Authors: Cindy Adkins
Fire and Ice: A Paranormal Romance
Copyright: Cindy Adkins 2012
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is
Billy had loved Jessie Martin ever since the two of them were in the fifth grade. When they grew up, Jessie used to say that they were like fire and ice. She was filled with dreams and ambitions and had fire in her soul. Billy was content with his life just as it was in a Big Easy sort of way. New Orleans was twenty miles to the west of bayou country where they lived. Its laidback attitude seemed to penetrate the surrounding areas and contribute to a lifestyle of taking one moment at a time, but not for Jessie. She was always thinking about tomorrow and the next day. “Why are you so ready to settle for being here?” she would always ask him. “There’s a whole world out there and you have only seen one tiny part of it.” Jessie’s dreams were as big as Billy’s were small and he knew it.
Jessie’s untimely disappearance into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico could not erase all of Billy’s fond memories of her. The thought of being involved with anyone else left him cold. Everyone he knew urged him to get on with his life. At thirty-two years old, maybe it was time to start over. But, he did not feel ready and doubted if he ever would be.
Sarah Riley was a young schoolteacher who lived in the next parish. Anyone who knew her referred to the brunette beauty as a
. But somehow there was a gnawing feeling inside of Billy. Jessie’s blue eyes penetrated his soul after all that time. Sometimes he could swear that he felt her blonde hair brushing up against his cheek when he stirred in his sleep during the middle of the night. He missed her terribly.
Four years earlier, Jessie had been with him out on his shrimp boat in the Louisiana bayou near his fishing camp. Billy had worked long hours there every day ever since he dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen. Jessie ventured out to the Gulf from there with him one sticky hot July morning like she often did in the past. Later in the day, a squall came and swept her off the deck of his boat. She was never found. Dreams of her haunted him. Every one of them was the same. Jessie would look at him and say, “I love you.” He would touch her face, wake up, and she was gone.
After Jessie died, Billy wanted to see the world for her sake. He decided to go somewhere that he could meet people who he was connected to in some way. He worked for three months, saved up his money and embarked on a trip to Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. Billy was of Isleno heritage and his Spanish-speaking ancestors had come from there to Louisiana many years before. So, he thought it was a logical place to land. Billy felt that his journey was a fitting tribute to Jessie who possessed a gypsy spirit worthy of such an adventure, even though he had to travel without her by his side.
When Billy arrived on Lanzarote, he was fascinated by the myriad colors, tastes, and sounds of the picturesque island. He saw beaches where pebbles sparkled like jewels poised against a backdrop of sapphire-blue water. The people were friendly and even as a stranger; he was made to feel welcome.
The cuisine on the island was mouth-watering. After his first taste of it, he learned to anticipate the various
dishes that were popular, including his favorite, which was
pimientos de padron
. It was made from little green peppers cooked in sea salt and olive oil.
Billy immediately understood the influence that the sea had on the island’s inhabitants and recognized the similarities between there and where he was raised. The fishing industry was just as vital to Lanzarote as it was to Billy at home, so he could easily relate to it. In the late afternoons, he walked down to the wharf to see what the fishermen had caught for the day. He was amazed by the abundance of tuna, sea bass, swordfish, crab, lobster, and mussels that he sampled at various seaside restaurants during his stay there.
One night, Billy got in touch with a few distant relatives who lived on the island. Before he left on his trip, his father had insisted that he make their acquaintance and Billy was glad that he did. He finally had the opportunity to meet some of the Alfonso family that lived a world away. He recognized their faces from the old leather photo albums that his father had kept for years. They welcomed him with open arms and threw an impromptu backyard party in his honor. He had the opportunity to view traditional dances performed by men and women who wore brightly colored costumes. Billy recognized some of the music that he heard at home when he was a child. If he had to leave his roots and venture out into the world, he had definitely gone to the right place. In his grief, he could be a part of something that was somewhat familiar.
Before he departed for Lanzarote, Billy thought that the trip might provide a two-week respite from facing reality. Sadly, he was wrong. Every day he sat for hours at an outdoor café under the shade of a white canvas umbrella having coffee just to take in the view and breathe the salt air. He thought that if Jessie were with him, she would love it there. Even though he had traveled thousands of miles, he felt her presence. He could not shake her from his memory, nor could he erase her from his heart.
When Billy returned home, a nightly six-pack became his constant companion. After a month of what seemed like one continuous beer, he decided that he was not going to find Jessie at the bottom of a bottle. He abandoned that effort and concentrated on work. Running a shrimp boat was all he knew. It was in his blood. He did it. His father had done it and so did his relatives who came before him to settle in that region of the country. It was his heritage. No doubt, the sea was part of him. He loved his work. Why should he be apologetic about it? Even though Jessie was nowhere in sight, he would ask her, “What more do you want from me?”
Billy’s life became a treadmill. During shrimp season, he went out to the Gulf every day. He dredged for oysters in the off-season. Even though he went there for work, he felt like he was closer to Jessie in those waters where she was never found than anywhere else. Billy hoped that maybe one day he would be lifting up a net full of shrimp or an oyster dredge and she would be in one of them. He thought that if that ever occurred, he could finally lay her memory to rest. It never happened. Billy held onto his recollections of her for dear life as if he feared that someone would snatch them away from him in a heartbeat.
Dancin’ and Dreamin’
“Hey, Handsome,” Sarah said to him as he sat at his cousin David’s crawfish boil on that humid Saturday evening in May. Looking at her long legs in those short shorts made him feel as if life might actually start to have meaning again. “What are you doing sitting over here all by yourself? We don’t bite, you know.”
“I know,” Billy smiled. “I guess I’m takin’ it easy from all that crawfish I just downed.”
“Well, I hope you saved room for dessert because I brought a killer chocolate cake.” Sarah had a definite twinkle in her eye as she tried to entice him.
“I can’t resist that,” Billy joked. “Bring it on.”
Sarah went up to the table on the patio and cut a slice of pure frosted decadence for him and one for her, as well. She returned with a large piece of it on a paper plate and handed it to him with a fork. “Here you go,” she smiled. “Tell those crawfish to move over.” She sat down on the white plastic lawn chair next to him with another plate in her hand.
“Do you expect me to eat all this?” he asked.
“I sure do,” she replied. “My mama always said, ‘Sugar goes to sugar,’ so that’s why I brought it to you.”
Was Sarah absolutely adorable or was it his imagination? Everyone had told him about the twenty-six-year-old knockout for the last few months. “You’re Sarah, right?” he asked.
“That would be me,” she answered.
“Everyone told me that you were beautiful.”
be?” she asked.
“My cousin and his wife, Dana, for starters,” said Billy. “They’ve been trying to get us to meet for awhile now. I heard that you work with Dana at the school.”
“I teach first grade,” Sarah smiled. “I moved here from Texas nine months ago.” Dana was right, Sarah thought. With brown eyes, wavy dark hair, and a strong build, Billy was as handsome as she described.
“Well, we haven’t been formally introduced. I’m Billy Alfonso,” he said.
“The guy with the shrimp boat,” Sarah replied.
“That would be me,” Billy answered with a smile.
“What do you do around here for fun?” she asked.
“We’re doing it,” Billy laughed. “Louisiana crawfish boils are known everywhere, hadn’t you heard?”
“Yes, but I was wondering what you do afterwards.”
“Take a drive to the bayou,” replied Billy.
“So, are you going to take me?”
“Do you want me to?” he asked.
“Well, only after you finish your cake,” smiled Sarah.
* * * * *
Just as the sun was going down, Billy and Sarah set out on a scenic drive “down the road,” an area where many people in the fishing industry lived and worked along the edge of the bayou. As they passed a large home on their way, Sarah pointed to it. “I really like that house.”
“It’s an Acadian,” Billy told her. “Years ago, when the French Acadians were expelled from Nova Scotia, many of them settled here in Louisiana.”
“Really?” asked Sarah.
“Yes,” replied Billy as they drove along the highway. “They built homes with those steeply pitched roofs and end gables. The style became popular here. As we keep driving, I’ll point them out to you. They’re easy to recognize. This is new construction, so the homes are much bigger than the original ones.”
Billy and Sarah went past wide-open fields with cows grazing lazily. They made their way along the Mississippi River and drove underneath a canopy of live oak trees flanking the rural highway. “This is breathtaking,” remarked Sarah. “It’s like a natural arbor.”
“I couldn’t wait to show it to you,” said Billy. “I knew you’d like it.”
“Oh, I sure do.” Sarah stared out the window of his black truck.