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Jonas Galloway wouldn't show up on Remy Bouchard's doorstep without an excellent reason. Not after a secret destroyed what was so good between them. In this case, though, locating his daughter trumps unfinished business. He hopes he can persuade Remy to see it the same way.
Working with his high school sweetheart makes Jonas want to pick up where they left off. Especially because Remy is more tempting than ever. But he is a father and his little girl has to be his priority. Then an exposed lie hands him and Remy a possible future. And he can't leave Louisiana without finding out if second chances are all they're cracked up to be....
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Remy Bouchard stretched with the sweet pleasure of awakening in her own bed. A cool Louisiana breeze drifted through her window, carrying the scent of magnolias and the sputtering hum of a neighbor's mower. She smiled even before she opened her eyes to the rich magenta hue of her ceiling.
"Home," she murmured, with a contented sigh.
Not that the past few weeks hadn't been an adventure she'd always remember. The Black Hills of South Dakota had left a mark on her heart, and with her twin sister, Jessie, relocating there, Remy knew she'd return to the area soon.
But not too soon.
First, she needed to figure out exactly what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She'd left Louisiana a few weeks earlier intending to use the time and distance to get some perspective on her life. She was thirty-two years old, unmarried, unemployed, un...everyfhing. And the worst part of all was she had no idea what she wanted to accomplish.
She'd had dreams once. A long time ago. She'd planned to marry the love of her life, settle right here in Baylorville to be near her mother and sisters, raise a family and become a teacher. A normal life. That's all she'd ever craved.
Normal. Like that was even possible, given my family.
She sat up, rubbed the sleep from her eyes and hopped out of bed. Her toes curled up from contact with the chilly wood surface. She'd let her sisters take whatever possessions of their mother's they wanted after Mama passed. Someone must have wanted the throw rug that had always been beside the bed.
"Are you finally awake, sleepyhead?" a voice called from somewhere on the first floor. Jessie. Her sister. Her twin.
"I'm awake, but I'm not coming down until I smell the coffee percolating," Remy hollered back. "Don't tell me you've forgotten how to brew real Louisiana coffee."
The best thing about Jessie was she'd never dodged a challenge in her life.
But given the lateness of the hour—good heavens, it was after eight—there was a chance the coffee was already made and transferred to the thermal carafe Mama had kept filled most every day of her life. A life that had ended some ten months earlier.
Tiptoeing to the closet, Remy threw open the double doors and stepped inside. This was the only closet of decent size in the house. Mama had speculated that it was originally planned as a nursery, but since the lone window was a tiny, nonfunctioning oval with leaded glass, Remy had her doubts.
There were two smaller bedrooms and one bath on the second floor. The I940s-era home wasn't a true New Orleans's shotgun because it had a second floor, but Baylorville wasn't N'Awlins, either. The quiet hamlet was made up of an old downtown with a few surviving businesses, such as Marlene's House of Beauty and a newly renamed Dollar Shoppe, which replaced the old Five and Ten. There was also a school and the post office. Outside town was Catfish Haven, which was, perhaps, Baylorville's only claim to fame. All in all, the town was nothing fancy—that's what New Orleans, some forty-odd miles to the southeast, was for.
She pulled her Donna Karan nightgown over her head and folded it neatly before putting it away in the chest of drawers.
"Is this fast enough for you?"
The smell of chicory beat Jessie through the door.
Remy popped her head out of the closet. "Wow. Your ankle must be a whole lot better if you can climb the stairs, carrying two cups."
"It's amazing what really good painkillers can do," Jessie responded. "But I already had my coffee with Cade and Shiloh before they took off to rent a truck, so I only had to carry one cup. Where do you want this?"
Remy quickly pulled on a pair of panties. "Set it on the dresser while I get presentable."
Jessie made a raspberry. "Presentable. That's so Mama. As long as we all looked presentable, people wouldn't know we were eating grits and greens instead of steak."
"You like grits," Remy reminded her, fastening her bra.
She grabbed the first thing she spotted in her closet. A simple, scoop-neck dress. The gauzy material was a muted floral print that was both feminine and pretty. She'd loved it once.
After slipping it over her head, she turned sideways to study her reflection in the full-length mirror as she buttoned the small, pearl-like buttons of the bodice.
"Does this make me look fey?"
"Fey? What the...fey is that?" Jessie grinned at her own wit. She was dressed in capri-length black yoga pants and an oversize Girlz On Fire T-shirt.
"You know. Odd. Different. A bit off."
Jessie hobbled to the bed with a pronounced limp. She plumped up a couple of pillows against the headboard, then sat and swung her leg around to rest her Ace-bandaged ankle on the cushioned softness of the white, eyelet comforter.
"The dress is fine. It's not something I'd wear, but it looks like you." She pointed at the cup she'd left on the nightstand. "Better drink that while it's hot. I added cocoa and steamed milk, the way you like it."
"No problem. It's the least I could do for the hospitality. Now, tell me what's going on with you. What's this fey thing about?"
Remy took a sip before answering. "Perfect," she declared, sitting opposite her sister at the foot of the bed. She wasn't sure how to express her current sense of self-doubt without sounding like a complainer, or—worse—making Jessie feel somehow responsible for this sudden onset of ennui because Jessie's life, by comparison, was so full of promise.
"So..." she said, curling her foot under her so she could lean forward a bit. "Here's the deal. You know I'm happy for you and Cade, right?"
"Of course. You've told me about a million times since you got here and you keep trying to palm off furniture on me—a sure sign of love in our family."
"You're going to be glad I did. Someday. When you have more kids to pass these antiques down to, but that's not my point. The fact that you've found your significant other and are setting forth on the road to happily-ever-after—"
"In our rented moving van, towing Yota." Yota was the nickname affectionately given to the beloved Toyota Land Cruiser Jessie had owned since high school.
Remy brushed aside the comment. "With your lovely future stepdaughter and a new dog. Perfect. My point exactly. All of that makes my life look pretty pathetic by comparison."
Jessie opened her eyes wide with surprise. "Really? Is that what you think? Wow. I was so wrapped up in everything going on in my life, I never even considered...damn. I'm sorry for being so self-absorbed, Rem. What can I do?"
Remy rolled her eyes. "Nothing. This is why I haven't said anything to you, Jess. You should be self-absorbed. You're in love and you're moving forward in your life and I couldn't be happier. I don't want you to worry about me or fixate on how to fix things here when you're in South Dakota."
Jessie's furrowed brow told Remy her sister wasn't jumping at the chance to distance herself from this announcement, so she decided to spell out her plans a bit more clearly. Well, as clearly as possible, given the fact she wasn't certain what her life would look like in the future—near or distant.
"I plan to make some changes. Career, for sure. I love working with the elderly, but nursing homes aren't exactly the most happening place, you know," she said, trying to keep her tone light.
Jessie snickered softly in agreement.
"And I'm rethinking my plan to stay in Baylorville."
"No way. You've always loved it here."
Remy shrugged. "Probably because I felt accepted. Mama made sure of that. I was Marlene Bouchard's odd daughter, but that was okay. This is the South. Families are expected to have one or two slightly off members, right?"
Before Jessie could protest that Remy wasn't odd, Remy rushed to add, "I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I simply don't want to be known as that dream girl anymore. I want to be normal and have a normal life. And I don't think I can do that here."
Jessie's expression turned to pure horror. "Remy, you can't change who you are. Nobody wants you to. You're a wonderful person. I've always wished I was more like you. Everyone wished I was more like you.
You're even-tempered and kind and sweet. You're the family peacemaker."
Remy finished her coffee then stared at the bottom of her empty mug. That was exactly how she'd felt lately—empty. Useless. Unfulfilled. "Yeah," she said, looking up. "And do you know what my psychology teacher used to say about peacemakers? They use other people's drama to avoid facing their own problems. And it's true. Did I or did I not travel two days by bus to South Dakota to involve myself in the middle of your extremely dramatic business?"
"But you told me you had a dream. It woke you up and you knew I was in trouble. And you were right. How can that be a bad thing?"
Remy got up, set her cup on the bedside table, then walked to the French doors that led to a tiny, ridiculously impractical balcony that one of Mama's suitors built for her. She opened the doors with a flourish. But she didn't step outside. Instead, she looked at her sister.
"I lied. There, I said it. I lied about the dream, Jessie. I've always lied. I don't dream any more or any less than anyone else. I may remember my dreams a wee bit more clearly than most people, but that comes from practice. It certainly doesn't make me clairvoyant or psychic or gifted."
Jessie's expression turned stormy. And belligerent. Jess was always Remy's most fervent defender. More than one little boy went home from school with a fat lip after calling Remy "crazy" or "weird."
"That's not true. You are gifted. You inherited your gift from—"
"Our great-great-aunt, the witch." Remy made a no-no motion with her hands. "Jess, there was never a witchy great-aunt. Mama made that up. She told me so before she died."
"Oh, please, don't look so surprised. Everyone knew Mama bent the truth when it suited her needs."
"But she told people you could see things in your dreams. And you did, Rem," Jessie argued. "I remember all sorts of times when you saw stuff in your dreams and it turned out exactly the way you said it would. And...and what about Jonas Galloway? You saved his life when he fell down that well. You can't deny that."
Remy had known this conversation wasn't going to be easy—changing a lifetime's belief never was with someone as stubborn as Jessie—but now that she'd finally brought up the subject, her knees felt wobbly and her palms were starting to sweat. She stepped outside for a breath of fresh air and to grasp the wrought-iron railing.
"I can't say for sure what happened with Jonas," she said, raising her voice so Jessie didn't have to get up. "I was only eight at the time. Maybe I dreamed something or maybe Mama elaborated on my lucky guess. Maybe she made the whole thing up. I don't know."
"Well, I do. I was in the beauty parlor when you woke up from that nap, sobbing and wailing. All the ladies gathered around Mama to comfort you and find out what was wrong. When you finally quit crying so much, you told them you saw the little boy at the bottom of a well."
Remy had no memory of that whatsoever, but she'd heard it repeated often enough over the years that she could imagine it quite clearly. She also knew from her college courses on psychology and aging that memory changed over the years. Nothing was ever quite as clear as you thought it was.
"The human brain is an amazing thing. There are a number of explanations for what happened, if, in fact, you're recalling a true scene and not something your mind thinks happened."
Jessie sat up, angrily. "Are you calling me a liar?"
"No. Not at all. I'm saying there's a lot we don't understand about the mind and our subconscious. As an impressionable little kid, my brain might have filed away all the details I overheard the ladies in the beauty parlor talking about and suddenly put those facts together in a dream."
Jessie didn't say anything, but Remy could tell she remained unconvinced.
"Lucid dreaming has been around a long time, Jess. People can train themselves to remember their dreams. There are books to explain what the imagery means. It's like breaking a code. Maybe I've developed my inherent ability a bit more than most people over the years because Mama and her friends made such a big deal about what I supposedly saw. Then Mama added the witchy great-aunt element to turn me into a sort of minor celebrity. I don't know. But you have to admit I've never claimed to have any psychic abilities."
Jessie was silent for long enough that Remy thought she would have to drag out more evidence to persuade her twin she had no special talents. Then Jessie asked, "Why are you bringing this up now? Is it because Mama's gone and you don't have to pretend for her sake? Now, that I do understand."
"Maybe. Or maybe I'm tired of living up to other people's expectations. Sweet, demure, dreamy../ey. I'm not any of those things, Jess."
"Well, who are you then?"
Remy threw out her hands. "I don't know. But I'm going to find out. Starting today. My first order of business is finding a job. A new, exciting, interesting job that could be anywhere in the world."
"Travel? You? The girl who took a bus to South Dakota because planes cost too much and sometimes fall out of the sky?"
She stuck out her tongue. "I never said that last part. I'm not a hick, you know. I'd just lost my job. I was being thrifty. And responsible."
"Okay. You're not afraid to fly, but my point is you're a homebody. You've always loved this town. You couldn't wait to get back here when we left Nashville. I, on the other hand, immediately split for the West Coast. Are we doing some kind of role reversal here? I'm the one who's supposed to be footloose and fancy-free and you're the hearth-and-home kind of girl. What happened?"
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Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373717040
Book Description Harlequin Superromance, 2011. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373717040