Authors: Jennifer Davis
Published by Jennifer Davis
All Rights Reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
For my husband, Jamey and our daughters, Julia and Jayme Lee.
Thank you for your love, encouragement, and continual support.
I landed in Slidell, Louisiana on the first Sunday of June at 7:32 p.m., with a knot of nausea rotating in the pit of my stomach like one of those tornados in a jar I used to make when I was a kid. The nausea was mostly from nervousness but held an equal amount of fear. The flight attendant, a plastic looking woman with bleached blond hair, and red,
Restylane filled lips, had given me a Pepto Bismol tablet mid-flight and a tiny can of Sprite to chase the chalkiness down—neither of which helped either issue.
Clutching my favorite Louis
Vuitton bag, I stood and readied myself to exit the plane. The flight attendant forced a smile before telling me to have a pleasant night. The captain shook my hand, his grip too tight, and in a breath hinting of black coffee and nicotine gum, he thanked me for allowing him to be my captain.
As if I’d had a choice
. I smiled and wished him a safe trip home before descending the royal blue carpeted stairway to the pavement below.
The outside air was hot and so thick with humidity that beads of moisture instantly formed in my hair, and the rouge colored charmeuse dress I wore clung firmly to my body
. I lived in Malibu and was use to dry heat. My hair and humidity would not get along.
A man appearing to be in his early sixties, his skin dark and hard with wrinkles sat a few feet away on a green and yellow golf cart with the only piece of luggage I’d brought laying across the back seat.
“Ms. Parka, your people are here. I’ll take you to ‘em,” he said, his accent thick— distinctly Cajun.
He’d replaced the –er in my last name with an –a.
“Thank you,” I said
, and smiled at him.
“Alright, climb on,” he replied, nodding to the seat beside him. I boarded the golf cart and took a deep breath, still feeling slightly unbalanced and nervous about what was to come.
I looked to the sky, admiring the vivid colors mingling around the sinking sun as the old man drove us to the terminal building. Deep oranges and brilliant reds twisted together with the soft white of the sparse clouds stretching across the dark blue of the evening sky. At home, in Malibu, my bedroom overlooked the Pacific Ocean; I never took a beautiful sunset for granted no matter where it was.
In front of the terminal building was a girl my age wearing a tank top and cut off jean shorts. She was wet, her dark-brown hair piled in a soggy bun on top of her head. She chewed on her fingernails and paced in circles; her turquoise flip-flops squeaking with every step. I didn’t want her to be, but
I knew she was “my people.”
Katara?” she asked. “Did I say that right?” I’d never met anyone who’d correctly pronounced my name on the first try. “I go by Kat,” I said, eyeing the red polka-dot bikini top showing through her thin, white tank top.
My dad’s second wife, Isobel
, suggested I call myself Kat because it was easier than letting people struggle to comprehend why something pronounced
was spelled Katara.
I was twelve the summer my dad married Isobel. She was more like a friend to me than a parent
—probably because she was twenty-two. After the wedding, we moved from Santa Monica to Malibu, putting me in a different school district, and giving me an opportunity to start over as Kat—with Isobel’s help.
As we shopped for my new start, Isobel gave me some advice. She told me never to show too much skin because that always attracted the wrong kind of boys. To always smile at people when they looked at me because it would comfort them and help eliminate any preconceived notions they may have had about me becau
se I was pretty and had money, and that being polite and appreciative would take me a long way in life.
As I got older, I realized just how far that simple tip
had taken Isobel in her own life. She and my father had only dated five months before marrying, and even at twelve, I knew she’d just married him for money and wouldn’t be sticking around for all the occasions she’d sworn to in their wedding vows. She made it ten months before leaving us, but still, I consider my time with Isobel a blessing, as she was more of a mother to me than my own.
, I’m Bit,” the soggy girl said. “Or Bitty—depends on who’s talkin’ to me.” I smiled, holding a hand against my stomach, attempting to coax it to settle.
“Thank you for coming to get me,” I said.
“No problem,” she shrugged.
The old man sat my suitcase on the pavement and tipped his dingy cap to us before boarding the golf cart and driving away.
“You ready?” Bit asked.
“Sure,” I lied.
Bit pulled the handle atop my suitcase and jerked it to a bumpy roll behind her. The wheels skidded over the uneven ground, rubbing the plush brown leather against the asphalt. I cringed, thinking of the damage she was doing to my favorite suitcase as I followed her, her feet still squeaking in her shoes. The back of Bit’s tank top was soaked from where her hair had dripped down it. Her butt cheeks took turns peeking out of her shorts as she walked, which temporarily distracted me from thinking about my bag, as I wondered what kind of boys she attracted.
Bit led me to a jacked up, four door, pewter color Chevy truck caked in fresh mud and full of people. She pointed to a handful of boys in the truck’s bed. “That’s my brother, Russ, and that’s Ben, Cody, and Logan.” The best I could manage was a slight smile and a “hi.” I hadn’t expected the entire city to pick me up.
“Hey,” Russ grunted, leaning over the side of the truck. He had a wad of tobacco in his cheek and spit out brown goo mere inches from my black suede Jimmy Choo shoes before yanking my suitcase away from Bit and slinging it crashing into the truck bed. I cringed again, wanting to yell out how much Prada luggage costs, and to be more careful with it, but held my tongue instead. Their family was doing my father and me a favor by taking me in, and I didn’t want bitching about suitcase abuse to be their first impression of me.
Bitty pulled open the front passenger door, climbed up on the sludgy step rail and gracefully slid inside the truck. She leaned across the seat and held her hand out for me. I grabbed hold, and as I tried to place my foot on the step rail without ruining my shoes, the rear seam of my dress ripped. Bit’s eyes went wide while the
girl next to her cackled like a hyena. She leaned forward and smirked at me. “Obviously you’ve never been to Louisiana. You’re
“Be nice, Dixie,” Bit scolded. Dixie rolled her eyes and leaned back hard against the seat. Ignoring Dixie’s comment, I managed myself into the truck, sat in the dirty, wet seat, and slammed the door closed.
The driver reached over Dixie and Bit and held his hand out for me. “I’m Mason,” he said.
And I was dumbfounded. Mason was the kind of beautiful that instantly made smart girls stupid. Long, black lashes framed his weighty blue eyes; the color made more prominent by the sun on his skin. His messy dark hair jutted from beneath a slightly crooked purple and gold ball cap.
Mason smiled at me
, and I felt the knot in my stomach tighten.
Actually, I think I felt everything tighten
. I took his hand; fire seared through me as we shook.
“I’m Kat,” I said, woozily smiling back. Dixie leaned forward, blocking my view of Mason and shot me an
Mason must have been hers
I let go of Mason’s hand and cut my eyes away
, disappointed that the presumably one bright spot in my situation had just been eclipsed by a semi-cute bully in need of a good haircut.
A girl in the back seat spoke up, “I’m Shelby, Bit’s sister, and this is Crystal.” She pointed to the girl beside her. “Hi.” I smiled, even though I didn’t want to. I was suddenly tired of smiling.
Mason started his truck and revved the engine; it growled and popped as he sped out of the parking lot, driving too fast. Bit tried to strike up a conversation with me, but Dixie put an end to that by cranking up a country song on the radio and loudly singing along. Thankfully, the airport wasn’t far from the Broussard’s home.
Mason pulled off the street into the yard, right up to the front door, which was fine, I guess since ninety-eight percent of
the yard was dirt anyway.
The truck windows were down and had matted up my hair. It looked like a pale gold loop of frizzy yarn. I’d caught a glimpse of myself in the side mirror when Russ opened my door. He leaped onto the step rail, scooped me up in his arms, and jumped to the ground, setting me safely down before I could argue that I didn’t need help getting out of the truck.
“Thanks,” I muttered, pulling the heel of one of my shoes out of the ground. Bit slid out of the truck behind me. “See, y’all,” she said.
Ben tossed my suitcase out of the truck bed; it hit the ground with a hard thud. I stared at my pitiful Prada lying in the dirt, imaging my breakables in pieces.
Mason backed up; slinging the passenger door closed as Cody crawled through the cab’s sliding rear window and licked Shelby’s face. She gasped, and then laughed, smearing her palm across her wet cheek. “I guess I’m stayin’ with them,” she shouted.
Mason leaned out the window, seemingly looking only at me. “We’ll be back in a little while,” he called, before spinning out of the yard and noisily speeding away.
The Broussard’s one
-story house sat on a corner lot, wrapped in wide plank, sea green siding with freshly painted glossy white shudders. Like the others in the neighborhood, red clay tiles covered the roof. Simple wrought iron planter boxes hung empty beneath the windows. The drapes were closed, along with the pull-down shade covering the glass on the front door, keeping anyone from seeing in, or out.