standard of living of every person on the planet. The old Melissa would never have allowed herself to be waylaid by this Cajun no matter how smooth talking, or handsome. And she most certainly wouldn't be lingering like some smitten high school sophomore exchanging lustful glances with a blue-collar lothario.
"The truth is that there isn't a thing in the world you can do for me. I'd like to sit quietly and prepare for my meeting. I have some notes to go over."
Melissa had a zippered case of beige calfskin under her arm. She brought it up, and hugged it in both arms. She found an oval Formica table and laid the case on it. Cal came up and pulled a chair out for her. As she lowered herself into it he leaned over her shoulder and a powerful wisp of musk rose off his neck.
"Let me bring ya a refreshment. Coffee?" He went to the coffee pot, and then turned. "Regular or decaf?"
"You guys make your coffee too strong for my taste."
"You want cafe au lait, then." He picked up two pots by the handles, and looked at her.
"Regular. But even with cream and sugar it's too strong."
"Not this. This is Community brand coffee, it don' even keep ya awake at night."
"I've been drinking Community since I moved down here. It's not the coffee, it's the way you make it."
"Leave it to me, darlin'; I'll fix ya up right. Ya don't like it the way I fix it, ya don't drink it."
Melissa regarded a copy of the Houma Daily Courier lying folded in two on the table. She glanced up in the corner of the masthead: April 12, 2006, high today 80 degrees. A sigh breezed through her lips to ruffle her bangs. Then she found her attention diverted to his activities across the room.
Cal was combining something in a Styrofoam cup. Then, he stirred it with a plastic straw and peered through the steam. He took a mug that was draining beside a porcelain sink, put the Styrofoam cup on the edge of the sink, and opened the refrigerator. He stood inside the door hiding his actions. Melissa watched in spite of herself. He closed the door, and held the mug at eye level. Then he picked up the cup and up-ended it spilling the coffee into the mug. This he brought to her. On the mug were the words See ya later, and a picture of an alligator.
She grinned. "What did you put in it?"
"Secret ingredient. Go on. It's good."
She sipped the warm liquid. "This isn't spiked, is it?"
"What, with liquor? I don' mix liquor with coffee. Ruins the taste o' both."
The next sip was larger, then a whole mouthful. "I like it," she said, sliding back in her chair. "What did you do?"
"Ya want me to tell ya my secret ingredient what was handed down from generation to generation for a hundred years? Do ya think we know each other well enough for that?"
"I guess not."
"If ya 'round at lunch time we go get somethin' to eat, and I decide if I can trust ya with the family recipe."
"Oh...no, I mean... I can't," Melissa said.
"Relax, cher. Ya don't have to answer now. I'll be back. But I got to get on the job now." He started to walk away, then turned. "Bottled water. That's what I put in it. Plain ol' bottled water."
"You diluted it."
"Ya can always thin coffee after she brews, but most things can't be strengthened after they're done, ya know. Lot of things like that, cher." He winked at her.
"Why did you tell me?"
Cal stopped in the doorway, and cocked his head to one side. "I decided I can trust ya. 'Sides, soon as I go out this door, ya gonna go to that icebox, and have a look for yourself."
"I would not."
"Sure you would. Ya can't help yourself. You're a gal."
"I'm a woman."
"All the worse. The woman, she more curious than the gal. 'Specially the smart woman. She asks questions. If I don' tell ya the answer, ya go lookin' for it. Ain't that right?"
"I don't know if that's true," Melissa said, trying to tuck away her grin. "You think you have me all figured out?"
"Naw, cher. A man don' ever know a woman. First comes the attraction, the wantin' to know. And the woman, she's a mystery, a puzzle from God's own mind. Knowin' a woman takes a lifetime." Cal stared at her. "Knowin' you takes a man an eternity, and he's so happy he smilin' like a gator every day of it."
He turned the full force of his smile on her. Then he slid his hands into his coverall pockets, and walked out of the room. A vacuum seemed to follow, as if he'd taken all the oxygen with him. Several seconds later Melissa started to breathe again.